On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures
Charles Babbage

Part 4 out of 6

(3) of the first differences, and the first term (2) of the
second or constant difference, are originally given, we can
continue the table of square numbers to any extent, merely by
addition: for the series of first differences may be formed by
repeatedly adding the constant difference (2) to (3) the first
number in column B, and we then have the series of numbers, 3, 5,
6, etc.: and again, by successively adding each of these to the
first number (1) of the table, we produce the square numbers.

249. Having thus, I hope, thrown some light upon the
theoretical part of the question, I shall endeavour to shew that
the mechanical execution of such an engine, as would produce this
series of numbers, is not so far removed from that of ordinary
machinery as might be conceived.(3*) Let the reader imagine three
clocks, placed on a table side by side, each having only one
hand, and each having a thousand divisions instead of twelve
hours marked on the face; and every time a string is pulled, let
them strike on a bell the numbers of the divisions to which their
hands point. Let him further suppose that two of the clocks, for
the sake of distinction called B and C, have some mechanism by
which the clock C advances the hand of the clock B one division,
for each stroke it makes upon its own bell: and let the clock B
by a similar contrivance advance the hand of the clock A one
division, for each stroke it makes on its own bell. With such an
arrangement, having set the hand of the clock A to the division
I, that of B to III, and that of C to II, let the reader imagine
the repeating parts of the clocks to be set in motion continually
in the following order: viz.--pull the string of clock A; pull
the string of clock B; pull the string of clock C.

The table on the following page will then express the series
of movements and their results.

If now only those divisions struck or pointed at by the clock
A be attended to and written down, it will be found that they
produce the series of the squares of the natural numbers. Such a
series could, of course, be carried by this mechanism only so far
as the numbers which can be expressed by three figures; but this
may be sufficient to give some idea of the construction--and
was, in fact, the point to which the first model of the
calculating engine, now in progress, extended.

250. We have seen, then, that the effect of the division of
labour, both in mechanical and in mental operations, is, that it
enables us to purchase and apply to each process precisely that
quantity of skill and knowledge which is required for it: we
avoid employing any part of the time of a man who can get eight
or ten shillings a day by his skill in tempering needles, in
turning a wheel, which can be done for sixpence a day; and we
equally avoid the loss arising from the employment of an
accomplished mathematician in performing the lowest processes of

251. The division of labour cannot be successfully practised
unless there exists a great demand for its produce; and it
requires a large capital to be employed in those arts in which it
is used. In watchmaking it has been carried, perhaps, to the
greatest extent. It was stated in evidence before a committee of
the House of Commons, that there are a hundred and two distinct
branches of this art, to each of which a boy may be put
apprentice: and that he only learns his master's department, and
is unable, after his apprenticeship has expired, without
subsequent instruction, to work at any other branch. The
watch-finisher, whose business is to put together the scattered
parts, is the only one, out of the hundred and two persons, who
can work in any other department than his own.

252. In one of the most difficult arts, that of mining, great
improvements have resulted from the judicious distribution of the
duties; and under the arrangments which have gradually been
introduced, the whole system of the mine and its government is
now placed under the control of the following officers.

1. A manager, who has the general knowledge of all that is to
be done, and who may be assisted by one or more skilful persons.

2. Underground captains direct the proper mining operations,
and govern the working miners.

3. The purser and book-keeper manage the accounts.

4. The engineer erects the engines, and superintends the men
who work them.

5. A chief pitman has charge of the pumps and the apparatus
of the shafts.

6. A surface-captain, with assistants, receives the ores
raised, and directs the dressing department, the object of which
is to render them marketable.

7. The head carpenter superintends many constructions.

8. The foreman of the smiths regulates the ironwork and

9. A materials man selects, purchases, receives and delivers
all articles required.

10. The roper has charge of ropes and cordage of all sorts.


1. An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of
Nations, by Adam Smith.

2. Note sur la publication, proposee par le gouvernement Anglais
des grandes tables logarithmiques et trigonometriques de M de
Prony De l'imprimerie de F. Didot, December 1, 1829, p. 7

3. Since the publication of the second edition of this work, one
portion of the engine which I have been constructing for some
years past has been put together. It calculates, in three
columns, a table with its first and second differences. Each
column can be expressed as far as five figures, so that these
fifteen figures constitute about one ninth part of the larger
engine. The ease and precision with which it works leave no room
to doubt its success in the more extended form. Besides tables of
squares, cubes, and portions of logarithmic tables, it possesses
the power of calculating certain series whose differences are not
constant; and it has already tabulated parts of series formed
from the following equations:

The third differential of ux = units figur of delta ux

The third differential of ux = nearest whole no. to (1/10,000
delta ux)

The subjoined is one amongst the series which it has calculated:

0 3,486 42,972
0 4,991 50,532
1 6,907 58,813
14 9,295 67,826
70 12,236 77,602
230 15,741 88,202
495 19,861 99,627
916 24,597 111,928
1,504 30,010 125,116
2,340 36,131 139,272

The general term of this is,

ux = (x(x-1)(x-2))/(1 X 2 X 3) + the whole number in x/10 +
10 Sigma^3 (units figure of (x(x-1)/2)

Chapter 21

On the Cost of Each Separate Process in a Manufacture

253. The great competition introduced by machinery, and the
application of the principle of the subdivision of labour, render
it necessary for each producer to be continually on the watch, to
discover improved methods by which the cost of the article he
manufactures may be reduced; and, with this view, it is of great
importance to know the precise expense of every process, as well
as of the wear and tear of machinery which is due to it. The same
information is desirable for those by whom the manufactured goods
are distributed and sold; because it enables them to give
reasonable answers or explanations to the objections of
enquirers, and also affords them a better chance of suggesting to
the manufacturer changes in the fashion of his goods, which may
be suitable either to the tastes or to the finances of his
customers. To the statesman such knowledge is still more
important; for without it he must trust entirely to others, and
can form no judgement worthy of confidence, of the effect any tax
may produce, or of the injury the manufacturer or the country may
suffer by its imposition.

254. One of the first advantages which suggests itself as
likely to arise from a correct analysis of the expense of the
several processes of any manufacture, is the indication which it
would furnish of the course in which improvement should be
directed. If a method could be contrived of diminishing by one
fourth the time required for fixing on the heads of pins, the
expense of making them would be reduced about thirteen per cent;
whilst a reduction of one half the time employed in spinning the
coil of wire out of which the heads are cut, would scarcely make
any sensible difference in the cost of manufacturing of the
whole article. It is therefore obvious, that the attention would
be much more advantageously directed to shortening the former
than the latter process.

255. The expense of manufacturing, in a country where
machinery is of the rudest kind, and manual labour is very cheap,
is curiously exhibited in the price of cotton cloth in the island
of Java. The cotton, in the seed, is sold by the picul, which is
a weight of about 133 lbs. Not above one fourth or one fifth of
this weight, however, is cotton: the natives, by means of rude
wooden rollers, can only separate about 1 1/4 lb. of cotton from
the seed by one day's labour. A picul of cleansed cotton,
therefore, is worth between four and five times the cost of the
impure article; and the prices of the same substance, in its
different stages of manufacture, are--for one picul:

Dollars Cotton in the seed 2 to 3
Clean cotton 10 to 11
Cotton thread 24
Cotton thread dyed blue 35
Good ordinary cotton cloth 50

Thus it appears that the expense of spinning in Java is 117
per cent on the value of the raw material; the expense of dying
thread blue is 45 per cent on its value; and that of weaving
cotton thread into cloth 117 per cent on its value. The expense
of spinning cotton into a fine thread is, in England, about 33
per cent. (1*)

256. As an example of the cost of the different processes of
a manufacture, perhaps an analytical statement of the expense of
the volume now in the reader's hands may not be uninteresting;
more especially as it will afford an insight into the nature and
extent of the taxes upon literature. It is found economical to
print it upon paper of a very large size, so that although
thirty-two pages, instead of sixteen, are really contained in
each sheet, this work is still called octavo.

L s. d.

To printer, for composing (per sheet of 32 pages) L3 1s. 10 1/2
sheets 32 0 6 [This relates to the ordinary size of the type used
in the volume.]

To printer for composing small type, as in extracts and 2 0 3
contents, extra per sheet, 3s. 10d.

To printer, for composing table work, extra per sheet, 2 17 9
5s. 6d.
Average charge for corrections, per sheet, L3 2s. 10d. 33 0 0
Press work, 3000 being printed off, per sheet, L3 10s. 36 15 0
Paper for 3000, at L1 11s. 6d. per ream, weighing 28 lbs: the
duty on paper at 3d. per lb. amounts to 7s. per ream, so that the
63 reams which are required for the work will cost:

Paper 77 3 6
Excise Duty 22 1 0
Total expense of paper 99 4 6

Total expense of printing and paper 205 18 0
Steel-plate for title-page 0 7 6
Engraving on ditto, Head of Bacon 2 2 0
Ditto letters 1 1 0
Total expense of title-page 3 10 6
Printing title-page, at 6s. per 100 9 0 0
Paper for ditto, at 1s. 9d. per 100 2 12 6
Expenses of advertising 40 0 0
Sundries. 5 0 0

Total expense in sheets 266 1 0

Cost of a single copy in sheets; 3052 being printed, including
the overplus 0 1 9
Extra boarding 0 0 6

Cost of each copy, boarded(2*) 0 2 3

257. This analysis requires some explanation. The printer
usually charges for composition by the sheet, supposing the type
to be all of one kind; and as this charge is regulated by the
size of the letter, on which the quantity in a sheet depends,
little dispute can arise after the price is agreed upon. If there
are but few extracts, or other parts of the work, which require
to be printed in smaller type; or if there are many notes, or
several passages in Greek, or in other languages, requiring a
different type, these are considered in the original contract,
and a small additional price per sheet allowed. If there is a
large portion of small type, it is better to have a specific
additional charge for it per sheet. If any work with irregular
lines and many figures, and what the printers call rules, occurs,
it is called table work, and is charged at an advanced price per
sheet. Examples of this are frequent in the present volume. If
the page consists entirely of figures, as in mathematical tables,
which require very careful correction, the charge for composition
is usually doubled. A few years ago I printed a table of
logarithms, on a large-sized page, which required great
additional labour and care from the readers,(3*) in rendering the
proofs correct, and for which, although new punches were not
required, several new types were prepared, and for which
stereotype plates were cast, costing about L2 per sheet. In this
case L11 per sheet were charged, although ordinary composition,
with the same sized letter, in demy octavo, could have been
executed at thirty-eight shillings per sheet: but as the expense
was ascertained before commencing the work, it gave rise to no

258. The charge for corrections and alterations is one which,
from the difficulty of measuring them, gives rise to the greatest
inconvenience, and is as disagreeable to the publisher (if he be
the agent between the author and the printer), and to the master
printer or his foreman, as it is to the author himself. If the
author study economy, he should make the whole of his corrections
in the manuscript, and should copy it out fairly: it will then be
printed correctly, and he will have little to pay for
corrections. But it is scarcely possible to judge of the effect
of any passage correctly, without having it set up in type; and
there are few subjects, upon which an author does not find he can
add some details or explanation, when he sees his views in print.
If, therefore, he wish to save his own labour in transcribing,
and to give the last polish to the language, he must be content
to accomplish these objects at an increased expense. If the
printer possess a sufficient stock of type, it will contribute
still more to the convenience of the author to have his whole
work put up in what are technically called slips,(4*) and then to
make all the corrections, and to have as few revises as he can.
The present work was set up in slips, but the corrections have
been unusually large, and the revises frequent.

259. The press work, or printing off, is charged at a price
agreed upon for each two hundred and fifty sheets; and any broken
number is still considered as two hundred and fifty. When a large
edition is required, the price for two hundred and fifty is
reduced; thus, in the present volume, two hundred and fifty
copies, if printed alone, would have been charged eleven
shillings per sheet, instead of 5s. 10d., the actual charge. The
principle of this mode of charging is good, as it obviates all
disputes; but it is to be regretted that the custom of charging
the same price for any small number as for two hundred and fifty,
is so pertinaciously adhered to, that the workmen will not agree
to any other terms when only twenty or thirty copies are
required, or even when only three or four are wanted for the sake
of some experiment. Perhaps if all numbers above fifty were
charged as two hundred and fifty, and all below as for half two
hundred and fifty, both parties would derive an advantage.

260. The effect of the excise duty is to render the paper
thin, in order that it may weigh little; but this is counteracted
by the desire of the author to make his book look as thick as
possible, in order that he may charge the public as much as he
decently can; and so on that ground alone the duty is of no
importance. There is, however, another effect of this duty, which
both the public and the author feel; for they pay, not merely the
duty which is charged, but also the profit on that duty, which
the paper-maker requires for the use of additional capital; and
also the profit to the publisher and bookseller on the increased
price of the volume.

261. The estimated charge for advertisements is, in the
present case, about the usual allowance for such a volume; and,
as it is considered that advertisements in newspapers are the
most effectual, where the smallest pays a duty of 3s. 6d., nearly
one half of the charge of advertising is a tax.

262. It appears then, that, to an expenditure of L224
necessary to produce the present volume, L42 are added in the
shape of a direct tax. Whether the profits arising from such a
mode of manufacturing will justify such a rate of taxation, can
only be estimated when the returns from the volume are
considered, a subject that will be discussed in a subsequent
chapter.(5*) It is at present sufficient to observe, that the tax
on advertisements is an impolitic tax when contrasted with that
upon paper, and on other materials employed. The object of all
advertisements is, by making known articles for sale, to procure
for them a better price, if the sale is to be by auction; or a
larger extent of sale if by retail dealers. Now the more any
article is known, the more quickly it is discovered whether it
contributes to the comfort or advantage of the public; and the
more quickly its consumption is assured if it be found valuable.
It would appear, then, that every tax on communicating
information respecting articles which are the subjects of
taxation in another shape, is one which must reduce the amount
that would have been raised, had no impediment been placed in the
way of making known to the public their qualities and their


1. These facts are taken from Crawford's Indian Archipelago.

2. These charges refer to the edition prepared for the public,
and do not relate to the large paper copies in the hands of some
of the author's friends.

3. Readers are persons employed to correct the press at the
printing office.

4. Slips are long pieces of paper on which sufficient matter is
printed to form, when divided, from two to four pages of text.

5. Chapter 31.

Chapter 22

On the Causes and Consequences of Large Factories

263. On examining the analysis which has been given in
chapter XIX of the operations in the art of pin-making, it will
be observed, that ten individuals are employed in it, and also
that the time occupied in executing the several processes is very
different. In order, however, to render more simple the reasoning
which follows, it will be convenient to suppose that each of the
seven processes there described requires an equal quantity of
time. This being supposed, it is at once apparent, that, to
conduct an establishment for pin-making most profitably, the
number of persons employed must be a multiple of ten. For if a
person with small means has only sufficient capital to enable him
to employ half that number of persons, they cannot each of them
constantly adhere to the execution of the same process; and if a
manufacturer employs any number not a multiple of ten, a similar
result must ensue with respect to some portion of them. The same
reflection constantly presents itself on examining any
well-arranged factory. In that of Mr Mordan, the patentee of the
ever-pointed pencils, one room is devoted to some of the
processes by which steel pens are manufactured. Six fly-presses
are here constantly at work; in the first a sheet of thin steel
is brought by the workman under the die which at each blow cuts
out a flat piece of the metal, having the form intended for the
pen. Two other workmen are employed in placing these flat pieces
under two other presses, in which a steel chisel cuts the slit.
Three other workmen occupy other presses, in which the pieces so
prepared receive their semi-cylindrical form. The longer time
required for adjusting the small pieces in the two latter
operations renders them less rapid in execution than the first;
so that two workmen are fully occupied in slitting, and three in
bending the flat pieces, which one man can punch out of the sheet
of steel. If, therefore, it were necessary to enlarge this
factory, it is clear that twelve or eighteen presses would be
worked with more economy than any number not a multiple of six.

The same reasoning extends to every manufacture which is
conducted upon the principle of the division of labour, and we
arrive at this general conclusion: When the number of processes
into which it is most advantageous to divide it, and the number
of individuals to be employed in it, are ascertained, then all
factories which do not employ a direct multiple of this latter
number, will produce the article at a greater cost. This
principle ought always to be kept in view in great
establishments, although it is quite impossible, even with the
best division of the labour, to attend to it rigidly in practice.
The proportionate number of the persons who possess the greatest
skill, is of course to be first attended to. That exact ratio
which is more profitable for a factory employing a hundred
workmen, may not be quite the best where there are five hundred;
and the arrangements of both may probably admit of variations,
without materially increasing the cost of their produce. But it
is quite certain that no individual, nor in the case of
pin-making could any five individuals, ever hope to compete with
an extensive establishment. Hence arises one cause of the great
size of manufacturing establishments, which have increased with
the progress of civilization. Other circumstances, however,
contribute to the same end, and arise also from the same cause--
the division of labour.

264. The material out of which the manufactured article is
produced, must, in the several stages of its progress, be
conveyed from one operator to the next in succession: this can be
done at least expense when they are all working in the same
establishment. If the weight of the material is considerable,
this reason acts with additional force; but even where it is
light, the danger arising from frequent removal may render it
desirable to have all the processes carried on in the same
building. In the cutting and polishing of glass this is the case;
whilst in the art of needle-making several of the processes are
carried on in the cottages of the workmen. It is, however, clear
that the latter plan, which is attended with some advantages to
the family of the workmen, can be adopted only where there exists
a sure and quick method of knowing that the work has been well
done, and that the whole of the materials given out have been
really employed.

265. The inducement to contrive machines for any process of
manufacture increases with the demand for the article; and the
introduction of machinery, on the other hand, tends to increase
the quantity produced and to lead to the establishment of large
factories. An illustration of these principles may be found in
the history of the manufacture of patent net.

The first machines for weaving this article were very
expensive, costing from a thousand to twelve or thirteen hundred
pounds. The possessor of one of these, though it greatly
increased the quantity he could produce, was nevertheless unable,
when working eight hours a day, to compete with the old methods.
This arose from the large capital invested in the machinery; but
he quickly perceived that with the same expense of fixed capital,
and a small addition to his circulating capital, he could work
the machine during the whole twenty-four hours. The profits thus
realized soon induced other persons to direct their attention to
the improvement of those machines; and the price was greatly
reduced, at the same time that the rapidity of production of the
patent net was increased. But if machines be kept working through
the twenty-four hours, it is necessary that some person shall
attend to admit the workmen at the time they relieve each other;
and whether the porter or other servant so employed admit one
person or twenty, his rest will be equally disturbed. It will
also be necessary occasionally to adjust or repair the machine;
and this can be done much better by a workman accustomed to
machine-making, than by the person who uses it. Now, since the
good performance and the duration of machines depend to a very
great extent upon correcting every shake or imperfection in their
parts as soon as they appear, the prompt attention of a workman
resident on the spot will considerably reduce the expenditure
arising from the wear and tear of the machinery. But in the case
of single lace frame, or a single loom, this would be too
expensive a plan. Here then arises another circumstance which
tends to enlarge the extent of a factory. It ought to consist of
such a number of machines as shall occupy the whole time of one
workman in keeping them in order: if extended beyond that number,
the same principle of economy would point out the necessity of
doubling or tripling the number of machines, in order to employ
the whole time of two or three skilful workmen.

266. Where one portion of the workman's labour consists in
the exertion of mere physical force, as in weaving and in many
similar arts, it will soon occur to the manufacturer, that if
that part were executed by a steam-engine, the same man might, in
the case of weaving, attend to two or more looms at once; and,
since we already suppose that one or more operative engineers
have been employed, the number of his looms may be so arranged
that their time shall be fully occupied in keeping the
steam-engine and the looms in order. One of the first results
will be, that the looms can be driven by the engine nearly twice
as fast as before: and as each man, when relieved from bodily
labour, can attend to two looms, one workman can now make almost
as much cloth as four. This increase of producing power is,
however, greater than that which really took place at first; the
velocity of some of the parts of the loom being limited by the
strength of the thread, and the quickness with which it commences
its motion: but an improvement was soon made, by which the motion
commenced slowly, and gradually acquired greater velocity than it
was safe to give it at once; and the speed was thus increased
from 100 to about 120 strokes per minute.

267. Pursuing the same principles, the manufactory becomes
gradually so enlarged, that the expense of lighting during the
night amounts to a considerable sum; and as there are already
attached to the establishment persons who are up all night, and
can therefore constantly attend to it, and also engineers to make
and keep in repair any machinery, the addition of an apparatus
for making gas to light the factory leads to a new extension, at
the same time that it contributes, by diminishing the expense of
lighting, and the risk of accidents from fire, to reduce the cost
of manufacturing.

268. Long before a factory has reached this extent, it will
have been found necessary to establish an accountant's
department, with clerks to pay the workmen, and to see that they
arrive at their stated times; and this department must be in
communication with the agents who purchase the raw produce, and
with those who sell the manufactured article.

269. We have seen that the application of the division of
labour tends to produce cheaper articles; that it thus increases
the demand; and gradually, by the effect of competition, or by
the hope of increased gain, that it causes large capitals to be
embarked in extensive factories. Let us now examine the influence
of this accumulation of capital directed to one object. In the
first place, it enables the most important principle on which the
advantages of the division of labour depends to be carried almost
to its extreme limits: not merely is the precise amount of skill
purchased which is necessary for the execution of each process,
but throughout every stage--from that in which the raw material
is procured, to that by which the finished produce is conveyed
into the hands of the consumer--the same economy of skill
prevails. The quantity of work produced by a given number of
people is greatly augmented by such an extended arrangement; and
the result is necessarily a great reduction in the cost of the
article which is brought to market.

270. Amongst the causes which tend to the cheap production of
any article, and which are connected with the employment of
additional capital, may be mentioned, the care which is taken to
prevent the absolute waste of any part of the raw material. An
attention to this circumstance sometimes causes the union of two
trades in one factory, which otherwise might have been separated.

An enumeration of the arts to which the horns of cattle are
applicable, will furnish a striking example of this kind of
economy. The tanner who has purchased the raw hides, separates
the horns, and sells them to the makers of combs and lanterns.
The horn consists of two parts, an outward horny case, and an
inward conical substance, somewhat intermediate between indurated
hair and bone. The first process consists in separating these two
parts, by means of a blow against a block of wood. The horny
exterior is then cut into three portions with a frame-saw.

1. The lowest of these, next the root of the horn, after
undergoing several processes, by which it is flattened, is made
into combs.

2. The middle of the horn, after being flattened by heat, and
having its transparency improved by oil, is split into thin
layers, and forms a substitute for glass, in lanterns of the
commonest kind.

3. The tip of the horn is used by the makers of knife
handles, and of the tops of whips, and for other similar

4. The interior, or core of the horn, is boiled down in
water. A large quantity of fat rises to the surface; this is put
aside, and sold to the makers of yellow soap.

5. The liquid itself is used as a kind of glue, and is
purchased by cloth dressers for stiffening.

6. The insoluble substance, which remains behind, is then
sent to the mill, and, being ground down, is sold to the farmers
for manure.

7. Besides these various purposes to which the different
parts of the horn are applied, the clippings, which arise in comb
making, are sold to the farmer for manure. In the first year
after they are spread over the soil they have comparatively
little effect, but during the next four or five their efficiency
is considerable. The shavings which form the refuse of the
lantern maker, are of a much thinner texture: some of them are
cut into various figures and painted, and used as toys; for being
hygrometric, they curl up when placed on the palm of a warm hand.
But the greater part of these shavings also are sold for manure,
and from their extremely thin and divided form, the full effect
is produced upon the first crop.

271. Another event which has arisen, in one trade at least,
from the employment of large capital, is, that a class of
middlemen, formerly interposed between the maker and the
merchant, now no longer exist. When calico was woven in the
cottages of the workmen, there existed a class of persons who
travelled about and purchased the pieces so made, in large
numbers, for the purpose of selling them to the exporting
merchant. But the middlemen were obliged to examine every piece,
in order to know that it was perfect, and of full measure. The
greater number of the workmen, it is true, might be depended
upon, but the fraud of a few would render this examination
indispensable: for any single cottager, though detected by one
purchaser, might still hope that the fact would not become known
to all the rest.

The value of character, though great in all circumstances of
life, can never be so fully experienced by persons possessed of
small capital, as by those employing much larger sums: whilst
these larger sums of money for which the merchant deals, render
his character for punctuality more studied and known by others.
Thus it happens that high character supplies the place of an
additional portion of capital; and the merchant, in dealing with
the great manufacturer, is saved from the expense of
verification, by knowing that the loss, or even the impeachment,
of the manufacturer's character, would be attended with greater
injury to himself than any profit upon a single transaction could

272. The amount of well-grounded confidence, which exists in
the character of its merchants and manufacturers, is one of the
many advantages that an old manufacturing country always
possesses over its rivals. To such an extent is this confidence
in character carried in England, that, at one of our largest
towns, sales and purchases on a very extensive scale are made
daily in the course of business without any of the parties ever
exchanging a written document.

273. A breach of confidence of this kind, which might have
been attended with very serious embarrassment, occurred in the
recent expedition to the mouth of the Niger.

'We brought with us from England,' Mr Lander states, 'nearly
a hundred thousand needles of various sizes, and amongst them was
a great quantity of Whitechapel sharps warranted superfine, and
not to cut in the eye. Thus highly recommended, we imagined that
these needles must have been excellent indeed; but what was our
surprise, some time ago, when a number of them which we had
disposed of were returned to us, with a complaint that they were
all eyeless, thus redeeming with a vengeance the pledge of the
manufacturer, "that they would not cut in the eye". On
examination afterwards, we found the same fault with the
remainder of the "Whitechapel sharps", so that to save our credit
we have been obliged to throw them away.'(1*)

274. The influence of established character in producing
confidence operated in a very remarkable manner at the time of
the exclusion of British manufactures from the continent during
the last war. One of our largest establishments had been in the
habit of doing extensive business with a house in the centre of
Germany; but, on the closing of the continental ports against our
manufactures, heavy penalties were inflicted on all those who
contravened the Berlin and Milan decrees. The English
manufacturer continued, nevertheless, to receive orders, with
directions how to consign them, and appointments for the time and
mode of payment, in letters, the handwriting of which was known
to him, but which were never signed, except by the christian name
of one of the firm, and even in some instances they were without
any signature at all. These orders were executed; and in no
instance was there the least irregularity in the payments.

275. Another circumstance may be noticed, which to a small
extent is more advantageous to large than to small factories. In
the export of several articles of manufacture, a drawback is
allowed by government, of a portion of the duty paid on the
importation of the raw material. In such circumstances, certain
forms must be gone through in order to protect the revenue from
fraud; and a clerk, or one of the partners, must attend at the
custom-house. The agent of the large establishment occupies
nearly the same time in receiving a drawback of several
thousands, as the smaller exporter does of a few shillings. But
if the quantity exported is inconsiderable, the small
manufacturer frequently does not find the drawback will repay him
for the loss of time.

276. In many of the large establishments of our manufacturing
districts, substances are employed which are the produce of
remote countries, and which are, in several instances, almost
peculiar to a few situations. The discovery of any new locality,
where such articles exist in abundance, is a matter of great
importance to any establishment which consumes them in large
quantities; and it has been found, in some instances, that the
expense of sending persons to great distances, purposely to
discover and to collect such produce, has been amply repaid. Thus
it has happened, that the snowy mountains of Sweden and Norway,
as well as the warmer hills of Corsica, have been almost stripped
of one of their vegetable productions, by agents sent expressly
from one of our largest establishments for the dying of calicos.
Owing to the same command of capital, and to the scale upon which
the operations of large factories are carried on, their returns
admit of the expense of sending out agents to examine into the
wants and tastes of distant countries, as well as of trying
experiments, which, although profitable to them, would be ruinous
to smaller establishments possessing more limited resources.

These opinions have been so well expressed in the Report of
the Committee of the House of Commons on the Woollen Trade, in
1806, that we shall close this chapter with an extract, in which
the advantages of great factories are summed up.

Your committee have the satisfaction of seeing, that the
apprehensions entertained of factories are not only vicious in
principle, but they are practically erroneous: to such a degree.
that even the very opposite principles might be reasonably
entertained. Nor would it be difficult to prove, that the
factories, to a certain extent at least, and in the present day,
seem absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of the domestic
system: supplying those very particulars wherein the domestic
system must be acknowledged to be inherently defective: for it is
obvious, that the little master manufacturers cannot afford, like
the man who possesses considerable capital, to try the
experiments which are requisite, and incur the risks, and even
losses, which almost always occur, in inventing and perfecting
new articles of manufacture, or in carrying to a state of greater
perfection articles already established. He cannot learn, by
personal inspection, the wants and habits, the arts,
manufactures, and improvements of foreign countries; diligence,
economy, and prudence, are the requisites of his character, not
invention, taste, and enterprise: nor would he be warranted in
hazarding the loss of any part of his small capital. He walks in
a sure road as long as he treads in the beaten track; but he must
not deviate into the paths of speculation. The owner of a
factory, on the contrary, being commonly possessed of a large
capital, and having all his workmen employed under his own
immediate superintendence, may make experiments, hazard
speculation, invent shorter or better modes of performing old
processes, may introduce new articles, and improve and perfect
old ones, thus giving the range to his taste and fancy, and,
thereby alone enabling our manufacturers to stand the competition
with their commercial rivals in other countries. Meanwhile, as is
well worthy of remark (and experience abundantly warrants the
assertion), many of these new fabrics and inventions, when their
success is once established, become general amongst the whole
body of manufacturers: the domestic manufacturers themselves thus
benefiting, in the end, from those very factories which had been
at first the objects of their jealousy. The history of almost all
our other manufactures, in which great improvements have been
made of late years in some cases at an immense expense, and after
numbers of unsuccessful experiments, strikingly illustrates and
enforces the above remarks. It is besides an acknowledged fact,
that the owners of factories are often amongst the most extensive
purchasers at the halls, where they buy from the domestic
clothier the established articles of manufacture, or are able at
once to answer a great and sudden order; whilst, at home, and
under their own superintendence, they make their fancy goods, and
any articles of a newer, more costly, or more delicate quality,
to which they are enabled by the domestic system to apply a much
larger proportion of their capital. Thus, the two systems,
instead of rivalling, are mutual aids to each other: each
supplying the other's defects, and promoting the other's


1. Lander's Journal of an Expedition to the Mouth of the Niger,
vol. ii., p. 42.

Chapter 23

On the Position of Large Factories

277. It is found in every country, that the situation of
large manufacturing establishments is confined to particular
districts. In the earlier history of a manufacturing community,
before cheap modes of transport have been extensively introduced,
it will almost always be found that manufactories are placed near
those spots in which nature has produced the raw material:
especially in the case of articles of great weight, and in those
the value of which depends more upon the material than upon the
labour expended on it. Most of the metallic ores being
exceedingly heavy, and being mixed up with large quantities of
weighty and useless materials, must be smelted at no great
distance from the spot which affords them: fuel and power are the
requisites for reducing them; and any considerable fall of water
in the vicinity will naturally be resorted to for aid in the
coarser exertions of physical force; for pounding the ore, for
blowing the furnaces, or for hammering and rolling out the iron.
There are indeed peculiar circumstances which will modify this.
Iron, coal, and limestone, commonly occur in the same tracts; but
the union of the fuel in the same locality with the ore does not
exist with respect to other metals. The tracts generally the most
productive of metallic ores are, geologically speaking, different
from those affording coal: thus in Cornwall there are veins of
copper and of tin, but no beds of coal. The copper ore, which
requires a very large quantity of fuel for its reduction, is sent
by sea to the coalfields of Wales, and is smelted at Swansea;
whilst the vessels which convey it, take back coals to work the
steam-engines for draining the mines, and to smelt the tin, which
requires for that purpose a much smaller quantity of fuel than

278. Rivers passing through districts rich in coal and
metals, will form the first highroads for the conveyance of
weighty produce to stations in which other conveniences present
themselves for the further application of human skill. Canals
will succeed, or lend their aid to these; and the yet unexhausted
applications of steam and of gas, hold out a hope of attaining
almost the same advantages for countries to which nature seemed
for ever to have denied them. Manufactures, commerce, and
civilization, always follow the line of new and cheap
communications. Twenty years ago, the Mississippi poured the vast
volume of its waters in lavish profusion through thousands of
miles of countries, which scarcely supported a few wandering and
uncivilized tribes of Indians. The power of the stream seemed to
set at defiance the efforts of man to ascend its course; and, as
if to render the task still more hopeless, large trees, torn from
the surrounding forests, were planted like stakes in its bottom,
forming in some places barriers, in others the nucleus of banks;
and accumulating in the same spot, which but for accident would
have been free from both, the difficulties and dangers of shoals
and of rocks. Four months of incessant toil could scarcely convey
a small bark with its worn-out crew two thousand miles up this
stream. The same voyage is now performed in fifteen days by large
vessels impelled by steam, carrying hundreds of passengers
enjoying all the comforts and luxuries of civilized life. Instead
of the hut of the Indian, and the far more unfrequent log house
of the thinly scattered settlers--villages, towns, and cities,
have arisen on its banks; and the same engine which stems the
force of these powerful waters, will probably tear from their
bottom the obstructions which have hitherto impeded and rendered
dangerous their navigation.(1*)

279. The accumulation of many large manufacturing
establishments in the same district has a tendency to bring
together purchasers or their agents from great distances, and
thus to cause the institution of a public mart or exchange. This
contributes to diffuse information relative to the supply of raw
materials, and the state of demand for their produce, with which
it is necessary manufacturers should be well acquainted. The very
circumstance of collecting periodically, at one place, a large
number both of those who supply the market and of those who
require its produce, tends strongly to check the accidental
fluctuations to which a small market is always subject, as well
as to render the average of the prices much more uniform.

280. When capital has been invested in machinery, and in
buildings for its accommodation, and when the inhabitants of the
neighbourhood have acquired a knowledge of the modes of working
at the machines, reasons of considerable weight are required to
cause their removal. Such changes of position do however occur;
and they have been alluded to by the Committee on the Fluctuation
of Manufacturers' Employment, as one of the causes interfering
most materially with an uniform rate of wages: it is therefore of
particular importance to the workmen to be acquainted with the
real causes which have driven manufactures from their ancient

"The migration or change of place of any manufacture has
sometimes arisen from improvements of machinery not applicable to
the spot where such manufacture was carried on, as appears to
have been the case with the woollen manufacture, which has in
great measure migrated from Essex, Suffolk, and other southern
counties, to the northern districts, where coal for the use of
the steam-engine is much cheaper. But this change has, in some
instances, been caused or accelerated by the conduct of the
workmen, in refusing a reasonable reduction of wages, or opposing
the introduction of some kind of improved machinery or process;
so that, during the dispute, another spot has in great measure
supplied their place in the market. Any violence used by the
workmen against the property of their masters, and any
unreasonable combination on their part, is almost sure thus to be
injurious to themselves."

281. These removals become of serious consequence when the
factories have been long established, because a population
commensurate with their wants invariably grows up around them.
The combinations in Nottinghamshire, of persons under the name of
Luddites, drove a great number of lace frames from that district,
and caused establishments to be formed in Devonshire. We ought
also to observe, that the effect of driving any establishment
into a new district, where similar works have not previously
existed, is not merely to place it out of the reach of such
combinations; but, after a few years, the example of its success
will most probably induce other capitalists in the new district
to engage in the same manufacture: and thus, although one
establishment only should be driven away, the workmen, through
whose combination its removal is effected, will not merely suffer
by the loss of that portion of demand for their labour which the
factory caused; but the value of that labour will itself be
reduced by the competition of a new field of production.

282. Another circumstance which has its influence on this
question, is the nature of the machinery. Heavy machinery, such
as stamping-mills, steam-engines, etc., cannot readily be moved,
and must always be taken to pieces for that purpose; but when the
machinery of a factory consists of a multitude of separate
engines, each complete in itself, and all put in motion by one
source of power, such as that of steam, then the removal is much
less inconvenient. Thus, stocking frames, lace machines, and
looms, can be transported to more favourable positions, with but
a small separation of their parts.

283. It is of great importance that the more intelligent
amongst the class of workmen should examine into the correctness
of these views; because, without having their attention directed
to them, the whole class may, in some instances, be led by
designing persons to pursue a course, which, although plausible
in appearance, is in reality at variance with their own best
interests. I confess I am not without a hope that this volume may
fall into the hands of workmen, perhaps better qualified than
myself to reason upon a subject which requires only plain common
sense, and whose powers are sharpened by its importance to their
personal happiness. In asking their attention to the preceding
remarks, and to those which I shall offer respecting
combinations, I can claim only one advantage over them; namely,
that I never have had, and in all human probability never shall
have, the slightest pecuniary interest, to influence even
remotely, or by anticipation, the judgements I have formed on the
facts which have come before me.


1. The amount of obstructions arising from the casual fixing of
trees in the bottom of the river, may be estimated from the
proportion of steamboats destroyed by running upon them. The
subjoined statement is taken from the American Almanack for 1832.

Between the years 1811 and 1831, three hundred and
forty-eight steamboats were built on the Mississippi and its
tributary streams. During that period a hundred and fifty were
lost or worn out.

Of this hundred and fifty: worn out 63
lost by snags 36
burnt 14
lost by collision 3
by accidents not ascertained 34
Thirty six or nearly one fourth, being destroyed by accidental

Snag is the name given in America to trees which stand nearly
upright in the stream with their roots fixed at the bottom.

It is usual to divide off at the bow of the steamboats a
watertight chamber, in order that when a hole is made in it by
running against the snags, the water may not enterthe rest of the
vessel and sink it intantly.

Chapter 24

On Over Manufacturing

284. One of the natural and almost inevitable consequences of
competition is the production of a supply much larger than the
demand requires. This result usually arises periodically; and it
is equally important, both to the masters and to the workmen, to
prevent its occurrence, or to foresee its arrival. In situations
where a great number of very small capitalists exist--where each
master works himself and is assisted by his own family, or by a
few journeymen--and where a variety of different articles is
produced, a curious system of compensation has arisen which in
some measure diminishes the extent to which fluctuations of wages
would otherwise reach. This is accomplished by a species of
middlemen or factors, persons possessing some capital, who,
whenever the price of any of the articles in which they deal is
greatly reduced, purchase it on their own account, in the hopes
of selling at a profit when the market is better. These persons,
in ordinary times, act as salesmen or agents, and make up
assortments of goods at the market price, for the use of the home
or foreign dealer. They possess large warehouses in which to make
up their orders, or keep in store articles purchased during
periods of depression; thus acting as a kind of flywheel in
equalizing the market price. 285. The effect of
over-manufacturing upon great establishments is different. When
an over supply has reduced prices, one of two events usually
occurs: the first is a diminished payment for labour; the other
is a diminution of the number of hours during which the labourers
work, together with a diminished rate of wages. In the former
case production continues to go on at its ordinary rate: in the
latter, the production itself being checked, the supply again
adjusts itself to the demand as soon as the stock on hand is
worked off, and prices then regain their former level. The latter
course appears, in the first instance, to be the best both for
masters and men; but there seems to be a difficulty in
accomplishing this, except where the trade is in few hands. In
fact, it is almost necessary, for its success, that there should
be a combination amongst the masters or amongst the men; or, what
is always far preferable to either, a mutual agreement for their
joint interests. Combination amongst the men is difficult, and is
always attended with the evils which arise from the ill-will
excited against any persons who, in the perfectly justifiable
exercise of their judgement, are disposed not to act with the
majority. The combination of the masters, on the other hand, is
unavailing, unless the whole body of them agree, for if any one
master can procure more labour for his money than the rest, he
will be able to undersell them.

286. If we look only at the interests of the consumer, the
case is different. When too large a supply has produced a great
reduction of price, it opens the consumption of the article to a
new class, and increases the consumption of those who previously
employed it: it is therefore against the interest of both these
parties that a return to the former price should occur. It is
also certain, that by the diminution of profit which the
manufacturer suffers from the diminished price, his ingenuity
will be additionally stimulated; that he will apply himself to
discover other and cheaper sources for the supply of his raw
material; that he will endeavour to contrive improved machinery
which shall manufacture it at a cheaper rate; or try to introduce
new arrangements into his factory, which shall render the economy
of it more perfect. In the event of his success, by any of these
courses or by their joint effects, a real and substantial good
will be produced. A larger portion of the public will receive
advantage from the use of the article, and they will procure it
at a lower price; and the manufacturer, though his profit on each
operation is reduced, will yet, by the more frequent returns on
the larger produce of his factory, find his real gain at the end
of the year, nearly the same as it was before; whilst the wages
of the workman will return to their level, and both the
manufacturer and the workman will find the demand less
fluctuating, from its being dependent on a larger number of

287. It would be highly interesting, if we could trace, even
approximately, through the history of any great manufacture, the
effects of gluts in producing improvements in machinery, or in
methods of working; and if we could shew what addition to the
annual quantity of goods previously manufactured, was produced by
each alteration. It would probably be found, that the increased
quantity manufactured by the same capital, when worked with the
new improvement, would produce nearly the same rate of profit as
other modes of investment.

Perhaps the manufacture of iron(1*) would furnish the best
illustration of this subject; because, by having the actual price
of pig and bar iron at the same place and at the same time, the
effect of a change in the value of currency, as well as several
other sources of irregularity, would be removed.

288. At the present moment, whilst the manufacturers of iron
are complaining of the ruinously low price of their produce, a
new mode of smelting iron is coming into use, which, if it
realizes the statement of the patentees, promises to reduce
greatly the cost of production.

The improvement consists in heating the air previously to
employing it for blowing the furnace. One of the results is, that
coal may be used instead of coke; and this, in its turn,
diminishes the quantity of limestone which is required for the
fusion of the iron stone.

The following statement by the proprietors of the patent is
extracted from Brewster's Journal, 1832, p. 349:

Comparative view of the quantity of materials required at the
Clyde iron works to smelt a ton of foundry pig-iron, and of the
quantity of foundry pig-iron smelted from each furnace weekly

Fuel in tons of 20 cwt each cwt 112 lbs; Iron-stone; Lime-stone
Cwt; Weekly produce in pig-iron Tons

1. With air not heated and coke; 7;3 1/4; 15; 45
2. With air heated and coke; 4 3/4; 3 1/4; 10; 60
3. With air heated and coals not coked; 2 1/4; 3 1/4; 7 1/2; 65

Notes. 1. To the coals stated in the second and third lines, must
be added 5 cwt of small coals, required to heat the air.

2. The expense of the apparatus for applying the heated air
will be from L200 to L300 per furnace.

3. No coals are now coked at the Clyde iron works; at all the
three furnaces the iron is smelted with coals.

4. The three furnaces are blown by a double-powered
steam-engine, with a steam cylinder 40 inches in diameter, and a
blowing cylinder 80 inches in diameter, which compresses the air
so as to carry 2 1/2 lbs per square inch. There are two tuyeres
to each furnace. The muzzles of the blowpipes are 3 inches in

5. The air heated to upwards of 600 degrees of Fahrenheit.
It will melt lead at the distance of three inches from the
orifice through which it issues from the pipe.

289. The increased effect produced by thus heating the air is
by no means an obvious result; and an analysis of its action will
lead to some curious views respecting the future application of
machinery for blowing furnaces.

Every cubic foot of atmospheric air, driven into a furnace,
consists of two gases.(2*) about one-fifth being oxygen, and
four-fifths azote.

According to the present state of chemical knowledge, the
oxygen alone is effective in producing heat; and the operation of
blowing a furnace may be thus analysed.

1. The air is forced into the furnace in a condensed state,
and, immediately expanding, abstracts heat from the surrounding

2. Being itself of moderate temperature, it would, even
without expansion, still require heat to raise it to the
temperature of the hot substances to which it is to be applied.

3. On coming into contact with the ignited substances in the
furnace, the oxygen unites with them, parting at the same moment
with a large portion of its latent heat, and forming compounds
which have less specific heat than their separate constituents.
Some of these pass up the chimney in a gaseous state, whilst
others remain in the form of melted slags, floating on the
surface of the iron, which is fused by the heat thus set at

4. The effects of the azote are precisely similar to the
first and second of those above described; it seems to form no
combinations, and contributes nothing, in any stage, to augment
the heat.

The plan, therefore, of heating the air before driving it
into the furnace saves, obviously, the whole of that heat which
the fuel must have supplied in raising it from the temperature
of the external air up to that of 600 degrees Fahrenheit; thus
rendering the fire more intense, and the glassy slags more
fusible, and perhaps also more effectually decomposing the iron
ore. The same quantity of fuel, applied at once to the furnace,
would only prolong the duration of its heat, not augment its

290. The circumstance of so large a portion of the air(3*)
driven into furnaces being not merely useless, but acting really
as a cooling, instead of a heating, cause, added to so great a
waste of mechanical power in condensing it, amounting, in fact,
to four-fifths of the whole, clearly shews the defects of the
present method, and the want of some better mode of exciting
combustion on a large scale. The following suggestions are thrown
out as likely to lead to valuable results, even though they
should prove ineffectual for their professed object.

291. The great difficulty appears to be to separate the
oxygen, which aids combustion, from the azote which impedes it.
If either of those gases becomes liquid at a lower pressure than
the other, and if those pressures are within the limits of our
present powers of compression, the object might be accomplished.

Let us assume, for example, that oxygen becomes liquid under
a pressure of 200 atmospheres, whilst azote requires a pressure
of 250. Then if atmospheric air be condensed to the two hundredth
part of its bulk, the oxygen will be found in a liquid state at
the bottom of the vessel in which the condensation is effected,
and the upper part of the vessel will contain only azote in the
state of gas. The oxygen, now liquefied, may be drawn off for the
supply of the furnace; but as it ought when used, to have a very
moderate degree of condensation, its expansive force may be
previously employed in working a small engine. The compressed
azote also in the upper part of the vessel, though useless for
combustion, may be employed as a source of power, and, by its
expansion, work another engine. By these means the mechanical
force exerted in the original compression would all be restored,
except that small part retained for forcing the pure oxygen into
the furnace, and the much larger part lost in the friction of the

292. The principal difficulty to be apprehended in these
operations is that of packing a working piston so as to bear the
pressure of 200 or 300 atmospheres: but this does not seem
insurmountable. It is possible also that the chemical combination
of the two gases which constitute common air may be effected by
such pressures: if this should be the case, it might offer a new
mode of manufacturing nitrous or nitric acids. The result of such
experiments might take another direction: if the condensation
were performed over liquids, it is possible that they might enter
into new chemical combinations. Thus, if air were highly
condensed in a vessel containing water, the latter might unite
with an additional dose of oxygen, (4*) which might afterwards
be easily disengaged for the use of the furnace.

293. A further cause of the uncertainty of the results of
such an experiment arises from the possibility that azote may
really contribute to the fusion of the mixed mass in the furnace,
though its mode of operating is at present unknown. An
examination of the nature of the gases issuing from the chimneys
of iron-foundries, might perhaps assist in clearing up this
point; and, in fact, if such enquiries were also instituted upon
the various products of all furnaces, we might expect the
elucidation of many points in the economy of the metallurgic art.

294. It is very possible also, that the action of oxygen in a
liquid state might be exceedingly corrosive, and that the
containing vessels must be lined with platinum or some other
substance of very difficult oxydation; and most probably new and
unexpected compounds would be formed at such pressures. In some
experiments made by Count Rumford in 1797, on the force of fired
gunpowder, he noticed a solid compound, which always appeared in
the gunbarrel when the ignited powder had no means of escaping;
and, in those cases, the gas which escaped on removing the
restraining pressure was usually inconsiderable.

295. If the liquefied gases are used, the form of the iron
furnace must probably be changed, and perhaps it may be necessary
to direct the flame from the ignited fuel upon the ore to be
fused, instead of mixing that ore with the fuel itself: by a
proper regulation of the blast, an oxygenating or a deoxygenating
flame might be procured; and from the intensity of the flame,
combined with its chemical agency, we might expect the most
refractory ore to be smelted, and that ultimately the metals at
present almost infusible, such as platinum, titanium, and others,
might be brought into common use, and thus effect a revolution in
the arts.

296. Supposing, on the occurrence of a glut, that new and
cheaper modes of producing are not discovered, and that the
production continues to exceed the demand, then it is apparent
that too much capital is employed in the trade; and after a time,
the diminished rate of profit will drive some of the
manufacturers to other occupations. What particular individuals
will leave it must depend on a variety of circumstances. Superior
industry and attention will enable some factories to make a
profit rather beyond the rest; superior capital in others will
enable them, without these advantages, to support competition
longer, even at a loss, with the hope of driving the smaller
capitalists out of the market, and then reimbursing themselves by
an advanced price. It is, however, better for all parties, that
this contest should not last long; and it is important, that no
artificial restraint should interfere to prevent it. An instance
of such restriction, and of its injurious effect, occurs at the
port of Newcastle, where a particular Act of Parliament requires
that every ship shall be loaded in its turn. The Committee of the
House of Commons, in their Report on the Coal Trade, state that,

'Under the regulations contained in this Act, if more ships
enter into the trade than can be profitablv employed in it, the
loss produced by detention in port, and waiting for a cargo.
which must consequently take place, instead of falling, as it
naturally would, upon particular ships, and forcing them from the
trade, is now divided evenly amongst them; and the loss thus
created is shared by the whole number.' Report, p. 6.

297. It is not pretended, in this short view, to trace out all
the effects or remedies of over-manufacturing; the subject is
difficult, and, unlike some of the questions already treated,
requires a combined view of the relative influence of many
concurring causes.


1. The average price per ton of pig iron, bar iron, and coal,
together with the price paid for labour at the works, for a long
series of years, would be very valuable, and I shall feel much
indebted to anyone who will favour me with it for any, even
short, period.

2. The accurate proportions are, by measure, oxygen 21, azote 79.

3. A similar reasoning may be applied to lamps. An Argand burner,
whether used for consuming oil or gas, admits almost an unlimited
quantity of air. It would deserve enquiry, whether a smaller
quantity might not produce greater light; and, possibly, a
different supply furnish more heat with the same expenditure of

4. Deutoxide of hydrogen, the oxygenated water of Thenard.

Chapter 25

Enquiries Previous to Commencing any Manufactory

298. There are many enquiries which ought always to be made
previous to the commencement of the manufacture of any new
article. These chiefly relate to the expense of tools, machinery,
raw materials, and all the outgoings necessary for its
production; to the extent of demand which is likely to arise; to
the time in which the circulating capital will be replaced; and
to the quickness or slowness with which the new article will
supersede those already in use.

299. The expense of tools and of new machines will be more
difficult to ascertain, in proportion as they differ from those
already employed; but the variety in constant use in our various
manufactories, is such, that few inventions now occur in which
considerable resemblance may not be traced to others already
constructed. The cost of the raw material is usually less
difficult to determine; but cases occasionally arise in which it
becomes important to examine whether the supply, at the given
price, can be depended upon: for, in the case of a small
consumption, the additional demand arising from a factory may
produce a considerable temporary rise, though it may ultimately
reduce the price.

300. The quantity of any new article likely to be consumed is
a most important subject for the consideration of the projector
of a new manufacture. As these pages are not intended for the
instruction of the manufacturer, but rather for the purpose of
giving a general view of the subject, an illustration of the way
in which such questions are regarded by practical men, will,
perhaps, be most instructive. The following extract from the
evidence given before a Committee of the House of Commons, in the
Report on Artizans and Machinery, shews the extent to which
articles apparently the most insignificant, are consumed, and the
view which the manufacturer takes of them.

The person examined on this occasion was Mr Ostler, a
manufacturer of glass beads and other toys of the same substance,
from Birmingham. Several of the articles made by him were placed
upon the table, for the inspection of the Committee of the House
of Commons, which held its meetings in one of the

Question. Is there any thing else you have to state upon this
Answer. Gentlemen may consider the articles on the table as
extremely insignificant: but perhaps I may surprise them a
little, by mentioning the following fact. Eighteen years ago, on
my first journey to London, a respectable-looking man, in the
city, asked me if I could supply him with dolls' eyes; and I was
foolish enough to feel half offended; I thought it derogatory to
my new dignity as a manufacturer, to make dolls' eyes. He took me
into a room quite as wide, and perhaps twice the length of this,
and we had just room to walk between stacks, from the loor to the
ceiling, of parts of dolls. He said, 'These are only the legs and
arms; the trunks are below., But I saw enough to convince me,
that he wanted a great many eyes; and, as the article appeared
quite in my own line of business, I said I would take an order by
way of experiment; and he shewed me several specimens. I copied
the order. He ordered various quantities, and of various sizes
and qualities. On returning to the Tavistock Hotel, I found that
the order amounted to upwards of 500l. I went into the country,
and endeavoured to make them. I had some of the most ingenious
glass toymakers in the kingdom in my service; but when I shewed
it to them, they shook their heads, and said they had often seen
the article before, but could not make it. I engaged them by
presents to use their best exertions; but after trying and
wasting a great deal of time for three or four weeks, I was
obliged to relinquish the attempt. Soon afterwards I engaged in
another branch of business (chandelier furniture), and took no
more notice of it. About eighteen months ago I resumed the
trinket trade, and then determined to think of the dolls' eyes;
and about eight months since, I accidentally met with a poor
fellow who had impoverished himself by drinking, and who was
dying in a consumption, in a state of great want. I showed him
ten sovereigns: and he said he would instruct me in the process.
He was in such a state that he could not bear the effluvia of his
own lamp, but though I was very conversant with the manual part
of the business, and it related to things I was daily in the
habit of seeing, I felt I could do nothing from his description.
(I mention this to show how difficult it is to convey, by
description, the mode of working.) He took me into his garret,
where the poor fellow had economized to such a degree, that he
actually used the entrails and fat of poultry from Leadenhall
market to save oil (the price of the article having been lately
so much reduced by competition at home). In an instant, before I
had seen him make three, I felt competent to make a gross; and
the difference between his mode and that of my own workmen was so
trifling, that I felt the utmost astonishment.

Question. You can now make dolls' eyes?
Answer. I can. As it was eighteen years ago that I received the
order I have mentioned, and feeling doubtful of my own
recollection, though very strong, and suspecting that it could
[not] have been to the amount stated, I last night took the
present very reduced price of that article (less than half now of
what it was then), and calculating that every child in this
country not using a doll till two years old, and throwing it
aside at seven, and having a new one annually, I satisfied myself
that the eyes alone would produce a circulation of a great many
thousand pounds. I mention this merely to shew the importance of
trifles; and to assign one reason, amongst many, for my
conviction that nothing but personal communication can enable
our manufactures to be transplanted.

301. In many instances it is exceedingly difficult to
estimate beforehand the sale of an article, or the effects of a
machine; a case, however, occurred during a recent enquiry, which
although not quite appropriate as an illustration of probable
demand, is highly instructive as to the mode of conducting
investigations of this nature. A committee of the House of
Commons was appointed to enquire into the tolls proper to be
placed on steam-carriages; a question, apparently, of difficult
solution, and upon which widely different opinions had been
formed, if we may judge by the very different rate of tolls
imposed upon such carriages by different 'turnpike trusts'. The
principles on which the committee conducted the enquiry were,
that 'The only ground on which a fair claim to toll can be made
on any public road, is to raise a fund, which, with the strictest
economy, shall be just sufficient--first, to repay the expense
of its original formation; secondly, to maintain it in good and
sufficient repair.' They first endeavoured to ascertain, from
competent persons, the effect of the atmosphere alone in
deteriorating a well-constructed road. The next step was, to
determine the proportion in which the road was injured, by the
effect of the horses' feet compared with that of the wheels. Mr
Macneill, the superintendent, under Mr Telford, of the Holyhead
roads, was examined, and proposed to estimate the relative
injury, from the comparative quantities of iron worn off from the
shoes of the horses, and from the tire of the wheels. From the
data he possessed, respecting the consumption of iron for the
tire of the wheels, and for the shoes of the horses, of one of
the Birmingham day-coaches, he estimated the wear and tear of
roads, arising from the feet of the horses, to be three times as
great as that arising from the wheels. Supposing repairs
amounting to a hundred pounds to be required on a road travelled
over by a fast coach at the rate of ten miles an hour, and the
same amount of injury to occur on another road, used only by
waggons, moving at the rate of three miles an hour, Mr Macneill
divides the injuries in the following proportions:

Injuries arising from; Fast coach; Heavy waggon
Atmospheric changes 20 20
Wheels 20 35.5
Horses' feet drawing 60 44.5
Total injury 100 100

Supposing it, therefore, to be ascertained that the wheels of
steam carriages do no more injury to roads than other carriages
of equal weight travelling with the same velocity, the committee
now possessed the means of approximating to a just rate of toll
for steam carriages.(1*)

302. As connected with this subject, and as affording most
valuable information upon points in which, previous to
experiment, widely different opinions have been entertained; the
following extract is inserted from Mr Telford's Report on the
State of the Holyhead and Liverpool Roads. The instrument
employed for the comparison was invented by Mr Macneill; and the
road between London and Shrewsbury was selected for the place of

The general results, when a waggon weighing 21 cwt was used
on different sorts of roads, are as follows:

1. On well-made pavement, the draught is 33

2. On a broken stone surface, or old flint road 65

3. On a gravel road 147

4. On a broken stone road, upon a rough pavement foundation 46

5. On a broken stone surface, upon a bottoming of concrete,
formed of Parker's cement and gravel 46

The following statement relates to the force required to draw a
coach weighing 18 cwt. exclusive of seven passengers, up roads of
various inclinations:

Inclination; Force required at six miles per hour; Force at
eight miles per hour; Force at ten miles per hour

lbs lbs lbs
1 in 20 268 296 318
1 in 26 213 219 225
1 in 30 165 196 200
1 in 40 160 166 172
1 in 600 111 120 128

303. In establishing a new manufactory, the time in which the
goods produced can be brought to market and the returns be
realized, should be thoroughly considered, as well as the time
the new article will take to supersede those already in use. If
it is destroyed in using, the new produce will be much more
easily introduced. Steel pens readily took the place of quills;
and a new form of pen would, if it possessed any advantage, as
easily supersede the present one. A new lock, however secure, and
however cheap, would not so readily make its way. If less
expensive than the old, it would be employed in new work: but old
locks would rarely be removed to make way for it; and even if
perfectly secure, its advance would be slow.

304. Another element in this question which should not be
altogether omitted, is the opposition which the new manufacture
may create by its real or apparent injury to other interests, and
the probable effect of that opposition. This is not always
foreseen; and when anticipated is often inaccurately estimated.
On the first establishment of steamboats from London to Margate,
the proprietors of the coaches running on that line of road
petitioned the House of Commons against them, as likely to lead
to the ruin of the coach proprietors. It was, however, found that
the fear was imaginary; and in a very few years, the number of
coaches on that road was considerably increased, apparently
through the very means which were thought to be adverse to it.
The fear, which is now entertained, that steampower and railroads
may drive out of employment a large proportion of the horses at
present in use, is probably not less unfounded. On some
particular lines such an effect might be produced; but in all
probability the number of horses employed in conveying goods and
passengers to the great lines of railroad, would exceed that
which is at present used.


1. One of the results of these enquiries is, that every coach
which travels from London to Birmingham distributes about eleven
pounds of wrought iron, along with the line of road between the
two places.

Chapter 26

On a New System of Manufacturing

305. A most erroneous and unfortunate opinion prevails
amongst workmen in many manufacturing countries, that their own
interest and that of their employers are at variance. The
consequences are that valuable machinery is sometimes neglected,
and even privately injured--that new improvements, introduced by
the masters, do not receive a fair trial--and that the talents
and observations of the workmen are not directed to the
improvement of the processes in which they are employed. This
error is, perhaps, most prevalent where the establishment of
manufactories has been of recent origin, and where the number of
persons employed in them is not very large: thus, in some of the
Prussian provinces on the Rhine it prevails to a much greater
extent than in Lancashire. Perhaps its diminished prevalence in
our own manufacturing districts, arises partly from the superior
information spread amongst the workmen; and partly from the
frequent example of persons, who by good conduct and an attention
to the interests of their employers for a series of years, have
become foremen, or who have ultimately been admitted into
advantageous partnerships. Convinced as I am, from my own
observation, that the prosperity and success of the master
manufacturer is essential to the welfare of the workman, I am yet
compelled to admit that this connection is, in many cases, too
remote to be always understood by the latter, and whilst it is
perfectly true that workmen, as a class, derive advantage from
the prosperity of their employers, I do not think that each
individual partakes of that advantage exactly in proportion to
the extent to which he contributes towards it; nor do I perceive
that the resulting advantage is as immediate as it might become
under a different system.

306. It would be of great importance, if, in every large
establishment the mode of payment could be so arranged, that
every person employed should derive advantage from the success of
the whole; and that the profits of each individual should
advance, as the factory itself produced profit, without the
necessity of making any change in the wages. This is by no means
easy to effect, particularly amongst that class whose daily
labour procures for them their daily food. The system which has
long been pursued in working the Cornish mines, although not
exactly fulfilling these conditions, yet possesses advantages
which make it worthy of attention, as having nearly approached
towards them, and as tending to render fully effective the
faculties of all who are engaged in it. I am the more strongly
induced to place before the reader a short sketch of this system,
because its similarity to that which I shall afterwards recommend
for trial, will perhaps remove some objections to the latter, and
may also furnish some valuable hints for conducting any
experiment which might be undertaken.

307. In the mines of Cornwall, almost the whole of the
operations, both above and below ground, are contracted for. The
manner of making the contract is nearly as follows. At the end of
every two months, the work which it is proposed to carry on
during the next period is marked out. It is of three kinds. 1.
Tutwork, which consists in sinking shafts, driving levels, and
making excavations: this is paid for by the fathom in depth, or
in length, or by the cubic fathom. 2. Tribute, which is payment
for raising and dressing the ore, by means of a certain part of
its v alue when rendered merchantable. It is this mode of payment
which produces such admirable effects. The miners, who are to be
paid in proportion to the richness of the vein, and the quantity
of metal extracted from it, naturally become quicksighted in the
discovery of ore, and in estimating its value; and it is their
interest to avail themselves of every improvement that can bring
it more cheaply to market. 3. Dressing. The 'Tributors', who dig
and dress the ore, can seldom afford to dress the coarser parts
of what they raise, at their contract price; this portion,
therefore, is again let out to other persons, who agree to dress
it at an advanced price.

The lots of ore to be dressed, and the works to be carried
on, having been marked out some days before, and having been
examined by the men, a kind of auction is held by the captains of
the mine, in which each lot is put up, and bid for by different
gangs of men. The work is then offered, at a price usually below
that bid at the auction, to the lowest bidder, who rarely
declines it at the rate proposed. The tribute is a certain sum
out of every twenty shillings' worth of ore raised, and may vary
from threepence to fourteen or fifteen shillings. The rate of
earnings in tribute is very uncertain: if a vein, which was poor
when taken, becomes rich, the men earn money rapidly; and
instances have occurred in which each miner of a gang has gained
a hundred pounds in the two months. These extraordinary cases,
are, perhaps, of more advantage to the owners of the mine than
even to the men; for whilst the skill and industry of the workmen
are greatly stimulated, the owner himself always derives still
greater advantage from the improvement of the vein.(1*) This
system has been introduced, by Mr Taylor, into the lead mines of
Flintshire, into those at Skipton in Yorkshire, and into some of
the copper mines of Cumberland; and it is desirable that it
should become general, because no other mode of payment affords
to the workmen a measure of success so directly proportioned to
the industry, the integrity, and the talent, which they exert.

308. I shall now present the outline of a system which
appears to me to be pregnant with the most important results,
both to the class of workmen and to the country at large; and
which, if acted upon, would, in my opinion, permanently raise the
working classes, and greatly extend the manufacturing system.

The general principles on which the proposed system is
founded, are

1. That a considerable part of the wages received by each
person employed should depend on the profits made by the
establishment; and,

2. That every person connected with it should derive more
advantage from applying any improvement he might discover, to the
factory in which he is employed, than he could by any other

309. It would be difficult to prevail on the large capitalist
to enter upon any system, which would change the division of the
profits arising from the employment of his capital in setting
skill and labour in action; any alteration, therefore, must be
expected rather from the small capitalist, or from the higher
class of workmen, who combine the two characters; and to these
latter classes, whose welfare will be first affected, the change
is most important. I shall therefore first point out the course
to be pursued in making the experiment; and then, taking a
particular branch of trade as an illustration, I shall examine
the merits and defects of the proposed system as applied to it.

310. Let us suppose, in some large manufacturing town, ten or
twelve of the most intelligent and skilful workmen to unite,
whose characters for sobriety and steadiness are good, and are
well known among their own class. Such persons will each possess
some small portion of capital; and let them join with one or two
others who have raised themselves into the class of small master
manufacturers, and, therefore possess rather a larger portion of
capital. Let these persons, after well considering the subject,
agree to establish a manufactory of fire-irons and fenders; and
let us suppose that each of the ten workmen can command forty
pounds, and each of the small capitalists possesses two hundred
pounds: thus they have a capital of L800 with which to commence
business; and, for the sake of simplifying, let us further
suppose the labour of each of these twelve persons to be worth
two pounds a week. One portion of their capital will be expended
in procuring the tools necessary for their trade, which we shall
take at L400, and this must be considered as their fixed capital.
The remaining L400 must be employed as circulating capital, in
purchasing the iron with which their articles are made, in paying
the rent of their workshops, and in supporting themselves and
their families until some portion of it is replaced by the sale
of the goods produced.

311. Now the first question to be settled is, what proportion
of the profit should be allowed for the use of capital, and what
for skill and labour? It does not seem possible to decide this
question by any abstract reasoning: if the capital supplied by
each partner is equal, all difficulty will be removed; if
otherwise, the proportion must be left to find its level, and
will be discovered by experience; and it is probable that it will
not fluctuate much. Let us suppose it to be agreed that the
capital of L800 shall receive the wages of one workman. At the
end of each week every workman is to receive one pound as wages,
and one pound is to be divided amongst the owners of the capital.
After a few weeks the returns will begin to come in; and they
will soon become nearly uniform. Accurate accounts should be kept
of every expense and of all the sales; and at the end of each
week the profit should be divided. A certain portion should be
laid aside as a reserved fund, another portion for repair of the
tools, and the remainder being divided into thirteen parts, one
of these parts would be divided amongst the capitalists and one
belong to each workman. Thus each man would, in ordinary
circumstances, make up his usual wages of two pounds weekly. If
the factory went on prosperously, the wages of the men would
increase; if the sales fell off they would be diminished. It is
important that every person employed in the establishment,
whatever might be the amount paid for his services, whether he
act as labourer or porter, as the clerk who keeps the accounts,
or as bookkeeper employed for a few hours once a week to
superintend them, should receive one half of what his service is
worth in fixed salary, the other part varying with the success of
the undertaking.

312. In such a factory, of course, division of labour would
be introduced: some of the workmen would be constantly employed
in forging the fire-irons, others in polishing them, others in
piercing and forming the fenders. It would be essential that the
time occupied in each process, and also its expense, should be
well ascertained; information which would soon be obtained very
precisely. Now, if a workman should find a mode of shortening any
of the processes, he would confer a benefit on the whole party,
even if they received but a small part of the resulting profit.
For the promotion of such discoveries, it would be desirable that
those who make them should either receive some reward, to be
determined after a sufficient trial by a committee assembling
periodically; or if they be of high importance, that the
discoverer should receive one-half, or twothirds, of the profit
resulting from them during the next year, or some other
determinate period, as might be found expedient. As the
advantages of such improvements would be clear gain to the
factory, it is obvious that such a share might be allowed to the
inventor, that it would be for his interest rather to give the
benefit of them to his partners, than to dispose of them in any
other way.

313. The result of such arrangements in a factory would be,

1. That every person engaged in it would have a direct
interest in its prosperity; since the effect of any success, or
falling off, would almost immediately produce a corresponding
change in his own weekly receipts.

2. Every person concerned in the factory would have an
immediate interest in preventing any waste or mismanagement in
all the departments.

3. The talents of all connected with it would be strongly
directed to its improvement in every department.

4. None but workmen of high character and qualifications
could obtain admission into such establishments; because when any
additional hands were required, it would be the common interest
of all to admit only the most respectable and skilful; and it
would be far less easy to impose upon a dozen workmen than upon
the single proprietor of a factory.

5. When any circumstance produced a glut in the market, more
skill would be directed to diminishing the cost of production;
and a portion of the time of the men might then be occupied in
repairing and improving their tools, for which a reserved fund
would pay, thus checking present, and at the same time
facilitating future production.

6. Another advantage, of no small importance, would be the
total removal of all real or imaginary causes for combinations.
The workmen and the capitalist would so shade into each other--
would so evidently have a common interest, and their difficulties
and distresses would be mutually so well understood that, instead
of combining to oppress one another, the only combination which
could exist would be a most powerful union between both parties
to overcome their common difficulties.

314. One of the difficulties attending such a system is, that
capitalists would at first fear to embark in it, imagining that
the workmen would receive too large a share of the profits: and
it is quite true that the workmen would have a larger share than
at present: but, at the same time, it is presumed the effect of
the whole system would be, that the total profits of the
establishment being much increased, the smaller proportion
allowed to capital under this system would yet be greater in
actual amount, than that which results to it from the larger
share in the system now existing.

315. It is possible that the present laws relating to
partnerships might interfere with factories so conducted. If this
interference could not be obviated by confining their purchases
under the proposed system to ready money, it would be desirable
to consider what changes in the law would be necessary to its
existence: and this furnishes another reason for entering into
the question of limited partnerships.

316. A difficulty would occur also in discharging workmen who
behaved ill, or who were not competent to their work; this would
arise from their having a certain interest in the reserved fund,
and, perhaps, from their possessing a certain portion of the
capital employed; but without entering into detail, it may be
observed, that such cases might be determined on by meetings of
the whole establishment; and that if the policy of the laws
favoured such establishments, it would scarcely be more difficult
to enforce just regulations, than it now is to enforce some which
are unjust, by means of combinations either amongst the masters
or the men.

317. Some approach to this system is already practised in
several trades: the mode of conducting the Cornish mines has
already been alluded to; the payment to the crew of whaling ships
is governed by this principle; the profits arising from fishing
with nets on the south coast of England are thus divided:
one-half the produce belongs to the owner of the boat and net;
the other half is divided in equal portions between the persons
using it, who are also bound to assist in repairing the net when


1. For a detailed account of the method of working the Cornish
mines, see a paper of Mr John Taylor's Transactions of the
Geological Society, vol. ii, p. 309.

Chapter 27

On Contriving Machinery

318. The power of inventing mechanical contrivances, and of
combining machinery, does not appear, if we may judge from the
frequency of its occurrence, to be a difficult or a rare gift. Of
the vast multitude of inventions which have been produced almost
daily for a series of years, a large part has failed from the
imperfect nature of the first trials; whilst a still larger
portion, which had escaped the mechanical difficulties, failed
only because the economy of their operations was not sufficiently
attended to.

The commissioners appointed to examine into the methods
proposed for preventing the forgery of bank-notes, state in their
report, that out of one hundred and seventy-eight projects
communicated to the bank and to the commissioners, there were
only twelve of superior skill, and nine which it was necessary
more particularly to examine.

319. It is however a curious circumstance, that although the
power of combining machinery is so common, yet the more beautiful
combinations are exceedingly rare. Those which command our
admiration equally by the perfection of their effects and the
simplicity of their means, are found only amongst the happiest
productions of genius.

To produce movements even of a complicated kind is not
difficult. There exist a great multitude of known contrivances
for all the more usual purposes, and if the exertion of moderate
power is the end of the mechanism to be contrived, it is possible
to construct the whole machine upon paper, and to judge of the
proper strength to be given to each part as well as to the
framework which supports it, and also of its ultimate effect,
long before a single part of it has been executed. In fact, all
the contrivance, and all the improvements, ought first to be
represented in the drawings.

320. On the other hand, there are effects dependent upon
physical or chemical properties for the determination of which no
drawings will be of any use. These are the legitimate objects of
direct trial. For example; if the ultimate result of an engine is
to be that it shall impress letters on a copperplate by means of
steel punches forced into it, all the mechanism by which the
punches and the copper are to be moved at stated intervals, and
brought into contact, is within the province of drawing, and the
machinery may be arranged entirely upon paper. But a doubt may
reasonably spring up, whether the bur that will be raised round
the letter, which has been already punched upon the copper, may
not interfere with the proper action of the punch for the letter
which is to be punched next adjacent to it. It may also be feared
that the effect of punching the second letter, if it be
sufficiently near to the first, may distort the form of that
first figure. If neither of these evils should arise, still the
bur produced by the punching might be expected to interfere with
the goodness of the impression produced by the copperplate; and
the plate itself, after having all but its edge covered with
figures, might change its form, from the unequal condensation
which it must suffer in this process, so as to render it very
difficult to take impressions from it at all. It is impossible by
any drawings to solve difficulties such as these, experiment
alone can determine their effect. Such experiments having been
made, it is found that if the sides of the steel punch are nearly
at right angles to the face of the letter, the bur produced is
very inconsiderable; that at the depth which is sufficient for
copperplate printing, no distortion of the adjacent letters takes
place, although those letters are placed very close to each
other; that the small bur which arises may easily be scraped off;
and that the copperplate is not distorted by the condensation of
the metal in punching, but is perfectly fit to print from, after
it has undergone that process.

321. The next stage in the progress of an invention, after
the drawings are finished and the preliminary experiments have
been made, if any such should be requisite, is the execution of
the machine itself. It can never be too strongly impressed upon
the minds of those who are devising new machines, that to make
the most perfect drawings of every part tends essentially both to
the success of the trial, and to economy in arriving at the
result. The actual execution from working drawings is
comparatively an easy task; provided always that good tools are
employed, and that methods of working are adopted, in which the
perfection of the part constructed depends less on the personal
skill of the workman, than upon the certainty of the method

322. The causes of failure in this stage most frequently
derive their origin from errors in the preceding one; and it is
sufficient merely to indicate a few of their sources. They
frequently arise from having neglected to take into consideration
that metals are not perfectly rigid but elastic. A steel cylinder
of small diameter must not be regarded as an inflexible rod; but
in order to ensure its perfect action as an axis, it must be
supported at proper intervals.

Again, the strength and stiffness of the framing which
supports the mechanism must be carefully attended to. It should
always be recollected, that the addition of superfluous matter to
the immovable parts of a machine produces no additional momentum,
and therefore is not accompanied with the same evil that arises
when the moving parts are increased in weight. The stiffness of
the framing in a machine produces an important advantage. If the
bearings of the axis (those places at which they are supported)
are once placed in a straight line, they will remain so, if the
framing be immovable; whereas if the framework changes its form,
though ever so slightly, considerable friction is immediately
produced. This effect is so well understood in the districts
where spinning factories are numerous, that, in estimating the
expense of working a new factory, it is allowed that five per
cent on the power of the steam-engine will be saved if the
building is fireproof: for the greater strength and rigidity of a
fireproof building prevents the movement of the long shafts or
axes which drive the machinery, from being impeded by the
friction that would arise from the slightest deviation in any of
the bearings.

323. In conducting experiments upon machinery, it is quite a
mistake to suppose that any imperfect mechanical work is good
enough for such a purpose. If the experiment is worth making, it
ought to be tried with all the advantages of which the state of
mechanical art admits; for an imperfect trial may cause an idea
to be given up, which better workmanship might have proved to be
practicable. On the other hand, when once the efficiency of a
contrivance has been established, with good workmanship it will
be easy afterwards to ascertain the degree of perfection which
will suffice for its due action.

324. It is partly owing to the imperfection of the original
trials, and partly to the gradual improvements in the art of
making machinery, that many inventions which have been tried, and
given up in one state of art, have at another period been
eminently successful. The idea of printing by means of moveable
types had probably suggested itself to the imagination of many
persons conversant with impressions taken either from blocks or
seals. We find amongst the instruments discovered in the remains
of Pompeii and Herculaneum, stamps for words formed out of one
piece of metal, and including several letters. The idea of
separating these letters, and of recombining them into other
words, for the purpose of stamping a book, could scarcely have
failed to occur to many: but it would almost certainly have been
rejected by those best acquainted with the mechanical arts of
that time; for the workmen of those days must have instantly
perceived the impossibility of producing many thousand pieces of
wood or metal, fitting so perfectly and ranging so uniformly, as
the types or blocks of wood now used in the art of printing.

The principle of the press which bears the name of Bramah,
was known about a century and a half before the machine, to which
it gave rise, existed; but the imperfect state of mechanical art
in the time of the discoverer, would have effectually deterred
him, if the application of it had occurred to his mind, from
attempting to employ it in practice as an instrument for exerting

These considerations prove the propriety of repeating, at the
termination of intervals during which the art of making machinery
has received any great improvement, the trails of methods which,
although founded upon just principles, had previously failed.

325. When the drawings of a machine have been properly made,
and the parts have been well executed, and even when the work it
produces possesses all the qualities which were anticipated,
still the invention may fail; that is, it may fail of being
brought into general practice. This will most frequently arise
from the circumstance of its producing its work at a greater
expense than that at which it can be made by other methods.

326. Whenever the new, or improved machine, is intended to
become the basis of a manufacture, it is essentially requisite
that the whole expense attending its operations should be fully
considered before its construction is undertaken. It is almost
always very difficult to make this estimate of the expense: the
more complicated the mechanism, the less easy is the task; and in
cases of great complexity and extent of machinery it is almost
impossible. It has been estimated roughly, that the first
individual of any newly invented machine, will cost about five
times as much as the construction of the second, an estimate
which is, perhaps, sufficiently near the truth. If the second
machine is to be precisely like the first, the same drawings, and
the same patterns will answer for it; but if, as usually happens,
some improvements have been suggested by the experience of the
first, these must be more or less altered. When, however, two or
three machines have been completed, and many more are wanted,
they can usually be produced at much less than one-fifth of the
expense of the original invention.


Back to Full Books