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In New York a Society for the Promotion of Arts, Agriculture, and Economy was established (1764) for the purpose of encouraging to the utmost the manufacture of linen, which it is hoped to establish on a most solid foundation and thereby to increase the value of land, give employment to the poor, and save the public large sums of money and heavy debts for English goods. The Stamp Act (1763) and the War of the Revolution gave impetus to the movement for goods “made in America.” The Daughters of Liberty resolved to buy no more British goods and to wear only homespun; and the seniors in Harvard College agreed to take their degrees (1768) “dressed altogether in the manufactures of this country.” It is a well-recognized fact that the efforts of the British to crush American manufacturing industries were among the chief causes of the Revolutionary War. The only positive action of the first Continental Congress (1774) was its nonimportation agreement which they well knew would strike the British in a vital spot. This agreement was enforced with such fidelity that clothing, gunpowder, iron ware, and other necessities soon became scarce. Thereupon, Congress, in 1776— Resolved, That it be recommended to the said Assemblies, Conventions, and Councils or Committees of Safety, that they take the earliest measures for erecting and establishing in each and every Colony, a Society for the improvement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, and to maintain a Correspondence between such Societies that the rich and numerous natural advantages of this country for supporting its inhabitants, may not be neglected. After the Peace of Paris, under the Confederation, each colony controlled its own trade. Because there was thus no concerted action with regard to industrial protection, England was able to flood the American markets with foreign goods which were sold at prices with which home manufactures could not compete. American industry was paralyzed, money became scarce, and the workingmen were idle. To meet this situation, many societies were organized by voluntary action of “patriotic citizens for the promotion of the useful arts.” Thus in Philadelphia the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture was founded in 1785. That same year a similar society was incorporated in South Carolina for the purpose of maintaining an experimental farm. The Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York, though organized at this time mainly as a mutual benefit society, became prominent later because of its library and its school, which are still rendering valuable service. The Tammany Society, “a goodly company of consociate brethren, well skilled in the mechanic arts,” was chartered in 1789 and was primarily intended to foster industrial interests in opposition to the military order of Cincinnatus. The leaders in these associations were men like Robert Livingston, American ambassador to France; DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York; Samuel DeWitt, surveyor general of New York; and Stephen van Rensselaer. Two college professors were also members of the New York Society. The subjects discussed at their meetings covered a wide range, e. g., methods of fertilization, experiments in growing corn, a proposed system of national standards of weights and measures, etc. In 1787, the Boston Association of Mechanics and Tradesmen, in a patriotic effort to protect and develop home industries, sent a circular letter to other similar associations urging cooperation. These associations took an active part in the struggle for the ratification of the Constitution. “But for the firm belief and ardent hope that the Federal Constitution would protect and encourage the manufactures of the United States, it would never have been adopted.” In this they were not disappointed, for the first act of the consolidated government (1789) was a statute for the joint purposes of “raising revenue and protecting manufactures by laying duties on goods, wares, and merchandise imported.” The first Federal patent law was passed in 1790. The ratification of the Constitution, the funding of the national debt, and the establishment of a national banking system furnished a safe basis for industrial development. These fiscal measures also supplied a powerful economic motive for the maintenance of national unity. Hamilton's Report on Manufactures (1791) urged that a Federal I3oard for Promoting Arts, Agriculture, Manufactures and Commerce be created to encourage by rewards and lucrative premiums, the introduction of useful discoveries, inventions and improvements and to pay the expenses of immigration of artists and manufacturers in important branches of industry. The Federal board was never appointed, but the report had an immediate effect. In 1791, the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture offered prizes for the best farm products. A bill was introduced into the legislature of Pennsylvania (1798) levying a public tax of $50 for each member of the legislature, the money thus collected to be offered as rewards for “such articles of Agricultural Production or improvements in Manufactures, or the useful Arts . . . as they shall think will be beneficial to the country.” The bill was not passed until 1820. The legislature of New York State began lending money to individuals to enable them to establish and carry on manufactures, and in 1808 passed an act granting premiums for the best specimens of woolen cloth manufactured in the State.
President Washington added his voice to the encouragement of the movement, at least as far as agriculture was concerned, in his final message to Congress, December 7, 1796. Institutions for promoting it (agriculture) grow up, supported by the public purse; and to what object can it be dedicated with greater propriety? Among the means which have been employed to this end, none have been attended with greater success than the establishment of Boards, composed of proper characters, charged with collecting and diffusing information and enabled by premiums and small pecuniary aids to assist a spirit of discovery and improvement. This species of establishment contributes doubly to the increase of improvement, by stimulating to enterprise and experiment, and by drawing to a common center the results everywhere of individual skill and observation and spreading them thence over the whole nation. Experience accordingly has shown that they are very cheap instruments of immense national benefits. The committee to whom this suggestion of “the farmer of Mount Vernon’’ was referred, reported on January 11, 1797, that the best way to promote agriculture was to excite among the farmers a spirit of enquiry, industry and experiment; and that this could best be done by establishing societies for the promotion of agriculture and internal improvements; because such societies supplied the farmers with the easiest means of acquiring needed information and compelled them to get acquainted with one another. A bill was reported which proposed the establishment at Washington of a National Agricultural Society. Thirty delegates elected by the society should constitute a National Board of Agriculture with a permanent secretary and free postage for its mail. The bill was referred to the committee of the whole and forgotten. From the foregoing it appears that the eighteenth century was characterized by a gradual development of industrial production accompanied by a widespread discussion of ways and means of enlightening workers and encouraging them to increase production. The net result of this discussion was to make clear that the needs of the situation were the dissemination of information, the fostering of mutual acqaintance and the encouragement of a spirit of enquiry, industry and experiment. No tangible results were accomplished in the way of furnishing facilities for meeting these needs beyond the organization of societies where these matters were discussed. The century was thus a period of incubation of ideas which soon began to express themselves in material form.
Early in the nineteenth century the ideals of vocational education began to take material form. In 1796 the Massachusetts Agricultural Society began to publish its proceedings which developed in 1814 into the Massachusetts Agricultural Repository and Journal. The first volume of the transactions of the New York Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts appeared in 1801. For some years these associations published frequent notices and reports in the daily papers. As the demand for technical knowledge increased, trade journals were established. The American Farmer was founded in Baltimore in 1819. The New England Farmer (Boston, 1823), the Country Gentlemean (Albany, 1834), the American Cultivator (Boston, 1839), the American Agriculturist (New York, 1842), and the Scientific American (New York, 1845), are still meeting the need that brought them into being. That the demand for general enlightenment was also increasing is evident from the development of newspapers and periodicals. In 1689 the only paper in America appeared monthly, “thirteen months behind with the news beyond Great Britain.” The eagerness of the people for information made possible the Daily Advertiser of Benjamin Franklin Bache in 1784. By reducing the price to one cent the New York Sun, in 1833, brought the daily newspaper within the reach of all. Now more than 2,500 dailies and 20,000 weekly and monthly periodicals are published regularly in the United States alone. In 1810, another project for educating the people was inaugurated by Elkanah Watson in Pittsfield, Mass. He exhibited a pair of imported merino sheep in the market place and found that they were the objects of much interest and discussion. This led him to organize an idustrial exhibition, where country folk might study the best products of the State and learn of new labor-saving inventions and methods of cultivation. The venture proved a great success. More than 2,000 attended and the educational value was so evident that Watson appealed to John Adams to help him secure funds to finance other projects of the same sort. But evidently the “Father of the public schools" saw little educational worth in a festival which so
little resembled a conventional school, but he replied: “You will get no aid from Boston; commerce, literature, theology, medicine, the university, and universal politics are against you.” In spite of the weight of this opposition to the county fairs, they soon became the most important annual event in every community. In time the idea extended to such exhibitions as those of the American Institute (incorporated in New York in 1828), and of the national and State agricultural societies. The Centennial Exhibition of 1876, the first international fair held in the United States, was attended by 9.892,625. The Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 had 18,871,957 paid admissions. Who shall say which has contributed more to the enlightenment of the American people—these county, State, national, and international exhibitions, or the “literature, theology, medicine, university, and universal politics” that were against them? Along with this growing enlightenment of the colonists came the gradual recognition of the fact that industrial independence could be secured only through an industrial efficiency comparable with that of the foreign manufacturers. At this time the use of machinery and the factory system had progressed much further in England than it had here, and this gave the mother country an advantage, which she sought to retain by forbidding the exportation of machinery and the emigration of skilled workmen to America. Therefore, in 1788, Tench Coxe, a manufacturer of Philadelphia, at his own risk and expense, made a contract with an English mechanic resident in Philadelphia to return to his native country and secure brass models of the Arkwright machines. The models were to be sent to France and reshipped, with the cooperation of Thomas Jefferson, then American minister in Paris. The attempt failed; the models were seized and the agent arrested. Thereupon Mr. Coxe inserted an advertisement in a Philadelphia paper offering a reward for the introduction in this country of improved cotton machinery. This advertisement attracted the attention of Samuel Slater, who had worked in the Arkwright factory. Disguised as a sailor Slater escaped to America, where he succeeded in making from memory satisfactory reproductions of the foreign models. The “old mill" which he established at Pawtucket in 1790 was the first successful textile mill driven by water power in America. The enterprise paid from the start, improvements followed one another in rapid succession, and the manufacture of cotton cloth was soon on a firm basis. The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 gave further impetus to the textile industry and was the means of making cotton growing the chief industry of the South. Steam was first used as the motive power for textile mills in 1810.