Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/545

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

longevity is owing to the use of open fireplaces"; probably a considerable part is owing to it. We all know how close and stifling is the atmosphere of a room heated by a stove, and how much more difficult it is to keep a room perfectly ventilated in summer than it is in winter, when the fire is constantly changing the air. It may be true that three fourths of the heat of our fireplaces passes up the chimney and is lost to us; but we gain far more advantage by the fresh air constantly introduced into the room. Now, with improved grates and improved fireplaces we may retain all the advantages of the open fire without so great a waste either of the substance of the consumer or of the national stock of coal; and attention is already being devoted to this fact in middle-class households, but some time must yet elapse before the advantage is reaped by the working classes. At a former meeting of this Association Mr. Edward Atkinson exhibited a portable oven or cooking-stove, which was a marvel of simplicity and economy. He has described it at length in his 'Science of Nutrition,' 1892. He argues that the attempts to combine cooking with the warming of a room or house are absurdly wasteful; that almost the whole of the fuel used in cooking is wasted; and that nine tenths of the time devoted to watching the process of cooking is wasted; and he estimates the waste of food from bad cooking in the United States at $1,000,000,000 a year. I have not, however, heard of his oven being at all extensively used.

Upon the thorny subject of dress it is perilous to venture; but it is impossible to be in the neighborhood of a London park on a Sunday afternoon without feeling that the efforts of domestic servants to follow the rapidly changing vagaries of fashion are carried to a pernicious degree of waste. The blouse of the French workman and the bare head of the Parisian factory-girl or flower-girl are infinitely more pleasing than the soiled and frowsy woolens or the dowdy hats of their English fellows, nor does the difference of climate afford an adequate explanation of the difference of habit. We must perhaps admit a greater dislike in England to any external indication of a difference in wealth by a costume different in kind. M. Lavollée, after referring to the low price of the ready-made suits which the English factories "fling by the million on the markets of the world, including their own," adds: "This extraordinary cheapness is, however, not always without inconvenience to the consumer. If the clothes he buys cost little, they are not lasting, and their renewal becomes in the long run very burdensome. This renewal is, too, the more frequent in that the wife of the English workman is in general far from skillful in sewing and mending. Whether she lacks inclination, or the necessary training, or whether the fatigues of a too frequent maternity make her rôle as a housewife too difficult for her to support, the woman of the people is generally, on the other side of the Channel, a rather poor cook, an indifferent needle-woman