Our Merchant Marine. To the Editor of the Scientific American: The issue of the Scientific American for July 15th was very interesting. The suggestions for restoring the American merchant marine run on the old lines, viz., differential duties or subsidies. Free ships are anathema. Mr. Sulzer believes that differential duties on goods brought in by American steamers will restore the American flag to the deep-sea trade. He bases it on the fact that up to 1828, differential duties freighted in American ships were in effect The fact is ignored that, although after 1828 the differential duty law was no longer in effect, as stated by Mr. Sulzer, our shipping continued to grow until at the time the civil war broke out we were a close second to Great Britain in shipping. Why we grew in shipping till we had almost overtaken Great Britain and were fast outstripping her is not touched upon; no mention is made of the fact that we had the natural resources in abundance, i. e., timber of the best quality that grew down to the edge of the ocean. This naturally' stimulated a seafaring people to build ships. The ventures were successful; shipping grew; free from the building traditions of the old world, new types were, in the course of time, evolved, that were not alone marvels of beauty, but great deadweight carriers as well; and for speed they had no equals among the productions of European yards. Is it any wonder, then, that shipping in the United States grew so fast, that the supremacy of Great Britain as a shipping nation was threatened. In those days there was no cry that shipping was unprofitable; the Stars and Stripes were seen in every sea, and we traded every country on the globe. Then came the civil war the transfer of our ships to foreign flags; later the introduction of the iron-built steam tramp, and gone was the occupation of the wooden sailer, and the grass grew in the shipyards of Massachusetts “ .nd Maine. Yet to-day the United States makes more iron and steel than Great Britain and Germany together. On the authority of iron and steel manufacturers, we manufacture it cheaper than anywhere else in the world. We have shipyards that can turn out as good ships as can be turned out anywhere in the world. With all these advantages, we are told that we cannot build as cheaply as can builders abroad. American capital is furnished to build steamers in foreign shipyards, and many' of these steamers are built from plates exported from this country. In spite of this, Mr. T. G. Roberts, naval constructor U. S. N., apparently believes that an adequate merchant marine can be built up only by discriminating duties and subsidies. In his mind the results of a free-ship bill would only result in “ splendid imaginary shipping.” The shipping owned by Americans is not at all imaginary; there are many millions of dollars invested in shipping running under foreign flags; application has been made to Congress for the privilege of placing some of it under the American flag, but permission is withheld. Why? And yet, Mr. Roberts states in the heading of his article, “ The Merchant Marine as an Auxiliary to the Navy,” the navy would need some nine hundred merchant vessels to draw from in case of war. Allow that our coast yards could turn out fifty 5,000-ton steamers annually, it would take something like eighteen years to build them, and it is not to be supposed that our navy will stand stationary during that period; neither does he take into account the annual growth of commerce and the consequent need of new tonnage annually. Several fleets now operated under foreign flags are owned by Americans, and in case of war foreign governments could take them as auxiliaries to their navies. It seems but wisdom to allow such tonnage American registration. If Americans will not avail of the privilege, then it may become necessary to take further measures to insure American tonnage under the American flag. The passage of such a measure might mean the avoidance of a great deal of trouble in the future. Even though foreign flags fly over American-owned tonnage, it may be expected that American owners will look to the United States Government for aid, should their investments be seriously threatened; and it would be no source of gratification to Americans in case of war, to find the tonnage for which we furnished the capital used in conjunction with a foreign navy to subjugate us. Congress has just passed a reciprocity treaty with Canad , covering farmers' produce. We can enter reciprocity with Great Britain in shipping by passing a free-ship bill. Great Britain now allows American-built ships British registration when owned by British citizens. Let Congress enact a law granting American registration to American-owned British-built ships for the Philippine and foreign trade only. Chicago, Ill. Charles Depsel. Observation of the Kiess Comet To the Editor of the Scientific American: The Kiess comet was observed here early on the morning of July 20th, 1911, by the writer, with a 3-inch refractor. As it is equivalent to about thj (seventh magnitude, and easily visible through a small telescope, it should be perceptible even in an opera glass. It is rather small, though bright, and resembles a nebula, and is moving in a southwestern direction. At about 2:15 A. M. on July 20th it was approximately 4 degrees west and a very little to the south of the star Iota, Aurigae, which is of the third magnitude and not far from Capella, so can be easily located from this object. The position of the comot on July 12.8412 G. M. T. was R. A. 4 h. 41 m. 35.2 s.; Dec. + 34 deg. 19 min. 20 sec. Berlamont, Mich. Frederick C. Leonard. Why Left-hand Plows are Used in the Middle West To the Editor of the Scientific American: In the issue of the Scientific American for June 17th, 1911, in “ Notes for Inventors,” I note the comment on the extensive use of left-hand plows in southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The explanation of such use is found in the fad that these localities were largely settled by people from Southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and southward, in which latter localities it was and is, to a large extent, yet customary to drive two or even four horses with a single line, the line being attached to the left-hand or “ near” horse only, the “ off” horse being guided by a “ jockey stick,” one end of which is tied to his bit and the other end to the “ near” horse' s hame or collar. In plowing with such an arrangement it would obviously be necessary to place the guiding or “ near” horse in the furrow, which would necessitate the use of a left-hand plow. The custom of single line driving has probably been largely abandoned in the above first-mentioned localities, owing to the extra effort and time required to train the horses, but the use of left-hand plows has continued, and probably will continue indefinitely, due to the fact that each generation learns to ploil' with the tools of its elders, and having once learned with a left-hand plow, the change to right-hand is not easy. E. W. Heiss. Patent Office, Washington, D. C.
This article was originally published with the title "Correspondence" in Scientific American 105, 6, 119 (August 1911)