Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Meat Packing in Porkopolis, 1857

"Pork-packing in Cincinnati was, at the time of our visit, nearly at a stand-still, owing to the mild and damp weather unusual at the season. One establishment we found in partial operation. We entered an immense low-ceiled room and followed a vista of dead swine, upon their backs, their paws stretching mutely toward heaven. Walking down to the vanishing point, we found there a sort of human chopping-machine where the hogs were converted into commercial pork. A plank table, two men to lift and turn, two to wield the cleavers, were its component parts. No iron cog-wheels could work with more regular motion. Plump falls the hog upon the table, chop, chop; chop, chop; chop, chop, fall the cleavers. All is over. But, before you can say so, plump, chop, chop; chop, chop; chop, chop, sounds again. There is no pause for admiration. By a skilled sleight of hand, hams, shoulders, clear, mess, and prime fly off, each squarely cut to its own place, where attendants, aided by trucks and dumb-waiters, dispatch each to its separate destiny--the ham for Mexico, its loin for Bordeaux. Amazed beyond all expectation at the celerity, we took out our watches and counted thirty-five seconds, from the moment when one hog touched the table until the next occupied its place. The number of blows required I regret we did not count. The vast slaughter-yards we took occasion not to visit, satisfied at seeing the rivers of blood that flowed from them."

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, A Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier: with a Statistical Appendix (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co., 1857, 9).


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