Scientific American, Vol.22, No. 1, January 1, 1870

Part 2 out of 5

surprising. But upon the opening of a work, to which all the minor
canals in the world are like the rods of the magicians to Aaron's rod
which swallowed them up, it is expected that everything shall move
without difficulty, and that no oversight will have been committed.
Truly this would be to attribute a power of prevision to M. Lesseps
beyond what is human. The world can afford to wait a little till this
huge machine gets oiled. Great enterprises move slow at the outset. We
have yet unshaken faith in the ultimate success of the Suez Canal.

* * * * *


In our description of the novel steam boiler, published on page 209,
last volume, we made a quotation from several eminent writers and
experimenters on the subjects of heat and steam, to the effect that
the tubular system in steam boilers was wrong in theory and unsafe in
practice, and although this system has hitherto been extensively used on
account of some advantages which it secures, it has long been a serious
question with thinking men whether these advantages were not obtained at
too dear a rate.

While not prepared to admit all the force of the objections made to the
tubular system, there are arguments against it that it will not do to
treat lightly and which seem to us more and more forcible the more we
candidly reflect upon the subject. One of the most forcible of these
which occurs to us is, that in the tubular system the disruptive force
of unequal expansion is far more likely to become a cause of danger than
in the plain cylinder boiler. In such boilers the tension of expanded
tubes is transmitted to the shell, which are greatly strained without
doubt, often nearly to the verge of rupture. When this occurs it is
evident an unusual strain, caused by sudden generation of steam, would
act in concert with the expansion of the tubes, and we have no doubt
these causes combined have given rise to many an explosion when the
steam, acting singly, could never have produced rupture.

But while we give due weight to this argument, there is one often
referred to by our correspondents, and which we often see stated in
newspapers, as ridiculous as the one we have noticed is forcible. It
is that when, in such boilers, water, by carelessness or otherwise, is
allowed to fall below any of the tubes, the steam which surrounds them
is decomposed, and becomes an explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen
gases, ready to explode with terrible violence whenever the temperature
of the tubes shall have reached the proper point.

This argument is ridiculous, because it rests on no experimental basis.
It is a flimsy theory, entirely unsupported by any facts. Never has it
been proved that hot iron, at any temperature likely to be obtained in
steam boiler tubes, decomposes steam except by itself appropriating
the oxygen of the steam, and leaving the hydrogen, by itself no more
explosive than any other heated gas.

The sole object of the tubular boiler is to increase the heating
surface, without corresponding increase in other particulars. That it is
not the only means whereby this object can be secured has already been
demonstrated and we believe will hereafter be shown in divers ways. We
have no more doubt that the next fifty years will witness the total
abandonment of the tubular system, than we have that the world will last
that length of time.

* * * * *


There seems a growing opinion among railway managers that the sole
end and purpose of a railroad is to line the 6 pockets of, if not its
stockholders, at least its directors. In fact we not long since saw a
statement in a widely-circulated journal, that, as the sole purpose of
railroads is that the companies who own them should make money, it
is absurd to suppose they would be content to manage them in any way
whereby such a result would not be most likely to accrue.

The journal referred to, in making this statement a basis for an
argument in favor of railway consolidation, entirely ignored the rights
of the public from which railway corporations have obtained their
charters. In these charters certain privileges were granted, not out of
pure generosity, but with the understanding that certain benefits
were to accrue to the public. Its safety and convenience were to be
considered as well as the profits to the owners.

Every charter granted to these roads involves a contract on their part
to do the public a certain service, and in a large majority of cases
these contracts are to-day unfulfilled. Day after day sees the power to
control more and more centered in a few unscrupulous wily managers, and
the comfort and safety of passengers more and more disregarded; yet
still the people submit.

But they do not submit without complaint. Now and then a newspaper
correspondent grumbles, and the news of smashes that may be almost daily
seen in the papers gives a text for an occasional editorial blast, as
little heeded by the delinquent companies, as a zephyr is felt by an

Thus the New York _Times_, on the occasion of a recent railway disaster,
gives vent to a little mild denunciation. It says:

"The general rule in this country (to which there are indeed exceptions)
in regard to the purchase of railway materials is simply this: buy the
cheapest. First cost is the controlling and often the only question
entertained. The nature of the materials and processes to be used in the
manufacture of rails, for instance, are not mentioned. The buyers for
some of our roads, especially new roads, never make the slightest
allusion to quality, and never specify tests and inspections, but
simply go about among the mills, comparing and beating down prices, and
accepting the very lowest. More than one of our rail makers are to-day
rolling, under protest, rails upon which they decline to put their
trade-mark--rails made from the very cheapest materials, in the very
meanest manner--for all that is required is that they shall stick
together till they are laid. And if American makers will not roll them,
Welsh makers will. The late report of the State Engineer of New York
says: 'American railway managers, instead of offering anything like a
reasonable price for good iron rails, have made themselves notorious by
establishing as standard, a brand of rails known all over the world as
"American rails," which are confessedly bought and sold as the weakest,
most impure, least worked, least durable, and cheapest rails that can be
produced.' The State Engineer refers, in confirmation of this opinion,
to the statement of Mr. A.S. Hewitt, United States Commissioner to the
Paris Exposition, a statement not yet controverted; and to a statement
of Mr. Sandberg, an English engineer of note, in the London _Times_.
A leading American railway president and reformer has publicly said:
'There is a fear on my part that railway companies will themselves tempt
steel makers to send a poor article by buying the cheapest--first cost
only considered--_as they did with the ironmasters_.'"

This certainly is a blessed state of affairs. We have given privileges
to giant corporations, which they have improved so profitably, that they
now can defeat, in our Legislatures, any attempt to revoke them, and can
laugh at any demand for better management.

Disguise it how we may, the railroads have got the upper hand of the
people, and they seem likely to keep it, unless, indeed, their rapacity
shall react against themselves.

At the moment of this writing accounts reach us of the officers of a
prominent railway line intrenching themselves against the officers of
the law, and employing force to resist the service of precepts calling
them to account for alleged frauds upon the stockholders.

That the Legislature of this State has the power to put a stop to these
disgraceful proceedings, is certain; what it will do remains to be

* * * * *


If there is anybody satisfied with the action of the managers of the
American Institute, in the matter of awarding prizes to the competing
engines exhibited at the recent fair, we have yet to meet that
complacent individual. Neither the exhibitors nor the general public
could be expected to accept with equanimity such a report as the
managers have made, because it is inadequate to give any real idea of
the relative merits of the engines tested. The exhibitors, at a large
expense, took their engines to the hall of exhibition, placed them in
position, and with them drove the machinery exhibited there; and now,
when in return they had a right to expect a decided, manly course on the
part of the managers, the oyster is swallowed and the contestants are
each politely handed a shell.

The conditions on which the general test was to be made contained, among
other specifications, these: that "the water supplied to and evaporated
in the boiler will be measured by means of a meter, and the coal burned
may also be weighed."

Only one of the conditions quoted was properly complied with. The coal
was weighed, but though a meter was used to measure the water, tests
made, we are informed, _after the trial of the engines_, showed that
the meter was so inaccurate as to completely invalidate any calculation
based upon its record of the water supplied. Nevertheless this has,
we are credibly informed, been made the basis of calculation; and the
amount of coal consumed during each trial has been rejected either as a
basis of calculation or a check on the inaccuracy of the meter.

Other prescribed regulations were observed with great care. The engines
were indicated in a masterly manner by a gentleman of great experience,
as the cards--tracings of which we have seen--bear ample testimony. The
temperature of the feedwater was 47 degrees; it should, in our opinion,
have been heated, but we waive this point. The state of the barometer
and temperatures of engine room and fire-room were observed; but
we respectfully submit, that with coal consumption left out of the
calculation, and the water consumption an unascertained quantity, the
question of relative economy, the vital point to be settled, is as
uncertain today as it was before the test.

In the _Tribune_ of December 20, appeared a statement of the test to
ascertain the accuracy of the meter used, which showed that in an
aggregate of twelve tests it varied nearly three per cent in its record
from the actual quantity delivered, while at times it was so erratic
that it varied in one instance over _ten per cent_.

Truly, considered in connection with this fundamental error,
temperatures of engine and boiler rooms, and states of barometer, will
not count for much with engineers.

An oversight like this would, however, never have been laid at the door
of the managers, however it might invalidate the test; but when the
utterly absurd decision announced in the papers, after a tedious delay
had led the public to expect an exhaustive statement, gave rise to
general disappointment and excited the utmost dissatisfaction, it became
manifest that a manly, straightforward course on their part was not to
be hoped for, and that any protest against the consummation of the farce
would be vain.

It is not for us to decide on the merits of the engines submitted to
test. It was for the judges to do this. We maintain that nothing that
the public will accept as a decision has been reached, and on behalf of
the public we protest that the managers have not only placed themselves
in a very unenviable position by their action in the premises, but have
done a lasting injury to the American Institute, the results of which
will be disastrously felt in future exhibitions.

The studied ambiguity of the report which awards two first prizes to
the competing engines, is no less apparent than the desire to shun

* * * * *


In July, 1869, the New Dominion Patent Law went into operation, but it
has not yet been approved by the Queen, and if rejected the Canadian
Parliament will perhaps try its hand again. Although Canadians may
freely go to all parts of the world and take out patents for their
inventions, they have always manifested a mean spirit and adopted a
narrow policy, in reference to inventors of other nations. Their present
patent laws are so framed as practically to debar all persons except
Canadians from taking patents; and the result is that American and
English inventions are pirated and patented in the Dominion, without so
much as a "thank you, sir," to the _bona fide_ originators.

A protest has been presented to her Majesty's Secretary of State for the
Colonies, asking that the new law may be rejected, on the ground that it
deprives the subjects of the Crown of their equal rights throughout
the empire. There is force in this objection, and Lord Granville has
promised that it shall be duly considered before the Queen is advised to
sign the law.

The probable result will be a revision of the Dominion patent code so as
to let in Englishmen but exclude the Yankees, from whom the Canadians
derive whatever of improvement, progress, and energy they possess.

* * * * *


Ingratitude seldom enters into the composition of a true inventor, and
nothing in our business career has afforded us more pleasure than the
frequent letters addressed to us by those who have, during more than
twenty years, employed the Scientific American Patent Agency. We cannot
find room for all the pleasant missives that come to us from our
extensive list of clients, but we may give a few as samples of the many.

Mr. Daniel J. Gale, of Sheboygan, Wis., has recently secured through our
Agency Letters Patent for a "Perpetual and Lunar Calendar Clock." In the
fullness of his satisfaction he thus writes: "The fact is, I shall never
be able to thank you sufficiently for what you have done for me. I
sent you a copy of the paper printed here, which favorably notices my
improvement and your great Agency. The fees charged me for my patent
have been low enough. Already, by one of my own townsmen, I have been
offered $4,000 for my interest in the patent. But I must not take up too
much of your I time. Please allow me to add that I regularly receive
your valuable paper, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and that you may number me
as one of its stanch friends."

Mr. Edwin Norton, of Brooklyn, N.Y., in a recent note, says: "Allow me
to express my thanks for the promptness and efficiency with which the
business of obtaining a patent for my 'Cinder and Dust Arrester' has
been conducted through your Agency--and not only in this case but in
several previous ones. This is the _fourth_ patent obtained by me
through four Agency within nine months. It gives me pleasure to add my
testimony to that of many others, with respect to the very satisfactory
manner in which your Patent Agency is conducted."

Mr. E. J. Marstens says, in reference to his improved "Field Press"--"I
find everything correct. You certainly accomplished more than I expected
after the first examination by the Primary Examiner. I hope soon to be
able to give you another case."

Mr. S. P. Williams, an old client, writes as follows: "I received the
patent on my 'Trace Lock for Whiffletrees,' and I am truly pleased with
the prompt manner in which you have done the business. It is only a few
weeks since I made the application, and I expected that it would be as
many months before the patent could be granted."

* * * * *


It certainly argues well for the intellectual character of the readers
of the New York _World_ that during the prevalent taste for sensational
journalism, it has found the publication of a series of philosophical
lectures acceptable. We thank our neighbor for thus making these
lectures available to the general public. Their ability is
unquestionable; and the calmness and candor which Professor Fiske brings
to the treatment of the subject is such as to add greatly to the force
of his logic.

The "positive philosophy" has been shown by Professor Fiske to be much
misunderstood, misapprehension not being confined solely to the ranks of
its opponents.

His exposition of some of the misconceptions on which Professor Huxley
has based some criticisms upon the writings of Comte, strikes us as
especially forcible; and the whole course of lectures proves Professor
Fiske to be one of the clearest and most able of American thinkers.

These lectures are followed as they appear, with great interest, and
their publication in the World we regard as a real and permanent benefit
to the public.

* * * * *


The announcement of these lectures came to hand too late for our last
issue, and the first has already been delivered. The course is as
follows: Friday, Dec. 17, The Battle Fields of Science, by Andrew D.
White, President of the Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Friday, Dec.
24, How Animals Move, by Professor E. S. Morse, of the Peabody Academy
of Science, Salem, Mass. Friday, Dec. 31, The Correlation of Vital and
Physical Forces, by Professor G. F. Barker, of Yale College, New Haven.
Friday, Jan. 7, The Air and Respiration, by Professor J. C. Draper, of
the College of the City of New York. Friday, Jan. 14, The Connection
of Natural Science and Mental Philosophy, by Professor J. Bascom, of
Williams College, Williamstown, Mass. Friday, Jan. 21, The Constitution
of the Sun, by Dr. B. A. Gould, of Cambridge, Mass. Friday, Jan. 28,
The Colorado Plateau, its Canons and Ruined Cities, by Professor J. S.
Newberry, of Columbia College, New York.

The course is a good one, and ought to be, and doubtless will be, well
attended. Abstracts of the lectures will appear as delivered, in the

* * * * *



This lecture did not disappoint the expectations of those familiar with
the subject of the discourse, which, considering the difficulty of
restating familiar historical facts in such a manner as to clothe them
in a garb of originality, is high praise. Many, however, found great
difficulty in hearing the speaker at the back part of the hall, and some
left the room on that account. This was unfortunate, as the lecture will
scarcely be exceeded in interest by any subsequent one of the course.
The speaker said that "In all modern history, interference with science
in the supposed interest of religion--no matter how conscientious such
interference may have been--has resulted in the direst evils both to
religion and science, and _invariably_. And on the other hand all
untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to
religion some of its stages may have seemed, temporarily, to be, has
invariably resulted in the highest good of religion and science. I say
_invariably_--I mean exactly that. It is a rule to which history shows
not one exception. It would seem, logically, that this statement could
not be gainsaid. God's truth must agree, whether discovered by looking
within upon the soul or without upon the world. A truth written upon the
human heart to-day in its full play of emotions or passions, cannot be
at any real variance even with a truth written upon a fossil whose poor
life was gone millions of years ago. And this being so, it would also
seem a truth irrefragable; that the search for each of these kind of
truths must be followed out in its own lines, by its own methods, to its
own results, without any interference from investigators along other
lines by other methods. And it would also seem logically that we might
work on in absolute confidence that whatever, at any moment, might seem
to be the relative positions of the two different bands of workers, they
must at last come together, for truth is one. But logic is not history.
History is full of interferences which have cost the earth dear.
Strangest of all, some of the most direful of them have been made by
the best of men, actuated by the purest motives, seeking the noblest
results. These interferences and the struggle against them make up the
warfare of science. One statement more to clear the ground. You will not
understand me at all to say that religion has done nothing for science.
It has done much for it. The work of Christianity has been mighty
indeed. Through these 2,000 years it has undermined servitude, mitigated
tyranny, given hope to the hopeless, comfort to the afflicted, light to
the blind, bread to the starving, life to the dying, and all this
work continues. And its work for science, too, has been great. It has
fostered science often and developed it. It has given great minds to it,
and but for the fears of the timid its record in this respect would have
been as great as in the other. Unfortunately, religious men started
centuries ago with the idea that purely scientific investigation is
unsafe--that theology must intervene. So began this great modern war."

Professor White next reviewed the battle between science and theology
on the subjects of the "earth's shape, surface, and relations," "the
position of the earth among the heavenly bodies," in which Copernicus
and Galileo struggled so bravely and successfully for truth.

The lecturer said:

"The principal weapons in the combat are worth examining. They are very
easily examined; you may pick them up on any of the battle-fields of
science; but on that field they were used with more effect than on
almost any other. These weapons were two epithets--the epithets
'Infidel' and 'Atheist.' These can hardly be classed with civilized
weapons; they are burning arrows; they set fire to great masses of
popular prejudices. Smoke rises to obscure the real questions. Fire
bursts out at times to destroy the attacked party. They are poisoned
weapons. They go to the heart of loving women; they alienate dear
children; they injure the man after life is ended, for they leave
poisoned wounds in the hearts of those who loved him best--fears for his
eternal happiness, dread of the Divine displeasure. The battle-fields
of science are thickly strewn with these. They have been used against
almost every man who has ever done anything for his fellow-men. The list
of those who have been denounced as Infidel and Atheist includes almost
all great men of science--general scholars, inventors, philanthropists.
The deepest Christian life, the most noble Christian character has not
availed to shield combatants. Christians like Isaac Newton and Pascal,
and John Locke and John Howard, have had these weapons hurled against
them. Nay, in these very times we have seen a noted champion hurl these
weapons against John Milton, and with it another missile which often
appears on these battle-fields--the epithets of 'blasphemer' and 'hater
of the Lord.' Of course, in these days these weapons though often
effective in disturbing the ease of good men and though often powerful
in scaring women, are somewhat blunted. Indeed, they do not infrequently
injure assailants more than assailed. So it was not in the days of
Galileo. These weapons were then in all their sharpness and venom.
The first champion who appears against him is Bellarmine, one of the
greatest of theologians and one of the poorest of scientists. He was
earnest, sincere, learned, but made the fearful mistake for the world
of applying direct literal interpretation of Scripture to science. The
consequences were sad, indeed. Could he with his vast powers have taken
a different course, humanity would have been spared the long and fearful
war which ensued, and religion would have saved to herself thousands
on thousands of the best and brightest men in after ages. The weapons,
which men of Bellarmine's stamp used, were theological. They held
up before the world the dreadful consequences which must result to
Christian theology were the doctrine to prevail that the heavenly bodies
revolve about the sun, and not about the earth.

"The next great series of battles were fought on those great fields
occupied by such sciences as _Chemistry and Natural Philosophy_. Even
before these sciences were out of their childhood--while yet they were
tottering mainly towards, childish objects and by childish steps--the
champions of that same old mistaken conception of rigid Scriptural
interpretation began the war. The catalogue of chemists and physicists
persecuted or thwarted would fill volumes."

After alluding to many other battle-fields of science which might not
for want of time be dwelt upon at length the lecturer reviewed the
battle grounds of medicine and anatomy on which some of the severest
warfare has been waged.

The speaker here remarked that "perhaps the most unfortunate thing that
has ever been done for Christianity is the tying it to forms of science
and systems of education, which are doomed and gradually sinking. Just
as in the time of Roger Bacon excellent but mistaken men devoted all
their energies to binding Christianity to Aristotle. Just as in the time
of Reuchlin and Erasmus they insisted on binding Christianity to Thomas
Aquinas, so in the time of Vesalius such men gave all efforts to linking
Christianity to Galen. The cry has been the same in all ages. It is the
same which we hear in this age against scientific studies--the cry
for what is called '_sound learning_.' Whether standing for Aristotle
against Bacon, or Aquinas against Erasmus, or Galen against Vesalius,
or making mechanical Greek verses at Eton, instead of studying the
handiwork of the Almighty, or reading Euripides with translations
instead of Leasing and Goethe in the original, the cry always is for
'sound learning.' The idea always is that these studies are _safe_."

The speaker next proceeded to show that not alone in Catholic countries,
has such warfare been waged, and that even now in Protestant America the
fight is going on.

One of the fields on which the severest warfare had raged in Protestant
countries was that of Geology. "From the first lispings of investigators
in this science there was war. The early sound doctrine was that fossil
remains were _lusus naturae_--freaks of nature--and in 1517 Fracastor
was violently attacked because he thought them something more. No less a
man than Bernard Palissy followed up the contest, on the right side, in
France, but it required 150 years to carry the day fairly against this
single preposterous theory. The champion who dealt it the deadly blow
was Scilla, and his weapons were facts obtained by examination of
the fossils of Calabria, (1670). But the advocates of tampering with
scientific reasoning soon retired to a now position. It was strong, for
it was apparently based upon Scripture--though, as the whole world now
knows, an utterly exploded interpretation of Scripture. The new position
was that the fossils were produced by the deluge of Noah. In vain had
it been shown by such devoted Christians as Bernard Palissy that this
theory was utterly untenable; in vain did good men protest against the
injury sure to result to religion by tying it to a scientific theory
sure to be exploded--the doctrine that the fossils were remains of
animals drowned at the flood continued to be upheld by the great
majority as '_sound_' doctrine. It took 120 year for the searchers
of God's truth, as revealed in nature--such men as Buffon, Linnaeus,
Woodward, and Whitehurst--to run under these mighty fabrics of error,
and by statements which could not be resisted, to explode them.

"Strange as it may at first seem, the war on geology was waged more
fiercely in Protestant countries than Catholic, and of all countries
England furnished the most bitter opponents. You have noted already that
there are generally two sorts of attacks on a new science. First,
there is the attack by pitting against science some great doctrine in
theology. You saw this in astronomy, when Bellarmine and others insisted
that the doctrine of the earth's revolving about the sun is contrary to
the doctrine of the Incarnation. So now against geology it was urged
that the scientific doctrine that the fossils represented animals which
died before Adam was contrary to the doctrine of Adam's fall, and that
death entered the world by sin. Then there is the attack by the literal
interpretation of texts, which serves a better purpose generally in
arousing prejudice. It is difficult to realize it now, but within the
memory of the majority of those before me, the battle was raging most
fiercely in England, and both these kinds of artillery were in full play
and filling the civilized world with their roar. Less than thirty years
ago, the Rev. J. Mellor Brown was hurling at all geologists alike, and
especially at such Christian divines as Dr. Burkland, Dean Conybeare,
and Pye Smith, and such religious scholars as Professor Sedgwick, the
epithets of 'Infidel,' 'Impugner of the Sacred Record,' and 'Assailant
of the Volume of God.' His favorite weapon was the charge that these
men were 'attacking the Truth of God,' forgetting that they were simply
opposing the mistaken interpretations of J. Mellor Brown. He declared
geology 'not a subject of lawful inquiry;' he speaks of it as 'a dark
art,' as 'dangerous and disreputable,' as a 'forbidden province.' This
attempt to scare men from science having failed, various other means
were taken.

"To say nothing about England, it is humiliating to human nature to
remember the trials to which the pettiest and narrowest of men subjected
such Christian scholars in our country as Benjamin Silliman and Edward
Hitchcock. But it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one great
Christian scholar did honor to religion and to himself by standing
up for the claims of science despite all these clamors. That man was
Nicholas Wiseman, better known afterward as Cardinal Wiseman. The
conduct of this pillar of the Roman Catholic Church contrasts nobly with
that of timid Protestants who were filling England with shrieks and
denunciations. Perhaps the most singular attempt against geology was
that made by a fine specimen of the English Don, Dean Cockburn of York,
to _abuse_ its champions out of the field. Without apparently the
simplest elementary knowledge of geology, he opened a battery of abuse.
He gives it to the world at large by pulpit and press; he even inflicts
it upon leading statesmen by private letters. But these weapons did not
succeed. They were like Chinese gongs and dragon lanterns against rifled
cannon. Buckland, Pye Smith, Lyell, Silliman, Hitchcock, Murchison,
Agassiz, Dana, and a host of of noble champions besides, pressed on the
battle for truth was won. And was it won merely for men of science?
The whole civilized world declares that it was won for religion; that
thereby has infinitely increased the knowledge of the power and goodness
of God."

The lecturer classed the present opposition of the Catholics to the Free
School system in this country among the long list of battles between
science and theology and concluded his lecture as follows:

"But, my friends, I will not weary you with so recent a chapter in the
history of the great warfare extending through the centuries. There
are cheering omens. The greatest and best men in the churches--the men
standing at centers of thought--are insisting with power, more and more,
that religion shall no longer be tied to so injurious a policy--that
searchers for truth, whether in Theology or Natural Science, shall work
on as friends, sure that, no matter how much at variance they may at
times seem to be, the truths they reach shall finally be fused into each
other. No one need fear the result. No matter whether science shall
complete her demonstration that man has been on the earth six thousand
years or six hundred thousand. No matter whether she reveal new ideas of
the Creator or startling relations between his creatures--the result,
when fully thought out, will serve and strengthen religion not less than
science. The very finger of the Almighty has written on history that
science must be studied by means proper to itself, and in no other way.
That history is before us all. No one can gainsay it. It is decisive,
for it is this: There has never been a scientific theory framed for the
use of Scriptural texts, which has been made to stand. This fact alone
shows that our wonderful volume of sacred literature was not given for
any such purpose as that to which so many earnest men have endeavored
to wrest it. The power of that volume has been mighty indeed. It has
inspired the best deeds our world has known. Despite the crusts which
men have formed about it--despite the fetters which they have placed
upon it--Christianity has blessed age after age of the past, and will go
on as a blessing through age after age of the future. Let the Warfare
of Science, then, be changed. Let it be a warfare in which religion
and science shall stand together as allies, not against each other as
enemies. Let the fight be for truth of every kind against falsehood of
every kind--for justice against injustice--for right against wrong--for
beauty against deformity--for goodness against vice--and the great
warfare which has brought so many sufferings, shall bring to the earth
God's richest blessings."

* * * * *


When a new batch of French notes is to be printed, an equivalent number
of the choicely prepared and preserved sheets of paper is handed over
to the superintendent of the printing office. This office is among the
inner buildings of the Bank of France, and is governed by very rigorous
rules in all things. The operatives are all picked men, skillful,
active, and silent. The sheets, the ink, and the matrixes of the plates
are kept securely under lock and key until actually wanted. The
printing is effected by steam-worked presses. The ink is blue, and its
composition known only to a few of the authorities. An inspector goes
his rounds during the continuance of the operations, watching every
press, every workman, every process. A beautiful machine, distinct from
the press, is employed to print the variable numbers on the note; fed
with sheets of paper, it will number a thousand of them in succession,
changing the digits each time, and scarcely requiring to be touched
meanwhile; even the removal of one note and the placing of another are
effected by automatic agency. At every successive stage the note is
examined. So complete is the registration of everything that a record is
always at hand of the number of sheets rejected ever since the Bank of
France was established, be its defects in the paper, the printing, or
the numbering. When the master-printer has delivered up his packets of
printed and numbered sheets, each note is stamped with the signature of
the Secretary-General and the Comptroller. This completes the _creation_
of notes. The notes so created are kept in a strong box, of which the
Secretary-General and the Comptroller have keys, and are retained until
the day of _issue_. The chief cashier tells the Governor that he wants a
new supply of a particular denomination of notes, the Governor tells the
council, the council tell the secretary-general and the comptroller, and
these two functionaries open their strong box, and hand over the notes
demanded. The notes at this time are not really money; they do not
become so until the chief cashier has put his signature to each, and
registered its number in a book.

The life of a French bank note is said to average two or three
years, and does not terminate until the condition is very shaky
indeed--crimpled, pierced with pinholes, corner creases torn, soft,
tarnished, decrepit while yet young. Some have been half-burned; one has
been found half-digested in the stomach of a goat, and one boiled in a
waistcoat-pocket by a laundress. No matter; the cashier at the bank will
do his best to decipher it; he will indeed take an infinity of trouble
to put together the ashes of a burned note, and will give the owner a
new note or the value in coin, if satisfied of the integrity of the
old one. The bank authorities preserve specimens of this kind as
curiosities, minute fragments gummed in their proper position on a sheet
of paper. Very few of the notes are actually and irrevocably lost.
During the last sixty-seven years 24,000 bank notes of 1,000 francs each
have been issued, and of this number 23,958 had been returned to the
bank by the month of January 1869, leaving only 42 unaccounted for.
Whether these 42 are still in existence, or have seen burned into
uncollected ashes, or are at the bottom of the sea, or elsewhere, is not
known. Of 500-franc notes, 24,935 have been returned out of 25,000. The
bank holds itself morally and financially responsible for the small
number of notes unreturned, ready to cash them if at any time presented.

The bank sends the old notes again and again into circulation, if
verified and usable; but they are examined first, and any that are found
too defective are canceled by stamping a hole in them. These canceled
notes pass from one official to another, and are grouped in classified
bundles; the book that records the birth of each note now receives a
notification of its civil death, and after three years incarceration in
a great oak chest, a grand conflagration takes place. A huge fire is
kindled in an open court; the defunct notes are thrown into a sort of
revolving wire-cage over the fire; the cage is kept rotating; and the
minute fragments of ash, whirled out of the cage through the meshes,
take their flight into infinite space--no one knows whither. The Bank of
France prints a certain number of notes per day, and destroys a smaller
number, so as to have always in reserve a sufficient supply of new notes
to meet any emergency; but the actual burning, the grand flare-up takes
place only about once a month, when perhaps 150,000 will be burned
at once. The French go down to lower denominations than the Rank of
England, having notes of 100 francs and 50 francs, equivalent to L4 and
L2. There must be a great deal of printing always going on in the Bank
of France, seeing that in 1868 they issued 2,711 000 notes, of an
aggregate value of 904,750,000 francs (averaging about L13 each), and
burned 1,927,192, value 768,854,900 francs.

It _sounds_ a very dreadful thing for 30,000,000 sterling in bank notes
to be willfully burned in one year. But there is always a phoenix to
rise from its ashes; the bank can regenerate as fast as it kills. The
Bank of France, in 1846, put in circulation a beautiful crimson printed
note for 5,000 francs; but the French people did not like notes of so
high a denomination, and all but a very few of this kind have been
returned and canceled. On one occasion, a superb individual, wishing to
pay a dowry in handsome style, obtained twelve notes of 5,000 francs
each for the purpose; but they were returned the very next day by the
banker, who much preferred smaller notes for his general purposes. The
notes now regularly kept in circulation in France are those of 1,000,
500, 100, and 50 francs.

* * * * *


A VALUABLE PAPER.--Of all the journals published in the United States,
for the mechanic and scientific man, there is nothing that will in any
way compare with the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, published by Munn & Co., of 37
Park Row, New York. Whether as a work of reference, a record of current
scientific development, or as an organ and exponent of our inventors, it
stands alone for the general ability of its conduct, the voluminousness
and variety of its contents, the exactitude and extent of its knowledge,
and the correctness of its information. The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN is a
credit at once to the press and our country, and the small price of
a yearly subscription ($3), purchases, it is quite safe to say, the
largest amount of solid value to be procured for a like expenditure in
the world. With our more intelligent mechanics it has long been a great
favorite, while to the inventor it is absolutely indispensable. It has
had many imitators and competitors in its day, but they have nearly all
died the natural death of a feeble inferiority.--_Argus_ (Brooklyn, N.

* * * * *

periodical literature of America which is occupied by only one journal;
namely, the well-known SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

It is almost indispensable to a well-balanced intelligence, that a
certain proportion of its reading should be devoted to the industrial
arts and sciences, those natural manifestations of the high mental
development of the age. Every number of the journal has sixteen imperial
pages, embellished with engravings, as illustrations, which are gems of
art in themselves. It is most ably edited, and its usefulness is not
impaired by technical terms nor dry details.--_Milwaukee Sentinel._

* * * * *

THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.--This paper is the oldest in its peculiar
province in the United States, and was, for many years, the only one.
More recently others have arisen, and are following in its footsteps;
but the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN still maintains its position as the best
American journal of the inventive arts. Its Patent Office department
alone is invaluable to inventors, while its editorial articles,
illustrations, etc., give not only information, but a constant stimulus
to the productive faculty.--_Mobile Register_.

* * * * *

Among the papers which we could not very well do without is the
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, issued from the well-known office of Munn & Co., 37
Park Row, New York. Carefully edited, nicely printed, well illustrated,
it is not only a complete record of the progress of useful inventions,
but a trustworthy guide to many of the scientific topics that enlist
attention at the present day. No one can be a reader of this most
valuable journal, without being kept well informed as to current matters
of scientific discovery.--_Congregationalist_ (Boston).

* * * * *

THE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.--In another column we publish the prospectus of
this great paper, and would direct our readers to it. It should be on
the work bench of every mechanic, and particularly the young men of our
country, upon whose intelligence and mechanical skill depends the
future dignity of labor and prosperity of American arts and
sciences.--_Monitor_ (Huntington, Pa.)

* * * * *

We could fill our pages with similar notices, but will close with the
following from our cotemporary _De Hope_, published at Holland, Mich.,
which we doubt not will be read with interest:

Wij plaatsen in dit Nummer het prospectus van den SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.
Het is een zeer schoon blad, dat vooral behoort gelezen te worden door
Handwerkslieden. Nieuwe uitvindingen, verbeteringen op het terrein van
werktuigkunde, enz, worden daar steeds in vermeld en beschreven. De
prijs is zeer matig voor zulk cen blad; drie dollars per jaar. Dat
belangstellenden de advertentie lezen.

* * * * *


As much has been said of late about the mode of preserving eggs, it may
not be uninteresting to say a few words about the Chinese methods, as
related by a French chemist, M. Paul Champion, who has lately visited
that country, and published a very interesting book on the ancient and
modern industries of that curious people. A very common method is to
place the eggs in a mixture of clay and water; the clay hardens around
the eggs, and is said to preserve them good for a considerable time. But
another and much more elaborate method is also commonly practiced. An
infusion of three pounds of tea is made in boiling water, and to this
are added three pounds of quicklime (or seven pounds when the operation
is performed in winter), nine pounds of sea-salt, and seven pounds of
ashes of burnt oak finely powdered. This is all well mixed together
into a smooth paste by means of a wooden spatula, and then each egg is
covered with it by hand, gloves being worn to prevent the corrosive
action of the lime on the hands. When the eggs are all covered with the
mixture, they are rolled in a mass of straw ashes, and then placed in
baskets with balls of rice--boiled, we presume--to keep the eggs from
touching each other. About 100 to 150 eggs are placed in one basket. In
about three months the whole becomes hardened into a crust, and then the
eggs are sent to market; the retail price of such eggs is generally less
than a penny each. These eggs are highly esteemed in China, and always
served in good houses; but they have undergone a strange transformation,
which certainly would not recommend them to English palates; the yolk
has assumed a decidedly green tinge, and the white is set. When broken,
they emit that unpleasant sulphurous smell which would certainly cause
their instant banishment from our breakfast-tables. However, the Chinese
are admitted, even by Frenchmen, to be great _gourmets_; and we can
only say, therefore, that in questions of eating there is certainly no
disputing about tastes.

* * * * *


Mr. Alfred Guthrie, U.S. Inspector, informs us that the following
resolution was recently adopted by the Board of Supervising Inspectors:

Resolved, That a special committee be appointed, to whom shall be
referred the subject-matter of steam boiler explosions, who shall be
requested to take up the subject in all its varied complications, and
present the result of their inquiries, with their opinions of the real
causes of such explosions, accompanied by such information as may be
of practical benefit and general interest, to be reported at the next
annual meeting of the board for its consideration.

Mr. Guthrie, whose address will be at Washington, D.C. until January 10,
desires to receive suggestions from practical engineers upon the subject
of boiler explosions.

* * * * *


Darkness of complexion has been attributed to the sun's power from
the age of Solomon to this day. "Look not upon me because I am black,
because the sun hath looked upon me." And there cannot be a doubt that,
to a certain degree, the opinion is well founded--the invisible rays in
the solar beams, which change vegetable color, and have been employed
with such remarkable effect on the daguerreotype, act upon every
substance on which they fall, producing mysterious and wonderful changes
in their molecular state, man not excepted.

* * * * *

The three companies under whose protection Chinese are brought into
California, keep an accurate account of the condition and employment
of the persons they import. From these books it appears that 138,000
Chinese have been brought into California. Of these, 10,426 have died,
57,323 have returned to China, and about 91,000 still remain on the
Pacific coast. But only 41,000 live in California. Of these 41,000,
9,300 are women, children, old and decrepit, or criminals confined in
the jails. The California authorities have at length decided to admit
Chinese testimony in the courts.

* * * * *

One of our subscribers residing in Maine has read our article "How to
Spend the Winter Evenings," and writes to us that up in his section they
have no trouble on that score. As soon as the day's work is over the
inhabitants commence the job of trying to get their rooms warm, and as
soon as a comfortable temperature is reached it is time to go to bed.

* * * * *

DESIGN PATENT DECISION.--We publish elsewhere a recent elaborate
decision of Commissioner Fisher, in which he reviews the laws and
former practice of the office in regard to applications for patents for
designs, with the view to the establishment of a uniformity of practice
in regard to design patents. The decision is one of much interest to
inventors and agents, and fully warrants its publication.

* * * * *

OIL PAPER HANGINGS.--A kind of oil paper hangings called "Oleo Charta"
is now made in England, which, it is asserted, is impervious to wet, may
be placed on new or damp walls without risk of damage or discoloration,
may be washed with soap and water as often as required, and will last
twenty years. The process of manufacture is not explained.

* * * * *


This new arm, a patent on which, was obtained through the Scientific
American Patent Agency, June 11, 1867, is destined, in our opinion,
to become a formidable rival to the breech-loading rifles which have
already attained popularity. It is one of the most simple and effective
guns we have yet seen. Only three motions are required to load,
discharge the piece, and throw out the shell of the cartridge. The
breech-block is side-hinged, and it is opened and the shell is thrown
out by simply bringing the gun to half cock. The gun may, however, be
cocked without opening the breech by pressing the trigger while cocking.

The gun, when held in position, may be fired at the rate of forty shots
per minute. All the movements of the parts are directly backward and
forward; in our opinion the best that can be employed for this purpose,
and the least liable to get out of order. In short, the gun possesses
all the essentials of a first class rifle, and has advantages which we
think are not ordinarily met with in arms of this character.

* * * * *


In using ordinary hand vises several inconveniences are met with. For
instance, if it is desired to work a piece of metal of a certain length,
it must necessarily be presented obliquely on the side of the jaw of the
vise, because of its screw, which is horizontal and forms a knob in the
axis of the vise. The consequences are, first, that on tightening the
nut of the horizontal screw vise the pressure is only exerted on the
side, and greatly tries the vise itself while obtaining an irregular
pressure; secondly, that as the piece to be worked is held obliquely,
however skilled the workman may be, he always finds himself cramped in
the execution of his work, particularly if of a delicate nature.

To avoid these inconveniences a Parisian mechanic has designed and
lately patented in England the neat form of hand vise of which we annex
illustrations, Fig. 1 being an elevation and Fig. 2 a longitudinal
section. In these views, A, is a wooden or metal handle pierced
throughout its length; this handle of metal may be made in one piece,
with the nut, and the conical ferrule. B is the ring or ferrule of the
handle; and C are the jaws of the vise worked by the adjusting screw,
D, and the springs, r r. E is a conical ferrule or shoulder, fixed or
movable, and serving to open or close the jaws of the vise accordingly
as the handle is turned right or left; this conical shoulder is
protected from wear by a tempered steel washer, v. G is a nut with
collar carrying the conical ferrule or shoulder, E, and the steel
washer, v, while H H are the joints of the jaws of the vise held by a
screw, I, which serves as a support to the adjusting screw.

[Illustration: FIG. 1. FIG. 2.]

This hand vise may be applied to a number of uses, and among others it
may be readily converted into a haft or handle for any kind of tailed
or shanked tool, such as files, wrenches, olive bits, chisels, or
screwdrivers, and may also serve as pincers or nippers. It is of very
simple construction.

* * * * *


New evidence of the existence of the Mound-Builders in the mountain
ranges of Colorado, similar to those in Montana, Utah, and Nevada, have
recently been discovered by Mr. C.A. Deane, of Denver. He found upon
the extreme summit of the snow-range structures of stone, evidently of
ancient origin, and hitherto unknown or unmolested. Opposite to and
almost north of the South Boulder Creek, and the summit of the range,
Dr. Deane observed large numbers of granite rocks, and many of them as
large as two men could lift, in a position that could not have been
the result of chance. They had evidently been placed upright in a line
conforming to a general contour of the dividing ridge, and frequently
extending in an unbroken line for one or two hundred yards. The walls
and the mounds are situated three thousand feet above the timber line.
It is, therefore, hardly supposable that they were built for altars of
sacrifice. They were not large enough for shelter or defense. The more
probable supposition is that, like the large mounds in Montana and
elsewhere, they were places of sepulture.

* * * * *


Most of our readers who attended the last Fair of the American
Institute, will recall an article in the furniture department, which
attracted much attention on account of its novelty and utility. We refer
to the wire mattress, or bed, manufactured by the Woven Wire Mattress
Company, of Hartford, Conn. To the ordinary mind a new invention is
interesting or not, in proportion to the probability of its coming into
every-day use, and many a good housewife lingers in admiration over an
improved sewing machine or cooking stove, to whom a new steam engine has
no attraction. For this reason it was that the wire mattress was sat on
and lain on by the numerous visitors at the Fair.


The engraving presented herewith will give the reader, who has not seen
the article, a good idea of its appearance. It consists of a fabric
represented below, half an inch thick, composed of fine wire springs,
each one the length of the bed; all the three hundred spirals, being so
woven and braided together, in a double "weave," by machinery, that
a sort of wire cloth is produced. It differs from any other material
hitherto made, in that it has great strength and elasticity. There is,
in fact, no other device, except the air or water bed, which can compare
with it in its elastic properties.


We are informed that nine hundred pounds of dead weight of wire were
placed on it for nearly five days, without injurious effects. This
fabric is stretched on a frame, as seen in the first engraving, the
proper tension is secured to suit the fancy, and the mattress is ready
for use. It is then set into the bedstead, like the ordinary spring bed,
except that only two slats are used to support it. Thus, with a slight
covering in summer, and a thin hair mattress for warmth in winter, a
most perfect sleeping arrangement is secured.

The first adaptation of the wire mattresses was for private houses, but
they have been found to have special advantages for hospital use. They
have been largely introduced into the Hartford Hospital, the Bellevue
Hospital, New York, and the Marine Hospital, Brooklyn, and have proved
to be, after months of the severest use, with all classes of patients,
a very great success for such purposes. The elastic flexible mattresses
yield to every motion and part of the body, much to the relief of the
suffering patient.

Another very great advantage is, that when carefully painted they are
always clean.

Pillows of the same materials are made soft and pliable by using a fine
wire and small coil. They are always cool, and afford the opportunity of
placing bags of ice under the head in case of sickness.

One of these mattresses and a bedstead and pillows complete--all of
which the Company make--furnish, with the addition of a folded blanket
or comfortable, a perfect outfit for hospital use.

They are particularly useful for ships' berths, as they dispense with
the ordinary bottom, and the sacking and thick mattress. Shippers know

We are assured that a coating of paint, carefully applied to the
well-tinned wires will protect them from rust.

There can be no question but that these beds, with a light
covering--scarcely more than a sheet--are especially adapted for hot
climates. The Company have already orders for them for the Brazilian
market, and they have been introduced into many of the Southern States.

This wire fabric is adapted to other articles of furniture, and is used
in place of the ordinary springs in chairs, sofas, etc. For out-door
settees, lounges, car seats, and other like purposes, it is well

Three patents have been issued to the Company on the wire mattress,
through the Scientific American Patent Agency. [See advertisement of the
Woven Wire Mattress Company on another page.]

* * * * *

Flouring Mill Hazards.

A correspondent, in discussing the causes of fires in flour mills, gives
the following facts and queries:

"F. Bertchey's mill, at Milwaukee, burned in September last. The fire
originated from a candle held near a bran or feed spout, reaching from
the upper to a lower floor. The ignition was instant, and attained
different points of the building at about the same moment.

"On November 20, 1868, Schmidt & Co's mill, at St. Louis, burned in a
similar manner, the light in this case being in a globe lamp, but the
conflagration was, nevertheless, quite as sudden and general as in the
first case cited. Other instances of like character have occurred quite
recently. And now the query is, What caused the disaster? Whence the

"It has been conjectured that the bran-dust, or fine and dry powder,
passing down or up these conductors, may be the kindling cause of the
fire in these cases; but bran is not over combustible in itself, nor
do we know why it should become so when thus reduced to an impalpable

"Another theory is that a gas arises from the transmuting grain, which,
excluded from surrounding atmosphere in these close conduits, becomes
inflammable, and hence the results, as recited above, whenever a lighted
flame is brought in contact therewith.

"Be the cause gas or dust, the disaster is the same: and is it not a
phenomenon worth studying and remedying, so far as within the province
and control of those most interested?"

Some similar instances came under our personal observation while
adjuster for the Aetna at its western branch. The Star Mills at
Mascoutah, Ill., burned about the year 1864. They were grinding
middlings. About three o'clock in the morning the miller in charge went
up to the chamber (a large box extending through several stories), as he
had often done before, to jar the middlings down, they having clogged.
He carried a small, open oil lamp, which he placed on a beam, just
behind and above his head. He then opened a slide and thrust in a
shovel, which started the middlings down with a thump, raising a great
dust. As this dust issued in a thin cloud from the slide, it approached
and touched the lamp, when instantly, as if it had been coal gas, it
flashed, burning the miller's hair and beard, and filling the middlings
box with a sheet of flame, which spread with great rapidity and
destroyed the mill.

A mill at Dover, Ky., had accumulated a large quantity of middlings in
an upper story, when the weight caused some sagging, and a man was sent
up with a shovel to "even" the bin. His pressure was the "last straw,"
and the floor under the man broke through, pouring out a cascade of
middlings, which flowed down from story to story, filling the mill with
its dust. In a very few minutes it reached the boiler room, and the
instant it touched the fire it ignited with a flash, and the mills was
in flames instantly. It was totally destroyed.

In this last named case the gas theory will not apply. The dust was not
confined in a spout, but was floating free in the air throughout the
mill. The phenomenon was like the others mentioned, and seems to
indicate that the fine dust itself, when floating in the air, is the
fatal incendiary.

The subject is worthy of a scientific analysis, such as we have never
seen bestowed upon it. The facts are well authenticated, but the
philosophy of such ignition is not generally understood.--_Insurance

* * * * *

Fire-Proof Buildings.

"It has long been a vexed problem with architects and builders, how to
make a building completely fire-proof without the enormous expense of
iron beams and girders, and even this has sometimes failed to prove a
complete protection. In the building of the National State Bank, the
architect estimated that it could not be made fire-proof in the ordinary
style for less than $6,000, and while hesitating as to the expense and
seeking to provide some remedy against the dampness incident to iron
beams, Mr. Fowler learned from the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN that Edwin May,
of Indianapolis, the well-known architect of our county jail, had taken
letters patent on a fire-proof lath for ceilings and inside partition
walls, together with a concrete floor for the protection of the upper
edge of the joist which by actual test had been demonstrated to be
fire-proof. After a critical examination of the invention upon its
merits, it was adopted, and the workmen are now engaged in putting
it in. Our citizens engaged in, or contemplating building, will be
interested in an examination of the work while in progress."

[We copy the above from the _Lafayette_ (Indiana) _Courier_, and in this
connection we make the following extract from a letter just received by
us from Mr. May, the inventor:

"You will see by the above notice one result of my advertisement in the
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. This is only a _mite_. I have more than I can do,
and I would say to inventors who are not realizing what they expected
from their patents, that one _illustrated advertisement_ in the
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN will effect more than a notice in all the newspapers
in the United States. This is saying a good deal but such is my belief."]

* * * * *

The Decline of American Shipping.

At a meeting of the New York Chamber of Commerce, held December 16, to
consider means for reviving American commerce, the following resolutions
were adopted:

Resolved, That this Chamber recommend to the Congress of the United
States, about to assemble, the modification of existing laws, so that

I. Foreign-built steamers may be imported free of duty, and privileged
to carry the American flag, provided they are American owned and not to
be employed in our coastwise trade.

II. That iron plates and such other material for the construction of
steamers as may be deemed advisable, be admitted free of duty.

III. That on all ship stores procurable in bond, drawback be returned,
as upon goods shipped for sale to foreign lands; and

Finally, That ample subsidies be granted to lines of steamers built
in American yards, to the end that competition with powerful foreign
organizations may be successfully inaugurated and sustained.

The Chamber ordered the resolutions engrossed, accompanied by a memorial
forwarded to Congress.

These resolutions, in our opinion, embody the solution of the question
under consideration, and we trust they may be speedily and favorably
acted upon by Congress.

* * * * *

Young men out of employment can easily obtain enough subscribers for the
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN to receive a cash prize of sufficient magnitude to
insure them a good salary for six weeks' work. Send for prospectus and

* * * * *


_The Editors are not responsible for the Opinions expressed by their

* * * * *

Aerial Navigation--A Suggestion.

Messrs. Editors:--As a constant reader of your invaluable paper, many
subjects of deep interest come under my observation, and doubtless no
journal throughout the land contains more instructive reading--that
which tends to accelerate the progress of scientific investigation,
and promote the general interest of the people--than the SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN. The series of articles under the head of "Aerial Navigation,"
commenced on page 309, volume XXI., has, perhaps, been read with as much
pleasure and interest as anything published in your valuable journal. I
say with pleasure--because it is really gratifying to mark the advancing
steps which inventors are making in this branch of science; and with
interest--because every new idea set forth, calculated to further the
success of aerial navigation, should be, and no doubt will be, regarded
as of great importance by every one. And, as the more suggestions placed
before the minds of those working for the improvement of any invention,
the greater number will they have from which to choose or experiment
upon, I would like to make one suggestion here, which may be of some
importance in the construction and operation of the "Aeroport," under
the supervision of Mr. Porter, of your city, a description of which is
given on pages 346-7, volume XXI., of your paper.

I suggest that the propelling wheels be placed in some other position
than that given in the said description. From what little knowledge I
possess of aerial navigation, I am persuaded that it would take less
power to propel the "Aeroport" at a given speed, if the wheels were
placed at the rear or front portion of the flying ship. My reason for
being thus persuaded is, that as the forward and aft halves of the float
are cone-shaped--the center being the base, and the front and rear
ends being the vertexes--there must be an increased velocity of the
atmosphere from front to aft as the aeroport advances. Consequently the
driving wheels being placed under the center or largest diameter of the
float, they must evidently revolve with greater rapidity in the current
of air passing between the float and the saloon, going in opposite
direction to that in which the aeroport is flying at a given speed, than
they would were they placed in front or behind where the atmosphere is
comparatively at rest. I take this view from the fact that steamboats
and other vessels proceed with greater speed, with a given power, _down_
stream than they do _up_ stream, mostly on account of the paddles
striking against the current flowing in the same direction in which the
vessel is rowing. The propelling wheels placed either at the front or
rear may have the axle extended through the end of the float to the
center, and the cog-wheel, for the chain, placed on the inner end of
the axle, and the chain descending through the bottom of the float, and
connected to the engine in the same manner as given in your paper. The
chain should be inclosed from the float to the saloon below, with a pipe
of the same material as the float, and sufficiently large to insure the
free action of the chain, and the axle of the propellers should be made
tight with suitable packing to prevent the escape of gas. However there
may be different arrangements employed for connecting the engine to the
wheels. A shaft extending directly under the float, and reaching
from the center to the axle supporting the propellers, and connected
therewith by means of side cog-wheels, might be used; and as the shaft
would necessarily diverge from a straight line with the said axle, the
shaft having the chain-wheel on the end directly over the engine and
connected therewith in the manner proposed by Mr. Porter, I would
suggest further that it would, perhaps, be preferable to place the
wheels at the front end, that the rudder might remain in its original
position, and the aeroport could swing behind the propellers on
encountering side currents of air, and could thus be more easily guided.
I firmly believe that Mr. Porter has taken "the right step in the right
direction" to accomplish that which has been so long sought, and which
evidently will be accomplished at some future time. The air will yet be
navigated by numerous flying ships, going from one city to another like
those that now cover the broad bosom of our oceans.


Macomb, Ill.

* * * * *

Puttying Floors of Jewelers Shops and Otherwise.

Messrs. Editors:--I am a reader of your valuable paper and find in
it much to interest, and many practical hints that are useful in my
vocation; I would not be without it for any consideration and I think
every mechanic in the land should take it, read it, and profit by the

I notice, in Vol. XXI, page 371, a communication headed, "Watch
Repairers' Shop," in which directions are given to fill the chinks in
the floor around the work-bench with soft pine and putty, etc., etc.;
this is all well enough, but will not prevent the breaking of pivots
should a balance wheel be dropped, neither will it prevent the wheel
being stepped upon and so rendered useless, as often happens.

I am a watch-maker and jeweler, and I never drop a wheel or part of a
watch on the floor. I have an apron about one yard wide, and in the
corners of it are eyelet-holes, so that I can pin it to the bench when I
am working; I have strings to it, but do not generally tie them around
me, but let it be loose in my lap as I have to jump up, to attend to
customers in the shop. In the shop where I learned my trade (in London,
England), every workman was _compelled_ to wear an apron, and so much
waste of property and valuable time was saved; the saving of _time_ in
_one week_ will more than pay the cost of the aprons.

Sidney Plains, N. Y,


* * * * *

Western Demand for Agricultural Implements.

Messrs. Editors:--I often think, on perusing your very valuable journal
of science, and the numerous mechanical and scientific problems it
unfolds, that the tendency of the age is to supersede all manual labor
by machinery. Whether such a thing is possible is not the question for
me to consider; I only know that the tendency of universal human genius
seems directed to that end.

I make the above observation casually, in order to introduce a few ideas
on the subject of improvement in agricultural implements--the great
_desideratum_ of the West at this moment. Here nature has opened her
stores so munificently, that all the husbandman has to do is to plow,
sow, and garner the fruits of his labor. But two great improvements are
needed to enable the western farmer to keep pace with improvements in
the mechanic arts and other kindred employment. Indeed, we at the
West, particularly, need a good, cheap, steam plow that can be made
practicable for at least the better grade of farmers. The English plan
of moldboards, that overcome all possible traction and necessitate the
duplex stationary engines, with the cumbrous "artillery of attachments,"
may do for sluggish people but will never meet the wants of the Yankee

The steam plow suited to the genius of our people, must, to use a
vulgarism, "get up and go." It must possess sufficient power of
propulsion and traction to pulverize the ground better, deeper, and
more rapidly than the "old way." Such is the want of the great West
in reference to preparing the soil for crops. I do not know of such a
machine in use, nor do I believe in the theory of Dr. Brainard, that the
moldboard is the only plan for properly pulverizing the soil; for I am
satisfied that such plan is wholly inadmissible in steam plowing in
this country, for want of sufficient traction for self-propulsion, and
observation has taught me that a self-propelling plow is the only steam
plow our people will tolerate.

I have lately examined the drawings of a steam plow invented by a
gentleman of this city (which I am not at liberty to explain in detail)
that seems to meet the great want I have spoken of. The invention
consists in a very simple device, by which the whole force of
pulverizing the ground is applied to propel the machine, and if this be
not sufficient, an independent force may be applied, so arranged as to
govern the speed of the machine at the will of the operator. You will,
no doubt, in due time hear more of this machine, which seems to me to
meet the great want so long experienced in Western cultivation.

The next great want of the West is a practical grain binder, that shall
securely bind the grain as cut. The scarcity and high price of labor
renders such a machine an absolute necessity. The efforts to supply this
great want have been numerous, but with no flattering success so far as
I am able to learn, except the machine invented by a citizen of this
place, which has already made its mark by demonstrating that automatic
machinery can and does bind the grain as fast as cut. The machine I
speak of is yet in a chrysalis state, so to speak, but it has been
worked two years in the field, the last season without missing a bundle,
though not without the usual difficulties of all new machines in respect
to the workings of some parts--too weak, etc. It is believed that
the coming harvest will witness its triumphant success. If so, the
production of our staple cereal will be greatly cheapened. I shall
be glad to renew "old acquaintance," by a more detailed statement

I send enclosed the pay for another year of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,
which I can no more do without than my accustomed dinner.


Madison, Wis.

* * * * *

Economical Steam Engine.

Messrs. Editors:--Permit me now to make a few remarks in regard to an
article on page 844, last volume of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, entitled
"Which is the Most Economical Steam Engine?" The principles laid down in
that article, I think are correct.

I run a saw-mill with an engine which fills those conditions nearer than
I ever saw, and I would like to give your readers a brief description
of it. The cylinder is 10-inch bore, and 14-inch stroke; steam chest
extends enough beyond the ends of the cylinder so that the steam travels
only 21/2 inches, the shortest distance possible, after leaving the valve
before it reaches the piston-head, and the space between the piston-head
and cylinder-head is only one-fourth of an inch, the bolt heads
being counter-sunk until even. Other things about this engine are in
proportion. With this engine attached to a direct acting circular mill,
I can saw 2,000 feet of hard-wood inch boards in one hour.

If any of your readers can beat this, I would like to hear from them.


* * * * *

Friction and Percussion.

Messrs. Editors:--In reply to "Spectrum," page 358, of last volume,
I will be brief. In his third paragraph he claims that he has merely
_suggested_ that friction and percussion may often be one and the same
thing; and immediately claims that in the case of the polished button
rubbing a planed pine board, the force which overcomes and levels the
undulations of the wood, is percussion, and that percussion is also the
cause of the heat; the microscopic hills and hollows on the shining
brass button skipping and jumping along the pine, produces little
infinitesimal bumpings, and so pound out the heat. This _little_ theory
should be known to the homeopaths--they could illustrate infinitesimal
quantities by it!

"Spectrum" treats my hammered horsenail illustration shabbily. After
indirectly acknowledging that there is a point where hammering will
no longer produce heat, he puts it on the grindstone, subjects it to
friction, and when it burns his fingers, throws his hat in the air and
shouts "Hurrah for _percussion!_" We agree perfectly, except that he
calls hammering, _condensation_; calls friction, _percussion_; and drops
friction from the mechanical dictionary altogether.

A railway car axle often heats and sets fire to the packing, when the
journal is smooth as polished glass; but I never heard of those parts
of the car which are constantly undergoing percussion, even getting
uncomfortably warm. The natives of the South Pacific produce fire by
rubbing pieces of dry wood together, but I never heard of their rapping
sticks for the same purpose. I have seen a new, sharp knife made hot
enough to raise a blister, whittling a clean dry stick of pine, and
I would like to have "Spectrum" tell us, if in all the above cases
percussion is the cause of the evolution of of heat, and what is
friction doing in the mean time.

New Albany, Ind.


* * * * *

Oiling a Preservative of Brown Stone.

Messrs. Editors:--I have read the article entitled, "What is to Become
of our Brown Stone Fronts," and have waited to see what others have to
say. But with so much at stake, no body seems to know what to do or say.
Being a practical painter, it has been my lot to oil some of the best
fronts in New York, namely corner of 23d Street and 5th Avenue, No. 2,
West 23rd Street, also No. 1, West 30th Street; also the residence of
E.S. Higgins, the carpet manufacturer, done by other journeymen.

They were very dark in color for a few weeks, but now after two years,
they are bleached almost as light as they were at first.

These fronts were cleaned whenever necessary, and then oiled with fresh
raw linseed oil from the press, put on pretty much as carefully as in
ordinary varnish work. No second coat or lapping over of the oil. All
was put on at once that it would take without running down in streams.

The result: the oil penetrates into good dry stone probably 11/2 inches,
making the stone hard and flinty, as any stone cutter will soon find out
if he tries to trim it.

It keeps the damp and therefore the frost out of the stone, as will be
seen any foggy day, the damp running down in streams on the oiled stone,
and the unoiled stone absorbing the dampness. It is therefore necessary
to oil during dry weather.

The oil is especially beneficial to balustrades and carvings, as they
are generally got out of soft stone. It is also beneficial underneath
balconies and porches, as the sun never has a chance to dry the stone in
such situations before the frost flakes it.

This I send in part payment for the great deal I have learned from your

T.H. Rilley

New York City.

* * * * *

Interesting Correspondence from China.

Messrs. Editors:--Your paper seems to increase in interest. I brought
the back volumes from Madras to Pekin, and am glad to refer to them here
where I must depend upon myself.

I have been building and repairing premises since I came here last year.
I find the carpenters and masons are very much delighted with our tools,
especially our saws, planes, borers, vise, and hammers. Our lathe is a
wonder. They use only the ancient spindle turned backwards and forwards
by a treadle or by the left hand while the right guides the chisel or
turning-tool, which cuts only half the time. They use only the turning
saw, which often fails them because it cannot be used in splitting wide
boards in the middle, and in many other places. They are great sawyers,
however. They stand heavy pine spars on end, if rather short, say 8
feet, the common length of many intended for making coffins, and cut
them up into three-eighths or half-inch stuff with great patience. A
longer one they will lean over and prop up, raising it towards the
perpendicular as they advance. They must have some hard jobs. I have
just measured a poplar plank in front of a coffin manufactory, which I
found to be 5 ft. 3 in. at the butt, 3 ft. 10 in. at the top, 8 feet
long, and about 8 inches thick. For a crosscut saw they rig one like
our wood-saw. I am sure it would deeply interest you to make a visit to
Pekin and see how this ancient, patient, and industrious people do their
work. It is truly painful to see how much time they spend in making
the simplest tool for want of at least a few labor-saving appliances.
Doubtless you have their tools on show in New York. They are to me an
interesting study, though I have been long familiar with the rude tools
of the Hindoos. It is constantly suggested to me that we must have got
many hints from the Chinese, or else indeed they have taken hints from
the West; or again, which is perhaps the true solution, implements like
words have a common origin. I should think from what I have observed in
a short time, that the Chinese resemble the Europeans in their tools
more than the Hindoos--a thing I did not at all anticipate. A clever man
could write you an interesting chapter on the ways of the Pekinese,
the Chinese Manchus, Mongols, and the rest mixed together, though the
Chinese are confessedly the workers in wood, iron, and everything else.
The Manchus are mostly hangers on of the government, living mainly upon
a miserable monthly stipend.

The reading of your unequaled journal makes me interested in you as if
you were personal friends, and so I have run away with these pointless
remarks. I am sure you will excuse me, and not wonder that one wishes to
breathe now and then.

I was an old subscriber in Madras, and hope to be till I can read no
longer. My son, who perished at Andersonville, was a subscriber to the
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN till the day of his capture by Mosby.

Pekin, China.

P.R. Hunt.

* * * * *

Communication Between Deaf and Blind Mutes.

Messrs. Editors:--In a recent number of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN I notice
an ingenious method of teaching deaf and dumb persons to converse in
the dark, which is also applicable to blind mutes, and it brings to my
recollection a method which was in use among the "telegraph boys" some
years ago when I was one of them. Sometimes when we were visiting and
asked to communicate to a "brother chip," anything that it was not
advisable for the persons around us to know, a slight tap-tapping on the
table or chair would draw the attention of the party we asked to talk
to, and then by his watching the forefinger of the writer, if across the
room, or if near enough, by placing the hand of the writer carelessly
on the shoulder of the party we desired to communicate with, the
communication was written out in the telegraph alphabet or by taking
hold of his hand and writing upon the finger.

I think this method will be found much less complicated, if not quite as
rapid, as the method with both hands, and much more convenient, as it is
only necessary to have hold of one hand of the person communicated with,
and is more rapid than writing with a pen.

For the benefit of those not acquainted with the telegraph alphabet, I
give it:

.- -... ... -.. . .-. --. .... ..

-.-. -.- --- -- -. . . ..... ..-.

. .. ... - ..- ...- .-- ..-. .. ..

... .

The uninitiated will observe that O differs from I in the distance
between the dots, made thus: I by two quick strokes of the forefinger; O
by one quick stroke, slight pause, and another quick stroke; the dashes
are made by holding the finger down for a short space: thus SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN would be written:

... .. . .. . -. - .. .-. .. .. .

.- -- . . .. .. .. . .- -.

In a very short time any one can learn to read by the sight or by the
touch. Anything which can add to the pleasure or comfort of these
unfortunates is of importance.


[Nothing can compensate for want of rapidity in a language designed for
colloquy. Although our correspondent found the Morse telegraph alphabet
a resource on occasion, he would scarcely be content to use it, and it
only for life, even if emancipation from it involved months of labor.
The motions required to spell SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN by the telegraph
alphabet are thirty-nine, but as the short dashes occupy the time of two
dots for each dash, and there are eight of these, eight more ought to be
counted in a comparison of it with an alphabet composed wholly of dots,
this would make forty-seven. To spell the same words in full by the mute
alphabet referred to would require only twenty-three motions. A still
greater disparity in rate would, we think, be found in an entire
colloquial sentence. Thus the sentence "Hand me an apple" would require,
by the mute alphabet, the time of fourteen dots, while with the
telegraph alphabet it would require the time of thirty-nine.--Eds.]

* * * * *

Cheap Cotton Press Wanted.

Messrs. Munn & Co.:--Please give us any information of cheap
cotton-presses, such as small neighborhoods, or single planters, in the
South could own. In particular, a press that will put 40 pounds cotton
into each cubic foot. We want cotton better handled, and to that end may
want small bales, say 150 pounds each. But these must be put into three
or four cubic feet, or they will cost too much for covering, ties, etc.
Perhaps you can furnish us with a wood-cut of some, or several, presses
worked by hand, or by horse-power, that will do good service, not cost
too much, be simple in operation, not require too much power, and be
effective as above. It may be for the interest of some of your clients
or correspondents to give us the facts, as we shall put them into
a report for circulation amongst the entire cotton interest of the

Yours very truly,


National Association of Cotton Manufacturers and Planters, No. 11,
Pemberton Square, Boston, Mass.

* * * * *

A Singular Freak of a Magnet.

Messrs. Editors:--In my library hangs a powerful horseshoe magnet which
has a keeper and a weight attached of about three ounces. This weight
is sustained firmly by the attracting power of the magnet, and is not
easily shaken off by any oscillating motion, yet through some (to me)
unknown cause during each of the last ten nights the magnet has lost its
power, and the keeper and weight lie in the morning on the bottom of the
case where the magnet has hung for many years without a like occurrence,
except once on the occasion of a severe shock of an earthquake which
took place December 17, 1867.

There is no possible way for this magnet to be disturbed except by the
electric current; then why should its power thus return without the aid
of a battery or keeper? Will some one explain?


Madrid Springs, N.Y.

* * * * *

Speaking makes the ready man, writing the correct man, and reading the
full man.

* * * * *



"What is wanted is something equally applicable to large or small pieces
of iron, and which will answer to ward off the attacks not only of the
common atmospheric oxygen, but also remain unaffected by acids or salt

The above from a late number of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN states not only
the writer's ideas but also one of the greatest wants of the age. Iron
is daily being put to more and more varied uses. On land the great
question is what will prevent rust; on water, what will prevent rust and
fouling of bottoms of iron vessels. We will briefly summarize the many
patents granted for this purpose.

Eight are for sheathing of various kinds put on in varied modes. The
most practicable of these is a system prepared by Daft. Most iron
vessels are now constructed by every other plate lapping the edges of
the one between. He proposes, instead of having the plates all the same
width, to have one wide and one very narrow plate. This would leave a
trough between the two wide plates of the depth of the thickness of the
plates. He proposes to force into this trough very tightly pieces of
teak, and to the teak, thus embedded, he nails a sheathing of zinc. The
zinc is kept clean by slowly wearing away of its surface from action by
contact with the iron and salt water.

There are four patents, in which various, so-called, non-conducting
coats are put on the iron, and copper pigment in some form put on over
them. These have been specially condemned in England, as no matter how
good the non-conducting substance--and many are so only in name--it will
become rubbed off at some points, and there the bottom will be eaten
both by salt water and action of copper.

Coal tar and asphaltum are the subjects of patents in various forms.

One patent claims rubber or gutta-percha dissolved in linseed oil as a
vehicle in which to grind the pigment; another the same dissolved in
naphtha or bisulphide of carbon as a pigment; another hard rubber,

Enameling with different materials is proposed by some, while one
proposes to glaze the bottoms so that barnacles and grass would find a
slippery foothold.

Combinations of tallow, resin, and tar--mineral and pine--are patented
mostly to use over other paints.

Coal tar, sulphur, lime, and tallow, are the subject of one patent;
guano, red lead, and oil of another; while sulphur and silica are
claimed by a third.

Paints containing mercury, arsenic, and even strychnine, are the
subjects of several patents. A mixture of coal tar and mercurial
ointment of one.

Galvanism is proposed to be used in various ways--strips of copper and
zinc, or by galvanizing the plates before use. Black lead finds a place
in many compositions.

One patent, by a complicated process, effects a union of metallic zinc
and iron; this, granulated and ground fine, then mixed with red lead
and oil, makes the paint. It is said to be the best of all the patented

It is astonishing how many use oils derived from coal, peat, or resin,
and tars of the same.

There are about fifty patents for this object and with all of them
before their eyes, the British Society for the Advancement of Art still
hold the $5,000 reward for a pigment or covering which will perfectly
protect from rust and fouling. However they may puff their products for
selling, no one has the temerity to claim that they deserve the reward.

We think it would be difficult to find so many expedients ever before
adopted for the accomplishment of any one object. These are all English
patents, England having necessarily been obliged to use iron for vessels
from its cheapness as well as its consequent first introduction there.
In the United States no patents worth mentioning have been granted.

The first requisites for a pigment or coating for iron are, that it
should not contain any copper--the corrosive action of that metal on
iron being intense. Then if for work exposed to air it should form
such a coating as to be impervious to that gaseous fluid, and be
so constituted chemically as not to be oxidizable by it; if under
water--especially sea water--to be impermeable to moisture, so elastic
as not to crack, so insoluble as not to chloridize; to form a perfect,
apparently hard, coating: and yet wear just enough to keep off
incrustation, barnacles, or growth of grass. In fact, this slow wearing
away is the only preventive of fouling in iron vessels. Wooden bottoms
may be poisoned by solutions of copper--and that metal has no superior
for such uses, especially when it is combined in mixture with mineral
or resinous tars and spirits--these compounds, however, are not only
useless on iron bottoms, but also injurious. What then is _the_
substance: 1st. One of the oxides of lead (red lead). 2d. The purest
oxide of iron to be found. If properly made these articles can be
carried to no higher state of oxidation, and respectively, as to order
named, they have no superiors for body and durability. By preference,
1st, red lead, either out of or under water; 2d, Prince's oxide of iron
only, out of water. The color of these paints--the first red, the latter
brown, may be hidden by a coat of white or tinted color. If there were
to be had in combination as a white paint, an oxide of lead and an oxide
of zinc, it would be immensely superior to either, but that such has not
been produced is rather the fault of carelessness than of possibility.
Zinc protects iron with great effect, but it is too rapidly worn in the
effort to be of lasting value. Hence the great desideratum, the yet to
be, the coming pigment is a white oxide of lead or a combined white
oxide of lead and white oxide of zinc, without sulphates or chlorides.

Those materials answer very well for work exposed to atmospheric air,
and perhaps nothing will ever be found better; but a different need is
that for salt water. No mere protector of the iron from rust can be
found superior to pure red lead and linseed oil. We have seen a natural
combination of zinc, lead, and iron, which, in our experience, ranks
next; but the zinc is acted on by the chloride of sodium, and wears away
too much of the material. Red lead, however, while covering the iron
perfectly and effectually preventing rust, and also having but little
disposition to chloridize, when it does, will foul both with grass and
barnacles. Hence, the first desideratum being obtained, how shall we
accomplish the other. The prevention of fouling may be accomplished in
two ways: First, cover the vessel's bottom with two or even three coats
of red lead, and give each time to dry hard. Then melt in an iron pot a
mixture of two parts beeswax, two parts tallow, and one part pine resin;
mix thoroughly, and apply hot one or two coats. This mixture may be
tinted with vermilion or chrome green. It is not necessary to use any
poisonous substance, as it is only by its softness and gradual wear
that it is kept clean. Second, mix red lead and granular metallic zinc,
ground fine, or such a mineral as we have mentioned--crystalline and
granular in its character. Put on two or three coats, and allow each to
set--they will never dry hard. The zinc will slowly wear off, keeping
the whole surface clean, while there will be left enough coating of the
lead to preserve the iron from rust. The oil I would urge for these
pigments is linseed--as little boiled as possible, to be thinned with
spirits of turpentine. There seems to have been a mania for mixtures of
tar and resins, their spirits and oils; my experience fails to show me
any advantage for them on an iron bottom. They have neither elasticity
nor durability, while linseed oil has both in a pre-eminent degree, and
is no more likely to foul than they, when in a combination that does
not dry hard. Besides they are difficult to grind, inconvenient to
transport, and offensive to use.

Perhaps we have not, in the opinion of some, answered the want expressed
in the first paragraph. No pigment with the requisites of durability and
cheapness will resist the attacks of strong acids on iron. The first we
have mentioned will--all such as may float in our air from factories or
chemical works. Chemically it is converted by nitric acid and chlorine
into an insoluble substance--plumbic acid or the cyanide of lead. An
experience of more than three years, with almost unlimited means at our
command for experiment, demonstrates to us that we have indicated
the means of filling the other requisites asked for. It may be that
something new will be discovered, but we doubt it. Let any one tread the
road we have trod, investigate and experiment where and as much as we
have, and, if that place is, where we have not, and their experience
will be the same as ours.

* * * * *


[For the Scientific American.]

Poets have celebrated the banana plant for its beauty, its luxuriance,
the majesty of its leaves, and the delicacy of its fruit; but never have
they sufficiently praised the utility of this tropical product.
Those who have never lived in southern countries are unable to fully
appreciate its value. Some look even with indifference upon the gigantic
clusters of this fruit, as they are unloaded from the steamers and
sailing vessels; and yet they deserve special attention and admiration,
for they are to the inhabitants of the torrid zone, what bread and
potatoes are to those of the north temperate zone.

The banana tree is one of the most striking illustrations of tropical
fertility and exuberance. A plant, which in a northern climate, would
require many years to gain strength and size, is there the production of
ten or twelve months. The native of the South plants a few grains, taken
from an old tree, in a moist and sandy soil, along some river or lake;
they develop with the greatest rapidity, and at the end of ten months
the first crop may be gathered, though the cluster and bananas are yet
small; but the following year one cluster alone will weigh some sixty or
more pounds. Even in the South they are always cut down when green, as
they lose much of their flavor when left to ripen or soften on the tree.

The trunk of the tree, if it may be so called, and which grows to a
hight of some fifteen feet, is formed only by the fleshy part of the
large leaves, some of which attain a length of eighteen feet, and are
two and a half feet in width. While from an upper sprout you perceive
the large yellow flowers, or already formed fruits, you see underneath a
cluster, which is bending the tree by its weight.

The plantain tree is much the same as the banana, with the difference,
however, that its fruit cannot be eaten raw, like the banana's, and that
it is much larger in size. Almost every portion of the banana tree is
useful. First of all, the nutritious fruit. The plantains when green and
hard, are boiled in water or with meat like our potatoes, or they are
cut in slices and fried in fat, when they are soft and ripe. There is a
singularity about the boiled plaintain, worthy of being mentioned. Pork
especially, and other meats are so exceedingly fat in the tropics that
they would be most disgusting or even impossible to eat with either
bread or potatoes, but the plaintain seems to neutralize or absorb all
the greasy substance, and the fattest meat is thus eaten by natives and
foreigners without the least inconvenience.

Ripe bananas are mashed into a paste, of which the natives bake a sort
of bread, which is very nourishing, though somewhat heavy. This paste,
which contains much starch, can be dried, and thus kept for a length of
time, which is often of great service to mariners. The young sprouts are
used and prepared like vegetables, and the fibrous parts of the stalks
of the majestic leaves are used like manilla for ropes and coarse cloth.

The utility of the leaves is a theme rich enough to fill a volume; they
are used to cover the huts, for table-cloths and napkins, or wrapping
paper. The dough of bread, instead of being put in a pan, into the oven,
is spread on a piece of plantain leaf; it will neither crisp nor adhere
to the bread when taken out. The Indians of America carry all their
products, such as maize, sugar, coffee, etc., in bags made of this leaf,
which they know how to arrange so well, that they transport an "arroba,"
or twenty-five pounds any distance without a single grain escaping, and
without any appliance other than a liana or creeper to tie it up with.
As to the medicinal qualities of the leaves, they are numerous. Indeed,
a book has been written upon them. I speak, however, from my own
experience. The young, yet unrolled leaves are superior to any salve
or ointment. If applied to an inflamed part of the body, the effect is
soothing and cooling, or if applied to a wound or ulcer, they excite
a proper healthy action, and afterwards completely heal the wound.
Decoctions made of the leaves are used among the natives for various

Since the beginning of the world this plant has ranked among the first
in the Flora of Asia. The Christians of the orient look upon it as the
tree of Paradise which bore the forbidden fruit, and they think its
leaves furnished the first covering to our original parents. According
to other historians, the Adam's fig was the plant, which the messengers
brought from the promised land to Moses, who had sent them out to
reconnoitre. "It is under the shade of the _musa sapientium_, that," as
recorded by Pliny, "the learned Indians seated themselves to meditate
over the vicissitudes of life, and to talk over different philosophic
subjects, and the fruit of this tree was their only food." The Oriental
Christians, up to the present date, regard the banana almost with
reverence; their active fancy beholds in its center, if a cut is made
transverse, the image of the cross, and they consider it a crime to use
a knife in cutting the fruit.

In the holy language of the Hindoo, the Sanscrit, the Adam's fig is
called "modsha," whence doubtless, the word "musa" is derived. It is
generally believed that the plant came from India to Egypt in the
seventh century; it still forms a most important article of commerce in
the markets of Cairo and Alexandria. In the year 1516, the banana was
brought to the West Indian Islands by a monk, since which time it
has rapidly spread over the tropics of America, and is found to the
twenty-fifth degree north and south of the equator. It is equally
indispensable and is appreciated by the immigrant and by the native as
a beautifier of the landscape; affording shelter from the sun and rain,
and giving bread to the children; for if every other crop should fail,
the hungry native looks up to the banana tree, like a merchant to his
well-filled storehouse.


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