Charles Reade runs to constructive mechanics. The heroes of his tales are apt to be great fellows for making anything, from kites up to statuary. They are, moreover, brave generous, and noble heroes as well as inventive geniases. Captain Dodd, in " Very Hard Cash," Hazel, in " Foul Play," and lastly, Henry Little, in "Put Yourself in His Place," are all represented as being great mechanical geniuses. The latter powerful story, now appearing in serial form in the Cf'ilaxy, has evi dently for its obj ect the elucidation of that most absorbing topic of the time the labor question. It is written in no spirit of prejudice for or against either labor or capital, and while it has not as yet given any solution of the problem how to adjust the interests of these two elements ot industry, it has shown in vivid colors many of the shortcomings of each. Among these shortcomings is a general caroh ssness and recklessness in regard to life. One of the men who had attempted the life oi Little, loses his own life through the bursting of a stone, grudging the few hours of labor necessary to hang and race a sound stone. Dr. Amboyne, a philanthropic physician in the manufac-ing town which the novelist has called Hillsborough, and in which the manufacture of cutlery is the staple, sets young Little to work to observe and report upon the sanitary condition of the workmen in that town. He accordingly makes a statement which may be inferred to embody the results of Mr. Reade's observations and reflections upon this subject, the report being however confined to the file cutters. This report, which we reproduce, appears in the form of an appendix to the part of the story which appears in the November number of the Galaxy. It is not only exceedingly racy but very suggestive to inventors : [Extract from Henry Little's " Report."] THE FILE CUTTERS. "This is the largest trade, coiiiaining about three thouS' and men, and several hundred women and boys. Their diseases and deaths arise from poIs(5ning' by lead. The file rests on a bed of lead during the process of catting, which might more correctly be called stamj)ing ; and, as the s'amping chisel can only be guided to tlie required nicety by the finger nail, the lead is constantly handled and fingered, and enters the system through the pores. " Bfsides this, fine dust of lead is set in motion by the blows that drive the cutting chisel, and the insidious poison settles on the hair and the face, and is believed to go direct to the lungs some of it. " The file-cutter never lives the spsn of life allotted to man. After many small warnings, his thumb weakens. He neglects that ; and he gets touches of paralysis in the thumb, the arm, and the nerves of the stomach; can't digest ; can't sweat; at last can't work ; goes to the hospital ; there they galvanize him, which does him no harm ; and boil him, which does him a dsal of good. He comes back to work, resumes his dirty habits, takfs in fresh doses of lead, turns dirty white or sallow, gets a blue line round his teeth, a dropjxsl wrist, and to the hospital again or on to the file-cutter's box ; and so he goes nsisorably on and off tjll he drops into a premature grave, with as much lead in his body as would lap a hundredweight oi tea." THIS EEMEDIES. " A. What the masters might do. " 1. Provide every forge with two small fires, eighteen inehes from the ground. This would warm the lower limbs of the smiths. At present their bodies suffer by uneven temperature ; taey perspire down to the waist, and then freeze to the toe. " 2. For the wet grinders they might supply fires in every wheel, abolish mud floors, and pave with a proper fall and drain. " To prevent the breaking of heavy grindstones, fit them with the large, strong, circular steel plate—of which I subjoin a drawing—instead of with wedges or insufiicicnt plates. They might have an eye to life, as well as capita!, in buying heavy grindstones. I have traced the death of one grinder to the master's avarice ; he went to the quarry and bought a stone for thirty-five shillings the quarry master had set aside as imperfect ; its price would have been sixty shillings if it had been fit to trust a man's life to. This master goes to church twice a Sunday, and is much respected by his own sort ; yet he committed a murder for twenty-five shillings. Being Hillsborough, let us hope it was a murderer he murdered. " For the dry-grinders they might all supply fans and boxes. Some do, and the good eif.ct is very remarkable. Moreover, the present fans and boxes could be much improved. " One trade—the steel fork-grinders—is considerably worse than the rest ; and, although the fan does much for it, I'm told it must still remain an unhealthy trade. If so, and Dr. Amboyne is right about life, labor, and capital, let the masters co-operate with the Legislature, and extinguish the handicraft. " For th file-cutters, the masters might— " 1st. Try a substitute for lead. It is all very well to say a file must rest on lead to be cut. Who has ever employed brains on that question Who has tried iron, wood, and gutta-percha, in layers Who has ever tried anything, least of all the thing called Thought " 2d. If lead is the only bed—which I doubt—and the lead must be bare—which I dispute—then the masters ought to supply every gang oi file-cutters with hooks, taps, and basins, and soap, in some place adjoining their workrooms. Lead is a subtile, but not a swift poison ; and soap and water every two hours is an antidote " 8d. They ought to forbid the introduction of food into file-eutting rooms. Workmen are a reckless set, and a dirty set ; food has no business in any place of theirs, where poison is going. " B: Wfiat the wm-kraen might do. " let. Demand from the masters these improvements I have Suggested, and, if the demand came through the secretaries of their unions, the masters would comply j " 2d. They might drink less, and wash their bodies with a ! small part of the money so saved ; the price of a gill of gin, and a hot bath, are exactly the same ; only the bath is health to a dry-grinder, or file-cutter ; the gin is worse poison to him than to healthy men. " The small wet-grinders, who have to buy their grindstones, might buy sound ones, instead of making bargains at the quarry, which prove double bad bargains when the stone breaks, since then a new stone is required, and sometimes a new man, too. \ " 4th. They miglit be more careful not to leave the grindstone in water. I have traced three broken stones in one wheel to that abominable piece of carelessness. " 5 th. They ought never to fix an undersized pulley-wheel. Simmons killed himself by that, and by grudging the few hours of labor required to hang and race a sound stone. " 6th. If files can only be cut on lead, the file-cutters might anoint the lead over-night with hard-drying ointment, solu-blecin turps, and this ointment might even be medicated with an antidote to the salt of lead. " 7th. If files can only be cut on hare lead, the men ought to cut their hair close, and wear a light cap at work. They ought to have a canvas suit in the adjoining place (see above); don it when they come and doff' it when they go. They ought to leave off their insane habit of licking the thumb and finger of the left hand—which is the leaded hand—with their tongues. This beastly trick takes the poison direct to the stomach. They might surely leave it to get there through the pores ; it is slow, but sure. I have also repeatedly seen a file-cutter eat his dinner with his filthy, poisoned fingers, and so send the poison home by way of salt to a foofs bacon. Finally, they ought to wash off the poison every two hours at the taps. "8th. Since they abuse the masters, and justly, for their greediness, they ought not to imitate that greediness by driving their poor little children into unhealthy trades, and so destroying them body and soul. This practice robs the children of education at the very seed-time of life, and literally murders many of them ; for their soft and porous skins, and growing organs, take in all poisons and disorders quicker than an adult. " 0. What the Legislature migU do. " It might issue a commission to examine the Hillsborough trades, and, when accurately informed, might put some practical restraints both on the murder and the suicide that is going on at present A few of the suggestions I have thrown out might, I think, be made law. " For instance, the master who should set a dry-grinder to a trough without a fan, or put his wet-grindi rs on a mud floor and no fire, or his file-cutters in a room without taps and basins, or who should be convicted of willtully buying a iaulty grindstone, might be made subject to a severe penalty; and the municipal authorities invested with rights of inspection, and encouraged to report. " In restraint of the workmen, the Legislature ought to extend the Factory Act to Hillsborough Trades, and so check the heartless avarice of the parents. At present, no class of Her Majesty's subjects cries so loud, and so vainly, to her motherly bosom, and the humanity of Parliament, as these poor little children ; their parents, the lowest and most degraded set of brutes in England, teach them swearing and indecency at home, and rob them of all decent education, and drive them to their death, in order to squeeze a few shillings out of their young lives ; for what —to waste in drink and debauchery. Count tiie public houses in this town. " As to the fork-grinding tra ie, the legislature mi jht assist the masters to extinguish it. It numbers only about one hundred and fifty persons, ill much poisoned and little paid. The work could all be done by fifteen machines and thirty hands, ani, in my opinion, without the expense of grindstones. The thirty men would get double wages ; the odd hundred and twenty would, of course, be driven into other trades, after suffering much distress. And, on this account, I would call in Parliament, because then there would be a temporary compensation offered to the temporary sufferers by a far-sighted and beneficent measure. Besides, Avithout Parliament, I am afraid the masters could not do it. The fork-grinders would blow up the machines, and the men who worked them, and their wives, and their children, and their lodgers, and their lodger's visitors. " For all that, if your theory of Life, Labor, and Capital is true, all incurably destructive handicrafts ought to give way to machinery, and will, as Man advances." Smprovements in Paper-mating Macliines, The invention we are about to describe has been recently brought out in England, and it consists in the application to paper-making of a roller coated with vulcan te and with vulcanized india-rubber,and which is substituted for the ordinary metal under press roll of the machine, and may be used as an under or upper second press roller. We are indebted to the Mechanics' Magazine for the details which follow : " In the paper-making machine now in use, the pulp for forming the material of the paper is projected, in a fluid state, upon an endless wire cloth, and is kept from overflowing at the sides by endless bands (commonly termed deckle straps) after having a greater portion of the water sucked irom it by capillary attraction and the action of air pumps. The endles s wire cloth, carrying the moist pulp upon its upper surface, passes between a pair of coucliing rollers, the upper roller of which is usually made to press upon the under roller. These couch rollers are usually covered with a woolen jacket, and, also, are constructed of metal in the case of the under, and of wood in the case of the upper roller. The web of paper, having passed between the upper and under couch rolls, next passes between another pair of rollers called first-press rollers, which have an endless woolen cloth or felting of open texture (technically called a wet felt) between the web of paper and the surface of the under first press roll for the purpose of expressing or discharging the water contained in the paper. " The under press roll is made of iron, the endless woolen cloth or felting pass'ng between the under press roller, and the upper press roller carries the web of paper with it between the upper and under press rollers. In so passing between the press rollers, the web of paper, as at present manufactured, is subjected to considerable pressure, by which the substance of the paper is made tjiinner.and the natural elasticity of the fibrous pulp of which the paper chiefly consists becomes greatly impaired. The woolen cloth or felting also being subjected to considerable pressure while passing in a damp state between the ordinary metal first press rollers carrying the moist web of paper, suffers great tear and wear from the attrition caused by the hardness and unyielding character of the two metal rollers. " By the substitution of a composite under press roller possessing a Blight degree of elasticity, the web of paper, in being carried upon the endless woolen cloth or felting between the press rollers, is subjected to a less pressure than is received by the ordinary pair of metal rollers, while, at the same time, a sufficient pressure is given to effect the purposes for which the web of paper is passed through the press rollers, viz., to express or discharge the waters still remaining in the pulp to a degree sufficient to enable the web of paper to be led round the drying cylinders of the machine.. From the slightly elastic and softer character of the new under press roller, the natural elasticity of the web of paper is preserved, and the fibrous substance of the web of paper not being crushed together, as in the case of the ordinary metal first press rolls,permits the web of paper in the succeeding process of drying upon cylinders to become more valuable than by the ordinary process, and thereby the character of paper so made thus becomes more akin to paper made by hand, by the great increase of body or bulkiness acquired by the freedom from the effects of the severe pressure imposed in the case of the use of ordinary metal first press rollers. The endless woolen cloth or felting, from being subjected to an elastic pressure, suffers very much less attrition, or tear and wear, in passing over the softer and elastic material of the under press roller, and the action of the felting is thereby such, that it goes much longer without washing, and is not liable to cut by its creasing or otherwise. " In those paper-making machines in which a second set of press rollers is employed, a composite rubber roller is substituted for the second under press roller, except in those machines in which the second upper press roller serves to carry the wet felt, and which has the wet felt between it and the paper. In this latter instance,the coMiposite rubber roller will be applied to the second upper press loller as it thus performs functions similar to the first under press roller. The materials of which the roller is composed, are as follows, viz:—a metal roller of the ordinary size at present in use has applied to it a first or inner coating of vulcanite cured and hardened only to such an extent or degree as to adhere or stick firmly to the metal shell of the roller, which it covers, and then an outer coating covering the vulcanite coating, composed of vulcanized india-rubber, or india-rubber not so highly cured, and therefore of a softer and more elastic character than the inner coating. With rollers thus covered,there is no tendency in the covering to separate from the metal, and the rollers are thereby much better fitted fj withstand the pressure which they receive when in use, and, in consequence of the interposed coating of vulcanite, are not liable to strip." Horse Nails. A patent has been taken out in England for a new method of making horse nails. It consists in providing a machine employed in this manufacture with a special furnace through which the nail rod is passed continuously before arriving at the anvil or anvils ;,also in an automatic feed motion for propelling the nail rod, and in the employment in such machines of two distinct anvils and hammers, one of which anvils is stationary and the other movable. One of these anvils has formed on its face a die representing a nail on its side, and the other a die representing a nail on its flat, or these dies may be formed on the faces of the hammers of the respective anvils, or partly in the hammer and partly in the anvil in each case. To PICK;LB MUSHROOMS.—Button mushrooms are best for pickling. Peel them, cut the stocks off close to the button ; do not pull them off, as that draws out the heart. The appearance of every button will be improved by rubbing it with a pifoa of flannel and salt. Now put the mushrooms into a frying-pan in single layers, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and allow them to cook over a gentle fire for about a quarter of an hour. Remember, they are nut to be fried, but merely gently cooked in their own liquor. This done, put them into pickle bottles, with a few layers, here and there, of whole pepper, mace, long pepper, and whole ginger. Fill up the bottles with good vinegar, and tie them down air-tight with bladder. In six weeks they will be ready.—8. Piesse.
This article was originally published with the title "Charles Reade on “Life Labor and Capital”" in Scientific American 21, 19, 291 (November 1869)