Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Floating grain elevators, continued

On page 146, I mention that it appears that the first "American-style" grain elevators built in England were floaters. An engraving published in the 1880 issue of The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper shows "The American grain elevator on Thames off North Woolwich." An engraving from an 1883 issue of the same newspaper shows what appears to be the reverse side of the very same grain elevator. The caption reads, "The new grain elevator, 'International', being towed across the North Sea to Antwerp."

It is possible that, after being designed by an American engineer - perhaps Robert Dunbar, who was still active in the early 1880s - this "American" elevator was put to work on a trial basis in London, which was beginning to receive ever-larger quantities of American wheat from ports such as Boston. Shipped in bulk, not in sacks (which would remain the custom on the European continent as late as the 1920s), this wheat could only be unloaded by a mechanized house, not by teams of stevedores. After it proved to be a success, this same floating elevator was loaned or sold to grain merchants in Belgium, thus making its work-history and influence truly "international."

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