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Our Tribute to the Engineering and Science of the Bell System
April 1, 2002

Established as Gray and Barton in 1869 by Elisha Gray and Enos Barton, Western Electric grew to become a major force in the production of telephone equipment. Western Electric was also known for its legendary audio equipment, vacuum tubes, movie sound systems and defense related projects.

Construction of the Hawthorne works in Cicero, Illinois began in 1904. By the 1920's, Hawthorne employed more than 40,000 workers. In the book Manufacturing the Future by Stephen B. Adams and Orville R. Butler, the reader is told that the Works had "become a virtual city unto itself, complete with restaurant, hospital, library, credit union, powerhouse, ballpark, gymnasium, news media, band shell, and a band in blue uniforms and brass braid. Hawthorne also had its own railroad, Manufacturer's Junction Railroad, to move raw materials into the plant, finished products out, and all kinds of material from one part of the plant to another. At Hawthorne, one could pursue the arts (from dancing to photography) or education (from English to Circuits)."

Of course, just about every student of industrial psychology or behavioral science is familiar with the famous Hawthorne Studies. Beginning in 1924, these studies changed the way managers look at the workplace.

Less known about the Hawthorne works was the "Hawthorne Method of Scientific Buttermaking." This article, from the January, 1916 issue of "Western Electric News," explains in detail the methods that Western Electric was using to produce their line of quality dairy products. Who can predict what today's dairy products would have been like had Western Electric continued in this important line of research.

Has the workplace become less personal? Do workers still derive the sense of pride and identity there that they did 80 some years ago? Entire books have been written on these subjects and it's beyond the scope of this feature to investigate those questions. There is one thing for certain, however. One would be hard pressed to find the kind of humor in today's company newsletters that was regularly featured in the "Western Electric News." Enjoy!

Paul Wills - Telephone Collectors International


Building Better Butter

Hawthorne Develops Remarkable Dairy Machinery: Electro-Magnetic Milker, Cream Corder; Separator, and Power Churn Explained to the Public for the First Time

By Batts N. Belfry, Head Efficiency Engineer
Oh cow of Erin, gentle cow,
Would some folks talked no more than thou.
You chew the cud and hold your peace;
They chew the rag, nor hold nor cease,
Till, if politeness would allow,
I could remark, as I do now,
Oh, cow!

We hope none of our readers of other nationalities will feel slighted because the poet chose to celebrate the Irish kine in the beautiful and soul-stirring stanza with which we have opened this article. He has assured us that his choice of a subject was entirely fortuitous. The Oh Cow of Erin just happened to occur to him; otherwise he would as soon have immortalized the d— cows of France, or, for that matter, even the van horses of Holland.

Our neutrality being thus satisfactorily established perhaps you will kindly consent to withdraw your submarines and allow us to land this cargo of denatured facts regarding the Hawthorne method of scientific buttermaking.

Butter is a yellowish substance used in greasing bread and increasing the cost of living. It is made from milk, a white fluid, formerly obtained from cows by the mean trick of pinching them until they let go of it. Fortunately, however, this cruel method is rapidly becoming obsolete, as the hand-picked product cannot compare either, in quantity or in quality with the fluid obtained when our latest improved single phase alternating current milk magnet is used. (Adv.)

The basis of this wonderful appliance is a heretofore undreamed of combination of recondite physical and psychical and psychological principles. That sounds exceedingly complex, yet actually the apparatus is about the simplest thing to be found outside a feeble-minded institution. It consists of an electro-magnet, a tin pail of any suitable material, a phonograph and last but not loosed, one cow tethered in the field of the magnet ( Fig. 1 ).


Figure 1

Now please do not jump to the conclusion that the magnet draws the milk from the cow direct. Such an idea is highly unscientific. Magnets only exert an appreciable attraction on iron or steel, and we wouldn't for the world impose on your credulity by varying in the slightest degree from scientifically established facts. The action of the magnetic milker is as follows :

The 60-cycle current in the magnet windings sets up an alternating magnetic field in the vicinity of the appliance. As you doubtless recall with horror, the unsuspecting cow is standing in this very field. Now it is well known to us highbrows that when a magnetic field alternates through a mass of conducting material, such as milk, eddy currents are set up in the material. You need not take our word for this; the action of the apparatus proves it. For just at this interesting juncture the phonograph is started, reproducing perfectly the sound of a dinner bell and a woman's voice calling: "Ed-dee! Ed-dee!" The result is startling to the average person, although it is only what would be expected by anyone possessing an expert knowledge of physics, psychology and applied bunkology. It is this: Each greedy eddy current in the milk mistakes the call for a summons to dinner and rushes in the direction of the sound, falling into the pail placed beneath to catch them. So great is their haste that the total milking operation takes only fifty-six and eight-tenths seconds.


Figure 2

But astounding as the milk magnet is, it is only one of a series of remarkable machines employed in the buttermaking process. In the old-fashioned method of milk handling much was lost by spillage. At the outset our engineers recognized that such waste must be eliminated and bent their energies to that end, finally evolving the marvelous mechanism shown in Fig. 2, which is known as a contra-centrifugal cream corder. It consists of a glass receptacle mounted on a rotating device, so that it can be revolved at a high rate of speed. When milk is placed in such a machine, as you know, the heavier particles are thrown to the outside by centrifugal force, leaving the cream in the center. That is the principle of the ordinary cream separator, a popular but very inefficient machine, since the centrifugal force only works on its way out from the center. As our engineers were quick to perceive, the efficiency would be doubled if some means could be devised to make it work its way back to the center again.

Since no known physical principle will accomplish this desirable result, our inventors were again forced to ask aid of the Cology twins, Si and Bunk, who had done such excellent work on the magnetic milker. These two helpers at once suggested the addition of a pretty girl to the outfit, and the problem was solved.

This is what happens: When the turbulent centrifugal force has butted his bull-headed way to the outer containing walls of the glass vessel he suddenly perceives the young lady operator, who, although he does not suspect it, has been keeping a sharp lookout for his appearance. She smiles at him winningly and naturally his head is turned. Well, that's the answer. His head is turned. Do you fail to grasp the tremendous significance of that apparently trivial fact? Why, as soon as his head is turned he is facing toward the center, isn't he ? There you have it. Before he can check his momentum he is rushing back again over the path by which he came.

This reversal of centrifugal force causes the center of the revolving milk to rise in a peak instead of being depressed, as ordinarily occurs. As the cream thus rises, the skim milk on the outside is wrapped tightly around it by the whirling of the apparatus. If now the peak is pulled up and fastened to a spool the whole contents of the corder can be wound up and transported anywhere with no danger of spilling.


Figure 3

The next step is separating. This is done as shown in Fig. 3. The cord of cream passes between two circular saws, which cut through the containing sheath of skim milk. This sheath is rolled into coils, as shown, and sold to manufacturers of bluing, while the cream is collected upon another reel (not shown) and taken to the churns. As an interesting illustration of how we utilize our byproducts, please note the cats feeding on the milk dust from the saws. These animals when fattened are sold to some of the downtown hotels, where they appear upon the menu as hasenpfeffer.


Figure 4

But all this time, of course, the cream is what we have been laying—or lying—for. Having got that past the censor we haven't much farther to go. The churning is done in the monster 3-ton churns shown in Fig. 4. A squirrel drive is used in these machines to give the butter a rich nutty flavor, such as we have tried to reproduce in this article. An evidence of how exacting have become the demands of a persnickety public is furnished by the fact that we have been compelled to discharge our original force of gray squirrels and hire the red species exclusively. The reason was this: A certain number of hairs from the rapidly moving animals are bound to find their way into the butter and unless they match it in color so nearly as to be practically invisible some of our over-particular customers are sure to object.

Another early source of trouble was that dogs from the sausage foundry used to stray in and kill the squirrels. This we effectively remedied, however, by securing the watch-dog cat, shown in the photograph in the very act of repelling one of these unwelcome intruders.

After churning, the last step preparatory to wrapping is the squaring operation. As the butter comes from the cylinder of the churn, it of course, has a round cross section and will not fit into the regular packing boxes. Before cutting it into pound and half-pound sizes it is therefore squared by the usual process of turning it up in a squaring lathe.

It is then cut and packed in cartons for sale. Yon can secure it on the market everywhere. Look for our trademarked label, "Cup Grease 4—4ds."

The End