Leaders Of Industry - Inventors And Producers
( Originally Published 1884 )
John Heathcoat, Inventor of the Robbin-net Machine.—His Early Life, His Ingenuity, and Plodding Perseverance.—Invention of his Machine. —Anecdote of Lord Lyndhurst.—Progress of the Lace-trade.—Heathcoat's Machines Destroyed by the Luddites.—His Character.-Jacquard: his Inventions and Adventures.—Vaucanson: his Mechanical Genius, Improvements in Silk Manufacture.—Jacquard Improves Vaucanson's Machine.—The Jacquard Loom Adopted.—Joshua Heilman, Inventor of the Combing-machine.—History of the Invention.—Its Value.
"Neither the naked hand, nor the understanding, left to itself, can do much; the work is accomplished by instruments and helps of which the need is not less for the understanding than the hand. "—BACON.
ONE of the most important modifications in the Stocking-frame was that which enabled it to be applied to the manufacture of lace on a large scale. In 1777, two workmen, Frost and Holmes, were both engaged making point-net by means of the modifications they had introduced in the stocking frame; and in the course of about thirty years, so rapid was the growth of this branch of production, that 1500 point-net frames were at work, giving employment to upwards of 15,000 people. Owing, however, to the war, to change of fashion, and to other circumstances, the Nottingham lace manufacture rapidly fell off; and it continued in a decaying state until the invention of the bobbin-net ma-chine by John Heathcoat, late M.P. for Tiverton, which had the effect of at once re-establishing the manufacture on solid foundations.
John Heathcoat was the son of a cottage farmer at Long Whalton, Leicestershire, where he was born in 1784. He was taught to read and write at the village school, but was shortly removed from it to be put apprentice to a framesmith in a neighboring village. The boy soon learnt to handle tools with dexterity, and he acquired a minute knowledge of the parts of which the stocking-frame was composed, as well as of the more intricate warp-machine. At his leisure he studied how to introduce improvements in them, and his friend Mr. Bazley, M.P., states that as early as the age of sixteen he conceived the idea of inventing a machine by which lace might be made similar to Buckingham or French lace, then all made by hand. The first practical improvement he succeeded in introducing was in the warp-frame; when, by means of an ingenious apparatus, he succeeded in producing " mitts" of a lacey appearance; and it was this success which determined him to pursue the study of mechanical lace-making. The stocking-frame had already, in a modified form, been applied to the manufacture of point-net lace; in which the mesh was looped, as in a stocking; but the work was slight and frail, and therefore unsatisfactory. Many ingenious Nottingham mechanics had during a long succession of years been laboring at the problem of inventing a machine by which the mesh of threads should be twisted round each other on the formation of the net. Some of these men died in poverty, some were driven insane, and all alike failed in the object of their search. The old warp-machine held its ground.
When a little over twenty-one years of age, Heath-coat married, and 'went to Nottingham in search of work. He there found employment as a smith and " setter-up" of hosiery and warp-frames. He also continued to pursue the subject on which his mind had be-fore been occupied, and labored to compass the contrivance of a twist traverse net-machine. He first studied the art of making the Buckingham or pillow-lace by hand, with the object of effecting the same motions by mechanical means. It was a long and laborious task, requiring the exercise of great perseverance and no little ingenuity. His master, Elliott, described him at that time as plodding, patient, self-denying, and taciturn, undaunted by failures and mistakes, full of resources and expedients, and entertaining the most perfect confidence that his application of mechanical principles would eventually be crowned with success. During this time his wife was kept in almost as great anxiety as himself. She well knew of his struggles and difficulties, and she even began to feel the pressure of poverty on her house-hold; for while he was laboring at his invention, he was frequently under the necessity of laying aside the work that brought in the weekly wage. Many years after, when all difficulties had been successfully overcome, the conversation which took place between husband and wife one eventful Saturday evening was vividly remembered. " Well, John," said the anxious wife, looking in her husband's face, " will it work?" " No, Anne," was the sad answer, " I have had to take it all in pieces again." Though he could still speak hopefully and cheerfully, his poor wife could restrain her feelings no longer, but sat down and cried bitterly. She had, how-ever, only a few more weeks to wait; for success, long labored for and richly deserved, came at last; and a proud and happy man was John Heathcote when he brought home the first narrow strip of bobbin-net made by his machine, and placed it in the hands of his wife.
It is difficult to describe in words an invention so complicated as the bobbin-net machine. It was indeed a mechanical pillow for making lace; imitating in an ingenious manner the motions of the lace-maker's fingers in intersecting or tying the meshes of the lace upon her pillow. On analyzing the component parts of a piece of hand-made lace, Heathcoat was enabled to classify the threads into longitudinal and diagonal. He began his experiments by stretching common packing-threads across his room for the warp, and then passing the weft-threads between them by common plyers, delivering them to other plyers on the opposite side; then, after giving them a sideways motion and twist, the threads were repassed back between the next adjoining cords, the meshes being thus tied in the same way as upon pillows by hand. He had then to contrive a mechanism that should accomplish all these nice and delicate movements; and to do this cost him no small amount of bodily and mental toil. Long after, he said : " The single difficulty of getting the diagonal threads to twist in the allotted space was so great, that it had now to-be done, I should probably not attempt its accomplishment." His next step was to provide thin metallic discs, to be used as bobbins for conducting the thread backward and forward through the warp. These discs, being arranged in carrier-frames, placed on each side of the warp, were moved by suitable machinery, so as to conduct the thread from side to side in forming the lace. He eventually succeeded in working out his principle with extraordinary skill and success, and at the age of twenty-four he was enabled to secure his invention by a patent.
As in the case of nearly all inventions which have proved productive, Heathcoat's rights as a patentee were disputed, and his claims as an inventor called in question. On the supposed invalidity of the patent, the lace-makers boldly adopted the bobbin-net machine, and set the inventor at defiance. But other patents were taken out for alleged improvements and adaptations; and it was only when these new patentees fell out and went to law with each other that Heathcoat's rights became established. One lace manufacturer having brought an action against another for an alleged infringement of his patent, the jury brought in a verdict for the defendant, in which the judge concurred, on the ground that both the machines in question were infringements of Heathcoat's patent. It was on the occasion of this trial, "Bovine vs. Moore," that Sir John Copley (afterwards Lord Lyndhurst,) who was retained for the defense in the interest of Mr. Heath-coat, learnt to work the bobbin-net machine in order that he might master the details of the invention. On reading over his brief, he confessed that he did not quite understand the merits of the case; but, as it seemed to him to be one of great importance, he offered to go down into the country forthwith and study the machine until he understood it; " and then," said he, "I will defend you to the best of my ability." He accordingly put himself into that night's mail, and went down to Nottingham to get up his case as perhaps counsel never got it up before. Next morning the learned sergeant placed himself in a lace-loom, and he did not leave it until he could deftly make a piece of bobbin-net with his own hands, and thoroughly understood the principle as well as the details of the machine. When the case came on for trial, the learned sergeant was enabled to work the model on the table with such ease and skill, and to explain the precise nature of the invention with such felicitous clearness, as to astonish alike judge, jury, and spectators; and the thorough conscientiousness and mastery with, which he handled the case had, no doubt, its influence upon the decision of the court.
After the trial was over, Mr. Heathcoat, on inquiry, found about six hundred machines at work after his patent, and he proceeded to levy royalty upon the owners of them, which amounted to a large sum. But the profits realized by the manufacturers of lace were very great, and the use of the machines rapidly extended; while the price of the article was reduced from five pounds the square yard to about five pence in the course of twenty-five years. During the same period the average annual returns of the lace-trade have been at least four million sterling, and it gives remunerative employment to about 150,000 work-people.
To return to the personal history of Mr. Heathcoat. in 1809 we find him established as a lace-manufacturer at Loughborough, in Leicestershire. There he carried on a prosperous business for several years, giving employment to a large number of operatives, at wages varying from £5 to 10 a week. Notwithstanding the great increase in the number of hands employed in lace making through the introduction of the new machines, it began to be whispered about among the work-people that they were superseding labor, and an extensive conspiracy was formed for the purpose of destroying them wherever found. As early as the year 1811 disputes arose between the masters and men engaged in the stocking and lace trades in the south-western parts of Nottinghamshire and the adjacent parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, the result of which was the assembly of a mob at Sutton, in Ashfield, who proceeded in open day to break the stocking and lace-frames of the manufacturers. Some of the ringleaders having been seized and punished, the disaffected learnt caution; but the distruction of the machines was nevertheless carried on secretly wherever a safe opportunity presented itself. As the machines were of so delicate a construction that a single blow of a hammer rendered them useless, and as the manufacture was carried on for the most part in detached buildings, often in private dwellings remote from towns, the opportunities of destroying them were unusually easy. In the neighborhood of Notting-ham, which was the focus of turbulence, the machine-breakers organized themselves in regular bodies, and held nocturnal meetings at which their plans were arranged. Probably with the view of inspiring confidence, they gave out that they were under the command of a leader named Ned Ludd, or General Ludd, and hence their designation of Luddites. Under this organization machine-breaking was carried on with great vigor during the winter of 1811, occasioning great dis-tress, and throwing large numbers of work-people out of employment. Meanwhile, the owners of the frames proceeded to remove them from the villages and lone dwellings in the country, and brought them into ware-houses in the towns for their better protection.
The Luddites seem to have been encouraged by the lenity of the sentences pronounced, on such of their confederates as had been apprehended and tried; and,, shortly after, the mania broke out afresh, and rapidly extended over the northern and midland manufacturing districts. The organization became more secret; an. oath was administered to the members binding them to obedience to the orders issued by the heads of the confederacy; and the betrayal of their designs was decreed to be death. All machines were doomed by them to destruction, whether employed in the manufacture of cloth, calico, or lace; and a reign of terror began which lasted for years. In Yorkshire and Lancashire mills were boldly attacked by armed rioters, and in many cases they were wrecked or burnt; so that it became necessary to guard them by soldiers and yeomanry. The masters themselves were doomed to death; many of them were assaulted, and some were murdered. At length the law was vigorously set in motion; numbers of the misguided Luddites were apprehended; some were executed; and after several years' violent commotion from this cause, the machine breaking riots were at length quelled.
Among the numerous manufacturers whose works were attacked by the Luddites, was the inventor of the bobbin-net machine himself. One bright sunny day, in the summer of 1816, a body of rioters entered his factory at Loughborough with torches, and set fire to it, destroying thirty-seven lace-machines, and above £10,000 worth of property. Ten of the men were apprehended for the felony, and eight of them were executed. Mr. Heathcoat made a claim upon the country for compensation, and it was resisted; but the Court of Queen's Bench decided in his favor, and decreed that the county must make good his loss of £10,000. The magistrates sought to couple with the payment of the damage the condition that Mr. Heathcoat should expend the money in the county of Leicester; but to this he would not assent, having already resolved on removing his manufacture elsewhere. At Tiverton, in Devonshire, he found a large building which had been formerly used as a woolen manufactory; but the Tiverton cloth trade having fallen into decay, the building remained unoccupied, and the town itself was generally in a very poverty-stricken condition. Mr. Heathcoat bought the old mill, renovated and enlarged it, and there recommenced the manufacture of lace on a larger scale than before; keeping in full work as many as three hundred machines, and employing a large number of artisans at good wages. Not only did he carry on the manufacture of lace, but the various branches of business connected with it yarn-doubling, silk-spinning, net-making, and finishing. He also established at Tiverton an iron-foundery and works for the manufacture of agricultural implements, which proved of great convenience to the district. It was a favorite idea of his that steam power was capable of being applied to per-form all the heavy drudgery of life, and he labored for a long time at the invention of a steam-plough. In 1832 he so far completed his invention as to be enabled to take out a patent for it; and Heathcoat's steam-plough,. though it has since been' superseded by Fowler's, was considered the best machine of the kind that had up to that time been invented. Mr. Heathcoat was a man of great natural gifts. He possessed a sound understanding, quick perception, and a genius for business of the highest order. With these, he combined uprightness, honesty, and integrity qualities which are the true glory of human character. Himself a diligent self-educator, he gave ready encouragement to deserving youths in his employment, stimulating their talents and fostering their energies. During his own busy life, he contrived to save time to master French and Italian, of which he acquired an accurate and grammatical knowledge. His mind was largely stored with the results of a careful study of the best literature, and there were few subjects on which lie had not formed for himself shrewd and accurate views. The two thousand work-people in his employment regarded him almost as a father, and he carefully provided for their comfort and improvement. Prosperity did not spoil him, as it does so many; nor close his heart against the claims of the poor and struggling, who were always sure of his sympathy and help. To provide for the education of the children of his work-people, he built schools for them at a cost of about £6,000. He was also a man of singularly cheerful and buoyant disposition, a favorite with men of all classes, and most admired and beloved by those who knew him best.
In 1831 the electors of Tiverton, of which town Mr. Heathcoat had proved himself so genuine a benefactor, returned him to represent them in Parliament, and he continued their member for nearly thirty years. During a great part of that time he had Lord Palmerston for his colleague, and the noble lord, on more than one public occasion, expressed the high regard which he entertained for his venerable friend. On retiring from the representation in 1859, owing to advancing age and increasing infirmities, thirteen hundred of his workmen presented him with a silver inkstand and gold pen, in token of their esteem. He enjoyed his leisure for only two more years, dying in January, 1861, at the age of seventy-seven, and leaving behind him a character for probity, virtue, manliness, and mechanical genius, of which his descendants may well be proud.
We next turn to a career of a very different kind, that of the illustrious but unfortunate Jacquard, whose life also illustrates in a remarkable manner the influence which ingenious men, even of the humblest rank, may exercise upon the industry of a nation. Jacquard was the son of a hard-working couple of Lyons, his father being a weaver, and his mother a pattern-reader. They were too poor to give him any but the most meagre education. When he was of age to learn a trade, his father placed him with a book-binder. An old clerk, who made up the master's accounts, gave Jacquard some lessons in mathematics. He very shortly began to display a remarkable turn for mechanics, and some of his contrivances quite astonished the old clerk, who advised Jacquard's father to put him to some other trader in which his peculiar abilities might have better scope than in hook-binding. He was accordingly put apprentice to a cutler; but he was so badly treated by his master that he shortly afterwards left his employment, on which he was placed with a type-founder.
His parents dying, Jacquard found himself in a measure compelled to take to his father's two looms, and carry on the trade of a weaver. He immediately proceeded to improve the looms, and became so engrossed with his inventions that he forgot his work, and very soon found himself at the end of his means. He then sold the looms to pay his debts, at the same time that he took upon himself the burden of supporting a wife. He became still poorer, and to satisfy his creditors he next sold his cottage. He tried to find employment, but in vain, people believing him to be an idler, occupied with mere dreams about his inventions. At length he obtained employment with a line-maker of Bresse, whither he went, his wife remaining at Lyons, earning a precarious living by making straw bonnets.
We hear nothing further of Jacquard for some years, but in the interval he seems to have prosecuted his improvement in the draw-loom for the better manufacture of figured fabrics; for, in 1790, he brought out his contrivance for selecting the warp threads, which, when added to the loom, superseded the services of a draw-boy. The adoption of this machine was slow but steady, and in ten years after its introduction, 4,000 of them were found at work in Lyons. Jacquard's pursuits were rudely interrupted by the Revolution, and in 1792, we find him fighting in the ranks of the Lyonaise Volunteers against the Army of the Convention under the command of Dubois Crance. The city was taken; Jacquard fled and joined the Army of the Rhine, where he rose to the rank of a sergeant. He might have remained a soldier, but that, his only son having been shot dead at his side, he deserted and returned to Lyons to recover his wife. He found her in a garret, still employed at her old trade of straw-bonnet making. While living in concealment with her, his mind reverted to the inventions over which he had so long brooded in former years; but he had no means wherewith to prose-cute them. Jacquard found it necessary, however, to emerge from his hiding-place and try to find some employment. He succeeded in obtaining it with an intelligent manufacturer, and while working by day he went on inventing by night. It had occurred to him that great improvements might still be introduced in looms for figured goods, and he incidentally mentioned the subject one day to his master, regretting at the same time that his limited means prevented him from carrying out his ideas. Happily the master appreciated the value of the suggestions, and with laudable generosity placed a sum of money at his disposal, that he might prosecute the proposed improvements at his leisure.
In three months Jacquard had invented a loom °to substitute mechanical action for the irksome and toil-some labor of the workman. The loom was exhibited at the Exposition of National Industry at Paris, in 1801, and obtained a bronze medal. Jacquard was further honored by a visit at Lyons from the Minister Carnot, who desired to congratulate him in person on the success of his invention. In the following year the Society of Arts in London offered a prize for the invention of a machine for manufacturing fishing-nets and boarding. netting for ships. Jacquard heard of this, and while walking one day in the fields, according to his custom, he turned the subject over in his mind, and contrived the plan of a machine for the purpose. His friend, the manufacturer, again furnished him with the means of carrying out his idea, and in three weeks Jacquard had completed his invention.
Jacquard's achievement having come to the knowledge of the Prefect of the Department, he was summon ed before that functionary, and, on his explanation of the working of the machine, a report on the subject was forwarded to the Emperor. The inventor was forthwith summoned to Paris with his machine, and brought into the presence of the Emperor, who received him with the consideration due to his * genius. The interview lasted two hours, during which Jacquard, placed at his ease by the Emperor's affability, explained to him the improvements which he proposed to make in the looms for weaving figured goods. The result was that he was provided with apartments in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, where he had the use of the workshop during his stay, and was provided with a suitable allowance for his maintenance.
Installed in the Conservatoire, Jacquard proceeded to complete the details of his improved loom. He had the advantage of minutely inspecting the various exquisite pieces of mechanism contained in that great treasury of human ingenuity. Among the machines which more particularly attracted his attention, and eventually set him upon the track of his discovery, was a loom for weaving flowered silk, made by Vaucanson, the celebrated automaton-maker.
Vaucanson was a man of the highest order of constructive genius. The inventive faculty was so strong in him that it may almost be said to have amounted to a passion, and could not be restrained. The saying that the poet was born, not made, applies with equal force to the inventor, who, though indebted, like the other, to culture and improved opportunities, nevertheless contrives and construct new combinations of machinery mainly to gratify his own instinct. This was peculiarly the case with Vaucanson; for his most elaborate works were not so much distinguished for their utility as for the curious ingenuity which they displayed. While a mere boy, attending Sunday conversations with his mother, he amused himself by watching, through the clinks of a partition wall, part of the movements of a clock in the adjoining apartment. He endeavored to understand them, and, by brooding over the subject, after several months he discovered the principle of the escapement.
From that time the subject of mechanical invention took complete possession of him. With some rude tools which he contrived, he made a wooden clock that marked the hours with remarkable exactness; while he made for a miniature chapel the figures of some angels which waved their wings, and some priests that made several ecclesiastical movements. With the view of executing some other automata he had designed, he proceeded to study anatomy, music, and mechanics, which occupied him for several years. The sight of the flute-player in the Gardens of the Tuileries inspired him with the resolution to invent a similar figure that should play; and after several years' study and labor, though struggling with illness, he succeeded in accomplishing his object. He next produced a flageolet-player, which was succeeded by a duck the most ingenious of his contrivances which swam, dabbled, drank, and quacked like a real duck. He next invented an asp, employed in the tragedy of " Cleopatre," which hissed and darted at the bosom of the actress.
Vaucanson, however, did not confine himself merely to the making of automata. By reason of his ingenuity, Cardinal de Fleury appointed him inspector of the silk manufactories of France; and he was no sooner in office, than with his usual irrepressible instinct to invent, he proceeded to introduce improvements in silk machinery. One of these was his mill for thrown silk, which so excited the anger of the Lyons operatives, who feared the loss of employment through his means, that they pelted him with stones and had nearly killed him. He nevertheless went on inventing, and next produced a machine for weaving flowered silks, with a contrivance for giving a dressing to the thread, so as to render that of each bobbin or skein of an equal thickness.
When Vaucanson died in 1782, after a long illness, he bequeathed his collection of machines to the Queen, who seems to have set but small value on them, and they were shortly after dispersed. But his machine for weaving flowered silks were happily preserved in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, and there Jacquard found it among the many curious and interesting articles in the collection. It proved to the utmost value to him for it immediately set him on the track of' the principal modification which he introduced in his improved loom.
One of the chief features of Vaucanson's machine was a pierced cylinder, which, according to the holes it presented when revolved, regulated the movement of certain needles, and caused the threads of the warp to deviate in such a manner as to produce a given design, though only of a simple character. Jacquard seized upon the suggestion with avidity, and, with the genius of the true inventor, at once proceeded to improve upon it. At the end of a month his weaving machine was completed. To the cylinder of Vaucanson he added an endless piece of pasteboard pierced with a number of holes, through which the threads of the warp were presented to the weaver; while another piece of mechanism indicated to the workman the color of the shuttle which he ought to throw. Thus the drawboy and the reader of designs were both at once superseded. The first use Jacquard made of his new loom was to weave with it several yards of rich stuff which 'he presented to the Empress Josephine. Napoleon was highly gratified with the result of the inventor's labors, and ordered a number of the looms to be constructed by the best workmen after Jacquard's model, and presented to him; after which he returned to Lyons.
There he experienced the frequent fate of inventors. He was regarded by his townsmen as an enemy, and treated by them as Kay, Hargreaves, and Arkwright had been in Lancashire. The workmen looked upon the new loom as fatal to their trade, and feared lest it should at once take the bread from their mouths. A. tumultuous meeting was held on the Place des Terreaux, when it was determined to destroy the machines. This was however prevented by the military. But Jacquard was denounced and hanged in effigy. The " Conseil des prud'hommes " in vain endeavored to allay the excitement, and they were themselves denounced. At length, carried away by the popular impulse, the prud'hommes, most of whom had been workmen and sympathized with the class, had one of Jacquard's looms carried off and publicly broken in pieces. Riots followed, in one of which Jacquard was dragged along the quay by an infuriated mob intending to drown him, but, he was rescued.
The great value of the Jacquard loom, however, could not be denied, and its success was only a question of time. Jacquard was urged by some English silk manufacturers to pass over into England and settle there. But notwithstanding the harsh and cruel treatment he had received at the hands of his towns-people, his patriotism was too strong to permit him to accept their offer. The English manufacturers, however, adopted his loom. Then it was, and only then, that Lyons, threatened to be beaten out of the field, adopted it with eagerness; and before long the Jacquard machine was employed in nearly all kinds of weaving. The result proved that the fears of the work-people had been entirely unfounded. Instead of diminishing employment, the Jacquard loom increased it at least tenfold. The number of persons occupied in the manufacture of figured goods in Lyons, was stated by M. Leon Faucher to have been 6o,000 in 1833; and that number has since been considerably increased.
As for Jacquard himself, the rest of his life passed peacefully, excepting that the work-people who dragged him along the quay to drown him were shortly after found eager to bear him in triumph along the same route in celebration of his birthday. But his modesty would not permit him to take part in such a demonstration. The Municipal Council of Lyons proposed to him that he should devote himself to improving his machine for the benefit of the local industry, to which Jacquard agreed in consideration of a moderate pension, the amount of which was fixed, by himself. After perfecting his invention accordingly he retired at sixty to end his days at Oullins, his father's native place. It was there that he received, in 1820, the decoration of the Legion of Honor; and it was there that he died and was buried in 1834. A statue was erected to his memory, but his relatives remained in poverty; and twenty years after his death, his two nieces were under the necessity of selling for a few hundred francs the gold medal bestowed upon their uncle by Louis XVIII. " Such," says a French writer, " was the gratitude of the manufacturing interests of Lyons to the man to whom it owes so large a portion of its splendor."
At this point we cannot pass without noticing briefly the invention of printing, and its founder, John Gutenberg. Although driven, with his parents, from his boyhood's home and deprived of all resources, save those of character, he furnishes us with a grand illustration of what energy and determination may accomplish.
In all the galaxy of great inventors, no star of brighter or more constant ray, shines down through the ages, with increasing brilliancy to enlighten the intellect of mankind.
It has been said of him that he invented " the art preservative of all arts;" yet obscurity and poverty well nigh robbed his name of the honor.
But while the names of Lawrence Coster, Peter Schoeffer and John Faust are all associated, in history, with the invention of printing, it remains unquestioned among the more reliable authorities, that john Gutenburg of Mentz was the inventor of the art of printing by movable types, which has done more to civilize the world than all the armies that have ever been mustered. Carlisle says, in his comparison of the sword and the press, " When Tamerlane had finished building his pyramid of seventy thousand human skulls, and was seen standing at the gate of Damascus, glittering in his steel, with his battle-axe on his shoulder, till his fierce hosts filed out to new victories and carnage, the pale looker-on might have fancied that nature was in her death-throes; for havoc and despair had taken possession of the earth, and the sun of manhood seemed setting in a sea of blood.
Yet it might be on that very gala-day of Tamerlane that a little boy was playing nine-pins in the streets of Mentz, whose history was more important than that cf twenty Tamerlanes. The Khan, with his shaggy demons of the wilderness, passed away like a whirlwind, to be forgotten forever; and that German artisan wrought a benefit which is yet immeasurably expanding itself, and will continue to expand itself, through all countries and all times.
What are the conquests and expeditions of the whole corporation of captains, from Walter, the Penniless, to Napoleon Bonaparte, compared with those movable types?"
John Gutenburg was born at Mentz, about 1400. The name Gutenburg was the mother's maiden name and was adopted by John, his father's name being Gansfleisch.
When he was but ten years of age, the family, with many others, were driven from Mentz and took refuge at Strasburg.
As early as 1427, he had produced a new process for polishing stone, and later an improved method for manufacturing looking-glasses.
In 1437 he married, and soon after, his active mind again turned to invention. Printing now engaged his attention and ever struggling with poverty, interesting friends and capitalists to secure the small amount of money needed to carry forward the enterprise, living in the most straightened circumstances, but with never failing energy and determination of purpose he applied himself for eight years before being able to show solid and convincing proofs of the success of his art.
Returning to his native town he entered into a partnership with John Faust to secure capital to carry on the work and after twelve years of close application during which time many improvements were made, he brought out the first book ever printed. This was the Latin Bible completed in 1455.
It is interesting to notice here the jealousy and opposition with which the new art was received by those accustomed to gain wealth by copying and writing manuscripts, and who did not realize that " of the making of books there is no end."
True fortitude and perseverance are never fully proved till tried by adversity. In 1462 when Gutenburg should have enjoyed the result of his labor Mentz was sacked by Adolphus II. and all his property destroyed. He was now in the evening of life, but with characteristic perseverance he began anew.
The art progressed slowly however, embarrassments still attending him until in 1465 he accepted the position of courtier from which he received a small income.
In 1468 he died without children, almost without friends; but having laid the foundations for an art so soon to dominate the world. A monument was placed over his grave, and twenty years later a memorial tablet was erected at the legal college in Mentz.
It would be easy to extend the martyrology of inventors, and to cite the names of other equally distinguished men who have, without any corresponding advantage to themselves, contributed to the industrial progress of the age for it has too often happened that genius has planted the tree, of which patient dullness has gathered the fruit; but we will confine ourselves for the present to a brief account of an inventor of comparatively recent date, by way of illustration of the difficulties and privations which it is so frequently the lot of mechanical genius to surmount. We allude to Joshua Heilmann, the inventor of the combing-machine.
Heilmann was born in 1795, at Mulhouse, the principal seat of the Alsace cotton manufacture. His father was engaged in that business, and Joshua entered his office at fifteen. He remained there for two years, employing his spare time in mechanical drawing. He afterwards spent two years in his uncle's banking-house in Paris,, prosecuting the study of mathematics in the evenings. Some of his relatives having established a small cotton-spinning factory at Mulhouse, young Heilmann was placed with Messrs. Tissot and Rey, at Paris, to learn the practice of that firm. At the same time he became a student at the Conservatoire des Arts de Metiers, where he attended the lectures, and studied the machines in the museum. He also took practical lessons in turning from a toy-maker. After some time thus diligently occupied, he returned to Alsace, to superintend the construction of the machinery for the new factory at Vieux Thann, which was shortly finished and set to work. The operations of the manufactory were, however, seriously affected by a commercial crisis which occurred and it passed into other hands, on which Heilmann returned to his family at Mulhouse.
He had in the meantime been accupying much of his leisure with inventions more particularly in connection with the weaving of cotton and the preparation of the staple for spinning. One of his earliest contrivances was an embroidering-machine, in which twenty needles were employed, working simultaneously; and he succeeded in accomplishing his object after about six months' labor. For this invention, which he exhibited at the Exposition of 1834, he received a gold medal, and. was decorated with the Legion of Honor. Other inventions quickly followed an improved loom, a machine for measuring and folding fabrics, an improvement of the " bobbin and fly-frames " of the English spinners, and a weft winding-machine, with various improvements in the machinery for preparing, spinning, and weaving silk and cotton. One of his most ingenious contrivances was his loom for weaving simultaneously two pieces of velvet or other piled fabric, united by the pile common to both, with a knife and traversing apparatus for separating the two fabrics when woven. But by far the most beautiful and ingenious of his inventions was the combing-machine, the history of which we now proceed shortly to describe.
Heilmann had for some years been diligently studying the contrivance of a machine for combing long-stapled cotton, the ordinary carding-machine being found ineffective in preparing the raw material for spinning, especially the finer sorts of yarn, besides causing considerable waste. To avoid these imperfections, the cotton-spinners of Alsace offered a prize of 5,000 francs for an improved combing-machine, and Heilmann immediately proceeded to compete for the reward. He was not stimulated by the desire of gain, for he was comparatively rich, having acquired a considerable fortune by his wife.. It was a saying of his that " one will never accomplish great things who is constantly asking him-self, how much gain will this bring me?" What mainly impelled him was the irrepressible instinct of the inventor, who no sooner has a mechanical problem set before him than he feels impelled to undertake its solution. The problem in this case was, however, much more difficult than he had anticipated. The close study of the subject occupied him for several years, and the expenses in which he became involved in connection with it were so great, that his wife's fortune was shortly swallowed up, and he was reduced to poverty, without being able to bring his machine to perfection. From that time he was under the necessity of relying mainly on the help of his friends to enable him to prosecute the invention.
While still struggling with poverty and difficulties, Heilmann's wife died, believing her husband ruined; and shortly after he proceeded to England and settled for a time at Manchester, still laboring at his machine. He had a model made for him by the eminent machine-makers, Sharpe, Roberts and Company; but still he could not make it work satisfactorily, and he was at length brought almost to the verge of despair. He re-turned to France to visit his family, still pursuing his idea, which had obtained complete possession of his mind. While sitting by his hearth one evening, meditating upon the hard fate of inventors and the misfortunes in which their families so often become involved, he found himself almost unconsciously watching his daughters combing their long hair and drawing it out at full length between their fingers. The thought suddenly struck him that if he could successfully imitate in a machine the process of combing out the longest hair and forcing back the short by reversing the action of the comb, it might serve to extricate him from his difficulty. It may be remembered that this incident in the life of Heilmann has been made the subject of a beautiful picture by Mr. Elmore, R.A., which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1862.
Upon this idea he proceeded, introduced the apparently simple but really most intricate process of machine-combing, and after great labor he succeeded in perfecting the invention. The singular beauty of the process can only be appreciated by those who have witnessed the machine at work, when the similarity of its movements to that of combing the hair, which suggested the invention, is at once apparent. The ma-chine has been described as " acting with almost the delicacy of touch of the human fingers." It combs the lock of cotton at both ends, places the fibres exactly parallel with each other, seperates the long from the short, and unites the long fibres in one sliver and the short ones in another. In fine, the machine not only acts with the delicate accuracy of the human fingers, but apparently with the delicate intelligence of the human hand.
The chief commercial value of the invention consisted in its rendering the commoner sorts of cotton available for fine spinning. The manufacturers were there by enabled to select the most suitable fibres for high-priced fabrics, and to produce the finer sorts of yarn in much larger quantities. It became possible by its means to make thread so fine that a length of 334 miles might be spun from a single pound weight of the prepared cotton, and, worked up into the finer sorts of lace, the original shilling's worth of cotton wool, before it passed into the hands of the consumer, might thus be increased to the value of between £300 and £400 sterling.
The beauty and utility of Heilmann's invention were at once appreciated by the English cotton-spinners. Six Lancashire firms united and purchased the patent for cotton-spinning for England for the sum of £30,000; the wool-spinners paid the same sum for the privilege of applying the process to wool; and the Messrs. Mar-shall, of Leeds, £20,000 for the privilege of applying it to flax. Thus wealth suddenly flowed in upon poor Heilmann at last. But he did not live to enjoy it. Scarcely had his long labors been crowned by success than he died, and his son, who had shared in his privations, shortly followed him.
It is at the price of lives such as these that the wonders of civilization are achieved.