The Zaanse industry - reconstruction of welfare after WWII

Zaans industry as seen through the eyes of photographer Peter Marcuse.

After World War II, Zaans industry grabbed its opportunities. New products were custom made-soups, parboiled rice, kitchens,parquet floors, new types of linoleum and countless other innovations.

In the years between world wars was also when the advertising industry was increasingly influenced by the avant-garde art movements.
Photography was used for sales catalogues, documentation, instruction material, advertising, public relations, education and research.

Peter Marcuse (Zaandam 1933) was the first professional photographer whose work focused on Zaans industry during this pioneering phase.

His images show a time of optimism and belief in progress.
The Zaans Museum presents an overview of his work from the fifties and sixties.

Zaans industry in images, positive image forming.

In Europe, advertising photography was influenced by Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, Art Deco and Bauhaus. From the 1920s, American advertising photography was influenced by artistic movements such as Futurism, Cubism, Vorticism and Expressionism and under this influence emerged a kind of cult of the machine in the United States.
This led to large companies discovering photography as a way to create positive images. Illustrated magazines like LOOK and LIFE played an important role in the imaging industry and after World War II these ideas came to the Netherlands.

Peter Marcuse was the first professional photographer from the Zaan region to focus on industry.
Photography was used for sales catalogues, documentation, instruction materials, advertising, public relations, education and research.

Artillery Devices and Positive Image

Not everyone will think of an AR 10 rifle as a positive image.
The company ‘Artillery Workshops was the national weapons manufacturer and active mainly during the Cold War.
Many then saw the Dutch arms industry as an important instrument in the defence against the Eastern Bloc.
Since the year1899 the state company was located on the southern edge of the Zaan close to the North Sea Canal. The rifle also shows something of the ambivalence surrounding the concept of Positive Image.

The Photographer

Industrial photography was an artisan profession which required technical knowledge of cameras, light-sensitive material, development chemicals, exposure lamps and printing technology.
Peter Marcuse even found his own solutions for technical lighting problems.
The first equipment was mostly pre-war, but improved cameras and lenses were gradually introduced.
Besides working in the dark room, there was also the need to process and retouch images which meant stripping the photo of impurities, a task that required patience.
The workspace of a photographer was a mixture of a medieval alchemist’s laboratory and an artist’s studio and the emergence of the photographic image in the developer tray was always a magical moment.
In that sense, according to Peter Marcuse, digital photography cannot compete.

Artillery Devices

Following World War II, the Artillery Workshops company was the largest employer in the Zaan. After the end of the Cold War, the need for weapons changed.
The company had to refocus which led to its splitting.
On 4 July 1957, the U.S. arms factory Fairchild Arma Lite sold a five year production license for the AR-10 rifle to Artillery Workshops.
With its large manufacturing plant and production facilities, Artillery Workshops could produce the Arma Lite rifle in the large quantities that Fairchild expected. The company was so efficient that the first weapons could be assembled in January 1958. Peter Marcuse photographed them for the purpose of instruction material.

Labour and Craft

Zaans factories largely used unskilled labour alongside skilled artisans. Due to a shortage of male workers, women were
increasingly brought into industry and there was also an increase in the use of mechanization and automation.
The relationship between people and machines was changing. Craftsmanship was gradually disappearing, although never entirely
and in many of Peter Marcuse’s industry photos, people are the central subject. People were the most important asset of the company,
proud of their work and often deriving their identity from it. The pictures of people at work reveal the photographer’s fascination
of labour and craft.

Leisure Time

The 1960s was the time of hippies and rockers, the advent of the Pill, the first car and the music of Elvis Presley and the Beatles,
but also the time of the Cold War, the Bomb and massive pollution. The five day workweek, an American invention, had been introduced
in 1960 which gave more time for recreation and the Zaans region too came under the spell of the ‘Swinging Sixties.’

Watersports were an important form of recreation and the holiday was sometimes spent in a caravan or summer home provided by the employer. Unemployment was rare and in this time of almost full employment, employers did much to retain their employees.
But shortening the work week also led to a labour shortage that was met by automation and foreign labour.


‘I admire the graphic images of Aart Klein, the compelling symbolism of Art Kane, the illustrating and metaphorical photography
of Bert Stern, the way in which action is expressed in the social photos by Paul Fusco and the constructed world of Will McBride.
Finally, I feel strongly attracted to the photography of women by Frederick Smith and Sam Haskins.’

Zaans Brands

Zaans industry consisted of sawmills, carpentry and wood products, manufacturers of oil, flour, rice, barley, cocoa, chocolate, oatmeal, paper and paper products, soap, paint and varnish.
The nineteenth century saw the production of daily consumables such asbread, biscuits and beer.
The next phase saw the industrialization of utensils which led to the manufacture of home supplies such as kitchens, linoleum flooring and doors, all factory-made.
Zaans brands had strong identities and Zaans manufacturing plants supplied products both within and outside of Europe.

The Chain Store

The purchasing power of households strongly increased in the period between reconstruction and welfare state, increasing fivefold between 1948 and 1960.
The chain store business had created new forms of food distribution, self-service stores and supermarkets.
Because the wholesaler still had a limited role, chain stores like Simon de Wit and Albert Heijn developed their own distribution centres.
Building a public image became increasingly important. The combination of quality, low prices and service was linked to the name of the chain store which was represented by the logo.
Big chain stores had saving schemes to encourage
customer loyalty, but which also brought consumer goods within everyone’s reach.

Branded Products

Rapidly increasing wealth led to an expanding market for consumer products.
Large retailers would manufacture products and
release them under their own brand names. Zaans companies looked to develop value added products that made less work at home, coming up with custom-made soups, quick cooking rice and barley, ready-made kitchens, parquet floors, new types of linoleum and countless other innovations.
It was also a boost for the packaging industry and a source of income for advertising and marketing businesses.
People from the Zaan region did not see themselves as workers for a pudding factory, door factory or biscuit factory, but for Honig, Duyvis, Bruynzeel or Verkade.

The American Dream in Europe

Following World War II, there was in the Netherlands a whole new climate for advertising, marketing and communication.
The American dream has been achieved in Europe: Your own house decorated to your own modern taste, a through lounge, a T.V. and a car -all symbols of increased prosperity. Part of the prosperity in Europe was formed by Linoleum Krommenie, currently Forbo, makers of modern carpets which were easy to keep clean and part of the modern home.