The anxiety to become suddenly rich, which now so widely prevails in this country, has promoted a marked demoralization in business circles—quite different from what it was a few years since when our merchants and bankers were expected to keep themselves above even a suspicion of wrong doing. We do not intend to say that all honor has fled the business community. On the contrary. New York, and other cities, can boast a large class of strictly honorable business men, but we do mean to say that certain transactions in and out of Wall street, if perpetrated fifteen years ago would have brought the authors to merited punishment and disgrace, but are now set down as merely shrewd operations, and thir authors walk abroad among a host of admirers and would-be imitators. The sad result of these iniquitous practices appear in tha columns of our daily journals with startling frequency, in the shape of safe and bank robberies, defalcations, and other somewhat more genteel villainies. The men concerned in these things are simply noted down as " sharpers," and flourish mightily on their ill-gotten gains. It would not be a difiicult task to designate the parties who have been the chief instruments of this wide-spread demoralization, but when protected Jas they are by venal judges, it is useless for the press to expose them as they deserve. Money in Wall street is loaned out at large usurious rates. Indeed, all respect for this wholesome law has long since disappeared from our money centers, and the " sharpers " fleece all they can. Our Grand Jury has just now put on a show of virtue, and proposes to indict certain well-known money brokers, but we fear that the whole thing will be but a " flash in the pan." Gas as a Calorific Agent. While the use of coal gas for illuminating purposes has extended rapidly, in this country at least, its adoption as a calorific agent has been so slow as to disappoint the hopes of its early advocates. The advantages claimed for gas in this respect are cleanliness and freedom from trouble, it being unnecessary to carry coal or other fuel to feed the fire, or to remove the ashes, etc. The rapidity with which heat may be generated and the ability to instantaneously extinguish the fire are great recommendations—particularly in summer when it is desirable to perform the duties of the cuisine with as liitle elevation of temperature as possible. The Gas-TJght Journal says that, in England, and particularly in London, gas is largely used for cooking, and it is said to perform its oflflce most acceptably. For families living in apartments, where the trouble and expense of carrying coal or other fuel would be great, gas has proved a great desideratum. By means of approved burners, and admixture with the proper portion of atmosphere air at the time of consumption, a large amount of heat is generated, and where sufficient ventilation may be had, the products of combustion are readily convoyed away, cauHing no inconvenience or injurious results, PoWeBRitig these. dvantage, It jnay appear stmBge that It m ot move, geaartilly edopted j oubxUm It woUW he, fn ihn hieh wHw ht ghn 1B min*.ff i tho ir?ly methods for generating heat have the preference because of their economy. The probability is that if the price of gas were reduced, so as to make it practicable to employ it for heating, the demand for it would increase in a large ratio, and the concession might be more than atoned for in the enlarged sales which would undoubtedly follow. That the calorific properties of gas are equal to other agents used for heating, is proved by the fact that in analytical chemical laboratories, charcoal and other fires have been, to a considerable extent, replaced by gas, and the operations of boiling, evaporation, fusion, ultimate organic analysis, and even cupellation, are now performed by easily regulated gas furnaces, their use conducing far more to the personal comfort of the operator, than the troublesome and cumbersome stoves formerly employed. The inventions of gas furnaces, such as are constructed by Griffin and others in England, and Krause and Haskins in this country, have displayed much ingenuity, and, by their use, the laboratory of the chemist presents a much cleaner appearance than formerly— no dangerous sparks or cinders being formed, nor ashes being blown about the room, to the detriment of other substances in the vicinity. From the success attending the use of gas stoves in the laboratory, it is safe to assert that many of the operations of the household could be performed in the same manner. The introduction of the improved process of manufacturing gas by the Gwynne-Harris plan of decomposing high steam to produce hydrogen as a heating agent, and for a motive power, in lieu of steam power is commencing a new epoch in the hSstory of pqlitical and domestic economy. The same process applied to the ordinary coal gas manufacture lessens the first cost of production so greatly that it will soon be a matter of consideration with gas companies whether the selling price may not be lessened, with a view to its introduction into these new industries; thus opening a much more extensive demand, which, in the aggregate, will largely increase the dividends of gas companies, and add a new element to the progress of the age. Steel Ralls—TlieW DuraljlUty. The annual report of the State Engineer of New York, prepared by S. H. Sweet, Deputy Engineer, contains the following regarding steel rails : " Bessemer steel rails have been in regular and extensive use abroad over ten years. For some five years large trial lots have been laid on various American roads having heavy traffic, and during the last two years importations have largely increased. The manufacture of steel rails hac also been commenced at four large establishments in this country, and some 7,000 tuns of home manufacture have been produced and laid down. It is estimated that from 40,-000 to 50,000 tuns of steel rails are in use on our various railways. Among the users of steel rails arc the Hudson River, Erie, and Pennsylvania Railway—10,000 tuns or more each; the Lehigh and Susquehannah (ontir.oly built of steel); also the Philadelphia and Baltimore; Camden and Amboy line; Lehigh Valley; New York Central; New York and New Haven; Naugatuck; Morris and Essex; Cumberland Valley; South Carolina; Chicago and Northwestern; Chicago and Rock Island; Chicago and Alton; Michigan Central; Lake Shore line; Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy; Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago; also the Boston and Providence, Boston and Worcester, Boston and Maine, Boston and Albany, Eastern, Connecticut River, and other lines in New England. " THE WEAR OP STBEL RAILS.—As no steel rails are reported to have worn out on our roads, the comparative durability of steel and iron cannot be absolutely determined. The president of the Philadelphia and Baltimore Railway states (in the letter before quoted) that the use of steel commenced in 1864, that the rails (35 miles in all) were laid on the most trying parts of the line; that none have been taken up on account of breakage, wear, or defect; that upon the portion of the line near Philadelphia, the first steel rail imported had already worn out sixteen iron rails; and that none of the steel rails have shown any imperfection, but are all wearing smoothly and truly. " On the Pennsylvania Railway, the Report of the Chief Engineer for 1868 states that 11,494 tuns of steel rails had been purchased, and 9,956 tuns laid. The first were laid in 1864. They are all wearing smoothly, showing no change except the slight dimunition of section to be reasonably expected from the heavy traffic. No steel rails have yet worn out. The report of the superintendent (Feb. 1869,) says; ' The use of steel rails continues with satisfactory results, and 4,544 tuns of this material have been laid since date of last report.' It is officially reported that on the Camden and Amboy line, some of the steel rails laid three years ago are now good in places where iron lasted but a few months. "The last report of the Engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railway says : ' Another year's wear has made no perceptible impression upon the 300 tuns (of steel rails), the first of which was laid in May, 1864, none of which has broken or given out since last report. These rails have had a severe test, being, in those places in the track where they are subject to the greatest wear, laid with a chair, which is much inferior to the most approved joint now in use. There is no longer any possible doubt as to the superiority of steel over iron in economy, as in every other respect. ' " Unofficial reports from the Erie, Hudson River, and other roads, show that the above statements represent tlie average quality of steel rails. The last report of the New York and New Haven Railway states that 'the subject of steel rails has received special attention, and after a careful investigation of all the points involved, it has been determined hereafter to make all renewals "l track with steel rails only i 0,900 tuns of Hegsemcr steej Xi4lt have been contracted inx on ao-count of teijewttls for tt fumut yuar,' The repo.S of tbs Mnrri ,4 Ews, liftfi* j' tn* 1W f%ft i ' Piivini tlo la* year one track through the tunnel has been ralaid with steel' —also some 150 tuns of steel laid elsewhere. ' The wear of steel shows conclusively that economy will require its use on all heavy grades and sharp curves.' The last report of the New Jersey Railway and Transportation Company says : ' It is probable that steel rails will be gradually laid the entire length of the road, the greater durability of theso rails, overcoming the objection to their increased cost.' "—Railway Times.
This article was originally published with the title "Modern Practices in Finance" in Scientific American 21, 4, 59 (July 1869)