Birds and all Nature Vol VII, No. 2, February 1900 online

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How many of the boys and girls who read BIRDS AND ALL NATURE ever saw
a baby heron? I am sure you would like to see ours. He measures from
tip to tip of his wings, that is, with his wings spread just as far as
we could stretch them, five feet and ten inches, and from the tip of
his bill to the tip of his toe very nearly five feet. Now, isn't that
a little baby? He is nearly full-grown but has not on the dress of the
old birds; that is why we call him baby. He is called a crane by some
people, but his right name is great blue heron, and his scientific name
is _Ardea herodias_. Shall I tell you about his dress? His head is all
dusky now, but when he puts on his new dress his forehead and central
part of the crown will be white enclosed by a circle of black - a fine
black crest with two elongated black plumes that make him appear to be
very much dressed up. His back and wings are blue-gray, but like his
head will be decorated with elongated scapulæ feathers, when he gets on
his dress suit, and his long neck, which now has a rather dingy look,
will have a beautiful collar of cinnamon brown tinged with purple and a
white line in front from throat to breast. The tail is short and very
inconspicuous. He really is a beautiful bird in spite of his long neck
and long legs.

He is the largest of our New England herons and is not very abundant.
You may find him about large bodies of water, and during the daytime
he prefers the solitude of the forests and sits quietly in tall trees
for hours, but in the early mornings and late afternoons he may be seen
standing motionless at the edge of the water until a fish or a frog
appears, when, with unerring stroke of his long beak, as quickly as
lightning, he seizes it and beats it until dead, then swallows it; this
act is often repeated. He varies his diet with meadow mice, snakes, and
insects, so he certainly does not lead a very monotonous life. Our baby
ate for his last breakfast four good-sized perch. Wasn't that a fine
breakfast? I know you would like to hear about his early home. It was
in a terribly dismal swamp, where it was almost impossible to reach,
through mud to your knees and through briers and tangled bushes high
as your head. There, several feet above your head was a nest, nearly
flat, made of different sizes of twigs put together in a loose and lazy
manner. Usually there are three or four light bluish-green eggs. Only
one brood is reared in a season.

There are some people who say that the blue heron is good for food,
but those who have once tried it do not care for another plate. They
are the most suspicious of our birds and the hardest to be approached
for they are constantly on the lookout for danger and with their long
necks, keen eyes, and delicate organs of hearing, they can detect the
approach of a hunter long before he can get within gunshot. They have a
very unmusical voice, their call being a hoarse guttural "honk."

Once they were found in larger numbers, but now are seldom seen but
in pairs or singly, and what a pity that foolish fashion of trimming
ladies' hats has nearly exterminated so many varieties of beautiful
birds! God gave us many beautiful things to enjoy in this world, and
are they not more beautiful when we can see them alive in nature just
where God placed them, than they are when dead and taken by pieces to
adorn our heads?


(_Aegialitis vocifera._)

Dr. Livingstone described a relative of this bird which he met with
in Africa as "a most plaguey sort of public-spirited individual that
follows you everywhere, flying overhead, and is most persevering in his
attempts to give fair warning to all animals within hearing to flee
from the approach of danger," a characteristic which has caused the
killdeer to be an object of dislike to the gunner. It is usually the
first to take alarm at his approach and starts up all other birds in
the vicinity by its loud cries. It can run with such swiftness that,
according to Audubon, to run "like a killdeer" has in some parts of the
country passed into a proverb. It is also active on the wing and mounts
at pleasure to a great height in the air, with a strong and rapid
flight, which can be continued for a long distance. In the love season
it performs various kinds of evolutions while on the wing.

This plover is found throughout temperate North America to Newfoundland
and Manitoba, nests throughout range, and winters south of New England
to Bermuda, the West Indies, Central and South America. From March to
November, and later, it is resident, and is very abundant in spring
and autumn migrations. These birds are generally seen in flocks when
on the wing, but scatter when feeding. Pastures and cultivated fields,
tracts of land near water, lakesides and marshes seem necessary to it.
The sound uttered by it, _kildeer_, _kildeer_, _dee_, _dee_, is almost
incessant, but it is often low and agreeable, with a plaintive strain
in it. When apparently in danger the voice rises higher and shriller.
Cows, horses, sheep, and the larger poultry that wander over a farm are
said not to alarm these birds in the least. But they are wild in the
presence of man wherever they have been persecuted. They will often
squat till one is close upon them, and will then suddenly fly up or
run off, startling the unwary intruder by their loud and clear cry. In
winter the killdeer is an unusually silent bird, in which season it is
found dispersed over the cultivated fields in Florida, Georgia, the
Carolinas, and other southern states, diligently searching for food.
Davie says that it may often be heard on moonlight nights. The nest
is placed on the ground, usually in the vicinity of a stream or pond,
often on an elevated spot in the grass or in a furrowed field. It is
merely a slight depression in the ground. The eggs are drab or clay
color, thickly spotted and blotched with blackish brown and umber,
small and quite pointed. They are generally four in number, measuring
1.50 to 1.60 long by about 1.10 broad.

The plovers resemble the snipe in structure, but are smaller, averaging
about the size of a thrush. Their bills also are shorter. They have
three toes usually; their bodies are plump; short, thick necks, long
wings, and in some instances they have spurs on the wings. They pick
their food, which is largely of an animal nature, from the surface of
the ground, instead of probing for it, as their shorter bills indicate.
The flesh of the killdeer is not highly regarded as a food.

[Illustration: KILLDEER.
2/3 Life-size.


W. E. WATT, A. M.

Cotton is spun and woven into so many useful forms that we could hardly
live without it since we have become so thoroughly accustomed to the
comforts and luxuries it supplies to us. From the loose fiber that we
use in treating our teeth when they get to troubling us to the delicate
lace handkerchief which is such a dream of the weaver's art we use
cotton for our commonest and our most extraordinary purposes.

Muslin takes its name from Mosul, in India, where it was first made.
Although muslin is now made in both Europe and America in great
quantities, the kind that is most famed for its fineness is that from
Dacca, India. To get an idea of the fine threads used in making the
rarest of this muslin we must note that one pound of cotton is spun
into three hundred eighty hanks of thread with eight hundred forty
yards of thread in each hank. This means that one pound of cotton is
spun out to the length of 319,000 yards, or over one hundred eighty-one

One pound of this thread would, if it could be stretched out without
breaking, reach from New York City up the Hudson to Albany, and there
would still be enough of it unused to reach over to Saratoga. Ten
pounds would reach from New York city to Omaha, with enough left over
to reach back to Chicago.

It is even possible to exceed this in fineness if we do not care for
use. To show the perfection of a machine, a thread of the fineness of
10,000 has been spun. If this could be strung out, as suggested above,
it would reach 4,770 miles. One pound of the finest fiber has thus been
spun so that it would reach from New York to Naples, Italy, and there
would still be enough of it left to reach half-way back to London on
the return trip.

Where three hundred and eighty hanks of thread are spun from a pound
the muslin made from it is called three hundred eighty-degree muslin.
But even this is not the finest muslin made. It is the finest made by
the old hand processes, but the perfections of machinery have made it
possible for us to have seven hundred-degree cotton. A strange thing
about our finest machine-made cotton is that it does not seem to the
eye or the touch to be as fine as the Dacca. There is a peculiar
softness which cannot be imitated by the machine.

I went the other day into one of our great dry-goods stores to see how
fine a piece of cotton I could buy. I was surprised to find that the
gentlemanly clerks knew very little about where the goods were made and
almost nothing at all about the processes. They were very obliging, but
their business of selling does not seem to require any knowledge of
those things I was so desirous of learning.

The finest things I found were India linen and Swiss mull. The India
linen has a remarkable name, seeing it is not linen and is made in
Scotland. The Swiss mull is nearly as well named, for it is also made
in Glasgow. Whether these goods sell better because their names seem to
indicate that they are made somewhere else I cannot say, but the truth
seems to be that they were called by these names innocently enough by
those who first made them, being proud that they could produce mull
equal to the finest worn by the ladies in Switzerland or equal to the
finest products of the Indian looms.

It is well known that in the dry-goods business it seems to be greatly
to the advantage of the merchant to have fine names for his wares, the
larger houses regularly employing women who do nothing but find fancy
names for the things that are for sale. Goods are sometimes displayed
with one name for several days without finding a purchaser, but the
namer soon comes in with a new name to attach to the goods and some of
the very shoppers who do not care for them under the first name buy
them readily under the new one.

A lady recently asked me to tell her the difference between muslin
and long cloth. I thought there might be a difference, but have been
unable to find anyone who can tell what it is. Both names are applied
to white cotton goods of various degrees of fineness. Long cloth is
of a superior quality of cotton, and so is muslin when intended for
dress goods. Some of the names under which white cotton goods are sold
are muslins, tarletans, mulls, jaconets, nainsooks, lawns, grenadines,
saccarillas, cottonade, cotton velvet, and velveteen.

Cotton is rarely manufactured where raised. It is carried to the
seacoast as a rule by river steamers, though there have been instances
where the laziness and ingenuity of man have combined to send it
down-stream in bales completely covered with india rubber wrappings,
so they floated to their destination with little care and no harm from

With all our boasted Yankee shrewdness and cunning in mechanics we do
not make up the finer grades of cotton very extensively. As a rule the
coarser kinds of cloth that take much material and less skill are made
here, while the finer grades that get more value out of the pound of
cotton are made abroad, chiefly in Great Britain.

As an indication of this the figures taken in the year 1884 form a
striking illustration. The average amount of cotton spun by each
spindle in Great Britain that year was thirty-four and a half pounds,
while the amount consumed by each spindle in America averaged just
sixty-five pounds, showing that the products of our spindles are
just twice as heavy on the average as those of the English and
Scotch. A fortunate thing about our goods when sent abroad is that
they are accurately marked and prove to be very nearly what they are
represented. This is not the case with goods shipped out of Great
Britain, where their long experience in handling cotton has made them
more expert than we in stuffing their goods with sizing and other
adulterations which make the goods deceptive. There is so little
tendency in this direction among American manufacturers that our
good name has given us an advantage in China and India, where our
manufactures are much more readily sold than what purport to be the
same of British make.

Most of our cotton that is not exported is made up into yarns, threads,
and the coarser goods, such as shirtings, sheetings, drills, print
cloths, bags, and so forth. Yet there are several of our mills,
especially in the North, that turn out the finer fabrics with great
credit to the country. Large quantities of cotton are, of course, used
up in woolen mills, where mixed goods are made, and hosiery mills, felt
factories, and hat works consume it largely. Much cotton also goes into
mattresses and upholstery.

It comes from a boll having three or five cells. This bursts open when
it is ripe. Cotton fiber is either white or yellow, and varies in
length from a little over half an inch to two inches. When gathered
it is separated from its clinging seeds by the cotton gin, and is
then pressed firmly in bales weighing about five hundred pounds each,
although in some countries the customary sizes of bales vary two or
three hundred pounds from this weight.

Of the twenty or more varieties of cotton but two are given much
attention in the United States. These are the famous sea island cotton
and the common, woolly-seed kind. The sea island cotton grows on the
islands off the coast of South Carolina, in Florida, and on the coast
of Texas. The peculiar salt air and humidity of these coasts seem
necessary to its perfection, for when it is planted in the interior
it quickly loses its best qualities and becomes similar to the common
variety. Its fibers are long and silky, and used for the finest laces,
spool cotton, fine muslins, and such goods, but there is so little
of it as compared with the woolly seed cotton that it is but an
insignificant part of our great crop.

Cotton is the only fibre that is naturally produced ready to be worked
directly into cloth without special chemical or mechanical treatment.
It is the great article of comfortable and cheap covering for man's
person. When gathered and baled it is in a knotted and lumpy state,
from which it is rather difficult to extricate the fibers and arrange
them for spinning. As we follow the cotton through the mill we come to
these machines in the following order: It goes to the opener first,
where it is beaten and spread out so that a strong draft of air drives
out much of its impurities; it then goes to the scutcher after being
formed into laps; the lap machine makes it into flat folds; the carding
engine not only cards it but straightens the fiber and gives it another
cleaning; in the drawing frame it is arranged in loose ropes with the
fibers parallel; then the slubbing frame gives it a slight twist; the
intermediate and finishing frames twist it still farther, especially
when preparing it for the higher numbers; the throstle frame prepares
coarse warps; and on the mules, either self-acting or hand, the
coarse or fine yarns are spun. In some systems several operations are
performed by the same machine.

Weaving follows. It consists in passing threads over and under each
other as a stocking is darned, the main difference being that in
darning the needle passes up and down to get over or under the threads
it meets, while in weaving the threads met by the moving thread move
out of the way so the shuttle may pass straight through the whole width
of the cloth. As the shuttle comes back the threads are reversed so
that the ones that were up before are now down and those that were down
are now up. The machine that holds many threads for this work is the

An English clergyman by the name of Edmund Cartwright has the credit of
inventing the power loom. His description of his labors is interesting.
We copy from one of his letters: "Happening to be in Matlock in the
summer of 1784, I fell in company with two gentlemen of Manchester,
when the conversation turned on Arkwright's spinning machinery. One
of the company observed, that as soon as Arkwright's patent expired,
so many mills would be erected, and so much cotton spun, that hands
never could be found to weave it. To this observation I replied, that
Arkwright must then set his wits to work and invent a weaving mill.
This brought on a conversation on the subject, in which the Manchester
gentlemen unanimously agreed that the thing was impracticable; and, in
defense of their opinion, they adduced arguments which I certainly was
incompetent to answer, or even to comprehend, being totally ignorant
of the subject, having never at that time seen a person weave. I
controverted, however, the impracticability of the thing, by remarking
that there had lately been exhibited an automaton figure which played
at chess."

"Some little time afterward, a particular circumstance recalling this
conversation to my mind, it struck me that, as in plain weaving,
according to the conception I then had of the business, there could
only be three movements, which were to follow each other in succession,
there would be very little difficulty in producing and repeating
them. Full of these ideas, I immediately got a carpenter and smith to
carry them into effect. As soon as the machine was finished I got a
weaver to put in the warp, which was of such material as sail-cloth
is usually made of. To my delight a piece of cloth, such as it was,
was the product. As I had never before turned my thoughts to anything
mechanical, either in theory or practice, nor had ever seen a loom at
work or knew anything of its construction, you will readily suppose
that my first loom must have been a most rude piece of machinery. The
warp was placed perpendicularly, the reed fell with a force of at least
half a hundred weight and the springs which threw the shuttle were
strong enough to have thrown a Congreve rocket.

"In short, it required the strength of two powerful men to work the
machine at a slow rate and only for a short time. Conceiving in my
great simplicity that I had accomplished all that was required, I then
secured what I thought a most valuable property by a patent, 4th of
April, 1785. This being done, I then condescended to see how other
people wove. And you will guess my astonishment when I compared their
easy mode of operation and mine. Availing myself, however, of what
I then saw, I made a loom, in its general principles nearly as they
are now made; but it was not until the year 1787 that I completed my
invention, when I took out my first weaving patent Aug. 1 of that year."

As usual this worthy man, who had won the right to the title he
received, was not the only discoverer or inventor of the thing credited
to his name. Long before his time a description of a similar loom had
been presented to the Royal Society of London, but he had no knowledge
of it. He spent between £30,000 and £40,000 bringing his invention to
a successful stage, but failed to make it profitable to himself. A
small return was made to him later, at the suggestion of the principal
mill-owners of the country, when he received from the government the
sum of £10,000. His work has been much improved in detail since, but it
has never been altered in its main principles.

But with all our arts and marvelous machines the most beautifully fine
cotton fabric is yet the Dacca muslin. It is called "woven wind," and
when spread out upon the grass it is said to resemble gossamer. It used
to be made for the Indian princes before the days when the British took
possession of the country. It was made only in a strip of territory
about forty miles long and three miles in width. With the change in
rulers the weavers largely dropped the work which they and their
ancestors had done for centuries, handing down their art from father
to son; they took to the business of raising indigo, as their soil and
climate were well adapted to its production and the demand was good.

Yet there are some of them weaving at this day, though not in
sufficient numbers to produce the muslin as a regular article of
commerce. A bamboo bow strung with catgut, like a fiddle string, is
used to separate the fiber from the seed. It is carded with a big
fishbone. The distaff is held in the hand and the loom is a very
old-fashioned affair, home-made of bamboo reeds, so simple that a few
shillings will purchase one, though a lifetime will not make one able
to use it.

The weaver chooses a spot under the shade of a large tree, digs a hole
in the dirt for his legs and the lower part of the "geer" and fastens
his balances to some convenient bough overhead. His exceedingly fine
threads will not work well except in such a shady spot and early in
the morning, when there is just the right amount of moisture in the
tropical air. There is no line of hand work in which there is such a
contrast to-day as in the business of making cotton goods. Machinery
has vastly outstripped the hand in quantity of product and accuracy,
yet the old ways prevail in the manipulation of the very finest of web.
Although Whitney's saw gin made a revolution in the industry, yet the
long and delicate fibers of sea-island cotton are separated from the
seed in the old way of passing seed cotton between two rollers which
are going in different directions. The smooth seeds of this cotton
pop away from the fiber quite readily without breaking it. If it were
pulled through Whitney's gin there would be more or less tearing and
breaking. So the great invention does not apply to cleaning the very
finest material. The short wool fibers of common cotton are not so much
hurt by the saw teeth and the amount of work done by the gin makes this
damage of no account.

At the Atlanta Cotton Exposition in 1882 the old and the new were
strikingly contrasted. The mountain people of the South, in many
instances, live after the old fashions of colonial times. They make
homespun cloth which is a revelation to us. Some of these people were
induced to show their work at the exposition, and they were as much
astonished at the apparel of their visitors who gazed upon them and
their strange labor as were the visitors at the work and manners of the

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Online LibraryVariousBirds and all Nature Vol VII, No. 2, February 1900 → online text (page 1 of 5)