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PHYSICS AND CIVILIZATION
BY ARTHUR D. LITTLE
WITHIN the last ten years the United by the New York subways, and a States has become the first industrial sagacious management should already nation of the world. No one, though be opening boxes of sardines that it he be the seventh son of a seventh son may determine how best to insert more and born with a caul, can hope to fore- sardines. Everywhere room must be cast with any degree of definiteness the found for the automobiles of these new form which the industrial structure of millions, where now there is scant room the country will ultimately assume. for our own. Pressure which — like Even the general trend of industrial that on water — is exerted in all direcdevelopment is the resultant of a be- tions will come heavily upon our natwildering complexity of forces, each of ural resources, our agencies for produca magnitude largely conjectural. Cer- tion, and our systems of distribution. tain conditions, influences, and tendencies are, nevertheless, recognizable as directive factors in the situation, and from them some conclusions may In 1919 there were over a million be drawn legitimately, although with- marriages in the United States, whereas out guaranty or recourse, concerning in that year only 70,000 homes were the direction in which our industrial built. We are short at least a million development is likely to proceed. dwellings, and some estimates treble
Since 1870 the curve of population that figure. In most parts of the counhas been rising at a rate which — with try practically no houses are being some allowance for restricted immigra- built for workingmen. They still cost tion – indicates a population of 152,- more and rent for more than many 000,000 for the country in 1950. We workingmen can pay. Meanwhile, the must then prepare to clothe and feed population grows, and two or three and house some 42,000,000 more people families live where one lived before. than we do at present. They will, like The result is not so commendable as ourselves, demand much more than where blades of grass are concerned. food, clothing, and a place to sleep. Not more than 40 per cent of our They will require fuel, though we find population now own their homes. it hard enough to get at present; and Many apartments have shrunk to one they will use it in somewhat different room and bath. We are living on the and more effective ways. Power must diminutive scale. Kitchenettes provide be provided for new industries, new our breakfast, luncheonettes supply icefactories, new machines, and for greatly cream soda and a ham sandwich, and augmented systems of transportation. now, in Boston, one may assemble the Many of these new people will travel family in a diningette for the serious meal of the day. The census may soon jars. Intimate culinary products, such designate as a familyette the maiden as baked beans, fish balls, and hash, lady with two goldfish.
come to many a table hot from the can. Only the very well-to-do can now Under the conditions likely to preafford servants, and they can do so only vail in American domestic life, we must on increasingly burdensome terms. anticipate a steadily increasing output At Christmas, who now has the courage of package-goods of every sort. The to present the cook with ten yards of American housewife no longer buys in gingham for a dress? It is not worn bulk. Her disinclination to do so enwith silk stockings and a fur-trimmed sures more business to the makers of coat. College-bred girls now approach tin plate, container-boards, and paper, matrimony with the expectation of and to the lithographer and the printer. doing their own housework, and five- The same conditions may be exstory houses with basement kitchens pected to augment the already reare as unsaleable as Shipping Board markable development of the chain boats. We must obviously rebuild our restaurant, which justifies the lure of houses with due regard to the readjust the pancake in the window by the ments which the prosperity of the masses cleanly brightness of its interior and has forced upon us.
the excellent quality of its food. They We may expect, therefore, a great may bring emancipation, but they do increase and expansion of all those not seem to make for domesticity. industries that tend to lessen household The Chinese laundryman was a piolabor. Already have most domestic neer. He recognized a demand which industries disappeared in competition has immeasurably outgrown his modest with the factory. Who makes soft soap and mysterious facilities. Such proxto-day, or spins and weaves and dyes imity to godliness as he conferred upon butternut-brown? Where is the little the few it is now the function of many dressmaker who came, with Godey’s thousands of machine-filled laundries Lady's Book, to live with the family for to provide for all. The washing of a fortnight while she made the season's linen has become as democratic as the gowns? She is working for better wages referendum and vastly more scientific. behind the counter of the department In my youth I knew a gentleman of store, selling ready-made dresses cut large means and frugal tendencies, who from piles of fabrics with an electric kept upon his mantel a jar of benzine, cutter from patterns that embody the in which reposed those of his black ties latest hints of fashion. Already our which seemed to require restoration trade in women's apparel amounts to of their sober lustre. Now the dyers more than a billion dollars a year. and cleansers, like the laundrymen,
Bread-making, to the advantage of have their national association. To the product, is becoming more and them now go our garments, that for more the business of great companies a brief period we may show ourselves operating many bakeries, equipped unspotted to the world. with every facility for orderly and All those things that relieve houseeconomical production under scientifi- hold labor of its drudgery have their cally controlled conditions. No youth- assured place in the future. Nature ful Franklin would to-day suggest to abhors a vacuum only because she has his father that time might be saved by no carpets and rugs to clean. More and saying grace over the barrel of pork. more homes will be equipped with We buy our bacon sliced, in half-pound electric appliances: toasters, irons, and washing machines; and the electric prospect a large increase in population refrigerator is almost here. There will with greater producing power, more be a similar extension in the domestic leisure, enhanced ability to purchase. use of gas. It is easier to turn a gas- We must, therefore, assume a greatly cock than to carry coal upstairs, and intensified demand both for the necesthe discerning ash-man will apprentice sities of life and for many things that his son to the pipe-fitter.
we still regard as luxuries.
it. Association, fashion, and the ability
standard of living to still higher planes.
When, in a Southern lumber town, the Demand, to be effective, must be Negroes would work only three days a backed by purchasing power, and never week, a better display of goods in the in the history of the world has the pur- company stores held them steadily to chasing power of the masses been so their jobs. In a town in central New great in any large population as in the York, girl operatives receiving war United States during and since the war. wages found four days' work a week It is not likely to recede permanently sufficient for their requirements until from this high level. In the seventy the company brought in some operayears from 1849 to 1919 the value of tives from New York City, whose our manufactures increased more than Georgette waists and all-silk hose soon sixtyfold. In the same period the num- inspired the local girls to work full time. ber of wage-earning operatives in- In response to such demands the tendcreased not quite tenfold. The gain in ency will be to produce for the masses producing capacity per operative is products resembling as closely as may striking and significant. During recent be those made for the wealthy few. A years the number of persons engaged wrist watch from the jewelry counter in agriculture has remained practically of a Woolworth store asks a handicap stationary. We have passed from an of only three feet and does not require agricultural to an industrial economy, winding. though the basis of our prosperity is One striking feature of our times still deeply rooted in the soil. During which is of peculiar significance for the the transition period wages in industry future is the rate at which labor is have doubled, while hours of labor have becoming capitalist. Universal educanotably decreased. We have thus in tion has always tended to lift labor
into higher ranks. The process is now ing enterprises. During the last twenty accelerated by restricted immigration. years the average size of manufacturing We may not and do not hope to see establishments, as measured by the our Americanized labor descend from number of workers, has greatly inits high position, and we have checked creased, although even now less than the influx of ignorant and low-priced one per cent of such establishments emlabor, which alone can bring it down. ploy more than five hundred workers. We must then expect even higher Nevertheless, in 1919 over eighty-six wages in the future, and these will be per cent of our industrial wage-earnreflected in a higher cost of living ers were in corporation-owned plants. measured in terms of money. The This assumes a broad significance time-cost of living has been going down in view of the spreading tendency of consistently over a long period. corporations to offer their stock, fre
In a single recent year the people of quently on preferential terms, to their the United States have saved more employees and customers. Nearly one than twelve and a half billion dollars. half of the 100,000 owners of Armour Since it takes two persons to make a and Company are employees, and a quarrel, we may entertain the hope recent offering of its stock displayed a that the long struggle between capital surprising financial status among day and labor is in a way to find perma- laborers, truck-drivers, and office worknent adjustment, for capital and laborers. Two hundred and fifty electricare rapidly becoming one. Possession light companies are now selling stock breeds conservatism, and to have to consumers and employees, and nearinspires to hold. The surplus of the ly three and a half million shares were Amalgamated Association of Street so sold in 1922. The employees of the Railway Workers is already over Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company $6,000,000. The entire expenses of now own 120,000 shares of its stock and the organization are met by interest on are expected to buy 60,000 more in deposits and investments, and its sur- 1924, which will bring their holdings plus is growing rapidly. In October of to thirty per cent of the total issued. last year the United Mine Workers The normal trend of wages in the had on deposit in Indianapolis over United States is upward, and this up$1,100,000, and the dues of the union ward movement was, of course, greatly bring in $250,000 a month. In nine accelerated by the war, but wages are months, recently past, the Amalga- now up to stay. The normal tendency mated Bank of New York of the has in the past been obscured and the American Clothing Workers showed curve held below its normal course by a tenfold increase in deposits. The the great influx of immigrants, which Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers we have permitted and which emis now said to exercise control over ployers have very generally encouraged. $100,000,000 through the nine banks in The restriction of immigration must which the Brotherhood is interested. operate to permit the curve to follow A few months ago a new labor bank was its normal tendency more closely than opened in New York City, and on the heretofore, with continued improvefirst day it took in over $5,000,000 in ment in the purchasing power of the deposits, while multitudes could not masses. With a broader market should reach the window.
come a stabilization of industry through There is a pronounced trend toward the increasing participation by labor in corporation ownership of manufactur- ownership of the producing agencies.
haveble, as Miwo are in
depletion of reserves of raw material,
which compels the manufacturer to go The restriction of immigration farther afield for his supply. With the should further prove a powerful stimu- per-capita tonnage steadily rising and lus to the development of labor-saving a population as steadily increasing, machines and devices. There is, more the time is not far distant when no over, evidence of an awakening recog- readily conceivable expansion of our nition on the part of labor that the full transportation system will suffice to advantage of high wages can be real- handle the traffic. We cannot then ized only when these are accompanied continue indefinitely to haul Hood by low costs of production and distri. River apples from Oregon to Maine, or bution. The two are in no way incom- transport crude and low-priced materipatible, as Mr. Ford and many others als thousands of miles by rail only to have demonstrated. Where benefits return them to their point of origin in are so obvious we may reasonably ex- forms not greatly enhanced in value. pect a less restrictive policy on the part We are in consequence about to witness of union labor regarding per-capita a gradual decentralization of industry. production. Increases in purchasing To-day nearly half the industrial acpower, now often nominal, will then tivities of the country are concentrated become real and be reflected in the in a narrow zone extending along the activity of general business.
Atlantic seaboard from Boston to The pressure always upon the manu- Washington. That proportion is desfacturer to enlarge production and tined to change. diminish costs will become increasingly In a relatively few years Michigan heavy. One striking difference between has passed from an agricultural to an the old industry and the new is that industrial status. Prior to 1880 there the large investment now required sets was practically no cotton industry up heavy overhead charges which south of Mason and Dixon's line. Todrive one to production at the highest day about one half the active spindles possible rate. Nothing -except stop- are in the South. Since 1910 the ping — is so expensive as slowing Northern mills have hardly increased down. Standardization of machines, their production, whereas the output processes, and product, and the instal- of Southern mills has become greater lation of larger and larger units must by more than fifty per cent. Longer then follow as a natural sequence working hours, a mild climate, lower
One of the most important of the living-costs, and proximity to the raw factors affecting the industrial situa- material give to the South an advantion of the future, and one whose tage which is likely to prove comsignificance is seldom noted, is the re- manding so far at least as staple markable increase in the per-capita and coarser textiles are concerned, freight-ton mileage of our railroads. and the mills of the North will perIn 1890 they hauled about 1250 tons force turn to the finer goods and to of freight a mile for each inhabitant; specialties. in 1923 they hauled 4160 tons. Part Our production of cotton reached its of this increase is due to the more peak in a crop of more than 16,000,000 lavish consumption of goods by our bales in 1914. It had fallen to half that people, part to the growth of popula- amount in 1921 and has now risen to tion in districts more remote from about 10,000,000 bales, of which we