Thomas Ewbank.

A descriptive and historical account of hydraulic and other machines for ... online

. (page 39 of 90)
Online LibraryThomas EwbankA descriptive and historical account of hydraulic and other machines for ... → online text (page 39 of 90)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


inch thick, but is reduced at the edges to a quarter of one ; it appears to
be formed of two thin pieces which, united, are equal in thickness to that
mentioned ; and between them are inseited two small sheets of moderately
stiff paper, which project an inch over every side. The part that pro-
jects is folded at the corners and turned over the edges of the piston ;
one sheet being turned one way, and the other the contrary, so that when
the piston is moved, the air presses the paper against the sides of the bel-
lows and renders the piston perfectly tight, on the same principle as the
double cupped leathers of fire-engines and other forcing-pumps ; and at
the same time without any perceptible increase of friction. The two pis-
ton rods are half inch square, and work through holes in one end of the
box without any stuffing-box. The whole machine is of wood, except
the paper for the piston and valves. Although the instrument appears to
be a rectangular box, it is not exactly so, the bottom being a little wider
than the top.

It would be superfluous to point out the application of piston bellows to
raise water, since they are perfect models otour atmospheric and forcing-
pumps. Why, then, it may be asked ore not the Chmese found in the
possession of the latter t In reply to this question, it may be observed : 1.
That from our imperfect knowledge of the people, it is not certain that
such machines have not been, and are not used to a limited extent in the
interior of that great empire. 2. That custom, and probably experience,
have induced them, in common with other nations oi the Oriental world,
to give the preference to more simple devices — to their chain pump, bam-
boo wheel, «;c., a preference which we know is in some instances based
on solid grounds: for example, the chain pump as used by them, raises
more water with the same amount of labor, than any atmospheric or forc-
ing-pump, if placed imder the same circumstances. And as for the noria
or bamboo wheel, which driven by a current, raises water night and day,
and from 20 to 50 feet, we are told that it answers the purpose "as com-
pletely as the most complicated European machine could do; and I will
answer for it [says Van Braam] that it does not occasion an expense of
ten dollars." 3. A circumstance connected with one of their ancient as well
as modem scenic representations, shows that when Utiejarcing or spouting
of water is required, their artists are at no loss for devices to eflect it; and
that, too, under very unusual circumstances. One of the pantomimes per-
formed at Pekin is the " Marriage of the Sea with the Land.** The



Digitized



by Google



Chap. 2.] AsUiquity of the Chinese Bellows. 251

latter divinity made a display of his wealth and productions, such as dra*
gons, elephants, tigers, eagles, ostriches, chestnut and pine trees, &&
The OceuTif on the other hand, collected whales, dolphins, porpoises and
other sea monsters, together with ships, rocks, shells, &c., ** all these ob-
jects were represented by performers concealed under cloths, and who
played their parts admirably. The two assemblages of productions, ter-
restrial and marine, made the tour of the stage, and then opened right and
left to leave room for an immense whale, which placed itself directly
before the emperor, and spouted out severed hogsheads of water, which
inundated the spectators who were in the pit."* As both the water and
forcing apparatus were contained within the moving figure, we can only
imagine ^e jets to have been produced by means of piston or bellows
forcmg^pumps, or something analogous to them — or by air condensed in
one or more vessels coutaimng water, like soda fountams. 4. If Chinese
lads never discovered a source of amusement in the application of their
bellows (some of which are only eig?it ijiches long) as squirts or pumps,
they must differ essentially from lads of other nations — a position that few
judges of human nature would admit. Boys are the same in all ages, and
the mischievous yotmgsters of the Celestial Empire have doubtless
often derived as much pleasure from annoying one another with water
ejected from these implements, as those of Europe and this country do
with similar devices. Such an appHcation of them was sure to be found
out by boys, if by no one else. Whether the bellows-pump originated
in this manner or not, may be uncertain, but several useful discoveries
have been brought to light in much the same way : it was a youth who
changed the whole character of the steam-engine, by giving it mat feature
upon which its general utility depends — ^his ingenuity, stimulated by a
love of play, rendered it self-acting.

The antiquity of the Chinese bellows is a subject of much interest It
may have been the instrument which Anacharsis introduced into Gh-eece, it
having, perhaps, been employed by his countrymen, the ancient Scythians,
as well as .by their descendants, the modem Tartars. If it has been in
use, as supposed, from times anterior to Grrecian and Roman eras, the
origin of the ptmip in the second century B. C. can hardly be sustained;
for when the induction valves of one of these bellows are placed in water,
(as we suppose has occasionally been done ever since its invention,) it is
then the "water forcer" of Ctesibius ; and if pipes be connected to F and
J, (No. 112,) and their orifices placed in a liquid, the apparatus becomes
the double acting pump of La Hire. But what may be surprising to some
persons, its construction is identical with that of the steam-engine ; for let
It be furnished with a crank and fly wheel to reg^ate the movements of
its piston, and with apparatus to open and close its valves, then admit
steam through its nozzle, and it becomes the double acting engine of Boul-
ton and Watt. Again, connect its induction orifices to a receiver, and it
becomes an exhausting air-pump; apply its nozzle to the same vessel, and
it is a condensing one. The most perfect blowing machine, and the chef
d^CBuvre of modem modifications of the pump, are also its fac-similes.

It would seem that the Chinese have other kinds of bellows, or differ*
ent modes of working these. Bell, in his account of the Russian embassy
in 1720, says that he was lodged in a village twelve miles from Pekin in
a cook's house, which gave him an opportunity of observing the customs of
the people even on trifling occasions : " My landlord," he observes, " be
tng m his shop, I paid him a visit, where I found six kettles placed in a

* China, its Cottomes, to., iii. 34.



Digitized



by Google



5J52



Double acting Bellows of Madagascar,



[Book IIL



row on furnaces, having a separate opening under each of them for re-
ceiving the fuel, which consisted of a few small sticks and straw. On
his pulling a thongs he blew a pair of bellows which raaxle all his kettles
boil in a very short time."<^ Like other Asiatics, the Chinese have proba-
bly a variety of these instruments. The van, or winnowing machine,
which we have received from them, is a rotary bellows. See page 70
of this volume.

Various rotary bellows are described by Agricola, as employed in the
yendlation of mines, and worked by men with cranks, and in one instance
by a horse treading on the periphery ' of a wheel.^ Rotary blowing
machines have been represented as of more recent origin, but they are in
all probability of great andauity. The Spaniards introduced them into
Peru a5 early as 1545, to reduce the silver ores, but they were soon aban-
doned.* For rotary pumps, see a subsequent chapter of this book.

We are indebted for some interesting information respecting the arts of
various islanders of the Indian ocean to Mr. William Clark of Philadel
phia, who, besides spending several years in whaling voyages, resided
two years in Southern Africa. The vessel to which he was attached hav-
ing on one occasion touched on the coast of Madagascar, some native
smiths were found using bellows that excited particular attention ; some
were cylindrical, beinff formed of bored logs, others were square trunks,
five or six inches in diameter, and about five feet long ; but the internal
construction of both was the same. The ship's carpenter was permitted
to open one. It was composed of four planks that had been split from
trees, the insides shaved smooth and straight, and the whole put together
with wooden pins instead of nails or screws. It was divided into two
parts by a partition or disk, which was permanentiy secured in its place,
(shown at A in the annexed cut,) where, like a piston, it occupied the
entire space across. On one side of the trunk, and
opposite the edge of A, an opening was made for
the insertion of the tube C that conveyed the wind
to the fire, the edge of A at this place being feather-
ed, and a small projecting piece added to it, in
order to direct the current of air from either side
of the partition into C. An opening was made in
the centre of A, through which a smooth piston
rod B, played ; two pistons or boards, P P, accu-
rately fitted to work m the trunk, were attached
on opposite sides of the partition to B ; these pis-
tons were perforated, and the openings covered by
flaps or valves like those of a common pump box,
but the upper one was secured to the wiBir side
of the piston as shown in the figure. The trunk
rested on four short pieces of wood pegged to it.
In some, holes were made at the lower part for
the admission of air. These bellows were there-
fore double acting, and consequently one of them
was equal in its effects to two of those represented
at No. Ill, which drive the air out only on the de-
scent of the piston, whereas these forced it into the
fire both on ascending and descending. Thus,
No. 114. Double Acting Bel- when the blower raised the rod B, the flap on the
lows ofMadafaflcar. lower piston closed, and the air in that division of

< Bell's Travels, i. 312. <^ De Re Metallica, pp. 162, 163, 164, 169. • Garcilasso's
Commentaries, p. 347.



Digitized



by Google



Chap. 2.] On the Bellows among the Peruvians. 253

the trunk was expelled through C ; at the same time the flap of the upper
piston was opened by its own weight and the air passing through it, and
on the descent of B all the air in the upper part of the trunk was forced
into the fire in like manner; hence an uninterrupted, though not an equable
blast of wind was kept up. The whole apparatus was of wood except
the flaps, which were pieces of green hide rendered pliable by working
them m the hands ; and they were prevented from opening too far by
narrow slips of the same material pegged over them. There was no
packing to the piistons, but they were moved with great rapidity.

These bellows are different from those described by Dampier, Sonnerat
and Ellis, as used in the same island ; but they serve to corroborate a re-
mark tliat has been made by several travelers, viz : that the ne^oes of
Africa are in possession of a mat variety of those instruments. 1 he one
above described is a line specimen of their ingenuity, for there can be little
doubt that it is original with them — ^it evidently is not derived from the
double acting bellows of China, nor can it have been procured from Europe,
since nothing of the kind has, we believe, ever been used there. It is the
only bellows that we have met with having valves in the pistons.

It need hardly be observed that double pumps have been made on the
same principle. There is one figured by Belidor in the second volume ot
his Architecture Hydrauliaue, which differs from the above figure only in
having two short piston rods connected together by a frame on the outside
of the cylinder, instead of one long one working through the disk.

No stronger proofs could possibly be adduced of the analog between
pumps and bellows, than what the figures in this and the preceding chapter
afford. .

While engaged on this part of the subject we were induced to refer
again to the accounts of the old Mexicans and Peruvians, in hopes of find-
ing some indications of the pump in the instruments employed to urge air
into their furnaces; but, strange as it will appear to modern mechanics, they
are said to have been wholly ignorant of the bellows. This, if true, is a
very singular fact; and, considering the extent to which they practiced the
arts of metallurgy, one that is unexampled in the history of the world. It
appears, moreover, irreconcilable with the opinion of their oriental origin;
for it is difficult to conceive how emigrants or descendants of emigrants
from Asia, could have been ignorant of this simple instrument which has
bee^used in one form or another on that continent from the earliest times,
and which is still employed by the rudest tribes there, and also in all those

C whence the early Peruvians are supposed to have come. The bel-
is common almost as the hammer, from the peninsular of Malacca to
that of Kampschatka, and from the Phillippine islands to those of Japan.
In Africa, too, it is used in great variety and by people whose progress in
the arts is far behind that of the ancient smiths of America.

How little is known respecting the mechanical implements of Mexican
and Peruvian workmen and of their processes, and yet but three centuries
have elapsed since the latter were in full operation ! We are not aware
that a single tool has been preserved, much less their modes of manufac-
ture ; nor is this much to be wondered at when the spirit that animated
the conquerors is considered-^it was the acquisition of gold, not the tools
for or manner of working it, that they had in view ; and had it not been
for the prodigious amount of bullion which they found worked into va-
rious figures and utensils, we should scarcely have ever heard of the latter;
and yet the workmanship on some of them, exceeded the value of the metal.
That there are errors in the accounts of early writers on the arts and ap-
paratus of old American mechanics is unquestionable, and among then



Digitized



by Google



864 On the BdUnot among the Peruviane, [Book IIL

may be mentioned that \diich confined the materials of their cutting in-
struments to obsidian and other stones ; whereas it is now certain that
they had chisels, &c. of bronze or alloys of copper and tin; and probably
of a similar composition to those of Egyptian workmen. As for bellows,
it was no easy task (supposing it had been undertaken by the old histo-
rians of Mexico and Peru) to determine positively that they were unknown
throughout those extensive countries. To ascertain what tools were and
were not used, required something more than a superficial knowledge of
the people. Before a stranger could speak decidedly on the subject of
bellows, it was necessary that he should become familiar with their modes
of working the metals, by frequently visidng them in their workshops and
dwellings; and, from an intimate knowledge of their language, making in
quiries respecting die tools and details of the processes adopted by artisans
of distant tribes ; for bellows might be used to a limited extent in one
country, and (from variety in the oref, articles manufactured or customs
of woikmen) not at all in another. But there does not appear to have
been any efforts made to collect information of this kind by the con-
querors — its value was not appreciated by them or by their immediate
successors, and hence the opportunity was neglected and could never be
recalled ; for other historians agree with Clavigero, that the wonder&l
arts of the Mexican and Peruvian founders were soon lost, " by the de-
basement of the Indians and the indolent neglect of the Spaniards." Even
Garcilasso, although a native Indian, by his mother's side, does not seem
to have possessed any partictdar knowledge on the subject of working the
metals : he derived his information from Acosta, to whose work he refers
his readers.

But what are the proofs that bellows were unknown to the subjects of
Manco Capec and Motezuma 1 The principal one is derived from their
fusing metals without them: they kept their tumaces in blast, it is alledged,
by the breath of a number of men who blew on the fires through tubes of
bamboo. That this was often practiced there is no doubt, and that it was
the general custom is admitted; but it does not therefore follow that they
had no contrivances for producing artificial blasts : this will appear from
the practice of oriental ^Id and silver smiths, both of ancient and modem
times. The fusion of gold and silver witb blowing tubes is a device of remote
antiquity, and like all ancient customs relating to the useful arts, it is still,
practiced by the Hindoos, Malays, Ceylonese, Persians and other Asiatics ;
and also by Egyptians and numerous Afi-ican tribes. The goldsmiths of
Sumatra, Mr. Marsden observes, "in general use no hdlows, hut blow the
fire with their mouths through a joint of bamboo ; and if the quantity of
metal to be melted is considerable, three or four persons sit round the fur-
nace, which is an old broken ktoaii, or iron pot, and blow together : at
Padang alone, where the manufacture is more considerable, they have
adopted the Chinese bellows."* We have already described the single
and also a double acting bellows of these people ; besides which they have
that of China, and yet it seems that all the working goldsmiths of the coun-
try, except those of a single town, still melt their metal as the Mexicans
and the Peruvians did : hence the mere fact of the old smiths of these con*
dnents using blowpipes to fuse metal, is no more a proof of their igno-
rance of bellows, than the like practice is of modem Asiatics being also
ignorant of them.

Nothing is easier than to err respecting a knowledge of bellows in for-
mer times, by inferences drawn from the use of blowpipes. In the oldest

« History of Sumatra, 179.



Digitized



by Google



Ch^p ^] And Mexicams. 255

monuments of Egypt (those of Beni Hassan) the latter are represented in
the remote age of Osirtasen, 1700 B. C. which to a superficial observer
might lead to the supposition that the former were then unknown ; but a
close exanidnation ot the sculptures shows the fallacy of such a conclusion,
since blowing tubes are also figured long after the reign of Thothmes in
whose time bellows were certainly common.^ Again, on the last day of
the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews were allowed by rabbinical precepts
tu light one fire from another, but not to strike new fire from stone or
metal, nor to quench it, although to save their goods, ** nor to blow it with
bellowes, but with a reede"^ Now a stranger, having an imperfect know-
ledge of Jewish customs, upon witnessing fires thus blown would, in some
parts of the world, be very apt to conclude that they had no bellows. And
again, if we had not a proof that our domestic bellows was known to the
Romans, we might have inferred fix>m Pliny's account of statuaries and
painters representing individuals blowing fires with their mouths, that artifi-
cial instruments for the purpose were then unknown.

£nough may be gathered from early writers on America to account
for bellows not being employed in those operations in which they would
seem to have been most required, viz : in smelting of metals. According
to Acosta, some ores could not be reduced by bellows, but only by air
fiimaces. Grarcilasso, in the last chapter of the eighth book of hi^ Com-
mentaries, makes the same remark. In smelting the silver ore of Potosi,
he says the Indians used neither bellows nor blowing tubes, but a natural
wind, which, in their opinion, was the best ; they therefore fused the ore
in small furnaces placed on the hills in the night time, whenever the wind
was sufficient for the purpose ; and it was a pleasant sight, he observes,
*' to behold eight, ten, or twelve thousand of those fires at the same time,
ranged in order upon the sides of the mountains.'' The Spaniards suspect-
ing that the metal, when thus diffused among a great number of hands,
zmght be more readily purloined, and that much of it was wasted in so
many fires, introduced blast furnaces, the fires in which were urged ** by
larfi;e bellows," but these not succeeding, (the blast being too strong,) they
had recourse to rotary bellows, (" engines with wheels, carried about with
sails like a windmill which fiumed and blowed the fire,") but these also
failed to accomplish the purpose, ** so that the Spaniards despairing of the
success o£ their invendons, made use of those which the Indians had framed
and contrived,^* No stronger reason could be adduced why the bellows
was not previously used in the reduction of ores.

At a subsequent fusion of the metal in their dwellings, the workmen
(says Garcilasso) instead of bellows, continued to use blowing tubes,
" though our [Spanish] invention of bellows is much more easie and forci-
ble to raise the fire." Supposing they were ignorant of bellows before the
arrival of the Spaniards, nere is a proof that after th^ became acquainted
with these instruments, they still preferred their tubes, as the gold and
silver smiths of Asia generally do at this day ; and hence the use of such
tabes does not show, as has been stated, ^* that they were unacquainted
with the use of bellows."

If there was nothing else to adduce in favor of the old Peruvians being
acquainted with bellows, or with the principle of their construcdon and ap-
plication, than the balsas or blown floats which their fishermen and those
of Chili used instead of boats, we should deem them sufficient. These
were largo bags made of skins of the sea wolf and filled with air. They

* Wilkinson's Manner* and CiwtomB of the Ancient Egyptiani, iiL 339. ^ Pnrcha^
Pilgrimage; 223.



Digitized



by Google



2&6 Natural Pumps. [Book III.

were " so well sewed, that a considerable weight could not force any of
it out." They carried irom twelve to fourteen hundred pounds, and if ai^
air escaped, there were two leathern pipes through which the fishermen
"blow into the bags when there is occasion." Frezier's Voyage to the
South Seas, page 121. These were real bellows, only applied to another
purpose. Had they not been found less efficient or less economical than
blowing tubes, they would doubtless have been used sls substitutes for the
latter in the fusion and reduction of ores. It may here be noticed as a
singular fact, and one which may possibly have reference to bellows, that
Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican God of the air or wind, was also the Vulcan
of. all the nations of Anahuac.

Both Mexicans and Peruvians were accustomed from their youth to use
blowing tubes, for the primitive air gun, through which to shoot arrows
and other missiles by the breath, was universsdly used, and the practice
is still kept up by their descendants. Motezuma, in his first interview
with Cortez, shrewdly compared the Spanish guns, as tubes of unknown
metal, to tlie sarbacans of his countrymen. From the expertness acquired
by the constant employment of these instruments in killing game, it was
natural enough to use diem instead of bellows to increase the heat of their
furnaces, and custom rendered them very efficient.

We have prolonged our remarks on this subject because it has been
concluded that remains of furnaces, found far below the surface in varioui

Cof this continent and in regions abounding with iron, could never
been employed in reducing that metal; for in those remote ages in
which such furnaces were in action, the bellows, it is said, was unknown;
a position that we think untenable, and quite irreconcnlable with the
advanced state of metallurgy in those times.

Before leaving the subject of bellows and bellows pumps, we may re-
mark that numerous illustrations of the latter may be tound in the natural
world. To an industrious investigator, the animal kingdom would furnish
an endless variety, for every organized being is composed of tubes and
of liquids urged through them. The contrivances by which the latter is
accomplished may be considered among the prominent features in the
mechanism of animals ; and although modified to infinitude, one genera]
principle pervades the whole ; this is the distension and contraction of
flexible vessels or reservoirs in which fiuids are accumulated and driven
through the system. On the regular function of these organs the neces-
sary motions of life chiefly depend ; by them urine is expelled from the
bladder, blood from the heart, breath from the lungs, &c. ; they are natural
bellows pumps, while other devices of the Divine Mechanician resemble
syringes or piston pumps.

The whale spouts water with a bellows pump, and in streams compared



Online LibraryThomas EwbankA descriptive and historical account of hydraulic and other machines for ... → online text (page 39 of 90)