Development and Impact of the Paper Industry

3315 words (13 pages) Essay in History

08/02/20 History Reference this

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A Paper on Paper

 Over time there have been many different ways that people have written down their ideas. The use of paper over the centuries has changed but the concept has stayed the same. The first use of the kind of paper we use today dates all the way back to China in 105 A.D. (Hunter 4). From there the idea travelled across Europe where they brought in the use of paper mills, and eventually to North America, and most recently to today where they have the use of machines and factory workers. The use of paper has also had huge influences on cultures and societies, and as recently as today where consumer habits and advances in technology have had impacts on the paper industry.

 The manufacturing and use of the type of paper we use today began early on, but it was not until Cai Lun where we see the invention of ‘true paper’ (Kuhlberg). ‘True paper’ came on the scene in 105 A.D. to the court of Han Hedi, the Emperor of China at the time (“Paper” 3). Cai Lun was a court official from Hedi’s court in China, and he was the first to be credited with the process of making paper and standardizing the process (“Paper” 3) (Renneboog). Before ‘true paper’, people in China who had the means to, wrote on a variety of objects like slabs of wood or bamboo (“Paper” 2). They would also use shoulder bones from a variety of different animals because they had a sizable flat surface (“Paper” 2). According to Hubbe and Bowden, Lun wrote a report to the Emperor that he had improved the process of papermaking which included the use of waste fibres, old thrown out cloths, bark, and hemp (1745). Some people in China were able to write, and so when this process of papermaking arrived, there was some demand for it and therefore it was able to catch on (“Paper” 3). Cai Lun was able to create a writing surface that was not as heavy or expensive, which pleased the emperor (“Paper” 3). The process of making ‘true paper’ consists of very thin pieces of fibre that have been mixed with water and beat until they start to form the right consistency where they are then are moulded into a thin flat sheet (Hunter 5). The sheet is formed on a sieve and is then taken off and left to dry where it will eventually become paper (Hunter 5). In the video Ancient Chinese Paper-Making, it shows the process of making paper that Lun would have used, which was all done by hand (Lee). In it we see the workers mixing together the fibers and water, place it in a mould, which was made of bamboo, where the paper would be shaped into its desired form (Lee) (Hunter 123). The sheet would then be placed on a large flat mat where any excess water is drained and where it would also be left to dry (Lee). Although the video does not show it, Lun’s process involved the use of a mortar and pestle on the pieces of fabric to help soften them (Hubbe and Bowden 1745). We also know that Lun used different types of wood pieces, often mixing different cloth and wood fibres together (“Paper” 4). His innovation had many influences, particularly on calligraphy writing in China that was happening at the time (“Paper” 3). This new paper would allow calligraphers to write on the smooth surface easily and more effectively (“Paper” 3). Some sources say that “paper” in Chinese character form involves the symbols for both “silk” and “family” and they suggest that this is proof that they had originally used cloth (Hubbe and Bowden 1745).

 Europe also had its influences on the papermaking industry. In the early days of papermaking in Europe, they used similar technologies to manufacturing in China with the use of paper moulds (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). Instead of using screens made of bamboo, they used metal wires, usually made of copper or brass (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). The use of the metal wires did not allow for them to be rolled and stored elsewhere like those made of bamboo, they instead would attach the screen to a paper mould permanently (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). Because the moulds were made of hard metal, these would leave lines on the paper, whereas the bamboo ones did not (Hunter 123). This new method also meant that they needed to find a way to transfer the paper off of the mould (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). They found that felt worked the best, and they were able to remove the sheets from the mould easily (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). When they removed the sheets, they would pile them up in stacks where they employed the use of a heavy press that would flatten them to give them its thin form as well as getting rid of any excess water (Hubbe and Bowden 1750). They also employed the use of a deckle, which would be attached to the mould and would help shape the paper to an even thickness (Hubbe and Bowden 1749). At this time paper was still being made similarly to how it was made in China, by adding water and molding the left-over fibres onto a thin sheet. Here, with the permanent attachments on the moulds, we can see the first early signs of modern papermaking.

Later on, in Europe mainly Italy, we see the beginnings of a different pulping process, and the beginnings of the paper mills (Hubbe and Bowden 1750). In a video titled Traditional Paper Making Process, we see how they would have made use of these different innovations (601ProductionLTD). The video shows a man from the Musee Historique du Papier, making paper the traditional way (601ProductionLTD). In it we see him only use pieces of cotton fibers to add to water, which is then put in bins to be mixed by large hammers (601ProductionLTD). These hammers would have been powered by a water wheel (601ProductionLTD). The fiber and water mixture are then put on a flat sieve mould where it is shaken and evened out (601ProductionLTD) The sheet is then carefully placed on a piece of felt where it is then put under a heavy press (601ProductionLTD). Here the press rids the sheet of any excess water and then finally is hung to dry (601ProductionLTD). In the late 1600s, paper mills had begun to crop up in the United States, starting with one near Philadelphia (Bidwell xxv). William Rittenhouse was the owner of the first paper mill and was partnered with a William Bradford, who specialized in printing (Bidwell 1). The mill started a business in 1691, and then in 1697, Rittenhouse took his business to New York (Bidwell 1). Paper mills in America were also powered by water wheels (Bidwell 2). Rittenhouse used the overshot wheel, one of many different types of water wheels that were used by mills (Bruce and Ryan). How the wheel worked was that it was set up in shallow water where the flow of the water moved the wheel, which in turn powered the mill (Bruce and Ryan).

Paper also had influences on technologies as well. When we look at Europe, we know that with the invention of the printing press, it had allowed for an easier flow of information. But without the proper type of paper, the printing press would not have been able to succeed as it did (“Paper” 1). The printing press also had major influences on the process of papermaking. In 1450 Mainz Germany, Johann Gutenberg partnered with Johann Fust to set up a printing press shop where he proceeded to print his version of the Latin Bible (“Gutenberg”). Gutenberg is often the one credited with inventing the printing press (Gould). Gutenberg was able to create a press that included moveable pieces corresponding to letters in the alphabet that was able to print pages at a much faster rate than before and which wrote its script as it printed (Gould). His invention also allowed for quicker printing and therefore he was able to print many copies of his bible at once (Gould). In the 15th century, the use of ‘true paper’, instead of other forms like parchment, was easier to use in the printing press which allowed it to produce more at a faster rate (“Paper” 1) (Renneboog). Here we see that with certain innovations to papermaking allowed for the use of the printing press, which in turn caused a massive change to society as more and more people had access to printed materials.

 As a precursor to modern paper manufacturing, people were trying to come up with different ways to manufacture paper (Hubbe and Bowden 1751). In the 1700s, due to a shortage of available cotton fibres, there was a need for different materials (Hubbe and Bowden 1751). This may have led to the use of wood fibres for paper instead, which was suggested in 1719 by De Reaumur and later used by Matthias Koops who used both straw and wood fibers (Hubbe and Bowden 1751). The Industrial Revolution also had its impacts on papermaking, with improvements through science and the change in manufacturing from small workshops to large factories (Hubbe and Bowden 1751). In the 1800s, when the printing press gathered popularity, fewer and fewer workshops were using the method by hand and they eventually went out of business (Hubbe and Bowden 1751-1752). Wood as a replacement for fibres began to take off more in the 1800s as well, as it was supposedly cheaper to use (Kuhlberg). Kuhlberg also notes that because using wood was cheaper it helped with the growing demand for the written word on print which was a result of the popularity of the printing press. Here we see the effects that shortage of materials had on manufacturing and the ways in which companies tried to keep up.

Today, paper making has gone through some changes. Paper is manufactured in factories and produced at a much faster rate as it used to be (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). Many manufacturers have taken to adding chemicals or other agents to improve the quality of the paper. PaperOne, a paper manufacturing company in Singapore, is one of these manufacturers (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). The first step will involve the acquiring of wood logs, where they then chop them into small pieces (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). The next step involves putting the wood chips into a chemical mixture that removes the lignin from the chips (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). Lignin is a substance found in the cell wall of plants and is used for strengthening the plant (Irmer). Therefore, when the lignin is removed from the wood chips, it causes the breakdown of the wood pieces, which are then easily broken down (Irmer). Using methods that we have seen previously, the pieces of fibre are then placed in water and then formed into bales where they are fed into a machine that flattens the bales into the thin form of paper (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). The last step involves the paper being fed through another machine that rids the paper of excess water, where it is then left to dry and cut, where it is packaged and then sent out to customers (“How Paper is Made” [April Group]). With this process, we can see how even with new and faster innovations, papermaking has virtually stayed very much the same.

  One of the similarities in papermaking has always been the acquiring of different fibres and then the subsequent mixing with water and mashing to create a thin sheet (Renneboog). The only thing that is different is the type of fibres used. The use of wood fibres allows for manufacturers to add other materials to it, which would able them to create different kinds of paper (Renneboog). Today manufacturers use a variety of materials, like cotton or trees which produce different types of textures and thickness of paper (Renneboog). Cotton fibres create paper that is stronger and finer than that made with wood pulp (Renneboog).

With the effects of new technologies and the want for an eco-friendlier world, the production of paper has slowed down significantly. Most recently, we see that some companies are going a more environmentally friendly route and taking recycled materials to produce paper (“How Paper is Made” [IdahoForest]). Whereas other companies are feeling the effects of societies attempting to be environmentally friendly. Beijing is even said to be shutting down one thousand paper manufacturing factories by the year 2020 (Stanway). Officials in Beijing are attempting to reduce the amount of smog and pollution that has become a major environmental problem in China (Stanway). While the production of paper has slowed down significantly, Berg et al in their podcast How the Paper and Forest Products Industry thrives in the Digital Age, argue that this does not mean that the use of paper is going to go away. Companies just need to figure out a different strategy with competing in the age of technology and in the case of Beijing, possibly come up with a more environmentally friendly manufacturing process (Berg et al). For centuries people have used paper for reading and writing, but lately with new developments in technology, there is less of a need for them. Berg et al note that while there has been a decline of paper for reading and writing since the 80s and 90s, there is more of a demand for packaging paper, as more and more people go online for products. Early on we see that the production of paper has had major influences on society, but today we see that our changing views on society and the planet are having effects on paper manufacturing itself.

 We can see that while there have been innovations in some of the steps of manufacturing paper over time, the process has virtually stayed the same. From Cai Lun, to the use of paper mills and factories through to today, it has been consistent in its use of various fibres and the addition of water, where it is then shaped into its proffered form. Paper manufacturing may die down, but with new innovations we may see a new process of manufacturing.

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