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In 1850 sperm oil, then commonly used in lamps, had become high-priced, owing to the failure of the New Bedford whalers, and cost $2.25 a gallon. Oil obtained by the distillation of coal was tried, but was also too costly--not less than $1 a gallon. It burned well, but its odor was frightful. The problem of a cheap and pleasant light was solved by James M. Townsend and E.L. Drake, both of New Haven. In 1854 a man brought to Professor Silliman, of Yale, some oil from Oil Creek, Pa., to be tested.
His report was so favorable that a company was formed, which leased all the land along Oil Creek upon which were traces of the new rock oil. The hard times of 1857 came before any headway had been made, and the company tried to find some way of ridding itself of the lease. At this time Townsend, who knew something about the property, undertook to get possession. Boarding in the same house in New Haven was E.L. Drake, once a conductor on the New York & New Haven Railroad, who had been obliged to give up work on account of ill-health. Townsend proposed that as Drake could get railroad pa.s.ses as an ex-employee, he should go to Pennsylvania and look into the property. He did so, and reported that a fortune might be made by gathering the oil and bottling it for medicinal purposes. Drake and Townsend organized the Seneca Oil Company. The oil was gathered by digging trenches, and was sold at $1 a gallon. Drake suggested that it might be well to bore for oil. A man familiar with salt-well boring was brought from Syracuse, and in 1850 the first well was begun at t.i.tusville under the supervision of Drake. He was commonly considered by the neighbors to be insane. The work was costly and slow.
When many months and about $50,000 had been spent, the stockholders in the company refused to go any further--all except Townsend, who sent his last $500 to Drake, with instructions to use it in paying debts and his expenses in reaching home. On the day before the receipt of this money--August 29, 1859--the auger, which was down sixty-eight feet, struck a cavity, and up came a flow of oil that filled the well to within five feet of the surface. Pumping began at the rate of five hundred gallons a day, and a more powerful pump doubled this flow. As this oil was worth a dollar a gallon, fortune was within sight. But the very quant.i.ty of the oil proved to be the company's ruin. Their works were destroyed by fire in the winter of 1859-60, and before they could be rebuilt, scores of other wells, some of them requiring no pumping apparatus, had been sunk in the neighborhood. The supply was soon far in excess of the demand, which was limited by the small number of refineries, the want of good lamps in which to burn the oil, and the attacks by manufacturers of other oils. Such was the effect of these causes that the new oil fell to a dollar a barrel, a price so low that it did not pay for the handling. The Seneca Oil Company was so much discouraged that they sold out their leases and disbanded. Both Townsend and Drake would have died richer men had they never heard of the Pennsylvania rock oil.
THE CLARKS AND THE TELESCOPE.
[Ill.u.s.tration: Alvan Clark.]
The fame of American telescopes is due to the work and inventions of the Clark family of Cambridgeport, Ma.s.s., the descendants of Thomas Clark, the mate of the Mayflower. The founder of the great--in a scientific sense--house of Alvan Clark & Sons, telescope-makers, was a remarkable man. Until after his fortieth year he devoted himself to portrait-painting. In 1843 his attention was accidentally turned toward telescope-making. One day the dinner-bell at Phillips Academy, Andover, Ma.s.s., happened to break. The pieces were gathered up by one of Clark's boys, George, who proceeded to melt them in a crucible over the kitchen fire, declaring that he was going to make a telescope. His mother laughed, but his father was deeply interested and helped the boy make a five-inch reflecting telescope which showed the satellites of Jupiter.
This was the beginning of telescope-making in the Clark family, an industry which has given to the scientific world its most remarkable lenses. Alvan Clark dropped his paintbrushes, never to take them up again until at the age of eighty-three he made an excellent portrait of his little grandson. To Alvan G. Clark, the present head of the house, are chiefly due the scores of devices by which American ingenuity has surpa.s.sed the slower European methods. The delicacy required in the manipulation and grinding of the immense lenses made by the Clarks is almost incredible. The latest triumph of the firm--a forty-inch lens for the Spence Observatory at Los Angeles, Cal.--required two years of grinding and polishing after a piece of gla.s.s perfect enough had been obtained. So delicately finished is it that half a dozen sharp rubs with the soft part of a man's thumb would be sufficient to ruin it. Alvan G.
Clark is now a man sixty-one years-old. He has lived all his life at the home in Cambridgeport. His greatest sorrow is that there is no son of his to carry on the work after his death. His only son died a few years ago, just as he was beginning to show wonderful apt.i.tude in the art which has made the family famous in all the great observatories of the world.
JOHN FITCH AND OLIVER EVANS--STEAM TRANSPORTATION.
In looking over the work done by American inventors, the great names are those to be found at the heads of the preceding chapters. But the list is by no means exhausted. Among the early men of achievement in the field of invention I have had to omit at least a dozen whose work deserves more than a paragraph. The history of the steamboat is not complete without reference to John Fitch.
Fulton was fortunate in making the first really successful attempt at propelling boats by steam, but Fitch came very near reaping the honors for this invention. The account of Fitch's life and experiments, written by himself and now in the possession of the Franklin Library of Philadelphia, clearly shows that this unhappy genius really deserves to share in Fulton's glory. Fitch was born in Connecticut, in January, 1743, more than twenty years before Fulton. He was a farmer's boy and picked up knowledge as best he could. Before he was twenty he had learned clock-making and then b.u.t.ton-making. It was in 1788 that he obtained his first patent for a steamboat. His experimental boat was an extraordinary affair, fully described in the _Columbian_ (Philadelphia) _Magazine_ for December, 1786. Its motive power consisted of a clumsy engine that moved horizontal bars, upon which were fastened a number of oars or paddles. So far as possible the machine imitated the movements of a man rowing. This boat made eight miles an hour in calm water.
Finding nothing but ridicule for his project here, as his steamboat cost too much money to run as a commercial undertaking, Fitch went to Europe, and was equally unsuccessful there. There is still in existence a letter from him in which he predicts that steam would some day carry vessels across the Atlantic. He died in 1796, without having contributed more than a curiosity to the art of steam navigation.
Another early inventor was Oliver Evans, who has been called the Watt of America. In 1804 Evans offered to build for the Lancaster Turnpike Company a steam-carriage to carry one hundred barrels of flour fifty miles in twenty-four hours. The offer was derided. Here is one of Evans's predictions written at about this time: "The time will come when people will travel in stages, moved by steam-engines, from one city to another, almost as fast as birds fly, fifteen or twenty miles an hour.
Pa.s.sing through the air with such velocity, changing the scene with such rapid succession, will be the most rapid, exhilarating exercise. A carriage (steam) will set out from Washington in the morning, the pa.s.sengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine at Philadelphia, and sup in New York the same day. To accomplish this, two sets of railways will be laid so nearly level as not in any way to deviate more than two degrees from a horizontal line, made of wood, or iron, or smooth paths of broken stone or gravel, with a rail to guide the carriages so that they may pa.s.s each other in different directions and travel by night as well as by day. Engines will drive boats ten or twelve miles per hour, and there will be many hundred steamboats running on the Mississippi." In 1805 Evans built a steam-carriage propelled by a sort of paddle-wheel at the stern, the paddles touching the ground. This apparatus he named the "Oructor Amphibolis," and it is believed to have been the first application of steam in America to the propelling of land carriages. He died in 1819 without having seen his steam-carriage come to anything practicable. He made a fortune, however, from some patents upon flour-mill improvements.
AMOS WHITTEMORE AND THOMAS BLANCHARD.
In the domain of textile fabrics Amos Whittemore, the Ma.s.sachusetts inventor of the card-machine, which did away with the old-fashioned method of making cards for cotton and woollen factories, must be mentioned. Before Whittemore's machine came into use, about 1812, such cards were made by hand, the laborer sticking one by one into sheets of leather the wire staples, which operation gave work to thousands of families in New England early in the century. Whittemore made a fortune by his invention, and devoted the last years of his life to astronomy.
Another Ma.s.sachusetts boy, Thomas Blanchard, invented the lathe for turning irregular objects, and well deserves mention. Born in 1788, he was noted as a boy for his efficiency in the New England accomplishment of whittling, making wonderful windmills and water-wheels with his knife. When thirteen years old he made an apple-paring machine, with which at the "paring bees" held in the neighborhood he could accomplish more than a dozen girls. Soon after this achievement he began helping his brother in the manufacture of tacks. The operation consisted in stamping them out from a thin plate of iron, after which they were taken up, one at a time, with the thumb and finger and caught in a tool worked by the foot, while a blow given simultaneously with a hammer held in the right hand made a flat head of the large end of the tack projecting above the face of the vise. This was the only method then known, and it was so slow and irksome that young Blanchard often grew disgusted. As a daily task he was given a certain quant.i.ty of tacks to make, which number was ascertained by counting. Finding this much trouble, he constructed a counting-machine, consisting of a ratchet-wheel which moved one tooth every time the jaws of the heading tool or vise moved in the process of making a tack. From this achievement he pa.s.sed to a tack machine, and after six years of hard work turned out an apparatus that made five hundred tacks a minute. He sold his patent for the trifle of $5,000.
With part of this money he began his experiments in turning musket-barrels, an operation that was simple enough except at the breech, where the flat and oval sides had to be ground down or chipped.
Blanchard made a lathe that turned the whole barrel satisfactorily.
While exhibiting his new lathe at the United States Armory at Springfield, occurred the incident that led to Blanchard's great device for turning irregular forms. One of the men employed in cutting musket-stocks remarked that Blanchard could never spoil his job, for he could not turn a gun-stock. The remark struck Blanchard, who replied, "I am not so sure of that, but will think of it a while." The result of six months' study was the lathe with which such articles as gun-stocks, shoe-lasts, hat-blocks, tackle-blocks, axe-handles, wig-blocks, and a thousand other objects of irregular shape may now be turned. While at Washington getting his patent, Blanchard exhibited his machine at the War Office, where many heads of departments had a.s.sembled. Among the rest was a navy commissioner, who, after listening to Blanchard, remarked to the inventor: "Can you turn a seventy-four?"
"Yes," was the reply, "if you will furnish the block." Blanchard afterward made many interesting experiments in steam-carriages, but his chief claim to fame rests upon his lathe.
RICHARD M. HOE AND THE WEB-PRESS.
From the end of the first half of this century date movements of extraordinary importance in the world of American invention. The locomotive, the steam-engine and steam-boat, the telegraph, reaping-machine, the printing-press, all seemed to reach an era of wide usefulness at about the same time. It was in 1814 that Walters first printed the London _Times_ by steam, the sullen pressmen standing around waiting for a pretext to destroy the machinery, and only prevented by strategy from doing so. About thirty years afterward Richard M. Hoe first turned his attention to the improvement of printing-presses. The founder of the famous house of printing-press makers, Robert Hoe, was born in England. His son, Richard March Hoe, was born in New York on the 12th of September, 1812. He made his first press in 1840, when he turned out the machine known as "Hoe's Double-cylinder," which was capable of making about six thousand impressions an hour, and was the admiration of all the printers in the city. So long as the newspaper circulation knew no great increase this wonderful press was all-sufficient; but the greater the supply the greater grew the demand, and a printing-press capable of striking off papers with greater rapidity was felt to be an imperative need. It was often necessary to hold the forms back until nearly daylight for the purpose of getting the latest news, and the work of printing the paper had to be done in a very few hours. In 1842 Hoe began to experiment for the purpose of getting greater speed. There were many difficulties in the way, however, and at the end of four years of experimenting he was about ready to confess that the obstacles were insurmountable. One night in 1846, while still in this mood, he resumed his experiments; the more he reviewed the problem, the more difficult it seemed. In despair he was about to give it up for the night, when there flashed across his brain a plan for securing the type on the surface of a cylinder. This was the solution of the problem, and within a year our leading newspapers had their "Lightning" presses, in which from four to ten cylinders were used to feed sheets of paper against the surface of the type as it flew around. So recently as 1870 the ten-cylinder Hoe press, printing twenty-five thousand sheets an hour, was considered a marvel.
Then came the perfecting press, a far smaller machine, but capable of five times as much work, thanks to the subst.i.tution of rolls of paper for separate sheets fed in one by one. The device by which the web of paper after being printed on one side is turned over and printed on the other side in the same machine was another triumph of American ingenuity. Stereotyping made it possible to print from a dozen presses at the same time without the trouble of setting up new type, and inventions for pasting, folding, and counting the papers still further increased the speed at which papers may be issued, while at the same time decreasing the number of men employed as pressmen. In 1865 it required the services of twenty-six men and boys to print and fold twenty-five thousand copies of an eight-page paper in an hour. To-day a perfecting press, with the aid of four men, does four times as much work. It has been recently estimated that to print, paste, and fold the Sunday edition of one of the great newspapers with the machinery of 1865 would require the services of five hundred persons.
THOMAS W. HARVEY AND SCREW-MAKING.
The gimlet-pointed screw patented in 1838 by Thomas W. Harvey, of Providence, R.I., is a marked instance of an improvement so useful that we can scarcely realize that less than fifty years ago such screws were unknown to the carpenter, for it was not until 1846 that Harvey succeeded in getting people to abandon the old blunt-ended screw that we now occasionally find in buildings put up before 1850. Harvey was a Vermont boy, born in 1795. His faculty for the invention of machinery for screw-making and other purposes gave him and his a.s.sociates and successors--Angell, Sloan, and Whipple--great fortunes according to the estimate of that day. He died in 1856.
C.L. SHOLES AND THE TYPEWRITER.
[Ill.u.s.tration: C.L. Sholes.]
A great many men contributed to make the typewriter what it is to-day--as much of an improvement upon the pen as the sewing-machine is upon the needle. So long ago as 1843 some patents were taken out for divers forms of writing-machines, all more or less impracticable. It was not until C.L. Sholes, then of Wisconsin, took up the problem, in 1866, that the present form of a number of type-bars, arranged so that their ends strike upon a common centre, was devised. Sholes died in 1890, having also helped by many minor devices the increase in the use of writing-machines. From 1865 to 1873 he made thirty different working models of writing-machines, devoting himself to the task almost day and night for eight years.
B.B. HOTCHKISS AND HIS GUNS.
[Ill.u.s.tration: B.B. Hotchkiss.]
American inventors have had, as a rule, but small success in making Europe see the value of their inventions before this country has proved it. Morse could get neither England nor France to take an interest in his telegraph schemes, and, at a later day, Bell's telephone was received in England as a curious device, but not worth investing money in. An exception to this rule may be found, however, in the case of B.B.
Hotchkiss, a Connecticut inventor, who during the civil war conceived the idea of a breech-loading cannon. In 1869 Hotchkiss mounted one of his small guns in the Brooklyn Navy-yard, but found no encouragement to experiment further. The Franco-German war found him in Europe with a breech-loading gun that would throw sh.e.l.ls. His success was such that there is not a civilized country where Hotchkiss guns, throwing light sh.e.l.ls with a rapidity not dreamed of years ago, are not now in use.
The inventor has made a large fortune and has had the pleasure of sending to this country a number of guns for our cruisers, the Atlanta, the Boston, the Chicago, and the Dolphin. So great is the rapidity, accuracy, and power of these Hotchkiss rapid-fire guns that some experts expect to see two-thirds of an action fought with these or similar pieces, which they think will silence and put out of action all the heavy guns in a few minutes after the enemies come within fifteen hundred yards of each other. For instance, the latest piece is a six-pounder, which, with smokeless powder, has a range of five thousand yards and an effective fighting range of one thousand yards, within which distance a target the size of a six-inch gun can be hit nearly every time and five inches of wrought iron perforated. A speed in firing of twenty-five shots a minute has been attained.
CHARLES F. BRUSH AND THE DYNAMO.
A trifling incident revealed to an Italian savant the fact that when two metals and the leg of a frog came into contact the muscles of the leg contracted. The galvanic battery resulted. Years later another observer discovered that if a wire carrying a current of electricity was wound around a piece of soft iron the latter became a magnet. Out of these simple discoveries have arisen the telegraph, the telephone, and a host of inventions depending upon electricity. And to-day, with all the wonders accomplished in this field, we are yet upon the threshold of the enchanted palace that electricity is about to open to us. Through its aid we shall one day enjoy light, heat, and power almost as freely as we now enjoy air. The crops will be planted, watered, cultivated, gathered, and transported to the uttermost ends of the earth by electricity. The steam-engine is said to do the work of two hundred million men, and to have been the chief agent in reducing the average working hours of men in the civilized world in this century from fourteen hours a day to ten.
But electricity, according to even conservative judges, will accomplish infinitely more. It will make possible the harnessing of vast forces of nature, such as the falls of Niagara, because the electric current can be transported from place to place at small cost and it is easily transformed into light or power or heat. Within a few months we shall see the first results of the great work at Niagara. Before many years the power of the tides is certain to be used along the seaboard for producing electricity. Here is a force equal to that of a million Niagaras going to waste.
[Ill.u.s.tration: Charles F. Brush.]
The late Clerk Maxwell, when asked by a distinguished scientist what was the greatest scientific discovery of the last half-century, replied: "That the Gramme machine is reversible." In other words, that power will not only produce electricity, but that electricity will produce power.
By turning a big wheel at Niagara we can produce an electric current that will turn another wheel for us fifty, or perhaps five hundred miles away. The dynamo is one of the great achievements of the day to which Charles F. Brush, of Cleveland, O., has devoted himself with much signal success. Brush was born in March, 1849, in Euclid Township near Cleveland, and his early years were spent on his father's farm. When fourteen years old he went to the public school at Collamer, and later to the Cleveland High-school, and as early as 1862 distinguished himself by making magnetic machines and batteries for the high-school. During his senior year in the high-school, the chemical and physical apparatus of the laboratory of the school was placed under his charge. In this year he constructed an electric motor having its field magnets as well as its armature excited by the electric current. He also constructed a microscope and a telescope, making all the parts himself, down to the grinding of the lenses. He devised an apparatus for turning on the gas in the street-lamps of Cleveland, lighting it and turning it off again.
When he was eighteen years of age he entered Michigan University at Ann Arbor, and, following his particular bent, was graduated as a mining engineer in 1869, one year ahead of his cla.s.s. Returning to Cleveland he began work as an a.n.a.lytical chemist and soon became interested in the iron business. In 1875 Brush's attention was first called to electricity by George W. Stockly, who suggested that there was an immense field ready for a cheaper and more easily managed dynamo than the Gramme or Siemens, the best types then known. Stockly, who was interested in the Telegraph Supply Company, of Cleveland, agreed to undertake the manufacture of such a machine if one was devised. In two months Brush made a dynamo so perfect in every way that it was running until it was taken to the World's Fair in 1893. Having made a good dynamo, the next step was a better lamp than those in use. Six months of experimenting resulted in the Brush arc light. Stockly was so well satisfied with the commercial value of these inventions that the Telegraph Supply Company, a small concern then employing about twenty-five men, was reorganized in 1879, as the Brush Electric Company. In 1880 the Brush Company put its first lights into New York City, and it has since extended the system until there is scarcely a town in the country where the light may not be found. Besides dynamos and lamps, the immense establishment at Cleveland employs its twelve hundred men in making carbons, storage-batteries, and electro-plating apparatus. Mr. Brush is a self-taught mechanic, able to do any work of his shops in a manner equal to that of an expert. He is intensely practical, never over-sanguine, and an excellent business man.
If a delicate piece of work is to be done for the first time, he will probably do it with his own hands. He is not fond of experiment for the experiment's sake; he wants to see the practical utility of the aim in view before devoting time to its attainment. Of the scores of patents he has taken out, two-thirds are said to pay him a revenue. In 1881, at the Paris Electrical Exposition, Brush received the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. In personal appearance there is nothing of the round-shouldered, impecunious, studious inventor about him. He is six feet or more in height, and so fine a specimen of manhood that Gambetta, the French statesman, once remarked that the man impressed him quite as much as the inventor.
EICKEMEYER AND HIS MOTOR.
[Ill.u.s.tration: Rudolph Eickemeyer.]
In the same field of electricity, as applied to every-day life, a Bavarian by birth, but an American by adoption, Rudolf Eickemeyer, of Yonkers, has done some valuable work in devising a useful form of dynamo. His machines are now used almost exclusively for elevators and hoisting apparatus, one large firm of elevator builders having put in no less than six hundred Eickemeyer motors within the last four years. As electricity becomes more and more useful for small powers, such as lathes, pumps, and elevators, an effective and simple motor becomes of the utmost importance. Rudolf Eickemeyer was born in October, 1831, at Kaiserslautern, Bavaria, where his father was employed as a forester. He was educated at the Darmstadt Polytechnic Inst.i.tute and at once showed a predilection for scientific work. When still a boy he joined the Revolutionists under Siegel, and after the upheaval of 1848 came here with Siegel, Carl Schurz, and George Osterheld, the latter afterward becoming his partner. The young man's first work here was as an engineer on the Erie Railroad line, then building. In 1854 he established himself in Yonkers in the business of repairing the tools used in the many hat-shops of that already flourishing city. The next twenty years of his life were devoted to inventions and improvements in every branch of hat-making. His shaving-machines, stretchers, blockers, pressers, ironers, and sewing-machines subst.i.tuted mechanism for laborious and slow methods of hand work. At the beginning of the war Eickemeyer was quick to see the opportunity for turning his factory to other uses, and vast quant.i.ties of revolvers were made there. When that industry declined, he took up the manufacture of mowing-machines, having invented a driving mechanism for such machines that met with wide favor. The introduction of the Bell telephone in Yonkers first turned Eickemeyer's attention to electricity, and for the last ten years he has devoted himself almost exclusively to the invention and manufacture of electric motors. His first successful invention in this field was a dynamo to furnish light for railroad trains. From this he was led to the invention of a dynamo capable of doing effective work at much lower speed than that usually employed, and this has proved to be his most valuable achievement. Some improvements in winding the armatures have also been accepted as valuable and adopted by other manufacturers. In connection with storage batteries Mr. Eickemeyer has also done a good deal of interesting work. But he is chiefly known to the electrical world as the inventor of a most useful dynamo for power purposes. For the last forty years he has been one of the men who have most aided in the growth of Yonkers, taking great interest in all questions pertaining to its government and school system. He was married in 1856 to Mary T. Tarbell, of Dover, Me., and his eldest son, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., is a.s.sociated with him in business.
GEORGE WESTINGHOUSE, JR., AND THE AIR-BRAKE.
[Ill.u.s.tration: George Westinghouse, Jr.]
George Westinghouse, Jr., to whom is due the railroad air-brake, and who was also largely instrumental in revolutionizing Pittsburgh by the introduction of natural gas, was born at Central Bridge, in Schoharie County, N.Y., in 1846. His father was a builder and, later, superintendent of the Schenectady Agricultural Works, and it was in the shops of these works that the boy found his vocation. Before he was fifteen he had modelled and built a steam engine. The war took him away from work in 1864, but when that was over he returned to Schenectady and, although yet in his teens, he began to attempt improvements upon every device that presented itself. Sometimes he was successful. Among one of his first valuable achievements was a steel railroad frog that resulted in a good deal of money and some reputation. This was in 1868.
While in Pittsburgh making his frogs, which sold well, he one day came across a newspaper account of the successful use of compressed air in piercing the Mont Cenis tunnel. His success in the field of railroad appliances had led him to study the question of better brakes, and the suggestion of compressed air came to him as a revelation. To stop a train by the old methods was a matter of much time and a tremendous expenditure of muscular energy by the brakeman, whose exertions were not always effective enough to prevent disaster. Westinghouse consulted one or two friends, who were inclined to ridicule the idea that a rubber tube strung along under the cars could do better work than the men at the brakes. Fortunately, he was able to make the experiment, and the air-brake was speedily recognized as one of the important inventions of the century.
When petroleum was discovered in the fields near Pittsburgh, some ten years ago, Mr. Westinghouse was greatly interested, and at once suggested that perhaps oil might be found near his own home in Washington County. He decided to test the matter, and planted a derrick on his own grounds. The drill was started in December, 1883, and at a depth of 1,560 feet a vein was struck, not of oil, as was antic.i.p.ated, but--what had not been counted upon as among the contingencies--of gas.
Gas was not what Westinghouse was after or wanted, but there it was, and not wishing to let it run to waste, he began to consider what use could be made of it. Other people who had been boring for oil also struck gas, which, taking fire, shot up twenty or thirty feet. If such gas could be made to serve foundry purposes, here was a gigantic power going to waste. Within three years the business grew to be an immense one. The company organized by Mr. Westinghouse owned or controlled fifty-six thousand acres, upon which were one hundred wells and a distributing plant of four hundred miles of pipes. Notwithstanding the failure of some of the wells since then, natural gas is an extraordinary boon for which Pittsburgh has to thank Mr. Westinghouse. Of late years this inventor's energies have been turned toward electric machinery for lighting and power, especially as applied to railroad purposes, and a number of useful devices have resulted. Mr. Westinghouse is still in the prime of life and is activity personified. He makes his home in Pittsburgh, and is naturally looked upon as one of its leading spirits.
The field of electric invention is so vast and so actively worked that one cannot take up a newspaper without finding reference to some new achievement made possible by this wonderful agent, whose real powers were unsuspected fifty years ago. Aside from the direct value of these inventions in promoting the comfort and increasing the wealth of the country there is another factor to be considered having the most vital relation to the industries of the country and its powers of production.
The large number of inventions made in these United States implies a high degree of intelligence and mental activity in the great body of the people. It indicates trained habits of observation and trained powers of applying knowledge which has been acquired. It shows an ability to turn to account the forces of Nature and, train them to the service of man, such as has been possessed by the laborers of no other country. It suggests as pertinent the inquiry whether any other country is so well equipped for compet.i.tion in production as our own; whether in any other country the mechanic is so efficient and his labor, therefore, so cheap as in our own; whether he does not exhibit the seeming paradox of receiving more for his labor than in any other country, and at the same time doing more for what he receives.