Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/641

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
625
AN AMERICAN MANUAL TRAINING-SCHOOL.

mechanics, always make. Certain parts it had been practically impossible to construct, as they involved shapes that could not be molded by ordinary means. A nut had been placed where it was next to impossible to turn it; and certain parts which were to be of cast-iron had been given such dimensions that the castings would have snapped in pieces while cooling. These errors had been corrected by the mechanic, and the perfected thought lay fully expressed before me.

In this illustration we have three greatly different methods of expressing essentially the same thought. Each constitutes a distinct language, and each is absolutely essential to modern civilization.

You will note how a crude thought often takes practical shape in the hands of the draughtsman and the mechanic. "Drawing," says Professor Silvanus P. Thompson, "is the very soul of true technical education, and of exact and intelligent workmanship." Those who have tested this can tell how many marvels of ingenuity, as lovely as châteaux en Espagne, have vanished in the presence of "plans and elevations"; and how many beautifully drawn designs have been mercilessly condemned as impracticable by judges versed in the laws of construction and the strength of materials.

Much more could be said upon the arts of expression, their relative importance and proper cultivation. You will readily think, as did Lessing in his Laocoon, of poetry, painting, and sculpture. You will recall how lofty thoughts have in all ages found expression in architectural forms, and yet, throughout all the history of architecture, the laws of mechanics as then understood and the properties of the materials used have determined the different styles. In our own age we are trying to express ourselves in iron and steel, and to cast off the fetters of an age of marble and granite.

In a recent address Mr. Charles H. Ham, of Chicago, said that, by putting thought into seventy-five cents' worth of ore, it is converted into pallet-arbors worth $2,500,000. He continues: "Skilled labor is embodied thought—thought that houses, feeds, and clothes mankind. The nation that applies to labor the most thought, the most intelligence (i. e., that best expresses its thought in concrete form), will rise highest in the scale of civilization, will gain most in wealth, will most surely survive the shocks of time, will live the longest in history."

But some one will say, as to methods of expression: "One art is enough for me; make me master of one, and I will care for no second." I answer, you are thinking of an impossibility. If a mechanic is only a mechanic, he is never a master, even of his own art. He is crippled at every turn; in expressing himself, he is limited to what he can make. He is without that powerful ally, drawing, the short-hand of the imagination, and in the presence of thoughts that baffle concrete expression he is dumb. Valuable machines even are sometimes purely imaginary. Clerk Maxwell, in his "Theory of Heat," says: "For the purposes of scientific illustration we shall describe the working of an