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Charles Sheeler, American, 1883–1965, Ford Plant, River Rouge, Coke Oven Area, 1927; gelatin silver print. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Lane Collection.

Sheeler saw the repetition of horizontal lines of the conveyor and tracks (at top), and the vertical slots of the coke ovens (at left) a dynamic composition. He also managed to capture the massive scale of the plant by including human figures, at bottom right.

Coke fueled the heat necessary to turn raw, solid iron ore into molten iron for steel. It was made from coal, brought to the Rouge on freighters from Ford-owned mines. Coal was loaded into ovens by means of the large conveyor shown at the top of this photograph. The coal was then heated at high temperatures and converted to coke.