Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/495

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IS THIS A DEGENERATE AGE?.

might require five days instead of two for the voyage from Albany to New York, just as a vessel, under similar conditions, thirty years later, might be six or seven weeks on the way from London to New York; but the delay caused little more of irritation among the passengers than would be caused to-day if the Empire Express were two hours late. Even sixty years ago, a journey to St. Louis was an undertaking equal to that of crossing the ocean; in each case, the expectant traveler made his will and his friends assembled to bid a sorrowful farewell. Now one makes less preparation for a tour around the globe. Sixty years ago, mails were irregular and postage was from ten to twenty times what it is now. The arrival of a stranger in a village was an event; he brought information from the outer world. The man who had been one thousand miles from home, received more consideration in a large town than is granted in a petty hamlet to a full-developed globe-trotter. Even sixty years ago, forges or petty furnaces, scattered about the country supplied the necessities of the community.

But steamboats, railways and telegraphs brought all parts of the land into actual contact; the discovery of petroleum and the cheapening of kerosene by improved methods of refining carried light into the most secluded corners, and added several hours of life to each day among farming communities; the vast expansion of manufactures during the Civil War led to modifications in educational methods, which in their turn made possible the utilization of our mineral resources. Each advance made others imperative. The repertoire of discoveries in physical science was ransacked in search of those which could be utilized by inventors; every discovery, every invention was welcomed and tested.

Improvements followed in such rapid succession that one, in reviewing the last thirty years, becomes confused and the movements appear as irregular and unrelated as those in a quickly-revolving kaleidoscope. The age of Holley-Mushet-Bessemer steel burst upon us and revolutionized not merely our railroad systems but also our ship-building and architecture. Henry's telegraph, introduced by Morse's energy and Vail's receiver, was spread as a network over the whole country; the researches of Helmholtz and Lissajou led up to Bell's telephone; Faraday's discovery grew into the dynamo, which introduced the age of electricity.

But these changes made more of life, thrust more into life so that more was required of life. The transition or rather the series of transitions was severe. It is the commonplace of history that no great advance is made, except, for the time, at the expense of human life or comfort. Steamships have driven from the sea fleets of vessels and have made the sailor almost a thing of the past; railroads destroyed the prosperity of communities bordering the great turnpikes crossing Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, and compelled abandon-