The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Technology and Modernization Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Story.Paragraph)
"I have spent the whole day," said [Holmes], "over Lloyd's registers and files of the old papers, following the future career of every vessel which touched at Pondicherry in January and February of 1883. There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which were reported there during those months. Of these, one, the Lone Star, instantly attracted my attention, since, although it was reported as having cleared from London, the name is that which is given to one of the states of the Union" (Orange.170).
Lloyd's Register is a very early, sea-based version of Standard and Poor's, basically: it's a rating agency that decides how safe and how well-made a ship is based on a variety of factors. This idea that we should have international classification systems for ships, and that there should be safety standards at all, is the result of rising investment in boats during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Merchants wanted to know whether the boats they were sponsoring to sail the seven seas would be worth the money. And that's economic modernization right there – the rise of capitalism brings us Lloyd's Register. And the rise of Lloyd's Register brings us Captain James Calhoun and the various postmarks of the five orange pips.
"We are now," said [Stark], "actually within the hydraulic press, and it would be a particularly unpleasant thing for us if anyone were to turn it on. The ceiling of this small chamber is really the end of the descending piston, and it comes down with the force of many tons upon this metal floor. There are small lateral columns of water outside which receive the force, and which transmit and multiply it in the manner which is familiar to you" (Thumb.113).
Again, much like Lloyd's Register above, the entire plot of "The Engineer's Thumb" depends on a piece of modernization, in this case, technological advancement. A hydraulic press uses chambers of water to create greater pressure than other forms of mechanical press. Conan Doyle is using this neat, new idea to basically create the trash compactor scene in Star Wars.
Here is an advertisement which will interest you [...] It appeared in all the papers about a year ago. Listen to this: "Lost, on the 9th inst, Mr. Jeremiah Hayling, aged twenty-six, a hydraulic engineer. Left his lodgings at ten o'clock at night and has not been heard of since. Was dressed in –" etc.,etc. Ha! That represents the last time the colonel needed to have his machine overhauled, I fancy (Thumb.133).
It's not just economic and technological modernization that's driving Holmes's stories. It's also communication technologies, and in this case, the newspaper. How often do we see either Holmes or Watson referring to newspapers to tell a story rather than using their own words? All the time. Going to the public press seems to be the Holmes equivalent of Googling: it's how he gets his bearings on a research project before he looks any closer.