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In a work of this kind little that is new can be expected; I have not, however, servilely copied any author, but have written the whole as if little had been written before. I have sought for information wherever I could find it; and with this view have perused more volumes than it would be prudent to name. A few gleanings which modern writers have passed over have been picked up—two or three ancient devices have been snatched from oblivion, as the atmospheric sprinkling pot and the philosophical bellows, and some erroneous opinions have been corrected; that, for example, respecting the origin of the safety valve. There is little room for the charge of arrogance in claiming this much, since it is all I have to claim and it is nothing but what a little industry in any one else would have realized. Several devices of my own have also been introduced which must speak for themselves. On referring to old works that are expensive or of rare occurrence I have generally quoted the very words of the writers, under the impression that some of these works will not long be met with at all. For the convenience of perusal the work is broken into chapters, and as much miscellaneous matter has been introduced, an index is added. The general arrangement and division of the subject will be found at the close of the first chapter.
In tracing the progress of any one of the primitive arts, it is difficult to avoid reference to others. They are all so connected that none can be perfectly isolated. I have therefore introduced such notices of inventions and inventors as seemed useful to be known : facts which appeared interesting to the writer as a mechanic, he supposed would not be wholly without interest in the opinion of his brethren. In this, I am aware, it is easy to to be mistaken; for it is a common error to imagine that things which are interesting to ourselves must be equally so to others. As, however, all those devices that contribute to the conveniences of life will ever possess an intrinsic value, the hope is indulged that the following account of several important ones, although it may present little attraction to general readers, will at least be found useful to those for whom it is more especially designed. It certainly is not what I could wish, but it is the best I could produce. I am sensible that it has many imperfections, and there are doubtless many more which have not been perceived. That I have often been diverted from the subjects embraced in the title-page is true; and as the whole was written at long intervals, even of years, a want of order and connection may be perceived in some parts, and obscurity felt in others. All that I can offer to diminish the severity of criticism, is § to admit there is much room for it.
In noticing various hydraulic devices, I have endeavored to award honor to whomsoever it was due : to say nothing of the ancients, with whom most of them originated, it may here be observed that the Germans were the earliest cultivators of practical hydraulics in modern times. The Dutch (part of that people) contributed to extend a knowledge of their inventions. It was a Dutchman who constructed the famous machinery at Marli, and England was indebted to another for her first water-works at London Bridge. The simplest pump-box or piston known, the inverted cone of leather, is of German origin, and so is the tube-pump of Muschenbroek. Hose for fire-engines, both of leather and canvas, was invented by Dutchmen. They carried the chain-pump of China to their settlements in India, and also to Europe. Van Braam brought it to the U. States. A German invented the air-pump, and the first high pressure steam-engine figured in books was by another. As regards hydraulic machinery, the Dutch have been to the moderns, in some degree, what the Egyptians were to the ancients—their teachers. The physical geography of Holland and Egypt
necessarily led the inhabitants of both countries to cultivate to the utmost extent the art of raising water. Wind-mills for draining water off land first occur (in modern days) in Holland. It is indeed the constant employment of this element—wind—that preserves the Dutch from destruction by another; for, as a nation, they are in much the same predicament they formerly put unruly felons in, viz.: confining each in a close vault with a pump, and then admitting a stream of water that required his unceasing efforts to pump out, to prevent himself from drowning. The French have contributed the neatest machine known; the ram of Montgolfier—theirs is the double pump of La Hire, and the frictionless piston of Gosset—La Faye improved the old tympanum of Asia—Papin was one of the authors of the steam-engine, and Le Demour devised the centrifugal pump. Rotary pumps and the reintroduction of air-vessels and fire-engines rest between Germany and France. Drawn leaden pipes were projected by Dalesme. The English revived the plunger pump and stuffing-box of Moreland, and furnished the expanding metallic pistons of Cartwright and Barton—the steam-engines of Worcester and Savery, Newcomen and Watt—the pneumatic apparatus of Brown, and motive engines of Cecil and others—Whitehurst was the first to apply the principle of the ram, and the quicksilver pump was invented by Hawkins—Hales invented the milling of sheet lead, and the first drawn pipes were made by Wilkinson. Switzerland contributed the spiral pump of Wirtz—America has furnished the riveted hose of Sellers and Pennock, the motive machine of Morey, and high pressure engines of Evans; and both have given numerous modifications of every hydraulic device. The Italians have preserved many ancient devices, and to them the discoveries of Gallileo and Torricelli respecting atmospheric pressure are due. Porta has given the first figure of a device for raising water by steam, and Venturi's experiments have extended their claims. Remarks have occasionally been introduced on the importance of the mechanic arts and the real dignity attached to their profession, notwithstanding the degraded state in which operatives have ever.been held by those who have lived on their ingenuity and become enriched by their skill. But this state of things we believe is passing away, and the time is not distant when such men, instead of being deemed, as under the old regime, virtual serfs, will exert an influence in society commensurate with their contributions to its welfare. And where, it may be asked, is there a comfort, or convenience, or luxury of life, which they do not create or assist to furnish, from the bread that sustains the body to the volume that informs the mind 3 Few classes have a more honorable career before them than intelligent mechanics. Certainly none have better opportunities of associating their names with those of the best of their species. Science and the arts open the paths to true glory; and greater triumphs remain to be .." in both than the world has yet witnessed. Human toil has not been dispensed with, but it certainly will be superseded, in a great measure, if not altogether, by forces derived from inanimate nature. A great part of the globe is yet a desert, inhabited by beasts of prey, or by men more savage than they; whereas the Creator designs the whole to be a garden and peopled with happy intelligences, as in the first Eden. It is much too common to seek ephemeral distinction on the troubled sea of politics or party; but of the thousands who launch their barks upon it, how few ever reach the haven of their wishes . The greater part are soon eugulphed in oblivion, while not a few, exhausted by useless struggles, are bereft of their energies and quickly sink in despair—but no fame is more certain or more
vi Pref Ace.
durable than that which arises from useful inventions. Whitney and Whittemore, Evans and Fulton, will be remembered as long as cotton gins, carding machines, steam-engines, and steam-boats are known on these continents, and when contemporary politicians are wholly forgotten—in fact most of these are so already. The name of Watt will be known while that of every warrior and monarch and statesman of his day has perished; and so it ought to be, for with few exceptions, he contributed more to the happiness of his species than have such men from the beginning of time. No one is now interested in learning any thing respecting the sanguinary Bull of Burgundy and his wily antagonist, the eleventh Louis of France, whose contests kept for years the European world in an uproar; and the latter, not content with murdering his species by wholesale, in his old age slew infants that he might acquire new vigor by bathing in their blood : but as long as time endures, the world will revere the names of their contemporaries—Gottenburg, Koster, Faust, and Schoeffer and their associates in printing and type-founding. Science and the arts are renovating the constitution of society. The destiny of nations cannot be much longer held by political gamblers, wealthy dolts, titled buffoons, and royal puppets; these no longer sustained by factitious aids must descend to their own level. Theories of governments will not be opposed to nature and carried out in violation of her laws; but practical science will be the ruling principle; and practical philosophers will be, as God designed they should be, the master spirits of the world. The history and progress of the useful arts will soon become a subject of general study. Historians will hereafter trace in them the rise and fall of nations; for power and prečminence will depend upon new discoveries in and applications of science. Battles will soon be fought by engineers instead of generals, and by mechanism in place of men. But battles, we trust, will hereafter be few ; for if ever men were called upon by that which is dear to them and their race—by that which is calculated to rouse the purest feelings and exterminate the worst ones, it is to denounce that spirit of military glory which encourages and induces offensive wars. Take away all the false glare and pomp of wars, and tyranny will expire—for it would have nothing to support it. Put war in its true light, and no well regulated mind would ever embrace it as a profession. To poets and writers of romance, the annals of mechanism present unexplored sources of materials. They are mines of the richest ores— fields teeming with the choicest fruits and flowers. Here are to be found incidents as agreeable and exciting in their natures, and as important in their effects as anything that can be realized by the imagination alone; such too, as present nothing to offend the finest taste, or conflict with the purest morals. When novelists have worn out the common ground; (and they seem already to have done so,) when mere sentiment grows flat, and the exhibition of the passions becomes stale; when politics, history and love are exhausted—works founded on the origin, progress, and maturity of the useful arts will both charm the imagination and improve the judgment of readers. Does an author wish to introduce characters who have left permanent impressions of their genius upon the world? Where can he find them in such variety as in the race of inventors 2 Is he desirous of enriching his pages with singular coincidences, curious facts, surprising results —to facinate his readers, and cause them to anticipate the end of his pages with regret' Let him detail the circumstances that led to the conception, and accompanied the improvement of those inventions and discoveries that have elevated civilized man above the savage. Is such a writer desirous, for instance, to entertain the sex He could
hardly do it more effectually than by writing a volume on the labors of primitive spinsters, ere the distaff was adopted, or the spindle (the original fly-wheel) was invented; by detailing the circumstances that gave birth to those implements, with the trials, observations, customs and anecdotes connected with their introduction and their uses—imagining the congratulations that were poured upon the artist who wove the first web in a loom, and the praises bestowed upon the author of that machine and the shuttle—recalling the times and scenes when groups of laughing females were hastening to examine the first colored mantles; and recording the bursts of admiration which dropped from them (in all the force of oriental hyperbole) upon witnessing the processes by which purple and scarlet and crimson and green, &c. were produced—recounting the methods by which the art of dyeing wrought a revolution in costume, and how it became one of the great sources of wealth to Babylon and Tyre—referring to the gratification which the invention of needles and pins, of thimbles and combs, conferred on ancient dames; and noticing the influence of these in improving the dress and deportment of women—describing the trials of artists before they succeeded in perfecting these instruments, and so on, until every addition to domestic dwellings, to household furniture, and to dress be reviewed—until every thing which a modern lady possesses over an Indian's squaw be brought forward and described, with all the known facts and circumstances associated with its history and application; —and thus form a series of essays on the arts, in which every line would be poetry, and every incident new. A new species of drama might here take its rise; one possessing equal attractions and exhibiting equally interesting pictures of human life, as any thing which writers of comedy or tragedy have yet produced. Here are characters and customs of every variety, age, and nation—incidents and adventure in the greatest profusion—the extremes of misery and bliss, of poverty and wealth, of suffering virtue and unrequited toil, and their opposites. Here the humblest individuals have, by industry and ingenuity, risen from obscurity and astonished the world. Mechanics have become kings like the old potter of Sicily, (Agathocles,) Aurelius the blacksmith of Rome, and Leitz the tinker who . the caliph dynasty of the Soffarites. Kings have left their thrones to become workmen in brass and silver, wood and iron; as Demetrius at his lathe, Æropus making lamps and tables, Charles V. in his watchmaker's shop ; and if some bizarre examples are wanted, there is still to be seen the mantua-making apartments of Ferdinand VII. with specimens of his work. A play might be founded on the fairs held at Delos, (the Pittsburg of of the old Greeks,) where merchants (observes Pliny) assembled from all parts of the world to purchase hardware and bronze. An island whose artists were ennobled for the beauty and finish of their works in the metals, and who particularly excelled in brazen feet for chairs, tables, and bedsteads, and in statues and other large works in brass. Then there was the workmen of Ægina, who beat all others in fabricating branches and and sockets of candelabra ; while those of Tarentum produced the best pedestals or shafts. In connection with which, there is the singular story of the Lady Gegania, who, after giving 50,000 sesterces for a bronze candlestick, adopted its ill-favored and hump-backed maker for her companion and heir. How rich in interest would a dramatic scene be if laid in an antediluvian smith's shop ! (Forges have always been places of resort.) To notice the characters of the visitants, listen to their remarks, examine the instruments fabricated by the artist, his materials, fuel, bellows, and other tools!
viii PREFACE. o
There is not a more interesting scene in all the Iliad than the description of Vulcan at work. But if such a distance of time is too remote, there is the forge of Kawah, the blacksmith of Ispahan, he whose apron was for centuries the banner of the Persian empire. The forge of Aurelius also, where he made the sword by which he was while emperor slain.
A scene might open in the barber's shop of Alexandria, in which the boy Ctesibius used to play, and where the first scintillations of his genius broke out; while his subsequent speculations, his private essays and public experiments, some of which were probably exhibited before the reigning Ptolemies, might be brought into view—his pupil, Heron, and other philosophers and literati might also be included in the plot. Of the connection of barbers with important events there is no end—there was the tatling artist of Midas, the spruce hair-dresser of Julian the emperor, the inquisitive one that saved Caesar's life by listening to the conversation of assassins—the history of the silver shaving vessel with which the benevolent father of Marc Anthony relieved the pecuniary distresses of a friend —there was the wicked Oliver Dain; and the ancestor of Tunstall, the famous Bishop of Durham, was barber to William the Conqueror: hence the bishop's coat of arms contained three combs.
Who would not go to see a representation of the impostures of the heathen priesthood Men who in the darkest times applied some of the finest principles of science to the purposes of delusion With what emotions should we enter their secret recesses in the temples —places where their chemical processes were matured, their automaton figures and other mechanical apparatus conceived and fabricated, and where experiments were made before the miracles were consummated in public. But it is impossible to enumerate a tithe of the subjects and incidents for the drama that might be derived from the history of the arts: they are more numerous than the mechanical professions—more diversified than articles of traffic or implements of trades. The plots, too, might be rendered as complicated, and their denouement as agreeable or disagreeable as could be desired: and what is better than all, in such plays the moral, intellectual and inventive faculties of an audience would be excited and improved—science would pervade every piece, and her professors would be the principal performers.
THOS. EWBANK. JWew-York, December, 1841.