Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Achievements Of The 19th Century:
 A Century Of Achievement




 Marvelous Machinery

 Light And Heat Including Photography


 Mining And Metallurgy



 Read More Articles About: Achievements Of The 19th Century

Marvelous Machinery

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The discovery of steam as a motive power and its application to the ingenious machinery of the age has effected the most rapid revolution of human affairs which the world has yet seen. Whatever may be the achievements of the future the Nineteenth Century will have a distinct and honorable place in history as the first age to devote its inventive thought to the lifting of labor's yoke from the toiler's neck. So successful has been the at-tempt that the optimist, peering into the dim, distant future, already sees a glimpse of Utopia. And, indeed, the most obdurate pessimist is forced to acknowledge that labor-saving machinery is bound sooner or later to annul the curse pronounced upon the human race that by the sweat of his brow shall man eat his bread.

The effect of machinery upon labor and production is a problem too great for the finite intellect comprehensively to grasp. The magnitude of figures showing the development of machine production within the present generation is as interesting as it is bewildering. The productive power of the world has been multiplied many times, and several of these multiplications in important branches of production have occurred within the last decade. It is computed that the power capable of being exerted by the steam machinery of the world, in existence now, is equivalent to that of i,000,000,000 men; or three times the working population of the earth, on the basis of the probable total population of the earth being about 1,460,000,000. Thus the application and use of steam alone up to the present time has more than trebled man's working power. By enabling him to economize his physical strength, machinery has given him comparative leisure, comfort, and abundance, with greater opportunity for the mental training essential to the higher development of his species.

There is a constant multiplication of labor-saving ma-chines. Patents are being applied for and issued daily on mechanical constructions designed either to aid or sup-plant man-power. There is no field of industry, however unimportant, which has not been invaded by the inventor with a view to minimizing the human effort required therein to produce its quota of material.

The sewing machine is probably the most familiar as well as one of the most important of labor-saving devices. Its value as a labor saver is incalculable when one considers that in the United States alone there are 700,000 manufactured annually. America is the sewing machine center of the world. The tenth day of September, 1846, may justly be considered the birthday of the sewing machine that is the machine as we know it to-day. On that date Elias Howe, to whom has been accorded the title of father of the sewing machine, took out patents on a practical invention, to which have been constantly added improvements, until there now seems nothing lacking to its perfection. It is a remarkable fact that not-withstanding the sewing machine's being originally the idea of an Englishman, Americans, and Americans alone, have developed that idea. The records of the English Patent Office show that Thomas Saint patented a sewing machine in the latter part of the last Century. A clumsy and archaic device was this initial effort as compared with the beautiful mechanism of the modern machine. Saint's machine sewed with a chain stitch, an awl forming the hole, and a needle with a notch in its pointed end carried the thread through the cloth and formed a loop. An equally crude attempt was made by Thimonnier, a Frenchman, in 183o. Walter Hunt, of New York, in-vented a machine in 1834, but his application for patent was rejected on the ground of abandonment.

Howe's struggle against adversity while perfecting the priceless secret which lay hidden in his brain, and his final triumph, read like a page of romance. When the father of the sewing machine first conceived the idea of his invention he was absolutely ignorant of the early at-tempts of his predecessors. Had he known of the at-tempts of Saint and Thimonnier his road to success might have been many years shorter. Howe's first device was a needle pointed at both ends, and having an eye in the center. He soon abandoned this idea. Then there came to him the happy thought, all his own, of using two separate threads, one in the needle and the other under the cloth, and forming a stitch by the co-operation of the shuttle. This was in 1844, and in 1845 he had constructed a machine along these lines, on which he sewed two complete suits of clothes for himself. Flushed with triumph, the inventor submitted his machine to the inspection of the tailors, to be met not with encouragement, but with suspicion and derision, although the ma-chine beat five of the swiftest sewers. After securing his patent, Howe, discouraged by the treatment which his countrymen had accorded him, betook himself to London with his "hobby." Here he fared no better, and several years later returned to America, penniless, to discover that in his absence the mechanical world had awakened to its possibilities and that his shuttle machine was being built and sold right and left. After a bitter contest, Howe was given the custody and control of the child of his brain. In pronouncing the verdict in Howe's suit against I. M. Singer & Company, decreed in 1854, Judge Sprague, of Massachussets, observed that "there is no evidence in this case that leaves the shadow of a doubt that, for all the benefit bestowed upon the public by the introduction of the sewing machine, the public are indebted to Mr. Howe." Howe realized during his life more than a million dollars in royalties and license fees for his inventions and improvements, and Isaac M. Singer lived to see the business, of which he was the founder, develop into colossal proportions from the investment of $40. Howe was decorated with the cross of the Legion of Honor by France in 1867, the year of his death.

Next to Howe, Allen B. Wilson is the inventor who has done most to give us the present perfected machine. The two most ingenious and beautiful pieces of mechanism, the rotating hook and four-motion feed, are his inventions. He claims to have conceived the idea of a sewing machine in 1847. In 1851 Wilson patented his famous rotating hook. This performs the functions of a shuttle by catching the upper thread and drawing its loop over a circular bobbin containing the under thread. The four-motion feed was added to the sewing machine in 1852, and like the rotating hook, was an invaluable adjunct. The four-motion feed, in combination with a spring presser foot, forms the basis of all modern feeding mechanisms. The feed bar had four distinct motions, two vertical and two horizontal. It is due to the reciprocal action of this mechanism that the cloth moves automatically along the seam, without the aid of the seamstress' hand. After securing patents on his improvements Wilson became acquainted with Nathaniel Wheeler, who possessed some capital, and out of this connection grew the firm of Wheeler & Wilson, who brought the sewing machine to a still higher degree of perfection. The earlier machines had no driving power except the common hand crank. Isaac Singer conceived the idea of using a treadle similar to that employed on the old spinning wheel. Soon after came the iron treadle for both feet.

The sewing machine as originally invented was built with the sole purpose of cloth sewing. In 1851 Isaac Singer built a machine, patterned after the instrument in use in that day, but heavier and more powerful. This was designed for the leather industry, and indeed has completely revolutionized that branch of production, as will be shown farther on. Some idea of the patient investigation, deep thought, time and money that have been spent in perfecting the modern sewing machine may be gained from the fact that from 1842 to 1898 more than 7,000 patents have been granted on its various improvements and modifications.

It is in the use of sewing machines in factories that the greatest revolution has been effected. The manufactures in which sewing machines are essential are awnings, tents, sails, bags, bookbinding, boots and shoes, clothing for men and women, corsets, flags, banners, men's furnishing goods, gloves, mittens, hats, caps, pocketbooks, rubber and elastic goods, shirts, saddlery, and harness. Thé largest sewing machine in the world is in operation in Leeds. It weighs 6,500 pounds and sews cotton belting. One of the most beneficial effects of the sewing machine, next in importance to its value as a labor saver, is the cheapening of clothing. The enormous in-crease during the last ten years in the factory production of ready-made clothing has been coincident with and largely the result of the invention of special appliances and attachments adapting the sewing machine to factory operation in the performance of all stitching processes, including button hole and eyelet making, attaching buttons, staying seams, inserting whalebone, etc., etc.

The concentration of the manufacture of clothing into factory operation, alone made possible by the sewing machine, has effected some important economics in the marketing of cloths, especially the cheaper fabrics, such as jeans, denims and shirtings. These goods are now sent directly to the mills, to the factory, and no longer pass through the jobber's hands. The extent to which wearing apparel of all kinds has been cheapened in consequence of the use of the sewing machine can be expressed only in figures running far up into the hundreds of millions. In the whole field of invention it is doubtful whether there has ever been devised such a great labor saver, or one that has ministered more intimately to the needs of the human race than the sewing machine.

No branch of industry has received a greater impetus by the introduction of labor-saving machinery than has the manufacture of boots and shoes. The cobbler and the journeyman shoemaker have become as obsolete as the spinning wheel and the distaff. Changes in shoe-making methods and processes have been most radical and rapid. Indeed the metamorphosis of the industry has occurred entirely in the past forty years. This great revolution is due to the sewing machine more than to any other mechanical factor. Formerly the fitting of the uppers was accomplished by sending them out in small quantities to be stitched by hand in the homes of the operatives. Then the sewing machine of a style and pattern adapted to the purpose was introduced into the factories, and steam power employed for the driving of the machines. In 1861 the first machine for sewing on soles was put into operation, and a royalty of 2 cents on each pair of shoes was exacted by the patentee. In one day of ten hours 900 pairs of shoes could be sewed on one machine. The machine now in general use does its work in a manner closely resembling hand sewing. After examining the sewing and welting machine Thomas A. Edison declared it to be equaled only by the Blanchard lathe in ingenuity and importance. With the exception of the in-seam the whole of the sewing on even the finest pair of shoes is done by machinery, and the cheaper grades are made entirely by machine. A shoe factory in Lynn, Mass., made a pair of ladies' boots for the Paris Exposition of 1889 in just twenty-four minutes. For this feat the pair of shoes went through the usual routine of the shop. Forty-two machines and fifty-seven different operators contributed to the operation, which, included the cutting up and stitching of twenty-six pieces of leather, and fourteen pieces of cloth, the sewing on of twenty-four buttons, the working of twenty-four button holes, and the insertion of eighty tacks, twenty nails, and two steel shanks. Since that time still more perfect machinery has been introduced into the industry, and a pair of ladies shoes may now be turned out in twenty minutes. It has been computed that the introduction of new machinery within the past thirty years has displaced employes in the proportion of six to one, and that the cost of the product has been reduced one-half. By the use of the Goodyear sewing machine, designed for turned shoes, one person can sew 250 pairs per day. Were the work to be done by hand it would require eight men to do the same amount of work in the same time. The heel shaver or trimmer enables one man to trim three hundred pairs a day, while formerly three men were required to do an equal amount of work in the same time. One operator can handle with the McKay machine three hundred pairs of shoes per day where he formerly handled but five.

The evolution of the textile industry has been as rapid as it is picturesque. It is almost impossible to associate the whirr of the spinning wheel of the olden time with the terrific roar of the modern textile factory, and yet less than a hundred years ago the spinning wheel was found in the house of every thrifty man or woman. The labor saving machines which have contributed to make the industry what it is to-day have all been the inventions of the past fifty years. Before then the various processes of manufacture were in a transitory state of existence. In 1851 mechanical methods, systems and comparative perfections of product became known to the world at the Lon-don international exhibit, and from that time down to the present there has been a succession of clever inventions the ultimate object of which was the saving of human labor. No manufacture offers a more striking illustration of this apparent displacement of man by machine. With the power loom the weaver now weaves 18o picks per minute, whereas with the old hand loom he could weave but sixty. When the power loom was first introduced one weaver was required for each loom, and still more recent improvements have made it possible for one operative to attend to ten looms. The ring frame improvements in the spinning process have displaced that line of labor to such an extent that but one-third the number of operatives formerly required is now necessary. With the single spindle hand wheel one spinner could spin five skeins of number 32 twist in fifty-six hours. The modern mule spinning machine, containing 2,124 spindles, produces, with the assistance of one operator and two small girls, 55,098 skeins of the same thread in the same time. With the old hand loom one weaver could weave 42 yards of coarse cotton per week; now a single operator can turn out 3,000 yards of the same product in the same time. It is computed that in the manufacture of cotton goods alone improved machinery has reduced muscular labor 50 per cent in the production of the same quality of goods.

So perfect is the equipment of the modern cotton factory, throughout, that the first processes through which a bale of cotton must pass are almost entirely automatic. The bale is broken open by machinery, thrown upon an endless chain, which carries it up through the mill and breaks and picks it to pieces. It then passes through machines that take out the dirt, and is run through great rollers, which separate the strands, and joins them together again almost in the form of yarn. It then passes into a machine which converts the soft mass into what resembles cotton batting, whence it goes to the carding machine. This mechanism contains teeth so fine that thousands of them are on a square foot of surface. These brush and comb the cotton as it passes through them, and turn it out in a great soft, white rope, which is seized by a series of machines which twist it tighter and tighter as it passes from one to another until it has been drawn out to the required fineness. It is now ready for the weaving room, and in five minutes the soulless machine has done an amount of work which would require the old time spinner long years of patient, unceasing toil. The thread comes to the weaving room wound on spindles, and another set of threads are wound upon rollers of the width of the cloth. These are to make the warp of the cloth. The spindles which move in and out with beautiful precision form the warp. The only human agency required in the actual process of weaving a piece of cotton is a girl or man to attend the loom and keep an eye on the shuttle, which flies back and forth about 150 times every minute. So great has been the improvement of modern machinery over that used fifty years ago that the productive capacity of a spindle to-day is 44 per cent greater than it was then, and the industry itself has increased in production almost 900 per cent.

What is true of the cotton manufacture is likewise so 0f the wool-weaving industry. Improvements in machinery and labor-saving methods have expanded the annual product from $70,000,000 in 1850, to nearly $300,000,000. The chief mechanical factors responsible for this vast increase are the loom and the comb, now brought to a remarkable state of efficiency. The combing machine which is almost identical to that used in cotton making, is of comparative recent development. The introduction of the improved machine about seventeen years ago completely revolutionized the wool industry, with a consequent increase in productiveness of about $100,000,000 and a proportionately infinite decrease of labor.

The inventive genius of mankind has not despised the plebeian, but useful, nail, and labor-saving mechanisms for its output are so successful that the cost of production of a single keg of nails is infinitisimal. Indeed so cheap have wire nails become that if a carpenter drops one it is cheaper for him to let it lie than to stop and pick it up. It is claimed that one keg out of five is never used, but goes to waste. A statistician who recently figured this out, on the assumption that it takes a carpenter ten second to pick up a nail, and his time is worth thirty cents an hour, computes that the recovery of the dropped nail would cost 0.083 cent ; while the cost of an individual sixpenny nail is 0.0077. Such a calculation brings out clearly the marvelous reduction in prices due to inventive genius. This is true of every item which would come under the cover of a hardware dealer's catalogue. There are in machine shops all over the country gray-haired mechanics who well remember the time when the ideas of machine-made files were held up to scorn, and when all first-class, well-known makes of files were hand cut. It would be difficult for them to now tell the difference between a hand-made and a machine-made file. Within the past few years machines have been making files which cannot be approached by the most expert file cutters of Sheffield. The great difficulty in perfecting the file-cutting machine was the inability t0 cut uneven teeth, for the teeth of a file are not so even as they look. This irregularity in the case of hand-made files, was the evidence of extraordinary skill, and it was on this point that the hand workers considered their position unassailable. The successful machine cuts the teeth with a loose chisel, and the feed is such that the gradation of width and depth gives the teeth that unevenness so desirable. Equally incredulous were the old-school mechanics over the possibilities of the machine-made rasp, which late years have seen brought to a high state of mechanical perfection.

Pins, like nails, are such a cheap commodity that it is an extravagant waste of time to pick up a dropped one from the floor. And yet not so very long ago it took twelve to fourteen men to make a pin that is, there were twelve or fourteen processes in its manufacture, each requiring performance separately and by a different hand. Now one machine turns out a steady stream of pins at the rate of more than two hundred a minute. Until the present Century, particularly the latter half of it, pins have been esteemed almost as dearly as jewels and fine laces. The term, "pin money," is significant of the value attached to the article. One of the laws of the ancient pin-makers of Paris was that no maker should open more than one shop for the sale of his ware, except on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Then the court ladies obtained money from their husbands and rushed to the pin shops to lay in their yearly supply. Even so late as 1761 John and Thomas Stevenson inserted a modest advertisement in a Boston newspaper informing their customers that among other elegancies they had imported pins and needles.

Simple and insignificant as is the pin in appearance, its manufacture involves a most complicated process, and much intelligent thought and ingenuity has been expended upon the perfection of mechanism that contributes to its immense production. The wire is prepared by drawing it from an immense coil through an aperture the size of the pin wanted. It then passes into a machine through a hole and between a series of iron pegs, which straighten it and hold it in place. A pair of pincers pulls it along and thrusts the end of the wire through a hole in an iron plate, on the other side of which a little hammer beats on the end of the wire and thus forms the head of the pin. Then a knife descends and cuts it off to the required length. The pin falls into a groove, from which it hangs suspended by the head and with the lower end exposed to the action of a cylinder by which process the pin is pointed. These processes are all performed with such rapidity that there is an endless stream of them falling from the end of the machine. They next pass between two grinding wheels and are forced against a rapidly moving band faced with emery cloth, which gives them a still sharper point. After they are dipped in the polishing tub of oil, where they receive a brilliant polish and finish, they are ready for the sticker, where they fall from a hopper on an inclined plane containing a number of slits. The pins are caught in these slits, point downward, and slide along to an apparatus which inserts them in paper. This mechanism is perhaps the most beautiful and ingenious of all the complicated contrivances that help in the making and manipulation of the pin. It does its work at the rate of 100,000 pins an hour, and yet so delicate is its constructions that a single bent or imperfect pin will cause it to stop feeding until the obstruction is removed by the attendant. The pin factories of the United States, forty-five in number, employ 1,600 persons, and turn out pins to the value of $1,000,000 annually. By a computation made in London ten years ago it was shown that the weekly production of pins in Great Britain alone was 280,000,000, of which considerably more than half were made in Birmingham. At that time 120,000,000 per week were made in France, and another 120,000,000 in Germany, Holland and Belgium. Since then the production of pins has increased largely. It is calculated that only 1 per cent of the pins manufactured are worn out or broken. The other 99 per cent are lost.

The needle, though old as civilization itself, had to wait until the Nineteenth Century to see its most perfect and economical development. Until 1826, when a machine for producing drill-eye needles was introduced, they were made almost entirely by hand. The first mills, established early in the last Century, were utilized for scouring and pointing needles, displacing the process of wrapping in emery dust and olive oil and the two days rolling, which was but a small part of the elaborate manual process which every needle had to go through prior to that time. The making of a needle by hand was quite as tedious an under-taking as would be the search for one lost in a haystack. Small square rods of steel were passed through a charcoal fire and wrought into cylindrical form by a hammer. The rod, reheated, was thrust through a large hole in a wire drawing iron. This heating process was repeated over and over again, each time the rod being forced through a smaller hole than the preceding, until the steel bar was reduced to the small diameter required for the needle. Then it was cut into strips the length of the needle, one end of which was hammered flat to form the head, and placed in the fire to soften. A well-tempered steel puncheon stamped out the eye. Then the corners of the flattened head were filed to the necessary roundness of contour and the other end filed to attenuation. Having been heated over a char-coal fire they were then submerged in cold water to harden. This was the crucial part of the process. If it was the least bit too hot or too cool, the needle was spoiled. A baking completed the operation of tempering. Then came the polishing in the emery dust and olive oil composition, the needles being placed in a piece of new buckram, which was done up in a roll tightly fastened at each end. The needlemaker then placed this roll under a stout plank, loaded with heavy stones, and for two days two men rolled this backward and forward, the friction of one needle against the other imparting a fine polish. Then came a washing in hot water and soap, and the drying of the needles in a box of bran.

The introduction of modern machinery has greatly facilitated needle making. Two years after the drill-eye machine was invented an effective burnishing machine came into use, but it was not until 1840 that the operation of hardening needles in water was abandoned. Owing to the action of the water many of the needles, though straight when immersed, came out crooked. The straightening of these needles employed an immense number of persons. In the year mentioned a needlemaker of Redditch, England, the principal seat of the industry, discovered the process of hardening in oil, which was so efficient that crooked needles were rare. The needle straighteners of Redditch, who formed a large part of the population, and who were thus thrown out of employment, raised a terrific riot and ran the enterprising inventor out of town. The most important of the new machines for facilitating the industry is the pointing machine. Its introduction, as in that of the oil-hardening process, was attended with bitter opposition from the needlemakers whom it threw out of employment. The original machine was secured by the angry workmen and broken to pieces. The pointing machine feeds the needles from an incline plane to a grooved grindstone revolving at great speed. A rubber disk, moving with a lateral motion against the needles, causes them to turn while being ground. A machine which will take the steel bar and turn it out in cases of fine needles without the manipulation of the human fingers is attracting the attention of manufacturers, although as yet it has never been put to the crucial test. On the part of needle importers in this country, the report of such a machine is heard with skepticism. Its improbability seems apparent when one considers that even with the improved machinery now used, a needle must pass through seventy pairs of hands before reaching a market-able condition. They admit a machine may be possible for the manufacture of coarse needles, but they aver the making of fine needles to be an art, and in common with all true arts, secure from usurpation by the machine. But in the face of fully as great achievements in other industries, who shall deny the possibility of such a labor-saving mechanism in that of needlemaking?

The modern timepiece, with its delicate and exquisitely adjusted mechanism, is one of the marvels of the age. And yet watches are so cheap nowadays, and they have become such common luxuries yes, even necessities that people have almost forgotten the day of the old-fashioned, clumsy, hand-made affairs. The present perfection of mechanism and cheapness of price of all kinds of time-pieces are due solely to the invention of machinery for their manufacture. The principle on which the machine-made watch is built is that of the spiral spring motor and a train of wheels, of graduating circumferences. The spiral spring, or motor, is attached to the largest wheel by a little projection which is turned when the watch is wound. Turning this projection causes the spring to wind around it, where it is held in place by what is called a pawl. This tightly-wrapped spring naturally endeavors to unwind, and in so doing exerts a pressure of several ounces against the pawl, and the pawl being fastened to the body of the wheel, causes the wheel to turn around. In order that the spring will not unwind too rapidly there is a system of delaying mechanism. In the center of the second largest wheel is a small-toothed axle which is fastened to the large-toothed wheel, of which it forms the center. The teeth of the big wheel, inserting themselves in the teeth of the toothed axle or pinion, drive the smaller wheel as many times faster as the large wheel is greater in circumference than the pinion. The second wheel acts on the third, and the third on the fourth in just the same manner. The speed which has now been attained would be entirely too fast for use were it not regulated. This is done by what is called an escapement wheel, containing odd-shaped teeth, which can turn around only as the pendulum above it moves. It is impossible to use a pendulum, how-ever, in a watch, so other means have to be used to oscillate the fork. This is done by what is called a balance wheel and a hairspring which counteract the velocity given the wheels by the mainspring in this way: The hairspring is curled up in the center of the balance wheel, and when the mainspring puts the train of wheels in motion and turns the escape wheel, the fork moves to one side, and in so moving winds up the hairspring. One tooth of the escape wheel slips by, and the released hairspring turns the balance wheel and moves the fork the other way, admitting one more tooth of the escape wheel, when the mainspring is again engaged. Thus the operation is repeated until the watch runs down. The compensation balance maintains the equilibrium of the machinery as regards expansion and contraction from heat and cold. This device consists of a series of small screws on the periphery of the balance wheel, and a proper adjustment of these screws has a tendency to make a watch run accurately at all common temperatures. Were it not for this delicate piece of mechanism an increase of twenty-five degrees in temperature would cause the watch to lose seven seconds an hour. On the fourth largest wheel of a watch is the second hand, while on the second wheel of the train, so-called because of its location, is the minute hand. When absolutely perfect adjustment of every part of the watch is secured, the center wheel will revolve once an hour, carrying the minute hand with it. The hour hand is carried by two additional wheels, so arranged that they revolve about the same center as the wheel carrying the minute hand, but without interference with each other's motion.

Of all the many improvements in the mechanism of the watch as we know it to-day, the stem-winding device is probably the most useful and important. Watches made on this system have also a setting mechanism, equally convenient and delicate. This consists of a small sliding lever which is pulled from the side of the case, or in many instances the stem itself connects with this setting apparatus, and is operated in connection with and similarly to the winding of the watch. In the better grade of watches friction of those parts sustaining the greatest amount of wear is obviated by minute jewels, usually rubies, which serve as bearings. Without the jewel movement, a really excellent watch can be bought for a dollar, and it will keep good time for at least a year.

Machinery for the cheap and rapid production of but-tons of all kinds is a notable acquisition to Nineteenth Century industry. Two hundred years ago there were not so many buttons in the whole world as one will find to-day in the smallest country "general" store, and each one of these buttons was made by hand. Less than fifty years ago there was not a single button factory in the United States and practically no machinery for its production in Europe. Buttons were strictly an imported luxury, and the common people had to put up with very common grades and not many of such kinds even, for buttons were an expensive convenience. Now they are so cheap as to justify the use of the phrase, "not worth a button." It is computed that the people of the United States alone unbutton one billion four hundred million buttons every night, when they get ready to go to bed. Samuel Williston, of Easthampton, Mass., started the button industry in the United States in 1848. Williston was a country store-keeper who failed in business, and whose wife covered buttons to eke out a miserable existence. Williston's attention being drawn to the subject, he soon invented a machine to do the work of covering the old-fashioned wooden button molds, which invention not only brought him a fortune, 'but excited the ambition of other inventors in the same direction. The machines used in making but-tons are necessarily multitudinous, and although their product is simple the machines themselves are of the most clever mechanism.

It seems incredible, but is nevertheless true, that a greater quantity of steel is used annually in pen making than is consumed by all the gun, sword and needle manufactories in the world. In one sense at least the pen can truthfully be said to be mightier than the sword. An yet the modern metallic pen of commerce is only about fifty years old. Like pins and nails, there is so much work about a pen that it is a marvel to the thoughtful how they can be sold as cheaply as they are. The only explanation is in the perfection of the machinery which manipulates them. In Birmingham, England, there are a number of pen factories, which turn out a total of 150,000,000 pens every week. To make a million pens a full ton of steel is required, of the finest crucible quality and rolled into sheets 7-1000 of an inch thick. Men perform this initial work on the pen that is, they roll it to the required thickness. Then it is cut into strips as wide as two pens are long. When it leaves the cutting presses the steel is shaped like a pen, but is flat. The forms made by the presses are then put into a red hot furnace, and when thoroughly heated are taken out and permitted to cool slowly. Another set of presses hammers the points as well as stamps the name of the manufacturer. This done, the pens are reheated, and while still hot are cast into oil for the purpose of hardening. To clean and whiten them they are next boiled in water, to which socia has been added, from which they pass into a cylinder which revolves over gas jets. This process turns them blue, and they are then ready for marketing.

The history of American progress is contemporaneous with the growth of the paper trade, and that growth owes its evolution entirely to the labor-saving machinery which has been introduced into the industry. Chief among these mechanisms was the invention of Louis Robert, which revolutionized the paper business. This machine was perfected and patented early in the Century by Fourdrinier, and it remains today, with multitudinous improvements, the standard paper maker of the world.

In 1860 a German named Voelter perfected a system whereby wood fiber was substituted for rags, and the problem of still cheaper paper was solved. To such perfection has this process of Voelter's been carried that if the distance were destroyed the tall spruce tree of to-day might supply the fiber for to-morrow's newspaper. The material out of which wood fiber paper is made is usually spruce timber. The huge circular saws of this machine cut the logs into the proper length for the splitting machine; another machine removes the knots, after which it is but a short journey to the grinders, which reduce the wood into a pulp by huge revolving grindstones. From the moment the log leaves the hands of the grindstone feeder the work of man is finished. From that point until the huge white roll of paper is put into the packers' hands the machinery has done all the work. The pulp, in either its raw state as it leaves the pulp mill, or in the storage condition, is fed into the engine, which is a simple contrivance resembling the threshing machine in its construction. A cylinder covered with steel teeth revolves in a tub of pulp, which has been thinned with water. In opposition to this cylindrical motion is a bed of steel teeth, so arranged that those in the revolving cylinder will pass those in the bed. This process breaks the pulp into fiber of proper length and at the same time mixes the pulp with water. When the large vat of pulp has been reduced to the proper consistency the mash is transferred to a receptacle, where it awaits the call of the paper machine. The thoroughly mixed pulp is then fed on to an endless brass wire cloth, the meshes of which allow the water to escape as it moves. The wire cloth is kept in a vibrating motion, thus accelerating the flow of water and assisting in the knitting of the fiber. An endless web of felt takes the soft mass of refined pulp, and conducts it through several large, cold rollers. This operation removes much of the latent moisture and presses the beds of fiber into closely knit strips, which are carried through a succession of hot rollers, whence the paper comes out dry and firm. The calendar process completes the operation, and the paper is automatically wound into immense rolls measuring three feet in diameter. But the product turned out by the foregoing process is simply paper in its most primitive form, e. g., for wrapping or common printing uses. Inventors have not been contented to allow this commodity to remain in such a comparatively narrow field of utility. They have devised processes whereby we have paper car wheels, and to some extent, in Russia and Germany, railroad trains are run on paper rails. We have paper horseshoes, paper dress materials, trunks and dishes. In Japan paper houses are said to be common, and in this country paper boats are in daily use, as are also paper pipes for carrying water, steam and sewage.

The story of the hat is but an unceasing buzz of marvelous machinery from the moment the fur is deposited in the "devil," until it is ready for the wearer's head. The ordinary felt hat of the present day is made almost entirely of animal matter, the only vegetable material entering into its construction being the cotton back of the satin of which the linings are made. The fur which has been cut from the hide by a mechanical process is thoroughly sifted by the teeth of the "devil," a cone-shaped box through which a current of air passes. The fur is then ready for the blowing machine, the latest of which is an English invention. This machine consists of a box forty feet long and about four feet square. This process sorts the hair from the fur. The fur, being lighter than the hair, floats into one compartment, while the hair remains in another. Next is the forming machine, which consists of a wide oil cloth apron, a pair of feed rolls, picker, a metallic drum, an open turn table and a powerful exhaust fan. The fan creates a cur-rent of air into which the fur is thrown from the drum to the cone. When the fur is all on the cone, just enough for one hat, it is wrapped in wet cloths and immersed in hot water, where it remains a moment before going to the hands of the hardener. Thence it goes to the "sizing" machine, the shaving machine and the "second sizing" machine, by which time it is ready for the stiffening process. Not until it has been blocked, however, does the cone of fur bear the least resemblance to a hat. The blocking, which is entirely mechanical, is done by immersing the bodies in hot water and shaping them, one at a time, over blocks suited to the hat's final style and shape. The dyeing process which follows that of blocking is also purely mechanical. Then follows the finishing. In this process the hat is taken to a steaming table where it is held in live steam until it becomes soft enough to pull over the block which gives the crown its final shape. After this follows the stiffening, curling and trimming operations, if it be a derby hat. Soft hats are treated essentially the same as stiff, except some details of the stiffening process. While there is still some hand work done in the later stages of the making of a felt hat in an American factory, such a thing is almost unknown in an English factory. During the last fifteen years there has been more machinery introduced into American hat factories than in any prior period. The honors for the invention of the improved machinery are about equally divided between England and America. While the English machines and systems have greatly improved the quality, the Yankee machines have made the present product possible, for with-out the forming machine, an American invention, the present output at present prices would be absolutely impossible.

A unique piece 0f automatic machinery invented for practical purposes is the slot machine. So numerous are they and so varied are the needs which they fill and fill successfully that they may justly be regarded as one of the great labor-saving devices of the age. The slot machine has ousted numberless human employes and filled their places with automata that do their work with super-human precision and faithfulness. The chewing gum machine is a permanent institution. The chocolate machine, which only requires a cent to operate it, has to a large extent taken the place of the candy girl. Cologne, ice water and newspapers are dispensed also with a prompt hand by these mute servitors. There is also the machine that will ascertain your weight and print the amount there-of on a piece of paper. Another contrivance will test the strength of your grip, measure the expansive power of your lungs and tell you the extent of your stature in feet and inches, all for the sum of five cents, duly deposited in the slot. The plan of the slot machine is pretty much on the same principle whatever may be its particular mission. In the case of weighing machines, the mechanism is such that when the penny is dropped in the slot a coin of exactly the same weight and size as the penny falls into a little receptacle, and its weight turns what is technically known as a "dog." This "dog" releases the indicator, which flies around to the proper weight number on the dial, while the penny rolls through a metal cover into a canvas bag. The slot machine originated in 1887 in the form of what was known as the Grannis weighing machine. There seems to be no end of the possibilities of the slot machine, or the effects that can be brought about by the insertion of a coin and the corresponding turning of a "dog." One of the most marvelous of these machines is the automatic news dealer, which sells any size and weight of newspaper, from the twenty-four page Sunday sheet to the smaller daily, and returns change when the price is under a nickel. It can also be set to make change for any coin and it cannot be cheated. It is the prediction of inventors that before many years have elapsed they will have perfected the slot machine so as to have it take the place of the bartender, the soda water clerk, and a host of other callings all more or less indispensable to human welfare, pleasure or happiness.

Although restricted solely to the use of physicists, by far the most remarkable labor-saving mechanism in the world is the ruling machine in the physical laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University, at Baltimore. This marvelous machine, with its diamond point, rules 15,000, 40,000 or 125,000 lines to the square inch; which figures represent an amount of human labor not only infinite in duration, but absolutely impossible of attainment. This machine, designed by Prof. Henry A. Rowland, of the University, and constructed by Theodore Schneider, the machinist of the University, is for the purpose of ruling lines on polished pieces of metal so as to form what physicists call a "grating." All physicists and investigators of the sun's rays are dependent upon this little machine for their gratings, it being the only one in the world. The purpose of the grating is the dividing of a ray of sunlight into its component parts, the ordinary prism, which divides the ray into the seven primary colors being the simplest method. But the limit of research with the old-fashioned prism has long been passed, physicists being able to get further into the subject by means of the gratings, and the larger the number of gratings the better the ray is reflected. These lines are so close together that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, but under the microscope every line is perfectly distinct and absolutely accurate. Were there the slightest variation in the parallelism the grating would be entirely useless for scientific purposes. It is claimed for Prof. Rowland's machine that if a diamond of sufficient strength could be secured a grating of a million lines to the inch could be procured. The machine sits on three legs and has a stout frame, the motive power being a little hydraulic engine. It is driven by a belt attached to a driving wheel of solid steel, a crank being turned at the same time on the other end of the shaft. This crank moves the carriage that pushes the diamond point back and forward over the surface of the grating. Every time the diamond makes a stroke the metal plate beneath moves an infinitesimal space. The carriage which carries the plate is moved by a steel screw. In order that this screw might be absolutely perfect it was ground under water kept at a certain temperature. If made in the air, or had the temperature of the water varied, the expansion would have caused the threads to vary slightly. This would have caused the carriage to vary, and as a consequence the spaces between the grooves would not be equal. Foreign universities have tried to make as good a machine, but without success. So the Rowland "gratings" supply the spectroscopes for all the universities of the world.

One of the most phenominal labor savers in the world is the giant crane used in lifting stone on the sea wall, constructed at Peterhead on the north coast of Scotland. It is capable of lifting one hundred tons, and can pick up a modern locomotive with as much ease as the same locomotive would draw a train of cars. It can lift the cubic contents of 100 car loads, and scatter the material over a wide section of the landscape. So long and powerful are its arms that it can set a sixty-ton block in the sea 100 feet deep and seventy-two feet from the outer edge of the masonry wall. The work of this machine alone displaced two thousand men, who otherwise would have been daily employed on the building of the wall at Peterhead.

The perfection of mechanism obtained in very recent years has reduced the manufacture of sugar to a point where it becomes almost entirely automatic. The early part of the Century the life 0f the sugar-maker was synonomous with that of the traditional galley slave. Under a burning sky he cut the cane, stalk by stalk, with a common knife, a long and tedious task; then he piled it in tumbrels and carted it away to the "sugar house," where by a medieval process, and with much waste, it was converted into sugar and molasses. Now the cane is dumped on a cane-carrier, an endless traveling conveyor of wooden slats. This feeds the cane into the cutter, consisting of two large corrugated iron rolls, which crush and cut the cane into strips six inches long. This process extracts 60 per cent of the cane. The juice which has escaped into a tank below, is automatically pumped and strained into a higher tank, whence it flows into a large open caldron. Then the juice is boiled to evaporate the water. The vacuum-process pan, invented by Norbert Rillieux, of New Orleans, has completely superseded the old method of doing this, which method consisted of running the liquid through a series of open pans. The Rillieux vacuum pans are cylindrical tanks, with facilities for conveying the steam t0 the next pan. Inside each pan is a huge drum with copper tubes, through which the juice circulates. Exhaust steam of a temperature all the way from 190 to 208 degrees Fahr. is admitted into the drum and around the pipes. But the syrup does not boil, as a partial vacuum is maintained in that portion of the pan in which the juice circulates. The fluid is thus kept just below the boiling point sufficient to evaporate in the form of steam. The steam coming off the first vacuum pan boils the juice brought in from the first pan, because a better vacuum is maintained in the second pan. From the second pan the exhaust steam passes 0n to the third pan in the same way, and if the process is of the "quadruple effect," it will in turn pass on to the fourth pan, each pan maintaining a bet-ter vacuum than the preceding. In the last pan the juice has attained the consistency of a thick syrup, when it passes into receptacles for cooling and crystallization. A machine which works with a centrifugal motion at the rate of about one thousand revolutions per minute stirs this mass. By centrifugal force the molasses is thrown out in three or four minutes. Centrifugal force entirely eliminates the molasses, while the grains of sugar have been retained in a rotating basket. The pulling of a lever puts this basket in motion, and it whirls about at a speed of one thousand revolutions per minute. The sugar when it comes out of this basket, after three of four minutes whirling, is white and ready for the refining process, in which there have also been many improvements and inventions. The sugar is first dissolved in hot water, and then pumped into tanks, whence it flows through a series of cylindrical filters. A vacuum pan operation, similar in principle to the first evaporation process, renders the compsition absolutely dry. And after passing through another centrifugal machine it emerges as granulated white sugar. Machinery for the reduction of beet juice to sugar is on nearly the same principle as that used for the cane-sugar industry. The most popular of these machines is that which works on the diffusion process. By this method the beets are sliced and circulated in water until the saccharine matter is removed. The juice so obtained is then strained and put through a process of carbonic acid saturation, after which it is filtered and evaporated.

There is indeed scarcely any industry of any magnitude or importance whatever to which labor-saving machinery has not been applied. In the manufacture of brooms there have been such great improvements of methods in various departments that the number of broom-makers of the United States has been reduced more than one-half although the product has more than doubled in quantity. In the manufacture of carpets recent processes have displaced twenty times the number of persons now necessary. By the old methods of spinning the carpet material it required seventy-five to a hundred times the number of operatives now employed to do the same amount of work. By the invention of the carpet-measuring machine, which measures and brushes the product simultaneously, one operator does the work formerly required of fifteen men. Carriages and wagons have also been affected by improved machinery. The one-time independent wagonmaker has suffered the same eclipse as has the shoemaker. In the instance of agricultural implements, labor-saving machinery has displaced fully 50 per cent of the muscular effort formerly employed. Improved methods of brick-making have displaced io per cent of labor. In the making of fire-brick 40 per cent of the labor employed is now unnecessary. In the cutlery industry the machine has usurped an incredible amount of labor as it has also done in the manufacture of small arms. Where it formerly required the continuous work of one man for ten hours to fit one stock for a musket, by use of powerful machinery three men can turn out and fit 150 stocks in the same length of time. The scrubbing machine, designed chiefly for the cleaning of colossal office buildings, is already displacing scores of women scrubbers in every large building in which it is placed. A bread kneading machine recently put into operation in San Francisco is doing the work formerly done by a hundred men. The painting machine used to whitewash the buildings at the World's Fair was operated by two men, who by its aid, did as much work as 200 men working by hand. The mimeo-graph, the patent letter-press, and a host of other office conveniences have dispensed with an immense amount of clerical help in the business world.

The remarkable machinery that has been invented for all manner of work is not more wonderful than the machinery, or machine tools which make the building of such mechanisms possible. The forming of a hole for a screw, a bolt or a rivet is apparently a very simple operation, but to do this work accurately and rapidly has engaged the attention of the most ingenious minds of the day, and as a result there are drilling machines, boring machines, punching machines and riveting machines innumerable. As a labor-saving mechanism nothing can be more efficient than the multiple drills that have made their appearance only in recent years. Among these are the two- and three-spindle drills which make the holes by which railroad ties are connected. There are the four-, six-, and eight-spindle drilling machines for boring holes in rows at spaced distances.

A universal drilling machine, built by William Sellers & Company, drills a hole in any direction. A radial drilling machine, built by the same firm, will make a hole anywhere in any direction within a radius of eighty-three inches. Boring machines, of both horizontal and vertical form, have done much towards the production of cheap machinery. Punching machines, capable of exerting a punching force of half a million pounds, multiple punching machines, capable of making six holes at once, and punching machines combined with machinery for shearing, are some of the colossal examples of recently invented machinery. Shearing machines designed for trimming the edges of iron plates can cut off an edge sixty inches long and an inch thick. Riveting machines, of a strength and capacity sufficient to fasten a rivet in the center of a plate thirty-two feet square, are a leading factor in the making of boilers. There is also the wheel-press, which exerts a pressure of thirty tons when employed to put a car wheel on its axle. There are planing machines to reduce a level surface by shaving in parallel lines. Rotary planers, having all the way from twenty-five to seventy-five tools affixed on a wheel, are much used in bridge-building. The mortising of door frames is done by means of the slotting machine, which is invaluable as a labor saver. For finishing and shaping the parts of machinery there is employed what is called a milling machine, which operates by means of rotating cutters. Stamping presses, used to shape parts of metal, are almost indispensable in all branches of machinery making; a special machine of this kind is that used in the Philadelphia mint. This exerts a pressure of two mil-lion pounds. Machines for the bending and straightening of plates, for forging, and for grinding drills are other mechanical triumphs in this category.

There are few branches of mechanical construction which do not employ their own peculiar lathe, but they are all constructed on the same principle that of a frame having a pointed center at each end. One of these is called the live center, because it has a rotary motion, the other is the dead center, it having no motion. The work to be turned is hung between these centers. The mandrel of the live center is propelled by pulleys, and the cutting tool is mounted on a carriage in such manner that the operator can guide it back and forth over the surface of the material, cutting it in almost any circular or conic form. The greatest achievement in the way of such a tool is the Blanchard lathe, so-called from its inventor, and which is so perfect in its mechanism as to be able to cut material into almost any desired shape. Strange as it may seem, by its use articles in shape so unlike in geometrical forms, as gun-barrels, shoemakers' lasts, etc., can be turned on a lathe. It is as simple a contrivance as it is wonderful. In an ordinary lathe the work revolves rapidly and the cutting tool is stationary or only shifts its position slowly to accommodate fresh portions of the work, while in the Blanchard lathe the work is made slowly to rotate and the cutting tools revolve with great rapidity. The pattern and work being fixed in similar and parallel positions they always continue so at every revolution. The whole arrangement is self-acting so that when once the pattern and the rough block of wood are placed in position the machine completes the work and reproduces an exact duplicate of the shape of the pattern.

Home | More Articles | Email: