For almost every electronic device or oil driven machine there used to be a low-tech alternative that was powered by human muscles, water or wind. The Museum of Old Techniques aims to collect and study these historical alternatives to modern day machinery. Why, you may ask?
To quote the Museum: “Evolution doesn’t necessarily mean progress, what we consider to be primitive solutions are often not primitive at all”.
We could not have said it better ourselves. The website of the MOT contains, among other things, some 2,000 simple drawings of hand tools (ordered by shape, and by profession) and a collection of illustrated trade catalogues (up until 1950, in French).
A somewhat related publication is Edward H. Knight’s American Mechanical Dictionary (1881): an almost 3,000 page encyclopedia with descriptions and illustrations of tools, instruments, machines, processes and engineering dating from the 19th century. You need to download a plugin to see the scans.
Knight’s book contains not only early electric equipment and steam driven machinery, but also human and animal powered machines. The site is also host to a 1,500 page Western Electric Catalog dating from 1916, describing and picturing electric equipment on sale at the time. Related: hand powered drilling tools.