“Sacred Industry” and Technology

From David Nye’s American Technological Sublime:

“Writing of the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, Walt Whitman proclaimed:

Mightier than Egypt’s tombs,
Fairer than Grecia’s, Roma’s temples.
Prouder than Milan’s statued, spired cathedral,
More picturesque than Rhenish castle-keeps,
We plan even not to raise, beyond them all,
The great cathedral sacred industry, no tomb,
A keep for life of practical invention*.

‘Sacred industry’ rivaled the religious architecture of antiquity; in America technological achievements became measures of cultural value.”


* “Practical invention” was one of several phrases then commonly used to designate what we would today call “technology.”

The Centennial Tower, Philadelphia 1876