George A Shove.

Life under glass. Containing suggestions toward the formation of artificial climates online

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" If all were free,

Who would not, like the swallow, flit, and find
What season suited him? in summer heats
Wing northward, and in winter build his home
In sheltered valleys nearer to the sun."




Entered according to Act of Congress, In the year 1874, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.







fjts ILtttle Uolume is ftespcctfullg QctitcatelJ,






ONE of the foremost of English medical writers,
Dr. James Johnson, emphatically says, " I declare
my conscientious opinion, founded on long observa-
tion and reflection, that if there was not a single
physician, surgeon, apothecary, chemist, druggist, or
drug, on the face of the earth, there would be less
sickness and less mortality than now obtains." And
Prof. Magendie is reported to have addressed his stu-
dents at the Medical College in Paris to the following
effect : " Gentlemen, medicine is a great humbug.
I know it is called a science. Science indeed ! it is
nothing like science. Doctors are mere empirics
when they are not charlatans. We are as ignorant as
men can be. Who knows any thing in the world
about medicine ? Gentlemen, you have done me the
honor to attend my lectures; and I must tell you
frankly, that I know nothing about medicine. True,
we are gathering facts every day. We can produce
typhus-fever, for example, by injecting a certain sub-
stance into the veins of a dog ; we can alleviate dia-
betes ; and I see distinctly, we are fast approaching the
day when phthisis can be cured as easily as any disease.
But I repeat it to you, there is no such thing now as
medical science. I grant you, people are cured ; but
how ? Nature does a great deal ; imagination does a
great deal ; doctors do devilish little."


To the man or woman who is blessed with
even the smallest of conservatories or green-
houses, and whose home is on the shady
side of the fortieth parallel of latitude, the
motive of the following little work will need
no apology. It is such a supreme satisfac-
tion to have a few hundred cubic feet of
space fenced in with crystal from the raging,
stinging winds of a Northern winter, a shel-
tered nook where one can easily fancy it the
middle of May, while out of doors the frozen
blood of St. Januarius has not yet begun to
liquefy under the touch of the returning
sun, that a mind of ordinary intelligence


which enjoys such a privilege will acknowl-
edge the desirability and the practicability
of fencing off very much larger portions of
space with transparent material, so that
multitudes may be enabled to enjoy the
benefit and the pleasure of a mild and equa-
ble winter temperature.

An article published in " The Atlantic
Monthly" for March, 1873, entitled "Life
Under Glass," attracted considerable atten-
tion throughout the Northern States from
people who are not afraid of ideas merely
because they are new. It was suggested to
the author from influential quarters to ex-
tend the essay, and have it published in a
book form. The author is conscious, that,
even in its enlarged form, the essay is still an
inadequate presentation of a subject so im-
portant (as he believes it to be) to the well-
being of the Northern peoples.




IT is one of the tritest of axioms, that cus-
tom, or repetition, will often reconcile us to
the most afflicting events.

Let a desolating war break out in any
country after a long interval of peace, and
the first insignificant skirmish excites the
public mind to the most intense degree,
although the loss of life may be slight ; but,
let the war continue long enough, and the
most sanguinary battles at length cease to
excite in the contending peoples, except in



individual cases, that thrill of horror which
attended the breaking-out of the carnage.

As with wars and battles, so with diseases.
There are some destructive maladies which
cause an annual mortality far greater than
the loss of life in any battle of modern
times, yet which have become so common, so
closely inwoven into the fibre of the race,
as to seem as much a part of the fixed order
of things as are the taxes, and quite as little
to be avoided.

At the head of the list of such diseases
stands consumption, unrivalled by any other
malady of the North in the number and
character of its victims. This scourge of
the most enlightened of the earth's peoples,
those who boast of their descent from the
energetic and the progressive Aryan race,
loves a shining mark. Its too often fatal
shafts seem to seek out the bright and beau-
tiful of earth's children. It neglects the


very young and the very old, but gathers its
annual harvest of tens of thousands out of
those in the early or later prime of manhood
and womanhood.

Fifteen thousand human beings are annu-
ally killed by tigers in India. The North-
American shudders as he reads a statement
indicative of so deplorable a state of affairs,
and thanks his stars that his lines are cast
in pleasanter places. A little reflection
would show him that there is an enemy
among us more destructive of valuable life
than all the tigers of India, plus its venom-
ous serpents.

Of all the deaths that occur in most
Northern countries, consumption is responsi-
ble for nearly or quite one-fifth. Let us sup-
pose that the woods and swamps of our
land were jungles infested by royal Bengal
tigers, which caused a yearly destruction
of life equal to one-fifth of all the deaths.


How long would such a state of things be
permitted to continue? .The tigers we are
happily free from ; but their place is more
than supplied by an insidious and fatal
disease, which, more discriminating than the
scourge of the Indian jungles, selects its
prey from the very flower of society.

The indifference with which this great loss
of valuable lives is regarded in the commu-
nities in which it occurs is not flattering to
the intelligence of the age. If some fatal
disorder like the pleuropneumonia threatens
the domestic animals, there is directly an
intense excitement. Remedies of various
kinds are experimented with ; the whole
matter is thoroughly discussed in news-
papers, in farmers' clubs, and in public meet-
ings. Legislatures are even convened to
enact repressive laws, and stamp out the
disease before it is too late.

In the case, however, of a merely human


malady like consumption, which sweeps off
men and women in lieu of cows and oxen
having a pecuniary value, society is content
to fold its hands after the fatalistic manner
of the Moslem, while the mortality proceeds
unchecked, as an inscrutable and irremedi-
able dispensation of Providence.

" The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves."

Yet society is roused from its apathy if the
cholera in its infrequent visits, or the yellow
fever, or the small-pox, claims a few victims.
These are unmistakably contagious diseases ;
and selfishness whispers to each individual
that it may be his turn next. Directly there
is a panic : all the means that sanitary
science can suggest are energetically used by
boards of health having unlimited powers
to prevent the spread of the malady. All
of this is very natural and proper. If it


were possible, likewise, to get up a whole-
some panic in regard to consumption, which
is a greater evil than all the other mala-
dies mentioned combined, something might
also be done to check its ravages.

Much has been written as to the causes of
pulmonary consumption, and different theo-
ries prevail as to its nature and origin. Its
proximate causes are undoubtedly manifold,
the chief of which are, hereditary tendency
or a scrofulous taint of the blood, a weaken-
ing of the system, an unwholesome diet, &c.
But, whatever may be the proximate or the
exceptional causes, it is evident that an un-
genial and variable climate must bear the
chief onus of responsibility for its preva-
lence.* A climate liable to sudden and

* Possibly there are some who will not admit that con-
sumption has its origin chiefly in atmospheric causes. If
that is not the case, why is it that there are certain climates
v. here the disease seldom or never originates? Such is the


great falls of temperature at all seasons, or
which is subject to long spells of raw, humid
weather, is shown by statistics to be a con-
genial habitat of pulmonary consumption.
On the other hand, climates more uniform in
character, and having a dry atmosphere, are
comparatively exempt from lung disease.*

case iu Minnesota, which is largely peopled from New
England, the emigrants including many consumptive
families; yet the children grow up without the disease
developing itself, though retaining the same habits, and
modes of life, as before their emigration. As a remedy
for the disease when developed, the climate of Minnesota
has been greatly overestimated. It is stated by good
authority, that not more than five per cent of those in the
earlier stages of this disease are permanently benefited by
removal to Minnesota. The land is high, and the air con-
sequently dry and pure ; but the terrible severity of the
winters is a great drawback.

* To trace the connection between the languages of
different peoples and the climates they lived in would
repay the investigations of even a Max Miiller. It is un-
doubtedly possible to judge very nearly of the climate
of any country from a mere vocabulary of the words in


From the peculiarities of climate of New
England and some other portions of the
Northern States, one would naturally ex-
pect to find consumption a prevalent disease
in these regions ; and such is the fact.

daily use by the inhabitants. Thus the climate of Eng-
land is characterized by a very large proportion of dark,
misty, rainy, and cloudy days. Somebody has compared
it to looking up a chimney when the day is fair, and to
looking down the chimney when it is unpleasant. The
words in the English language descriptive of foul weather
far outnumber those used to describe fair weather. For
example, take the adjectives commencing with the letter
D, which are in common use by the English people when
talking of the weather. A spell of foul weather might be
described as being dark, damp, drizzly, dreary, dismal,
dirty, dull, dripping, doleful, drowsy, dumpish, dubious,
distressing, deused, dreadful, detestable, dangerous ; and,
if the colloquist were addicted to profanity, several more
emphatic adjectives beginning with D might be used. To
describe a fine day, using only words commencing with
the letter named, the choice would be restricted to three or
four dry, delightful, delicious, and perhaps delectable,
though the latter word is not in general use.


Whatever else we may have to be proud of,
our climate is not a subject for unmixed ad-
miration. It is well known to be a climate
of extremes, what the naturalist Buffon
called an excessive climate, extremes not
only of heat and cold, but of wetness and
dry ness. The great range of the thermome-
ter, in some years more than a hundred and
twenty degrees of Fahrenheit's scale, is
rivalled by the fluctuations of the hygrome-
ter. Pluvial floods that would not discredit
the rainy season of the tropics times
when it seems easy to believe in the theory
of Leibnitz, that the universe is in flux
are followed or preceded by drouths worthy
of the red sands of the Colorado desert,
drouths sharp and long enough to cause all
organized life, animate and inanimate, to
thirst for a little of that moisture, which, in
its excess, was so great a discomfort to man
and beast. It was such a drouth that pre-


pared the way for the terrible dies irce of the
burning of Chicago and the Michigan lum-
ber region.

At all seasons the temperature of these
regions is liable to sudden and great alterna-
tions from warmth to cold, and the reverse.
For instance, on the 29th of January, 1873,
the temperature at the writer's residence, in
Southern Massachusetts, fell fifty degrees in
seven hours, or from thirty degrees above
zero to twenty below that point. The next
day the mercury rose seventy degrees in five
hours. Such severe changes are destructive
to vegetable as well as to animal organiza-
tions. In the winter of 1871-72 the com-
bined cold and drouth were so intense as to
destroy hardy evergreens over a large extent
of the country. The following summer was
intensely hot. More than three hundred
fatal cases of thermic fever, or sunstroke,
were reported in New- York City alone.


The mortality in that city, during the ter-
ribly hot week ending with July 6, was
three times as great as the average.*

* A valuable and interesting feature of the ninth-
census reports are the "charts of mortality" in the
second volume. These charts show in distinct colors the
relative mortality from various maladies in different
sections of the country. The first shows the mortality
from consiimption. The highest average of deaths from
this disease, over two thousand in ten thousand, is indi-
cated by dark blue. This color covers the greater part of
the New-England States, and also appears in North-
western New York, in Eastern New Jersey, around the
head waters of the Ohio Tliver, in South-eastern Indiana,
and Northern Kentucky. The next highest average,
fourteen hundred to two thousand deaths in ten thousand,
is shown by a lighter shade of color. This covers a large
part of Michigan, Southern Wisconsin, and parts of Il-
linois, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The
greater portion of the Middle States are covered by it,
excepting Pennsylvania. The only spots in the country
east of the Rocky Mountains with a perfectly white
record, with less than five hundred and fifty deaths in ten
thousand, are the northern parts of Minnesota, Wiscon-
sin, and Michigan, and small areas in Virginia, North
Carolina, Georgia, and Southern Florida.


It would be 'easy to fill a large volume
with evidence showing the excessive and
variable character of our climate ; but the
labor would be superfluous. Every resident
of the regions under consideration is
thoroughly sensible of the fact from un-
pleasant, personal experience. It is not
strange, that, in a climate with such peculi-
arities, phthisis pulmonalis is responsible for
one death in every five. A locality in which
a harsh, changeable winter and spring are
followed by a summer of debilitating heat
is the most unfavorable that could be devised
for those afflicted with phthisis, or who have
a tendency towards it through hereditary
descent. Hence many, who have the means
and can bear the journey, take flight in the
autumn with the birds of passage to more
friendly climes, to Florida, to Georgia, and
the Carolinas, to the Bahamas, and even to
Southern California. It has been denied by


some physicians of eminence among them
the noted Dr. Ramadge of London that a
winter residence at the South is of any
benefit to people having tuberculous diseases
of the lungs. There is evidence, however,
that many cares of the earlier stages of the
malady have occurred owing to removal to a
milder latitude. The number of such cures
would, no doubt, be much larger than it is
if any southern climate could be found
where the conditions were absolutely per-
fect for effecting a cure. Italy, Southern
France, and Spain, were formerly popular
winter resorts for those afflicted with this
disease ; but experience has long since shown
that the shores and islands of the Mediter-
ranean Sea are far from being favorable
localities for the cure or amelioration of this
disease. The average winter temperature is
mild compared with that of more northern
lands ; but sudden changes frequently occur.


Cold, cutting winds, like the mistral of
Southern France and the tramontana of the
west coast of Italy, alternate with the hot
and debilitating sirocco, " Auster's sultry
blast." The spring months are especially
trying to persons with weak lungs, from
the keen, easterly winds which often prevail
at that season. , The best resort for con-
sumptives across the ocean, excepting some
parts of Syria, is undoubtedly the Island of
Madeira. Yet the climate of this favored
island is not perfection. " The spring at
Madeira," says Sir James Clark in his work
on the sanitive influence of climate, " as
at every other place, is the most trying sea-
son for the invalid, and will require, even
there, a corresponding degree of caution on
his part." Notwithstanding this drawback,
he considered a residence in Madeira, during
the cold season, to be decidedly beneficial in
the earlier stages of lung disease.


The winter climates of Florida, of South-
ern California, and of some other places in
the austral regions of our country, with the
summer climate of the Minnesota watershed,
are far superior, in a sanitive point of view,
to the shores and islands of the Mediterra-
nean. Florida especially, though sometimes
subject to rough " northers," has a winter
temperature of great mildness. That of
San Diego, in Southern California, is said to
be nearly or quite equal to it in this respect.

But, whatever may be the advantages of
these and other distant resorts for the sick,
it is obvious that they can be made available
to only a small portion of the large numbers
of persons who need a mild, dry, and equable
atmosphere as a primal condition of cure.
Possibly five per cent of this class are able
to bear the expense and endure the fatigues
of the long journey required. What is to
be done with the remaining ninety-five per


cent ? Must they give over all hope of re-
covery, and hasten the sad finale by yielding
to the depressing influence of a cheerless
gloom? At present there is only one re-
source by which they can avoid, to some ex-
tent, the trying changes of temperature, and
the cold, raw spells of weather incident to
the winters and springs of our northern
clime ; and that is, to keep indoors as much as
possible. The remedy, it is needless to say,
is almost as bad as the evil sought to be
avoided. How can invalids regain health
who have to breathe for days and weeks at
a time the close air of a sitting-room,
poisoned by stove or furnace, and filled with
the irritating dust from carpets and clothing ?
It is only the natural sequence of cause and
effect that the enfeebled vitality of multi-
tudes succumbs under such unfavorable con-
ditions. Is there no remedy for this state
of things? Cannot an artificial climate be


provided for these stricken ones, which shall
furnish a breathing medium, dry, pure, agree-
able in temperature, and of a nearly uniform
degree of warmth? in brief, a climate far
surpassing, in its sanitive influence, any
natural climate on the globe? The writer
believes that this is entirely possible ; and
he is not without the hope of imparting
to others some portion of his own well-
grounded faith.

The question has often been mooted,
whether man has the power to influence or
change, in any degree, the general climate of
the regions he occupies. Those conversant
with the facts bearing upon the question can
have but one opinion to give in the premises ;
which is, that, within certain narrow limits,
the climate of any country can be modified
by human agency. The temperature of large
districts in England has been raised appre-
ciably by the artificial drainage of the soil,


which was primarily cold through excessive
wetness. After drainage, the dry, cultivated
soil, being more easily warmed by the sun,
absorbs heat to a great depth, and imparts it
again to the air above by radiation.

In the neighborhood of Salt Lake, in Utah,
cultivation of the soil and tree-planting hav^
noticeably improved the climate. Where
there were formerly frosts in every month of
the year, frost is now unknown during the
growing season. The climate has also lost
much of its former aridity. Rains are said
to be much more frequent ; and the level of
Salt Lake is constantly rising, threatening
ultimate overflow of its banks. Possibly, in
time, it will become a fresh-water lake. The
wonderful patience and industry of the illit-
erate Mormons have changed the region they
occupy from a cold, arid desert into a ver-
dant garden, where all the fruits and cereals
of the temperate zone grow in perfection.


Similar changes, though perhaps less marked,
have attended the cultivation of the soil
in other seemingly unpromising localities.
Even under the proverbially rainless sky
of Egypt, it is said, some indications of a
moister state of affairs have followed the
extensive planting of forest-trees under the
orders of the Khedive.

Such instances as these show that meteor-
ological phenomena can be sensibly modified
by man's agency. But they do not prove
that it will ever be possible to effect any
radical change in the earth-climates. No
amount of drainage or tree-planting would
ever give to New England the atmospheric
temperature of the Gulf States. Such a rad-
ical bouleversement as that, if it ever takes
place, will be due solely to the operation of
those occult forces, whether cosmical or
telluric in their nature is yet an open ques-
tion, but, in either case, inconceivably slow,


as the mills of the gods, which, during the
existence of our weather-worn planet, have
more than once revolutionized its climates,
and which may even now be inaugurating
the cycle that shall, perhaps, hundreds of
centuries hence, restore to these northern
lands the tropic temperature and vegetation
the} r possessed in the carboniferous age.
Such a contingency as that, if it were a near
one, would not be entirely agreeable to con-
template ; but it is altogether too remote to
excite any deep interest in the world of to-
day. What the present generation of men
is, or ought to be, interested in, is to use the
means it undoubtedly possesses to counteract
the ill effe'cts of our present climate upon the
systems of those who are unable to bear its
severities of temperature.

It is obvious that no efforts of man will
ever enable him to control, in any degree,
the vast atmospheric waves which sweep


over land and sea with alternate floods of
warmth and cold, now soothing us into
Elysian dreams with the soft accent, the
spirits leniS) of the sweet south ; now scour-
ging and pinching us with the spiritus asper
of the icy north. Yet these great and often
sudden changes of temperature can be ren-
dered innocuous to the most susceptible
invalids by creating isolated climates of con-
siderable extent, and of any desirable temper-
ature and hygrometric condition of atmos-
phere. The material which chiefly enables
this to be done is abundant and compara-
tively cheap, and, were it not so common,
would excite perennial wonder and admira-

.There is no transformation in art or nature
more wonderful than the conversion of sub-
stances so opaque, and so earthy in nature,
as are sand and alkali, into such a material
as glass, a material having scarcely one


property characteristic of its components;
which almost rivals the diamond in hardness,
brilliancy, and transparency ; which can be
blown, moulded, and cut into myriad shapes
of use and beauty ; which enables mankind
to have light, warm, and cheerful homes;
which furnishes the means of exploring the
distant abysses of the stellar spaces, and of
revealing a new world in the dust of earth
and air, and by the aid of which it becomes
easily possible to grow the flowers and fruits

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Online LibraryGeorge A ShoveLife under glass. Containing suggestions toward the formation of artificial climates → online text (page 1 of 5)