Popular Science Monthly/Volume 31/May 1887/Popular Miscellany


A Fraudulent Benefaction.—The tricks of fraudulent schemers are endless, and are marked by the greatest craft, so that even the most wary are sometimes taken in by them. There came to us some months ago what purported to be the honest proceedings of a national society—"The Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association of the United States." Among the "Transactions" was the approval of an offer, by the inventor, of freedom to make and use a fruit-evaporator, said to be superior to any ever before devised. Trusting to the honest appearance of the item, we noticed it as a public good, and the notice appeared in our last number. We are now informed, by Mr. Oscar C. Gibbs, editor of the "Farmers' Review," Chicago, in a note, for which we thank him, that the whole affair, including the society and the evaporator, is fraudulent. He writes:

D. Appleton & Co.:

Gentlemen: In your "Monthly" for April, on page 862, I notice an article entitled "A Fruit-Evaporator for the Public," purporting to present the proceedings of a meeting held at Columbus, Ohio (date not given), at which was offered to the "Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association" the plans of a fruit-evaporator, on condition that they should be published and furnished free to all applicants. This is simply a fraudulent scheme to secure free advertising, and of which "The Popular Science Monthly" has fallen a victim, unless the matter referred to in its columns was paid matter.[1] The scheme was tried on the agricultural press of the country last year, but with only partial success, as the fraud was soon detected and exposed. They now seem to have tackled the periodicals. I inclose a page from the "Farmers' Review" of July 28, 1886, which fully exposes the whole fraud. For any further information which you may desire, I refer you to the "Country Gentleman," "Rural New-Yorker," "Ohio Farmer," or any other reputable agricultural journal. Trusting that the next issue will contain such reference to this pretended association as shall counteract any advantage the parties might otherwise derive from the publication in the April issue, and will also put other periodicals on their guard,

I remain, very truly, yours,
O. C. Gibbs,
Editor "Farmers' Review."
Chicago, March 29, 1887.

It appears, from papers which Mr. Gibbs sends with his letter, that the object of the recommendation is to induce parties to write to the address given for the plans and drawings promised, when they are informed that another and still better evaporator has been put upon the market, which will be furnished them at a price less than the cost of making the "Arnold Evaporator." The pretended society consists of persons interested in the sale of the new evaporator; and the names of persons of known repute, which are enrolled in its list of members, appear to have been borrowed without the owners' consent. So, if any of our friends have intended to inquire about the "Arnold Evaporator" on the strength of our notice, we only have to say to them, "Don't." To those who may already have been misled by our item we offer our apologies.

The New York Skin and Cancer Hospital.—The New York Skin and Cancer Hospital was incorporated in November, 1882, and now has a city hospital building in East Thirty-fourth Street, at which more than four thousand cases have been treated by a staff of physicians of recognized competence, and a country branch of cottage pavilions at Fordham Heights, near High Bridge; the two properties being valued at about $80,000. The pavilions of the country branch are projected in recognition of the fact which has been abundantly verified in army practice, that such structures, light, airy, and admitting only a small number of patients at a time, are free from the objections which attach to the solid buildings of city hospitals with their crowds of patients occupying the same quarters year after year. They are much more easily and for a longer time kept free from the infectious qualities likely to attach to a permanent hospital, and the patient is relatively secure from the peril from poisonous influences which he is sure to incur in a city hospital. Being slight and cheap, they can be removed if they finally become infected, and their places supplied by new, clean, and entirely wholesome cottages. The estate at Fordham comprises sixteen acres of land in an elevated situation that commands fine views of the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. It will be occupied with cottages as they are needed, and the means are supplied for building them. Two have been built, and are in use, and four others are under way. The experiences of the past year, we learn from the recently published fourth annual report, have already indicated the wisdom of the new undertaking. "The favorable effects of fresh air, sunshine, quiet, and isolation upon the cancer-patients is shown in the prolongation of life, and in the comfort and helpful care it is possible to administer." Upon the record of what they have accomplished, the managers of the institution invite gifts for building other cottages, to be named by the giver, costing from $2,000 to $5,000 each; and endowments for beds, of $3,000 during the life of the donor, and $5,000 in perpetuity. The total cost of hospital accommodations for one hundred patients on this plan of building is estimated at $50,000, which, with $50,000 paid for the property, will make the price $1,000 a bed—a very small sum, compared with the cost in some other hospitals. The managers are aided in the care of patients by the Ladies' Auxiliary Board, by whose exertions a sufficient fund has so far been kept in hand to provide for the treatment of every patient who has made application; so that none have been turned away on account of inability to pay the cost of treatment. While it is not intended to make the institution a charity, it is desired to keep this feature up. A prize fund has been started to encourage the research for new and effective remedies and methods of treatment for cancer.

The American Society of Naturalists.—The meeting of the Society of Naturalists, which is composed of persons who regularly devote a considerable portion of their time to the advancement of natural history, was held in Philadelphia in the latter part of December, 1886. A prominent place is given in the proceedings of the society to the discussion of questions relative to methods of investigation and of instruction. At the present meeting the discussion on methods in teaching was led by Professors H. S. Williams and Davis, of Harvard College, on geology and geological investigation; Farlow, on botany; H. N. Martin, on collegiate teaching of biology; and Whitman, on the proper position of biological investigation in the university. It is contemplated to discuss the subject of science in the schools at next year's meeting.

Why English Trade is declining.—The latest English "Blue-Book" exposes the fact that English trade is falling behind in most countries, while German commercial interests are gaining the ascendant. The reasons for the change are somewhat complicated, but the principal ones may be summed up in the assertion that English merchants have lapsed into a kind of indifference about pleasing and accommodating their customers, while the Germans are taking great pains to ascertain and meet their wants. The reasons assigned for the superior vigor of German trade in Italy are a "higher standard of technical education, greater activity in the employment of commercial travelers speaking Italian, greater attention paid to the wants of the Italian market, and greater facilities for delivery and for payment." In Bulgaria, "some Jew from Vienna comes every week offering something wanted." The remark applies to several countries. "Ask an English manufacturer to alter the shape of an article to meet the requirements of foreign markets, . . . he generally refuses. The German manufacturer, on the other hand, has no prejudices; if he find that an article of a certain shape commands a ready sale in any particular country, he makes it, however foreign it may be to his own tastes and wants." So it is in Greece, Roumania, Servia, Turkey, Spain, and South America. The lesson is drawn from these facts by the "Spectator" that the English manufacturer must display more intelligence, more adaptiveness, more energy, more sympathy, if he is to hold his own against the increasing rivalry of the highly educated, active, and expanding German. His commercial education must be improved. Boys must be taught the modern languages, and be given a speaking as well as a grammatical acquaintance with the tongues of the peoples with whom they are to stand in commercial relations. But these and other branches of commercial importance still hold only a subordinate place in English secondary schools, while men of commerce and manufacture are trained almost entirely in subjects rather suitable for the professions.

Sewerage and Typhoid Fever. The Baltimore "American" some time ago questioned the value of a system of sewerage in promoting the health of a city, and cited, in justification of its doubt, the case of Baltimore, a healthy city without a system, as opposed to Brooklyn and Boston, where the systems of sewerage are extensive, and yet diphtheria and scarlet fever and other like diseases are more prevalent than in Baltimore. The London "Sanitary World" answers these doubts by citations from the report of Mr. Erwin F. Smith to the Michigan Sanitary Convention on "The Influence of Sewerage and Water-Supply on the Death-Rate in Cities." This paper shows, almost decisively, that the introduction of sewerage and water-supply jointly has had a marked influence in reducing the mortality from typhoid fever, at least. The difficult point is to ascertain the influence of the sewerage alone. The introduction of a pure water-supply is unquestionably an important element in producing this result. But whether the chance of air-pollution is greater from sewers or from cesspools is not so easy to determine. There are a few records, however, which will help to clear this point. In Berlin, the distribution of cases of fever has been found to be one to each 9·3 unsewered, one to each 49·3 sewered houses. In Dantzic the mortality from typhoid fever dropped to less than one fourth the old rate after the introduction of the sewers in 1872, and has been still lower during the last five years. In Cincinnati the water-supply is abundant, but the sewerage is imperfect, and the death-rate from typhoid is increasing. The city of Mexico enjoys a water-supply of forty-four gallons a day to each person, but there are no sewers, and the fever mortality is very high.

Various Kinds of Rivers.—M. Woeikoff, the Russian meteorologist, considering rivers from a climatological point of view and with regard to their sources of supply, makes several types or classes of them. The first are those which derive their waters from the melting of snows in plains or regions of not more than three thousand feet elevation; such rivers exist only in the extreme north. Next are rivers fed by the melting of snows in the mountains. Instances are the Amou and Syr Barias, the Tarim, and the upper Indus. In their lower course these rivers traverse regions where it seldom rains, or rains only in winter. High waters occur in them at fixed periods, and the maximum height depends on the quantity of snow on the mountains. They are utilized in the plains of their lower course, where cultivation would not otherwise be possible, in vast systems of irrigation. A third class of rivers depend on rains, usually tropical and monsoon rains, and reach their maximum in the hot season. They are best represented by the Congo and the Orinoco, in whose valleys snow never falls. They are low in winter, or the dry season, and reach their maximum stage in summer, when immense quantities of rain fall into them. Some of the tropical rivers, like the Amazon, are partly fed by melting snows, but in very small quantity; for the snow exists only on mountain-tops above twelve thousand feet in height. To this third class belong also the Nile, the Ganges, and Brahmapootra, and the great rivers of China. That the rivers of China, Mantchooria, and the Amoor region possess the common feature with tropical rivers of having their freshets in summer is a testimony to the prevalence of the monsoons in their regions of supply. To a class that receive most of their waters from rains, but are swollen periodically by the melting of the snows, belong most of the rivers of Western and Northern Siberia, European Russia, Scandinavia, Eastern Germany, and the Northeastern United States. The southern hemisphere has no such rivers. A fifth class of rivers depend on rain-water, are of constant flow, and are highest in the cold season, without being subject to sudden freshets. They are found in the eastern part of the United States, in New Zealand, and in South America beyond latitude 40°. Other rivers receiving their waters from rain, and being highest in the cold season, are marked by great differences between high and low water. They predominate in Southern Europe, and are exemplified by the Po and Tiber, and by some rivers in the United States. Other types may be constituted of rivers which become dried up or lost in their course, and of those which exist as streams for only a part of the year. They are found in desert regions.

Improvement of our Climate.—Mr. John C. Goodridge, Jr., has suggested a project for modifying the climate of the Atlantic coast by closing the Strait of Belle Isle, and advances the theory that this scheme is feasible as a problem in physical geography capable of an engineering solution. He argues that it is shown by charts that the great body of the "cold wall" comes to us through that strait. Newfoundland deflects the remainder of the Arctic current to the southeast. Here, pressing against the Gulf Stream, it veers southward in the form of a loop, and finally, running under it, goes on toward the equator. That part of the Gulf Stream that passes our shores has a course directly north and a little west, is deflected slightly toward the east by the coasts of South and of North Carolina, and thence turns more to the north again, when it is deflected by the cold current returning from the pole. When this cold current is of least strength, as in August and September, the Gulf Stream comes within ten miles of Barnegat; at other times it is distant one hundred and twenty miles, changing with the amount of the cold current and of the wind. If we had not the cold wall between our shores and the Gulf Stream, it is fair to presume that we should have a less stormy coast, as the juxtaposition of these two currents with their difference in temperature must from that circumstance tend to an unstable condition of atmospheric equilibrium. Our cold northwest winds would then sweep to the north of us, and become westerly and southwesterly winds.

Production of Coke in the United States.—It is shown by the report of Mr. Joseph D. Weeks, of Pittsburg, to the United States Geological Survey, covering the period from 1880 to 1885, inclusive, that Pennsylvania stands first in the rank of coke-producing States, Alabama second, West Virginia third, and Tennessee fourth. The largest coke-producing locality in the country is the Connellsville region of Pennsylvania, in which were made 3,096,012 of the 5,106,696 tons, or 60·6 per cent of the coke produced in the United States in 1885. The second largest producing district is what is called the Irwin-Latrobe district, which lies along the Pennsylvania Railroad, from Larimer to Blairsville, and is, in part, the northerly extension of the Connellsville coking-field. The number of establishments has slightly decreased, but the number of ovens was increased from 1884 to 1885 by 2·8 per cent, and was in the latter year 20,116. While the production of 1885 increased over that of 1884, it was not as great as in 1883. There has been no increase in the value per ton of coke for three years.

How Harbor-Channels may be kept clear.—Professor Lewis M. Haupt addressed the Section of Mechanical Science and Engineering of the American Association on "River and Harbor Improvements, with Special Reference to the New York Entrance." He maintained that large and weighty structures intended to regulate currents, which rest or depend upon sandy or alluvial bottoms, violate the fundamental requirements that they shall not oppose the ingress of the tide or injuriously modify the currents. Dikes and jetties also are below the plane of action of waves of translation; while dependent upon their mass they are not entirely coherent; and they are wasteful, and result in serious modifications in the regimen of rivers and harbors. He suggested as a preferable system, one consisting of deflectors intended to be attached to buoys or floats, anchored to heavy moorings, and guyed in place on the ebb side by wire cables or chains. This system is composed of units or parts readily assembled, which occupy little space, yet control the currents, and deflect them upon the obstruction to be removed. By it the prism of water passing through a given section can be increased indefinitely, while the aperture of discharge may be diminished, thus producing any required velocity. Stress was laid upon the importance of applying a method which should be limited to the removal of so much of the crest of the bar as would secure the requisite channel, and no more.

The Amazons Valley.—Mr. James W. Wells, in an address before the Royal Geographical Society, on "The Physical Geography of Brazil," divides the rivers of that country into three great systems: the basin of the Amazons, including also the Tocantins and Araguaya; the basin of the Plate River, and the many distinct and separate rivers draining into the Atlantic. The Amazons basin is divided into the bottle-shaped, low-lying forest of the upper valley, 1,300 miles long by 800 miles broad, and its circumscribing elevated table-lands, which, near Obidos and Santarem, approach close to the banks of the main river, and constitute the neck of the bottle-shaped area. Throughout the length of this river, east and west of Obidos, the adjoining land is so low and flat that we have in many cases rather a series of more or less parallel streams than one great, clearly defined stream. It is possible to go in a canoe up the whole of the valley in these lateral channels, and also to pass through the deep forest by natural canals, from one tributary to another, without once entering the main river. It is a singular feature of the Amazons Valley, considering the mass of the water and its equatorial situation, that it is so healthy as it really is. Some of the tributaries of the Amazon are very insalubrious, and life anywhere in them, in any condition, is made miserable by insect pests; yet Mr. Wells has never met any one, who has had an experience of life on the Amazons, who has not become passionately fond of it. "The glorious vegetation, the life free from conventionalities, and the brilliant sunlight and warmth, tempered by fresh breezes, contain some of the elements of making a paradise," and numerous lines of river-steamers afford means of convenient communication. The vegetation of this great valley is essentially different from that of the other two riverine systems. The rich, low-lying lands, subject to annual inundations, frequent rains all the year, and the continual heat, produce a vast wealth of dense tropical verdure, and a forest area greater than can be found in any other part of the globe, intersected by thousands of miles of immense navigable streams, give the region a unique character. Among the valuable vegetable productions, the India-rubber tree figures pre-eminently. It exists in such vast numbers, and the collection of the juice is so very lucrative, that it has attracted to even the most remote rivers thousands of adventurous Brazilians from the adjoining provinces, and it is doing for the Amazons what gold did for Australia and California.

The Microbe of Malaria.—Dr. George M. Sternberg has communicated to the Scientific Association of Johns Hopkins University an account of the confirmation, by his own observation, of Laveran's discovery of the germ, or micro-organism, of malaria. Laveran found this microbe in the shape of an amœboid parasite, in the blood of patients suffering from fever; and also observed that the germs disappeared from the blood when quinine was administered in effective doses. His observations were confirmed by Richard, in 1882, and by Marchiafara and Celli from their researches in the Santo Spirito Hospital of Rome. During a recent visit to Rome, Dr. Sternberg accompanied these gentlemen to the Santo Spirito Hospital, where a most satisfactory demonstration was made to him of the presence and amœboid movements of the parasite, in blood drawn from the finger of a patient in the first stage of a malarial paroxysm. Marchiafara and Celli have induced types of intermittent fever, in previously healthy persons, by injecting into the circulation a small quantity of blood drawn from a malarial patient during his fever. The presence of the parasite in the injected blood was demonstrated, and it was found again in the blood of the persons subjected to the experiment during the induced intermittent paroxysms. These paroxysms were arrested, and the parasite disappeared from the blood when quinine was administered.

Systematic Observations of the Aurora Borealis.—No country is more favorably situated for the systematic observation of the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism and the aurora borealis than Norway. Extending from the fifty-eighth to the seventy-first degree of latitude, it reaches farther north than any other inhabited land, and lies nearer to the center of magnetic disturbances than any other state of Europe. The maximum zone of the northern lights hangs over the northern and northwestern part of the land. The northern and southern districts are connected by numerous telegraph lines and through the telephone exchanges of Drontheim and Bergen. Sophus Tromholt began to organize a system of investigations in 1878, and from September of that year to April, 1879, he recorded 839 observations of 154 northern lights. His idea met with favor, and the method of concerted observation has spread since that time to Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, England, Greenland, and Iceland. The observations of the winter of 1879-80 were much more extensive than those of the previous winter, being 1,600 in number of 249 auroras at 357 stations. In the winter of 1880-81, 5,200 observations were made of about 300 auroras, at 675 stations; and in the winter of 1882-'83, 1,500 persons in the North European countries participated in the work. Notices are now regularly transmitted from fifty Swedish and Norwegian telegraphic stations of all electrical disturbances, with exact minutes of time, direction, etc.; observations that are of the more importance, because not a day passes that something of the kind does not occur somewhere in Norway. Mr. Tromholt intends to publish the year's results of these observations cartographically, with notices of associated meteorological phenomena. For the complete registration of the telegraphic perturbations, he has constructed an apparatus which graphically represents the time of their happening, their strength, and direction, which is connected during the night with a north and south telegraph line 1,400 kilometres long, while during the day telephones are used. This enterprise is assuming an extent which places its effective control beyond the power of one man. Mr. Tromholt therefore proposes that the Government establish an institute at Drontheim to become the central station of the world, to which all observers on land and sea shall transmit their reports.

Importance of the Plumber's Art.—A plea for a higher recognition of the plumber has been made by Mr. William Halley in an address before the Ohio State Sanitary Association. Of the various craftsmen who assist in constructing dwellings, there is not one, perhaps, whose position in the light of sanitary science is more important and responsible than his. In days gone by he was considered a mere worker in lead to supply the simple wants of his employer, as ignorant as himself of the physical laws of his occupation; but now his work assumes the dignity of a sanitarian's. Yet there are few vocations in which skillful work is so little appreciated as that of plumbing. People are not interested in the work because it has no reference to ornamentation, and is almost wholly out of sight. A great deal depends on the plumbing. If it is perfect, the house is healthy; if imperfect, an unhealthy habitation is the result. It is easy to see that it is the most important feature of a house, to which may be added all the convenience, beauty, and polish of a palace. But first of all, stamp it with the character of health by sanitary plumbing. Even with the best devices it is impossible to prevent sewer-gas at times. There are many accidents by which plumbing-work will become crippled and allow gas to escape. Hence it is advisable to exercise extreme care about its location and quantity. Unfortunately, for the plumber and for sanitary effect, the architect is too apt to ignore plumbing and give undue attention to other matters which serve better to display his æsthetic conception. House-drainage is made secondary and subservient to convenience and display. At the last moment it is remembered that the house must be drained, and plumbing specifications are made to fill in the cubby-holes. That is why so much plumbing is worse than useless.

Foliage-Trees in Colors.—The "Saturday Review," treating of plantations of trees, dwells upon the effects that may be produced by massing those having foliage of various hues. While every garden has its "ribbon-beds" of herbaceous foliage plants, the arrangement of trees to produce similar effects is still an undeveloped art. What can be done in this line, it says, "is well illustrated at Waddeson Manor, Baron Ferdinand dc Rothschild's place in Buckinghamshire. Nothing can be more beautiful than the treatment of foliage trees and shrubs in his ground. It is absolute painting, wherein the pigments are represented by golden yews (Taxus baccata variegata and Taxus baccata foliis variegatis), golden elders, double-yellow gorse, golden broom, purple barberry, purple hazel, copper beech, purple sycamore (which varies from green and gray to purple with every passing breeze), variegated maple introducing a lighter tinge, which is carried on by a mass of sea-buckthorn, whose pale, frosted silver is relieved by the deep, velvety green of a background of Austrian pine. What can not be done when such colors as these lie ready to hand, not to mention all the 'glaucous' trees, whose leaves are often white, covered with a silky down or powdered over with a fine dust like that on a butterfly's wing? The American maples, and especially the swamp-maple with its autumn glory of foliage, have made the 'Canadian fall' or autumn a season and object of pilgrimage from all parts of the world. The swamp maple. . . has other merits besides that of its autumn gold. In early spring the leafless branches are clothed with clusters of deep-red flowers, the young growing shoots are reddish-brown in color, and the leaves a bright, shining green above and glaucous underneath." The white or silver maple is also named as a tree producing effects nearly similar.

  1. Nothing of this kind has ever appeared in "The Popular Science Monthly "outside of the regular and avowed advertising pages, under any guise.—Editor.