« ElőzőTovább »
came into general use the want of competent mechanics was severely felt. The whole country was ransacked for suitable men, and when they were found, they could make their own terms. In more than one instance a skilful and ingenious artisan is known to have received as much as £10 in a single week. Here was a temptation for those who possessed a natural aptitude for mechanics. It did more for the advancement of technical education than could have been effected by the establishment of any number of Whitworth Scholarships. Watchmakers, jewellers, gasfitters, plumbers, surgical instrument makers, carpenters, masons, agricultural implement makers, and others, were among the foremost in adapting themselves to the new and profitable calling thus placed within their reach. Perhaps the most characteristic and instructive example of the manner in which the opportunity thus afforded could be utilised by a simple labouring man, was furnished by a Northamptonshire silk-plush weaver, who, devoting his leisure hours to the repair of watches and clocks, found his self-gained knowledge and experience of considerable service when applied to the repair of sewing machines. Such was the skill of the ex-weaver in his new occupation, that his assistance was constantly being sought by the owners of machines, but he was not content with this. He aimed at becoming a manufacturer of sewing machines. During the few hours that he could call his own, he constructed a model of a sewing machine, in which, while carefully avoiding any infringement of existing patents, he introduced numerous improvements suggested by his practical experience. The experiment proved successful. The machine produced by our ex-weaver was cheap, good, and effectually answered the purpose for which it was intended. As its merits became known it found a ready sale, and before many months had elapsed its inventor found all his time and energies required for its manufacture. He persevered, established workshops of his own, and at last found himself the proprietor of a large manufactory, containing plant and machinery valued at several thousands of pounds, employing scores of skilled mechanics, and producing many thousands of sewing machines every year. Truly may it be said, that in the annals of industrial selfhelp there is to be found no brighter or more encouraging example than that of Owen Robinson, the sewing machine manufacturer of Kettering.
There exist no official statistics relative to the number of sewing machines annually produced in this country, but experienced persons have expressed an opinion that it cannot be less than 70,000 or 80,000, if not much higher. The manufactories are to be found scattered over the country, many being situate in Lancashire, in the neighbourhood of Manchester and Oldham. Even the agricultural county of Essex can boast the possession of a sewing machine works, a significant indication of the remarkable manner in which the new mechanical appliance has sprung into general use. Scotch machines are made principally, if not exclusively, at Glasgow, and bear an excellent reputation for workmanship and finish,
several specimens displayed at the recent Philadelphia Exhibition having attracted considerable attention in consequence of the almost faultless character of the mechanism. There are no manufactories of sewing machines in Wales or Ireland, although the use of the invention in the latter country affords employment to many thousands of workpeople, chiefly females, thus assisting in diminishing the stream of Celtic emigration to England during the period of the corn harvest. On the Continent there are numerous sewing machine manufacturing establishments, principally, we believe, in France, Belgium, and Germany, those of the latter country finding their way into Russia, the Danubian Principalities, and various parts of European Turkey. The continental machines generally have a tasteful appearance, but are less substantially constructed than those produced by English and American manufacturers, although the various inventions and improvements effected by the latter are unsparingly used, thanks to defects in the Patent Law system, by foreign manufacturers. Yet it is not quite certain that what appears at first sight to be a disadvantage is really such, for the necessity of relying upon superior workmanship to enable them to hold their place in the European market, has prevented English and American manufacturers from falling into the great industrial error of sacrificing excellence and quality to mere cheapness, if an imperfect article sold at a low price can be honestly designated as cheap. Few of the continental manufactured machines find their way out of Europe, but those of England and America have become extensively used in India, and even China, the inhabitants of the latter country exhibiting considerable tact in applying the invention to numerous industrial purposes.
The number of persons engaged in the English sewing machine manufacture is very large, the wages varying according to the amount of skill required. Many of the machines are sent to Birmingham for the purpose of being lacquered and ornamented, but the expense and loss of time thus occasioned is leading to the use of tables with polished metal surfaces. The manufacture of the silk and thread required for the machines constitutes a special branch of industrial production, as does that of the particular descriptions of needles used by the machinists, and which are principally made by the firms that formerly produced the old-fashioned needles for the handworkers. Altogether there cannot be less than one hundred thousand persons directly or indirectly concerned in the manufacture of sewing machines and the various trades connected therewith. In the United States the number is even larger, while in France and other continental countries it is estimated at about 50,000. Consequently, the invention of the sewing machine has become productive of employment to at least a quarter of a million artisans and others in various parts of the world, exclusive of the enormous number engaged as machinists. And yet the manufacture is still in its infancy. Not the least curious and instructive feature of the sewing machine
manufacturing industry is the manner in which it has assisted in stimulating mechanical ingenuity and invention in other directions, especially in connection with the various important industries in which the machine plays a conspicuous part. In the boot and shoe manufacture, for instance, the number and variety of mechanical appliances recently introduced has become so large, that employers are rapidly becoming perfectly independent of unassisted hand labour, save in the cutting of the leather required for the upper portion of the boot or shoe. In numerous establishments the soles and heels are cut by machinery, generally worked by steam power. In like manner the heels are affixed to the sole, pared, and all but finished; the operation occupying a few minutes only, instead of an hour or two as formerly, and the workmanship being of a better character. In the stay and clothing trades, the shears have become replaced by cutting machines worked as usual by steam, with the aid of which a single skilled operative can perform the ordinary work of about twenty men. But all this has not led to any perceptible displacement of manual labour, the increased demand for the manufactured articles enabling the majority of handworkers to obtain remunerative employment, notwithstanding the enormouly increased rate of production occasioned by the introduction of machinery.
In the English colonies the industrial results of the sewing machine have not been less marked than in the mother country. In Canada it has led to the establishment of clothing manufactories on an extensive scale, which has, however, been surpassed in Australia, where the Melbourne and Sydney boot and shoe makers annually produce, with the assistance of the machine, thousands of boots and shoes from colonial leather. In Victoria alone there were, in 1874, no fewer than forty-two boot and shoe manufactories, six being worked by steam power, containing machinery and plant valued at nearly £15,000, and employing over 1,800 hands; the value of the goods produced during 1874 being estimated at £400,000. In New South Wales the progress of the manufacture has been equally rapid. In every place where the sewing machine has been introduced it has had the double effect of developing existing industries and creating others. In very few instances has it operated prejudicially upon the interests of the operatives, and then only for a very short period.
So apparent, indeed, are the advantages of the new mechanical appliance, that the men who formerly opposed its use have become its warmest friends, and readily admit the mistake into which they fell through their misconception of its real character. In the household the sewing machine has become an almost indispensable appendage, and there are few housewives, even in higher social circles, who do not know something of the management of an apparatus which enables them to avoid much of the drudgery that once made needlework so frequently a laborious task. One result of this silent revolution is that nearly every
article of clothing is made better and more strongly than was the case a few years ago. The standard of excellence in workmanship has been considerably raised, the opportunities of employment are largely increased, the hours of labour reduced, and the earnings of the operatives augmented, by means of an invention which, when first introduced to public notice, was actually described by a leading newspaper as an ingenious mechanical toy, of little practical use. Elias Howe knew the true character of his invention better than did his critic, and when posterity is asked the names of those whose labours have proved most useful and beneficial to their fellow-creatures, they will include in their answer that of the Inventor of the Sewing Machine.
THE PRINCE OF WALES'S INDIAN PRESENTS AT THE INDIA MUSEUM.
ONE of the most interesting sights of the past season was the unique collection of valuables and curiosities presented to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, by the native Princes and Chieftains, in the course of his progress through our Indian Empire.
The custom of offering gifts- either of money or valuables-to the Sovereign Lord, has prevailed in the East from time immemorial; these gifts are known in India as "nuzzer," and are of the nature of a tribute in token of subjection to the paramount Chief. But on the occasion of the Prince's visit to India, the Government published a notification beforehand dispensing with the usual "nuzzer," and the gifts which were made were therefore all purely voluntary, and are consequently the more valuable as tokens of loyalty and attachment. Their political value is also exceedingly great, for when we consider that some of the offerings are heirlooms, either of sovereign families or, as in the case of the famous sword of Sivajee, of a nation, we cannot but acknowledge that nothing but feelings of amity and goodwill to the British Government can have prompted their offering.
Immediately after the return of His Royal Highness to England, it became known that he intended affording the public an opportunity of inspecting the treasures he had collected during his travels, by exhibiting them in the India Museum for a few months, and many were the anxious enquiries which were daily made at the doors of the Museum, between the date of the announcement and that of the Collection being ready for public inspection.
And here a few words as to the India Museum may not be out of place. This Museum was founded in 1798, at the old East India House in Leadenhall Street, for the reception of the
curiosities and treasures which had been presented at various times to the Honourable East India Company; a little later it was decided that the Museum should contain also an adequate representation of the mineral, vegetable, and animal products of India, as well as a complete series of the manufactures of the country. In 1860, the Museum changed its quarters to Fife House, then to the upper floor of the India Office, and finally, in 1874, an arrangement was made with Her Majesty's Commissioners for the 1851 Exhibition, by which the Eastern galleries of the International Exhibition Buildings, at South Kensington, were leased to the Secretary of State for India, for occupation by the India Museum, for three years. The collection had during all this time been progressively growing in bulk, but had always been cramped both in space and in funds, and although the present galleries afford far more superficial space than had ever previously been allotted to the Museum, they are not very well suited to the proper display of the collections. It is earnestly to be hoped that before long the Director, Dr. Forbes Watson, may see the realisation of the scheme at which he has been working for years, and that the India Museum may at length have a home of its own, and not have to wander about in search of lodgings.
The authorities of the India Museum, having no funds to devote to the purchase of the most suitable show-cases and fittings for the effective display of the treasures of Oriental art brought home by His Royal Highness, had to make the best possible use of such cases as were already in the Museum, even though many of them were not at all adapted to the use to which they were now to be put; accordingly, the two northern rooms of the Upper Gallery were denuded of their contents principally the Museum collection of textile fabrics-and the arrangement of the Prince's collection was at once taken in hand. For many reasons it was found both unadvisable and impracticable to arrange the gifts of each Chieftain or of each State in a separate case; and, in many instances, so heterogeneous were the gifts of any one Chieftain, that it would have been impossible even to arrange them in at all close juxtaposition; so it was decided to assign certain groups of goods to certain cases, and there to arrange them without special reference to their places of origin, and on the same plan it will be advisable to attempt a slight description of them.
On entering the India Museum by the principal entrance from the Exhibition Road, the visitor found himself in a long room where the sculptures from the Amravati Tope were exhibited ; these sculptures were discovered by Col. Mackenzie about sixty years ago in and around a ruined "Tope" or commemorative mound on the bank of the river Kistna, in Madras; about thirty years ago, Sir Walter Elliot had this mound explored and excavated, and sent home the series of sculptures which are here exhibited. Mr. James Fergusson, the celebrated authority on Ancient Architecture, has exhaustively described and illustrated these sculptures in his "Tree and Serpent Worship ;" he places