Brain Pickings

American Maker: A Manifesto for Hands-On Creativity from 1960

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In 1960, the Chevrolet division of General Motors and the Handy (Jam) Organization produced American Maker a half-hour film about craftsmanship, creativity and how Americans build. More than a mere vehicle of patriotic propaganda, the film is beautifully shot and offers stunning footage of life and work in that era for a fascinating cultural contrast to the “Swinging London” of the 1960, going on at the same time across the pond.

Of all things Americans are, we are makers. With our strengths and our minds and spirit, we gather and form and we fashion. Makers and shapers and put-it-togetherers. We start young, finding out early in life what it’s like to feel something grow and take shape beneath our hands.”

As makers of today and shapers for tomorrow, we Americans seem to share an inborn understanding of how to go about making the things we want. Whether we’re reaching for the moon, hobbying in the home, doing our part on a convenience to be enjoyed, or preparing a tasty tidbit, we’re — all of us — makers.”

So successful was the film that it was played in tandem with Hitchcock’s Psycho, the blockbuster of its day, in select theaters in the Detroit area — the automaker’s prime target of patriotic pep.

The film is available as a free download in multiple video formats from The Internet Archive and offers a priceless, timeless, nationless ode to the art of hands-on innovation, as well as a timely nod at the recent groundswell of the shut-up-and-make-something ethos.

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