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Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jad Adams is a writer and Fel­low of the Royal His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

1890: Forth Bridge opened

The fi­nal tri­umphant stage of the ‘race to the north’ by rail­way com­pa­nies was the bridge over the Firth of Forth. It was ‘a long stride over space’ ac­cord­ing to the Il­lus­trated Lon­don News, a ma­jes­tic tes­ta­ment to the in­dus­trial age.

The prob­lem it solved was that the East Coast Line went from Dover through Lon­don via York and New­cas­tle to Ed­in­burgh but then stopped, it could not pass the Forth Es­tu­ary fur­ther into Scot­land. With the bridge, Perth and the north­ern cities of Scot­land be­came eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, as did the great hunt­ing es­tates of the High­lands.

Just 11 years pre­vi­ously the Tay Bridge, over a sim­i­lar dis­tance, had col­lapsed while a packed train was cross­ing, in one of the ma­jor dis­as­ters of the cen­tury. The fallen struc­ture was a sus­pen­sion bridge and work had al­ready com­menced on a sim­i­lar bridge over the Forth but it was now dis­con­tin­ued.

The con­trac­tor the rail­way com­pa­nies turned to for a new bridge was Wil­liam Ar­rol, one of the great self-made en­gi­neers of the Vic­to­rian era. Ar­rol was born in Ren­frew­shire, Scot­land, in 1839. He was the son of a cot­ton spin­ner and at the age of nine was him­self sent to work in a cot­ton mill; at 14 he was ap­pren­ticed to a black­smith. He worked in en­gi­neer­ing firms then set up his own

busi­ness in Glas­gow in 1868. From small be­gin­nings he ex­panded into pub­lic works and be­gan to at­tract at­ten­tion for the nov­elty and in­no­va­tion he brought to bridge build­ing projects, in­clud­ing in­vent­ing a hy­draulic riv­et­ing sys­tem. In 1882, he was awarded the pro­ject for build­ing both a re­place­ment for the Tay Bridge, and the new Forth Bridge.

The Forth Bridge, the big­gest en­gi­neer­ing pro­ject in the world, needed an orig­i­nal de­sign and this was sup­plied by con­sult­ing en­gi­neers John Fowler and Ben­jamin Baker. They pro­posed a can­tilever sys­tem: there would be three tow­ers with a bridge can­tilevered out on ei­ther side and each would join with the next sec­tion of bridge.

At a cost of £2mil­lion, it was the first large struc­ture to be made of steel, not cast iron. Col­umns, rods and gird­ers rose 360 feet above high wa­ter, with foun­da­tions go­ing 90 feet below. Its 1.5-mile length showed how steel could be both strong and el­e­gant. To al­lay any pub­lic fears, this bridge was tested to a far higher de­gree than the old Tay Bridge had been, with trains of 47 wag­ons each loaded with pig iron to gauge stress lev­els.

It was con­structed over eight years by 5,000 work­men earn­ing good rates of pay, one man boasted he re­ceived £15 one week as a riveter on piece work, though £3 was more com­mon. They earned their money; a com­mem­o­ra­tive book­let for the event said: “the credit of the great work is as much due to the hum­ble ar­ti­san... to those men who have clung to the frozen plates dur­ing the course of the win­ter and per­se­vered, numbed and half-frozen, in their dan­ger­ous and ar­du­ous task – men who have lit­er­ally taken their life in their hands, and who have hung in mid-air, some­times with scarcely enough room to place their feet se­curely, and even sus­pended by means of ropes.”

There had been 57 fa­tal ac­ci­dents. “It is im­pos­si­ble to carry out a gi­gan­tic work with­out pay­ing for it, not merely in money, but in men’s lives,” said Ben­jamin Baker.

The height of the struc­ture was ex­ceeded only by the Great Pyra­mid, Cologne Cathe­dral and the Eif­fel Tower. Com­par­isons with the Eif­fel Tower were in­evitable as the tower was com­pleted just a year pre­vi­ously. The Parisian con­struc­tion was de­scribed by Baker as “a fool­ish piece of work, ugly, ill pro­por­tioned and of no real use to any­one,” which was hardly diplo­matic as Gus­tave Eif­fel was one of the guests among the for­eign dig­ni­taries who came to the open­ing.

The Forth Bridge was of­fi­cially opened on 4 March 1890 by the Prince of Wales cer­e­mo­ni­ally fix­ing the last rivet, a gilded sil­ver one, in weather that was de­scribed as ‘bois­ter­ous.’ In the cer­e­mony, among other hon­ours, he an­nounced a knight­hood for Wil­liam Ar­rol.

The skills for build­ing the bridge had all been near at hand. For a decade ship­build­ing had been the dom­i­nant in­dus­try in Glas­gow with whole new ar­eas grow­ing up around the city to house ship­yard work­ers, and a com­plete new town called Clyde­bank. Ships were made for cus­tomers all over the world and one yard, the Sentinel Works, pro­duced hun­dreds of ves­sels which they con­structed then dis­man­tled to be sent out in kit form for re­assem­bly in for­eign parts. ‘Clyde-built’ was a hall­mark of qual­ity, and not only of ships; three of the four largest lo­co­mo­tive build­ing com­pa­nies in Bri­tain were in Glas­gow, too.

Cor­ner­ing the tea mar­ket

Thomas Lip­ton, a self-made Glas­gow gro­cer, this year en­tered the tea busi­ness to as­sure sup­plies for his gro­cery shops at a time when de­mand for tea was in­creas­ing. Lip­ton trav­elled to Cey­lon where he met an­other Scots­man, James Tay­lor, who hailed from Kin­car­di­neshire. Tay­lor had in­tro­duced tea plan­ta­tion into Cey­lon and sent the prod­uct to the Lon­don Tea Auc­tion.

Lip­ton took the ex­am­ple from Tay­lor and bought his own es­tates so that tea was grown, har­vested, shipped, pack­aged and sold un­der Lip­ton’s con­trol. His ri­vals could not com­pete with his low prices and Lip­ton quickly dom­i­nated the mar­ket. Tea was sold by the pound, half and quar­ter pound with the name Lip­ton Yel­low La­bel in a yel­low packet with a red shield and the slo­gan: ‘Di­rect from the tea gar­dens to the teapot.’

This was good busi­ness, but it was also at­trac­tive to a life­time tee­to­taller like Lip­ton to pro­vide a non-al­co­holic drink for the work­ing class which was cheap and plen­ti­ful.

Boom times for the Press

News­pa­pers were an­other boom in­dus­try, pro­vid­ing a now al­most fully lit­er­ate pub­lic with in­for­ma­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. The Daily Graphic, the first il­lus­trated news­pa­per, was launched this year; firstly with wood en­grav­ings but was soon mak­ing

“THE FORTH BRIDGE WAS THE BIG­GEST EN­GI­NEER­ING PRO­JECT IN THE WORLD”

use of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy with pho­to­graphic half-tones.

The Daily Graphic aimed at a new read­er­ship of women with Mary Frances Billing­ton join­ing the pa­per as a spe­cial correspondent on women’s is­sues. Women’s sec­tions on news­pa­pers were clearly a con­ces­sion to the grow­ing buy­ing power of work­ing women, who were also a tar­get mar­ket for the news­pa­per’s ad­ver­tis­ers. Some ques­tioned the ‘women’s correspondent’ po­si­tion, how­ever, as pre­vi­ously fe­male jour­nal­is­tic pi­o­neers had been writ­ing gen­eral news sto­ries equally with men, now they were ex­pected to stick to ‘women’s in­ter­ests.’ The youth mar­ket was sup­plied by Comic

Cuts this year, the first com­i­cal news­pa­per. It was launched as an al­ter­na­tive to the ‘penny dread­fuls’ – with their themes of crim­i­nal­ity – which were thought to be a bad in­flu­ence on work­ing class boys. Comic Cuts of­fered ‘One Hun­dred Laughs for one Half­penny!’ in comic strips and amus­ing snip­pets of text. The first two is­sues sold out com­pletely; within two years its cir­cu­la­tion was 430,000.

Co­nan Doyle and Wilde

Lit­er­ary leg­ends were born when John Mar­shall Stod­dart, man­ag­ing editor of the Philadel­phia-based Lip­pin­cott’s Monthly

Mag­a­zine, had din­ner with two ris­ing stars of the lit­er­ary world, Scot­tish doc­tor Arthur Co­nan Doyle and Ir­ish jour­nal­ist Os­car Wilde. Both had gone to Lon­don to seek their for­tune and the din­ner with Stod­dart led to com­mis­sions to write for him.

This year the pub­lic could read the fruits of that meet­ing in Lip­pin­cott’s. Co­nan Doyle’s

The Sign of the Four por­trayed the bril­liant but lan­guid ‘con­sult­ing de­tec­tive’ Sher­lock Holmes who works at com­plex prob­lems to stay off the bore­dom of life. The first line es­tab­lishes him as a recre­ational user of the then le­gal drug co­caine: “Sher­lock Holmes took his bot­tle from the cor­ner of the man­tel-piece and his hy­po­der­mic sy­ringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, ner­vous fin­gers he ad­justed the del­i­cate nee­dle…”

Later in 1890, the mag­a­zine pub­lished Wilde’s The Pic­ture of Do­rian Gray. The short novel tells the story of at­trac­tive aris­to­crat Do­rian’s de­scent into crim­i­nal ex­cesses which dis­tort the por­trait that has been painted of him, but leave his beau­ti­ful body un­marked. The in­ti­mate con­nec­tion be­tween life and art was a hall­mark of the English deca­dent move­ment with its slo­gan of art for art’s sake (and not, there­fore, with any moral pur­pose).

The guardians of Vic­to­rian pub­lic taste sus­pected the moral de­cay of this work, and the no­to­ri­ously pu­ri­tan­i­cal book­shop WH Smiths sim­ply re­fused to stock the July edi­tion of the mag­a­zine in which it ap­peared.

The im­pres­sive Forth Bridge as seen dur­ing its first year in 1890

Os­car Wilde’s The Pic­ture of Do­rian

Gray was fi­fi­fi­fi­fi­fi­first first pub­lished in 1890

Forth Bridge en­gi­neer, Wil­liam Ar­rol in 1890

Girls’ dresses was be­com­ing less

con­strain­ing al­though the gen­eral line

still fol­lowed that of adult fe­male

fash­ion. Their loose hair and sim­ple

hats also re­flflect th­ese free­doms. The flflflower seller wears a ‘ post boy’ shaped hat, fash­ion­able since the 1880s. The fur trim

around the

bot­tom of the

lady’s bodice

gives em­pha­sis to o the bus­tle un­der her skirt.

The man wears a three- piece lounge suit

al­though his fa­cial whiskers and beard

would have been con­sid­ered old fash­ioned

by this date when stylish younger men

were sport­ing just a mous­tache.

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