Charles Henry Ham.

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where they pour the contents of their ladles into the

Still holding his empty ladle in his hand, the instruct-
or watches the progress of the lesson with keen interest
until the last stream of metal has found its way into
the throat of the last mould. He recalls the story of
Vulcan, the God of Fire, and of all the arts and indus-
tries dependent upon it, and wonders why he was not
depicted pouring tons of molten metal in the foundery
rather than sledge in hand at the forge. Then he regards
the class with a benignant expression of pride, begs for
silence, and says, " Thus were the hundred brazen gates
of ancient Babylon cast long before the beginning of
the Christian era." Herodotus did not think to tell us
much of the state of the useful arts in the early time of
which he wrote, but the brazen gates attracted his atten-
tion, and he described them : " At the end of each street
a little gate is found in the wall along the river-side, in
number equal to the streets, and they are all made of
brass, and lead down to the edge of the river." Could
Herodotus have foreseen what a deep interest his readers
of this remote time would take in the history of the use-
ful arts, he would have written less about the walls, pal-
aces, and temples of Babylon, and more about the artif-
icers. He would have begged admission to the forges
and founderies of the city; he would have visited the
Assyrian founder at his work, questioned him about his
processes, and set down his answers with painstaking
care. Then he would have sought an introduction to
the smithy, and from the grimy forger learned what he
could tell of his art and of kindred arts. So the father
of history might have made an enduring record of the
real things which throughout all time have contributed


to the advancement of the human race, rather than of
events growing out of the ambitions and passions of men
the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, the varying
fortune of battle, the treacheries, crimes, and brutalities
of rulers, and the cringing submission of millions of sub-
jects. But, alas, the founders and smiths, and all the
other cunning artificers of the vast empire of Syria, were
slaves ! and through their ancestry for unnumbered gen-
erations the stigma of slavery had attached to labor.
Ay, on the bare backs of the founders of Babylon's bra-
zen gates the popular scorn of labor had doubtless left its
livid brand.

With these pariahs of Assyrian society, these outcasts
of the social circle, the great Greek historian could not
even speak. Descended from a long line of noble Hali-
carnassian families, Herodotus felt all the prejudices of
the hereditary aristocracy of his country. Hence he di-
lates upon the wonders of Babylon, but is silent as to its
architects and artisans. He describes with great minute-
ness of detail the tower of Jupiter Belus, but gives no
hint of the name of its designer and builder. He de-
clares that Babylon was adorned in a manner surpass-
ing any city of the time, but in regard to the artificers
through whose ingenuity and skill such pleasing effects
were produced he gives no sign.

The silence of Herodotus on the subject of the use-
ful arts in Babylon does not indicate a want of appreci-
ation of their value, but merely shows contempt of the
Assyrian artisan, and this not because he was an artisan,
but because he was a slave. The story of Solon and
Cro3sus, which antedates Herodotus, whether true or a
myth, shows that iron and artisanship were appreciated
by both Greeks and barbarians. When Croesus had


exhibited to the Greek sage his vast hoard of treasures,
Solon said, " If another comes that hath better iron than
you he will be master of all this gold." Here is a recog-
nition of the immense value of the arts of smelting and
forging, coupled with a contemptuous silence regarding
as well the smelter and the smith as the rank and file
of the armies who should wield the swords and spears
drawn by science from the recesses of the earth, and by
art wrought and tempered at the forge. Through all
the early ages the brand and scorn of slavery adhered to
labor, while the arts, the products of labor, were often
deified. Thus the Scythian, who from a grinning skull
drank the warm blood of his captive, regarded with super-
stitious awe as a god the iron sword with which he cut
off his captive's head.

It was only with the revival of learning, after the in-
tellectual and moral gloom of the Dark Ages, that labor
began slowly to lift its bowed head and assert itself.
But it does not yet stand erect. It still stoops as if in
the presence of a master. Every now and then it winces
and cringes as if the sound of the descending lash smote
its ear. It remains for you, students in this school of
the arts all the arts that make mankind good and great
it remains for you to brush away from the tear-stained
face of labor all the shadows accumulated there through
all the dead ages of oppression and slavery. It remains
for you to make labor bold by making it intelligent. It
remains for you to dignify and ennoble labor by bestow-
ing upon it the ripest scientific and artistic culture, and
devoting to its service the best energies of body and



Twenty-four manly-looking Boys with Sledge-hammer in Hand
their Muscle and Brawn. The Pride of Conscious Strength.
The Story of the Origin of an Empire. The Greater Empire of
Mechanics. The Smelter and the Smith the Bulwark of the Brit-
ish Government. Coal its Modern Aspects; its Early History;
Superstition regarding its Use. Dud. Dudley utilizes "Pit-coal"
for Smelting the Story of his Struggles ; his Imprisonment and
Death. The English People import their Pots and Kettles. "The
Blast is on and the Forge Fire sings." The Lesson, first on the
Black-board, then in Red-hot Iron on the Anvil. Striking out the
Anvil Chorus the Sparks fly whizzing through the Air. The
Mythological History of Iron. The Smith in Feudal Times His
Versatility. History of Damascus Steel. We should reverence
the early Inventors. The Useful Arts finer than the Fine Arts.
The Ancient Smelter and Smith, and the Students in the Manual
Training School.

THIS is the Forging Laboratory. It is only a few steps
from the laboratory for founding, where we lately saw
twenty-four students taking off their leather aprons after
a two hours' lesson in moulding and casting. Here we
find, also, twenty-four students, but not the twenty-four
we saw in the laboratory for founding. This class is
more advanced. The boys are a trifle taller; they show
more muscle, more strength, and bear themselves with a
Btill more confident air.

In the Forging Laboratory there are twenty-four forges
with all essential accessaries, as anvils, tubs, and sets of
ordinary hand-tools.


The students, with coats off and sleeves rolled above
their elbows, in pairs, as smith and helper, stand, sledge
and tongs in hand, at twelve of the forges. They are
manly-looking boys. Their feet are firmly planted, their
bodies erect, their heads thrown a little back. Their
arms show brawn ; the muscles stand out in relief from
the solid flesh. Their faces express the pride of con-
scious strength, and their eyes show animation.

As we regard the class with a sympathetic thrill of
satisfaction, the story of the origin of the Turkish Em-
pire is recalled : " A race of slaves, living in the mount-
ain regions of Asia, are employed by a powerful Khan
to forge weapons for his use in war. A bold chief per-
suades them to use the weapons forged for a master to
secure their own deliverance. For centuries after they
had thus conquered their freedom, the Turkish people
celebrated their liberation by an annual ceremony in
which a piece of iron was heated in the fire, and a smith's
hammer successively handled by the prince and his no-

The greatest empire in the world to-day is the em-
pire of the art of mechanism, and its most potent instru-
ment is iron. Once the perpetuity of governments de-
pended upon the mere possession of the dingy ore.
When Elizabeth came to the throne, in the middle of
the sixteenth century, England was almost defenceless,
owing to the short supply of iron. Spain, much better
equipped, hence relied confidently upon her ability to
subdue the English. But the Virgin Queen, compre-
hending the nature of the crisis, imported iron from
Sweden and encouraged the Sussex forges, and the Span-
ish Armada was defeated. Thus the smelter and the
smith became the bulwark of the British government.


But at an earlier period the fraternity of smiths gave
direction to the course of empire. The secret of the
easy conquest of Britain by the Normans was their supe-
rior armor. They were clad in steel, and their horses
were shod with iron. The chief farrier of William be-
came an earl ; and he was proud of his origin, for his coat
of arms bore six horseshoes.

Iron and civilization are terms of equivalent import.
Iron is king, and the smelter and smith are his chief
ministers. It is not known when, by whom, or how the
art of smelting iron was discovered. As well ask by
whom and how fire was discovered? These are secrets
of the early morning of human life of that time when
man made no record of his struggles.

In lieu of history the instructor resorts to tradition,
repeating the following legend : " While men were pa-
tiently rubbing sticks to point them into arrows, a spark
leapt forth and ignited the wood-dust which had been
scraped from the sticks, and so fire was found."

Now the " helper " looks to his " blast " with keen in-
terest ; for the management of the forge-fire is one of
the niceties of the smith's art. He stirs the fire a little
impatiently. The instructor heeds the act, but not the
movement of impatience. On the contrary he seizes the
occasion to bring up the subject of coal. Question fol-
lows question in rapid succession, and the answers are
prompt and satisfactory, touching all modern aspects of
the subject, namely, the magnitude of the annual " out-
put," the localities of heaviest production, the cost of
mining ; the uses, respectively, to which different qual-
ities are applied, demand and supply, and market value
or price. Here the instructor remarks that the mining,
transportation, and sale of coal are conducted in this coun-


try by a number of large corporations, with an aggregate
capitalization and bonded indebtedness of six or seven
hundred million dollars, and that through combinations
between these corporations the price is often arbitra-
rily advanced. " But," he concludes, " the discussion of
that branch of the subject belongs more properly to the
class in political economy."

The history of coal in its relation to iron smelting and
manufacture forms a curious chapter in the vicissitudes
of the useful arts. One hundred and fifty years ago
not only all the smith's fires but the smelter's fires were
kept up with charcoal. The forests of England were
literally swept away, like chaff before the wind, to feed
the yawning mouths of the iron mills. To make a ton
of iron required the consumption of hundreds of cords
of wood. To save the timber restrictive legislation was
adopted, and the mills were gradually closed for want of
fuel, until, in 1788, there was not one left in Sussex, and
only a small number in the kingdom. Meantime the Eng-
lish iron supply came from Sweden, Spain, and Germany.
England seemed to be following in the footsteps of the
Roman Empire. The Romans accomplished in iron
smelting and forging just what might be expected of
a warlike people. They required iron for arms and
armor, and in smelting skimmed the surface. This is
proven by the cinder heaps, rich in ore, which they left
in Britain. Archaeologists trace the decline of Rome in
her monuments, which show a steady deterioration in the
soldier's equipment. Alison attributes this decline to
the exhaustion of her gold and silver mines. A far more
plausible conjecture is found in the waste of timber in
fuel for smelting purposes, and the resulting failure of
the iren supply.


The fall of the Koman Empire may be accounted for
by her neglect of the useful arts. The nation that
converts all her iron into swords and spears shall surely
perish. Had the city of Seven Hills possessed seven
men of mechanical genius like Watt, Stephenson, Mauds-
lay, Clement, Whitney, Neilson, and Nasmyth, her fall
might have been averted, or if not averted, it need not
have involved the practical extinction of civilization, thus
imposing upon mankind the shame of the Dark Ages.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century there was
much ignorant prejudice against the use of mineral coal.
It was believed to be injurious to health. All sorts of dis-
eases were attributed to its supposed malignant influence,
and at one time to burn it in dwellings was made a penal
offence. But this prejudice did not extend to its use in
smelting iron, and whatever there was of inventive gen-
ius was devoted to a solution of the problem of its adapt-
ation to such purposes. Mr. Samuel Smiles has collected
the names of the most prominent of these Dutch and
German mechanics, namely, Sturtevant, Rovenzon, Jor-
dens, Francke, and Sir Philibert Yernatt, and given each
a niche in the temple of fame. Some of them had a true
conception of the required processes, but they all failed
to render the application practically available.

It remained for Dud. Dudley to succeed in making a
thoroughly practical application of mineral coal to iron-
smelting purposes, and then curiously enough to fail of
success in introducing it into general use. Dudley was
born in 1599, in an iron-manufacturing district. His fa-
ther owned iron-works near the town of Dudley, which
was a collection of forges and workshops where " nails,
horseshoes, keys, locks, and common agricultural tools "
were made. Brought up in the neighborhood of " twen-


ty thousand smiths and workers in iron," young Dudley
"attained considerable knowledge of the various proc-
esses of manufacture." At twenty years of age he was
taken from college and placed in charge of a furnace and
two forges in Worcestershire, where there was a scarcity
of wood but an abundance of mineral coal. He began
immediately to experiment, with a view to the substitu-
tion of the latter for the former, and in a year succeed-
ed in demonstrating " the practicability of smelting iron
with fuel made from pit-coal, which so many before him
had tried in vain." But the charcoal iron-masters com-
bined to resist the new method because it cheapened the
product. They instigated mobs to destroy Dudley's fur-
naces one after another, as soon as they were complet-
ed, harassed him with lawsuits, and finally beggared and
drove him to prison. Then they tried to wring his se-
cret from him. To this attempt Cromwell, who was in-
terested in furnaces in the Forest of Dean, is said to have
been a party. But all these efforts failed, and Dudley
died in 1684 carrying his secret with him to the grave,
and there the secret slumbered nearly one hundred years.

The story of Dud. Dudley, as told by Mr. Smiles in his
"Iron-workers and Tool-makers," is one of surpassing
interest. It is worthy the careful perusal not only of
every school-boy but of the philosophic student in search
of the lessons of history, for it affords fresh evidence of
the truth of the proposition that the progress of civiliza-
tion depends upon progress in invention and discovery.

Under the influence of ignorance, prejudice, and super-
stition the iron industry of England continued to decline
until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the
British people imported their pots and kettles. Fifty
years later, at the Coalbrookdale iron- works in Shropshire,


when the furnaces had consumed all the wood in the
neighborhood and a fuel famine was imminent, smelting
wit ji mineral coal was successfully resumed, and in 1766
two workmen of the " works " the brothers Cranege in-
vented the reverberatory furnace, which added immense-
ly to the application of coal to smelting purposes.

But while we are discussing the history of coal we are
consuming coal to little purpose, for the blast is on and
the furnace fires glow like miniature volcanic craters.
Let us to work. Before the black-board, chalk in hand,
the instructor stands and gives out the lesson. He pre-
sents it in the form of drawings, complete and in detail.
It may involve only the single process of " drawing," or
it may involve several processes, as " drawing," " bend-
ing," and " welding." The first sketch, for example, rep-
resents a flat bar of iron, the counterpart of the bars rest-
ing against the several forges. The second sketch shows
the bar wrought into the form of a cylinder. The third
sketch shows it " drawn " or lengthened, and hence re-
duced in size. The fourth sketch presents two rods the
united lengths of which equal the length of the original
rod. The fifth sketch represents the two rods "bent"
into the form of chain-links, and a sub-sketch shows the
proper shape of the ends of the links for "welding."
The sixth sketch shows the two links joined and welded.

The black-board illustrations may be omitted if the
school is provided with a complete set of samples. The
school of mechanic arts of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology has a hundred samples representing the suc-
cessive steps in blacksmithing manipulation, including
welding, and the welding samples consist of two parts,
the first representing the details of the piece prepared
for welding, and the second the welded piece. These


samples are part of a collection of three hundred and
twenty pieces of exquisite workmanship, covering every
department of a complete manual training course, pre-
sented to the Institute in 1877 by the Emperor of Russia.

The black-board illustrations or the samples having
been exhibited and explained as clearly as is possible in
words, the instructor takes his place at one of the forges,
and, surrounded by the class, goes through with the suc-
cessive steps of any manipulation contained in the lesson
which has not been actually wrought out in some pre-
vious lesson.

If the manipulation is a simple one the silence is only
broken by the sound of the blast aiul the stroke of the
hammer the students understand every turn of the iron
and every blow struck by the instructor but if the
manipulation is complicated, involving a fresh principle,
the instructor is saluted by a volley of questions, and he
often pauses to answer them. It is the time for ques-
tions ; the more questions now, the fewer questions when
all the blasts shall be on, and all the sledges flying through
the air and making music on the anvils. A quest-ion now
may lead to the enlightenment of twenty-four students ; a
question later is sure to cost the time of twenty-four stu-
dents, and the answer to it may enlighten only one student.

At last the instructor drops the sledge, straightens up
to his full height, and wipes the sweat from his brow.
If the students respect the instructor they will respect
labor, and they will respect the instructor if he is worthy
of respect.

Now the school-room is a smithy and yet it is not. It
is neither very hot nor very smoky, for there is an ex-
haust fan in operation which vitalizes the circulation.
But the atmosphere resounds with the clangorous strokes


of a dozen sledges, mingled with the sullen roar of as
many forge -fires; and there are traces of soot on the
walls, and pale smoke-wreaths creep along the ceilings,
and hide in corners, and circle about columns in fantastic
shapes. It is a smithy, but a smithy adapted, by its ex-
traordinary neatness, to the manufacture of watch-springs,
palate-arbors, and Damascus blades.

The faces of the students are aglow with the flush of
health-giving exercise ; their brows are " wet with honest
sweat," their heart -beats are full and strong, and the
crimson life-currents surge hotly through every vein to
their very finger-tips. They strike out the anvil chorus
in all the keys and in every measure of the scale, and
the burning sparks fly whizzing through the air.

At a sign from the instructor there is a pause. The
students stand at ease and the work is inspected. This
is the time for more questions if any student is in doubt ;
and the rest of five minutes affords opportunity for a
brief lecture on the subject of the early history of the
fraternity of smiths.

Mythology gives the highest place in its pantheon to
Vulcan, the God of Fire. For notwithstanding he is rep-
resented as bearded, covered with dust and soot, blowing
the fires of his forges and surrounded by his chief minis-
ters, the cyclops, he is given Venus to wife and made the
father of Cupid. Among the Scythians the iron sword
was a god. When Jerusalem was taken by the Baby-
lonians they made captives of all the smiths and other
craftsmen of the city a more grievous act than the
thousand million dollar tribute levied upon France by
Germany at the close of the war of 1870. For to be de-
prived of the use of iron is to be relegated to a state of


The vulgar accounted for the keenness of the first
sword-blades on the score of magic, and the praises of
the smiths who forged were sung with the chiefs of chiv-
alry who wielded them. So highly was this mysterious
power regarded by Tancred, the crusader, that in return
for the present of King Arthur's sword, Excalibar, by
Richard I., he paid for it with " four great ships and fif-
teen galleys."

The smith was a mighty man in England in the early
time. " In the royal court of Wales he sat in the great
hall with the king and queen, and was entitled to a
draught of every kind of liquor served." His person
was sacred ; his calling placed him above the law. He
was necessary to the feudal state ; he forged swords
" on the temper of which life, honor, and victory in bat-
tle depended." The smith, after the Norman invasion,
gained in importance in England. He was the chief
man of the village, its oracle, and the most cunning work-
man of the time. His name descended to more families
than that of any other profession for the origin of the
name Smith is the hot, dusty, smoky smithy, and how-
ever it may be disguised in the spelling, it is entitled to
the proud distinction which its representatives sometimes
seek to conceal.

Mr. Smiles draws the following graphic picture of the
versatility of the smith of the Middle Ages :

" The smith's tools were of many sorts, but the chief
were his hammer, pincers, chisel, tongs, and anvil. It is
astonishing what a variety of articles he turned out of
his smithy by the help of these rude implements. In
the tooling, chasing, and consummate knowledge of the
capabilities of iron he greatly surpassed the modern
workman. The numerous exquisite specimens of his


handicraft which exist in our old gate-ways, church doors,
altar railings, and ornamented dogs and andirons, still
serve as types for continual reproduction. He was, in-
deed, the most ' cunning workman ' of his time. But be-
sides all this he was an engineer. If a road had to be
made, or a stream embanked, or a trench dug, he was in-
variably called upon to provide the tools, and often to
direct the work. He was also the military engineer of
his day, and as late as the reign of Edward III. we find
the king repeatedly sending for smiths from the Forest
of Dean to act as engineers for the royal army at the
siege of Berwick."

But the most signal triumph of the art, both of the
smelter and the smith, is found in the famous swords of
Damascus, whose edge and temper were so keen and per-
fect that they would sever a gauze veil floating in the
air, or crash through bones and helmets without sustain-
ing injury. These Damascus blades, long renowned in
the East, but first encountered by Europeans during the
crusades, in the hands of the followers of Mahomet, were
made of Indian steel or " wootz." This steel, produced
in the form of little cakes weighing about two pounds
each, in the neighborhood of the city of Golconda, in
Hiudostan, was transported on the backs of camels two
thousand miles to the city of Damascus, and there con-
verted into swords, sabres, and scimitars.

Online LibraryCharles Henry HamManual training : the solution of social and industrial problems → online text (page 5 of 30)