We have no sympathy with those who are perpetually bewailing the growing degeneracy of the race and regretfully mourning the " good old times/' but, in one respect, at least, the facts give reason for their animadversions of the present compared with the past. The honor of the manufacturer is too often made entirely subservient to his avarice. Articles of common and. daily use are made to sell, rather than to last ; sham and cheapness are made to take the place of reality and worthiness; paint and putty are used to cover the lack of painstaking and patience; even labor-saving machinery is made to contribute its quota to the revenues derived frojn the practice of sham. The commonest articles of household use are shams compared with those made by our fathers. Tin ware will not stand scouring. The brilliant array of tin vessels, once the pride of the housewife, is not readily attainable. The iron sheet, thin as vanity, is slightly washed with a pewtery solution that, always dingy, wholly disappears in a few weeks' use, and the cup, kettle, or pan shortly becomes a sieve, wholly worthless. In wooden ware it is no better. The pail or bucket is made of unseasoned or knotty lumber, bound with hoops of iron foil, and painted with a mixture of ochre and benzine, or washed with some earthy pig^ ment dissolved in water. The tubs fall to pieces unless kept filled with water; the trays and mixing bowls are carved from green wood that splits after a few months' exposure to the kitchen atmosphere. Brooms are bound lightly with rotten twine, instead of being well secured with lasting wire; a cleanly housewife will use one up in a week. Blacking brushes are stuck together with glue and brads; the boots blacked with them bristle like the porcupine. In the article of furniture common furniture for the kitchen and dining-room it is still worse. The chairs are a delusion and a snare ; they are built for a race of pigmies, and if they hold together during six months' use the first removal from one habitation to another makes them a wreck. Tables are skaky in the legs, or have lumbago or spinal complaint their backs diversified with prairie scenery, a rolling surface. Bedsteads when once unjointed object to resuming their original fair proportions. The drawers of bureaus recede from the frame and laugh at the impotency of the lock bolt. And so we might go on indefinitely, and give many other illustrations of the endless variety of shams, sham in material, sham in making up, and sham in appearance. The picture is not overdrawn. Let any one look back twenty or thirty years, and call to mind the Lares and Penates of his father's house, comparing its " fixings " with those now made, and he will see that the times have changed. The furniture bought by the newly-married couple, witnessed the gambols of a large family of children, and served to assist them in their life-start when grown up. New tin ware came at rare intervals, usually the result of the housewife's careful saving of worn-out rags. The advent of a new water bucket or wash tub was an event in the household; they were made to last, intended for use, and they fulfilled their destiny. We do not believe that the making qf money should be the highest motive to actuate the manufacturer; a reputation is really valuable, and in time it pays pecuniarily. We could point to a manufacturer of tin ware who, for twenty years and more, during which he has carried on his business, never allowed any article to go out from his concern which was not, in all respects, first class. He gets good prices, and has a steady custom, which has secured him wealth wealth honestly earned. Is it not to be supposed that he values his good name as much as his dollars ? Is it not as much a source ot satisfaction as his accumulations of wealth? When honor shall guide rather than sordid avarice, when a " good name shall be chosen rather than great riches," we may hope a return of those " good old times " when honest workmanship was the workman's best recommendation.
This article was originally published with the title "Deterioration in the Material and Workmanship of Manufactured Articles" in Scientific American 20, 14, 217 (April 1869)