A correspondent, writing from Springfield, Mass., speaks in very harsh terms of a class of men who offer their services as those of competent machinists, yet have never served an apprenticeship and do not understand, either theoretically or practically, the business. He calls them " dead beats," a term perhaps more expressive than elegant. He says: "The proprietors of shops are imposed upon by their assumption and pretension, the trade injured by their incompetency, and the capable workman disgraced by their ignorance. Their ' cheeki-ness ' is equaled only by their perseverance, for if discharged in one shop for spoiling a job (their usual way of finishing work) they go to another, making plausible representations as to ability, etc; They are generally graduates of some gun-shop, where they run a drilling or milling machine, and, at the close of the war when this occupation was gone, went forth full-fledged machinists. Hardly a foreman of a machine shop in the country but has been imposed upon by these trade impostors; the consequence is that bosses have no confidence in the statements of strangers applying for work, and honest and capable men suffer because of ignorant pretenders. Now, Messrs. Editors, something ought to be done to remedy this state of affairs. Can you help V The above is the " gist" of the communication the language of which we have somewhat changed, as the indignation of the writer seems to have governed his style. The statements he makes' are, however, undoubtedly correct; the trade is cursed with a class of hangers-on, who, incapable of doing journeymen's work and too proud to take apprentices' position, force themselves, temporarily, into places they are unfit to fill, by simple audacious pretension. It will be seen our correspondent does not include in his strictures honest workmen, who, not having served an apprenticeship, make no pretension to qualifications they do not possess, but only those who impose by.misrepresentation. The evil is not a small one, and the complaints of our correspondent have more foundation than a low j ealousy; but it seems to us that the remedy is easily found. First, these pseudo-machinists must inevitably find their level in the shop. It is so everywhere; pretension will not always keep the leaky hulk afloat on the sea of life under the influence of the gale of experience. In our late war, many an officer who went out to the field with the insignia of rank returned discomfited, while many an enlisted man rose by rapid gradations to the proper level. The skilled and competent machinist cannot hide his light; he will be appreciated. The pretender will invariably subside to his proper position of obscurity. Second, the impositions practiced upon foremen and employers can be prevented by themselves. Let them adopt a rule not to engage an applicant unless he can bring recommendations or certificates of competency from his former master or employer; or, in case thisisimpossible, as when the applicant cannot, on account of distance from his former place of employment, produce, at once, his evidences of capability, let him be taken on trial, after an examination by interrogations, and let his work be his recommendation. One week will be amply sufficient in any case to determine the proper status of the new comer. Then, if he proves to be a workman whose services are valuable he may be employed, and if he proves to be a pretender, incapable of carrying his professions into practice, his services will not be required.
This article was originally published with the title "Pretended Mechanics" in Scientific American 20, 13, 201 (March 1869)