Page images
PDF
EPUB

opposite party retorted by purchasing a finer and more becoming cap, in which the piper's daughter appeared the following Sunday, to the confusion of her enemies and amidst the triumphant congratulations of her friends. This coup-de-main carried the day. The council, taken by surprise, wanted courage or presence of mind enough for a second confiscation ; and before the lapse of another week, the central authorities interfered. The council was eventually ordered to make restitution and pay the costs.

The exact number of dishes to be served at the table of each class of the community according to their rank was carefully prescribed ; and a license was required for any departure from the ordinance. A long process is reported, in which a list of the dishes and the guests, with a minute description of their quality, was submitted to the Grand Duke in council, who, after deliberating with a gravity resembling that of the Roman Senate in the famous turbot case temp. Domitian, acquitted the accused. Musical instruments were the subject of equally stringent regulations; trumpets and trombones being especially confined to grand occasions and forbidden to persons of low degree. The trumpeters and kettle-drummers formed a close and highly privileged corporation. One Mather Richter, at Altenberg, was fined 200 dollars for allowing trumpets to be blown at his daughter's wedding; and so late as 1732 the trumpeters and trombone-players of Weissenfels lodged a complaint against the bailiff of Freiburg for daring to make the state-piper attend on him with trumpets and trombones. The defence was, that persons of distinction were present; and the cause came at last before the Law Faculty of Leipsig, who, on due examination of the circumstances and the precedents, let off the offender on payment of costs.

Amongst the numerous instances of popular prejudice which abound in this collection, the municipal ordinances against shepherds are the most unaccountable. Not only were they forbidden to settle in towns or to become members of guilds; but to intermarry with the pastoral class carried into a family a taint like that supposed to be communicated by the smallest intermixture of black blood in the disrupted States of North America. With these curious and whimsical incidents of German morals and manners in the last century, we take leave of Dr. Weber.

2 vols.

ART. VII.-1. The useful Metals and their Alloys; including

Mining Ventilation, Mining Jurisprudence, and Metallurgic Chemistry, 8c. With their application to the industrial arts. By JOAN SCOFFERN, M.B. Lond., WILLIAM TRURAN, C.E., WILLIAM CLAY, ROBERT OXLAND, WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN, F.R.S., W. C. AITKIN, and WILLIAM VOSE

PICKETT. London: 1857. 2. Iron, its History, Properties, and Processes of Manufacture

. By WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN, C.E., LL.D., F.R.S., F.G.S.

Edinburgh: 1861. 3. On the Application of Cast and Wrought Iron to Building

Purposes. By WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN, C.E., F.R.S., F.G.S.

2nd edition. London: 1857-58. 4. W. Fairbairn, Esq., F.R.S., on the Properties of Iron and

its Resistance to Projectiles at High Velocities. Lecture de

livered at the Royal Institution on Friday, May 9th, 1862. 5. Iron Ship Building, with Practical Illustrations. By JOHN

GRANTHAM, consulting engineer and naval architect, Liver

pool. London: 1858. 6. Lives of the Engineers. By SAMUEL SMILES.

London : 1862. The present century offers the first instance in the history

of the world of a supply of iron which exceeds the demand. The scarcity of this most useful of all metals was the great clog on the unevenly developed civilisation of the ancient world. In Homer's days the supply of iron barely sufficed for the rude agriculture of the period.

His heroes were content to mangle each other with brazen spears and swords, and a lump no bigger than a man could carry of unwrought iron, fit for making arrow-heads, was thought a prize worth contending for at the funeral games of Patroclus

. . The Romans possessed iron in much larger quantities. Pliny speaks as authoritatively as a modern geologist, though not as scientifically, of iron ores to be found in almost all parts of

the world," of their various qualities and different uses. And it is remarkable that wherever iron has been discovered in this country, even in very recent times, the traces also of ancient workings have been found.

But the age of bronze cannot be said to have passed till the first of the three great inventions which form landmarks in the history of the iron manufacture -- the art of making 'pig

away

iron' - had been made known to the world. The Romans undoubtedly succeeded in increasing the “blast' and the combustion of their furnaces; but the perfection of the art of smelting consists in the introduction of a third substance, called a flux, which is easily fused in combination with the earthy matter of the ironstone, and permits the disengaged metal to flow freely from the bottom of the furnace into the moulds prepared for it.* The iron thus produced is called pig iron, and is not only more abundant in quantity but differs materially in quality from the product of the processes previously in use. When this great discovery was made, or by whom, is unknown. Its value was probably not appreciated at the time, and its date is unrecorded. Certain it is that with the first dawn of modern history we find iron established in the economy of daily life as the usual material of all hardware. Soon after the invention of gunpowder we read of cast-iron ordnance, and casting' implies a previous familiarity with the art of making pig iron. In the Middle Ages a degree of skill which has never been surpassed was attained in working in steel. The artisans of that period were artists, and they employed all their powers in both capacities to decorate the arms and armour, and other hardware intended for the personal use of the great. They enlayed them with the precious metals in patterns of the most exquisite design; and further to adorn them the art (the parent of engraving) was invented of carving on little plates of silver an outline which was subsequently filled up with a dark composition called nigellum, and hence the name of the Nielli, so highly prized by modern collectors, and so dexterously imitated by modern forgers. But, with these and a few such like exceptions, iron was applied to only the most ordinary uses. Yet even for these the supply was insufficient, and early enactments forbidding its exportation prove its scarcity and value in this country. So far, however, from encouraging the manufacture, the legislature for some centuries seems to have considered it as the natural enemy of the oak forests, on which the national safety then depended ; and at best as a necessary evil which could only by great vigilance and restrictive laws be contained within tolerable bounds.

In Charles I.'s days Dud Dudley discovered the art of sub* It is by many supposed that the Romans used a flux. We should infer from Pliny's silence on the subject, and still more from the quantity of iron found in the Roman cinder,' that they did not. Pliny's phrase,' Aquæ modo liquari ferrum, postea in spongias frangi' (Hist. Nat. cap. xxxiv.), implies that the iron, though fused, was not run off into moulds, but was left to form itself into a shapeless honey-combed mass at the bottom of the furnace.

stituting coke or coal for charcoal in the smelting furnace-the great invention which forms the second epoch in the history of the iron manufacture-but even he failed to see or feared to urge the great importance of his own discovery; and in his passionate pleading with the restored Government of Charles II. for the renewal of his patent, he claims no merit for increasing the supply of iron, and dwells only on the advantage of sparing the native oak forests.

If Dudley did not feel the full value of his own invention, no one else felt it at all. The discovery was, in fact, premature. Till the necessary improvements in the blowing apparatus of the smelting furnace had been effected, the means were lacking to turn it to account, and this was not accomplished till about 1740, at which date the iron trade had reached its lowest point of depression. Under the double check of legislative discouragement, and a diminishing supply of charcoal, the home manufacture had sunk to less than 18,000 tons per annum; and so far had the political troubles of the preceding half century checked industrial enterprise, that the imports did not average more than 30,000 to 35,000 tone. But better times were at hand. With the assistance of pit coal, which was soon brought into common use, the home manufacture was raised in the interval between 1740 and 1788 to nearly 70,000 tons per annum, while the imports increased to upwards of 50,000. And now at last the time was arrived when the need of foreign aid was yearly to become less. About the year 1788 the completion of the steam engine gave a new impulse to all the operations of mining, and facilitated all the processes of the iron manufacture. From this period dates the supremacy of England in the iron trade. And while this rapid stride in advance was still fresh in the memory of the middle-aged, the third and last great discovery, the application of the hot blast (the nature of which we shall describe presently), secured a supply of iron large enough to meet any possible demand, and cheap enough to permit its application to every variety of purpose.

In the first instance, iron was most urgently needed as the material for the improved machinery, which was the indispensable instrument of further progress. Powerful engines on new principles were invented, and the clumsy wooden contrivances of a ruder age were gradually superseded by iron-work of a more scientific construction. At the present day the quantity of iron annually consumed in the manufacture of machinery is enormous. And in the sole production of iron more iron is in various ways employed than the whole country could have furnished at the beginning of the century,

It is difficult to conceive how a supply of 70,000 tons of homemanufactured iron could have sufficed for the wants of an age which already displayed so much industrial energy, but every. thing is relative; and even before the annual make' had reached this amount, the comparative plentifulness and cheapness of iron suggested the idea of applying it to hitherto untried uses. Even then John Wilkinson of Broseley, who is known as the father of the iron trade,' and in his day was called the great iron

master,' ventured to predict the time would come when we should live in iron houses and sail in iron ships. He was called “iron mad,' and it was supposed to be a symptom of his prevailing delusion, when in 1773 he proposed that cast iron should be used as the material of a single-arched bridge, which it was desired to erect across the Severn. The idea was not wholly new. As early as 1755 an attempt had been made at Lyons to construct an iron bridge. But it had failed, and even if its fame had reached Shropshire its failure could have held out no encouragement to repeat the experiment. Bridges of cast iron are now so common, it is difficult to appreciate the boldness of the man who first conceived the project of employing this new material in the construction of a gigantic arch to span a navigable river. Hitherto cast iron had been little used. Dudley speaks of certain cisterns and other articles for domestic use, which he had cast from his pit-coal iron as novelties beyond the reader's belief. More recently Savery and Newcomen had made use of it in constructing their pumps and engines. As yet, however, the art of casting was imperfectly understood. But the vigorous efforts which were made in the latter half of the last century to develope the industrial resources of the country, by the construction of roads, bridges, and canals, called forth a vast amount of engineering and mechanical talent- and taxed it to the utmost to invent novel modes of construction, and to discover materials of more extensive application than those hitherto in use. Wilkinson's proposal was referred to Mr. Pritchard, the architect of the county, and was carried out in the erection of the bridge near Coalbrookdalethe first iron bridge in the world, which gives the name of Ironbridge to the little town rapidly rising on the adjacent bank. The second iron bridge was designed some years later, by the well-known Thomas Paine, whose notoriety is derived from a less creditable employment of his talents. It was executed at Rotherham, and taken piecemeal to London, where

« PreviousContinue »