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Joseph-Marie Jacquard
Pictures from Lyon, France
Musée Gagagne.

From Isabel Shill

Robert Garner says "(Recall her [Isabel Shill's] lively visit in November [2019] as she was researching an early dating service offered in London. :))"
He also points out

From: Izzy Shill < >
Subject: Re: CHM -- Punchcard Sorting Machine Demo
Date: September 20, 2020 at 9:11:33 AM PDT
To: Dag Spicer
Cc: Robert Garner , research < >

Hello everyone!

I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are well and sane. What’s happening in our country is truly terrifying and I’m sending all of you the best vibes I got.

Bizarrely I’m in Lyon, France. I’m a dual citizen with the UK and left the US back in June and decided to rent a room in Lyon where I have a friend. I went to a museum today that totally blew my mind. Lyon is famous for its silk. There were technological innovators in many things, but particularly in weaving and motif creation. Today I saw a machine from the 1700s/1800s that used punch cards to program the loom (!!!). This is what inspired Hollerith and IBM apparently.

Forgive me if you knew this already, but I had no idea. In all of my research I never came across the idea of punch cards for weaving silk. The punch cards look super similar to the Hollerith cards and were strung together and folded like an accordion like the printing paper from the 80s.

I’m going to attach some photos here from the museum (Musée Gagagne. There’s also a Fabric Museum here which I have yet to visit). I thought you’d enjoy it. It’s called the Jacquard Technique after Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the inventor. And the incredibly intricate portrait of him is in fact woven (not embroidered, or etched as it appears). Apparently woven portraits were very à la mode at the time. As is the lesson plan for the first year of “Silk School”…. c’est vachement un truc d'ouf (i.e. it’s bananas), as the French would say.

Anyways, enjoy. I thought I could count on you all to geek out on this as much as me.

All the best,


note punched cards on left