The utility of well organized and well managed associations for the advancement of science and the arts is unquestionable. There are many such societies, both in this coun- try and in Europe, which are doing incalculable good. They are models of their kind. We believe, however, that there is room for the organization of many more associations, connected more particularly with the mechanic arts, whose influence would be almost as great and beneficial as those of a higher scientific character. Our idea of such associations is to disconnect them entirely from all consideration of the regulation t)f wages, hours of labor, and other questions properly confined to the trades unions;their purpose and scope being solely to elevate the standard of skill and knowledge among mechanics everywhere, and to unite them by the strong tie of just and honorable emulation. To this end, although such societies might be to a large extent local, they should be connected so as to form one large body,comprising the mechanical genius and skill of the entire country, and recording the valuable results of general observation and experience. We scarcely ever converse with a practicaj mechanic without ascertaining some fact of general interest occurring in his experience. So far as such facts are available our readers get the benefit of them, but there are large numbers of mechanics throughout the country, who are in a position to make equally useful observations, but whose knowledge, for want of proper organization, is confined to only a few of their immediate neighbors and acquaintances, while they would greatly benefit *he mass of mechanics by being promptly and universally diffused. The columns devoted to correspondence in our paper, are intended to supply this need in some measure among our readers, who may be said to be members of the Scientific American Association for the Advancement of Arts and Science, but we are certain that much that is valuable fails to reach the public through our columns,-from considerations of modesty, and the want of a general interest which such associations as we allude to would excite. Many a hard-handed and hard-headed mechanic could and would impart information of general value, if he could wield the pen as deftly as he wields the implements of his trade. The diffidence he feels in appearing before the public as a writer, would not be felt in addressing an association of his fellow craftsmen, who would certainly be competent to judge whether his ideas were worthy of permanent record in their transactions. Printed copies of such transactions sent to one general central association, of which the smaller local societies should be the members, and in which they should be represented as delegates, would form the basis of a general record, the value of which could not be estimated. Such a general annual report would be of as much practical utility to operative mechanics, as the transactions of learned associations are now to theoretical mechanics. There seems no serious obstacle to the formation and successful operation of such associations, and their elevating effect upon their members would be immediate and salutary. We have, in previous articles, discussed the subject f ways and means by which such organizations can supply themselves with books, lectures, and other means of individual improvement, and nothing would give us greater pleasure than to see those suggestions carried into general effect. The time is coming in the history of the world when men are to be estimated by what they can do. In that time the mechanic will find that his social position will depend not only upon his manual skill but his mental acquirements ; but these will not be restricted by conventional limits. He may do or know what his natural genius best fits him for. Excellence will be the standard by which men will be estimated. Everything points to a new and better order of things in the future. It rests with mechanics themselves, whether, so far as they are concerned, the advent of the new era shall be hastened or retarded.
This article was originally published with the title "Scientific and Mechanical Associations" in Scientific American 20, 18, 281 (May 1869)