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In other industries the spirit of invention was active. Oliver Evans devised the first machinery for flour mills in 1787. Among the patents issued in 1790 was one for nail-making machinery. In 1791 machinery for thrashing grain was patented. Nicholas I. Rooseveldt built a double steam pump with a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons a day for the Philadelphia water works in 1800. The first high-pressure steam engine of Oliver Evans appeared in 1801. Six years later Fulton made his famous trip up the Hudson in the Clermont. When anthracite coal was discovered it was considered good for nothing but gravel footwalks, until 1812, when Joseph Smith, the inventor of the iron plowshare, thought of burning it over a grate, which made possible a stronger draft. Among other interesting patents of the period may be mentioned the screw propeller (1807), soda water (1807), the hot-air furnace (1808), and metal pens (1810). In 1816 a committee of Congress urged the establishment of a national university, on the ground that “if American invention, unassisted, as it has been, already excites the astonishment of Europe, what may not be expected from it when encouraged?” The War of 1812 was caused mainly by England's efforts to control American trade in the interests of British manufacturers. The embargo and the nonintercourse act, however, gave the domestic manufacturers a virtual monopoly of the home market for a period of seven years. This threw the country on its own resources, and, since commerce was crippled, turned the attention of all to the development of home industries. The effect may be seen in the textile industry, for example, where the number of spindles in cotton mills increased from 8,000 in 1807 to 500,000 in 1815 and the number of employees from 8,000 in 1811 to 76,000 in 1815. The development of industries made transportation routes necessary. William Penn in 1690 proposed joining the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers by a canal. Work was finally begun in 1793 and completed in 1827, in time to compete with the railroad. The Santee Canal in South Carolina was begun in 1786 and finished in 1800. The Middlessex Canal, joining Boston with the Merrimac, was building from 1793 to 1803. These early canals were the work of foreign engineers. Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Jefferson, published an elaborate plan for national roads and canals in 1808, but the project was frustrated by the war with England. The Erie Canal, the first great pioneer work of American engineering, was built 1817–1825. By it the time from Albany to Buffalo, a distance of 363 miles, was reduced from 20 to 10 days. It was executed by three American judges—James Geddes, Benjamin Wright, and Charles Brodhead—who had had no formal technical training.
They felt their way along, working out each problem as it came with energy and determination. What they did not understand, they conquered by diligent study, unwearied zeal, and sound common sense. By the constant exercise of these qualities they laid the foundations of the profession of civil engineering in the United States. This industrial activity was accompanied by an ever-increasing demand for further enlightenment concerning applied science and for better practical training for workers. State legislatures and the Federal Congress, however, were slow to recognize their responsibility in this matter. Washington's proposal for a national board of agriculture received but scant attention in Congress. In the Pennsylvania Legislature a bill to give a State subsidy to county agricultural societies had lain on the table since 1798. In 1817 a bill was introduced into Congress authorizing the establishment of a national board of agriculture with distinctly educative powers, but Congress failed to pass it. The next year the Columbian Institution for the Promotion of the Arts and Sciences was organized at Washington by voluntary action of interested citizens for the purpose of collecting products of various kinds, of publishing discoveries, of gathering information concerning geology and agriculture, and of keeping a statistical history of various localities as to products, imports, and exports, and of publishing an annual report on these subjects. The first State to recognize its obligation to assist in the practical education of artisans was New York. In 1819 the legislature at Albany appropriated $10,000 a year for the support of county societies for the promotion of agriculture and domestic manufactures. Similar legislation was passed in Pennsylvania in 1820. These efforts did not, however, satisfy the growing demand, and in 1823 Jesse Buel, chairman of the committee on agriculture of the New York State Legislatire, reported a bill calling for the establishment, at public expense, of a State school of agriculture. This report begins by saying that since agriculture is the basis of all industry, it should be elevated to the rank of a liberal and fashionable study. This can be done with the help of science. Such a School should consist of: (1) a pattern farm; (2) an experimental farm; (3) a manufactory of implements; (4) a school of industry where the poor may receive a good education in agriculture and mechanic arts; (5) a boarding school for children of affluence; (6) an institution of agriculture, theoretical and practical. Such a school would be of great benefit (1) to agriculture; (2) to commerce and manufactures, because of increased products of agriculture; (3) to the morale of society, because ideals of industry and sobriety would be fostered; (4) to the State revenues, because of increased canal tolls; and (5) to political institutions, because intelli
gent farmers are the best citizens. Such a school is not a utopian dream since one has been conducted for a number of years with great success by von Fellenberg at Hofwyl in Switzerland. The conditions here assure us that a school of this type would meet the needs of America.
The interest in this report centers about the fact that it describes so clearly the kind of school that seemed to be needed in the country at that time. The Fellenberg school at Hofwyl, which is here mentioned as the best model to follow, derived its methods from Pestalozzi, whose educational principles are these: 1. An all-round training must be given. 2. The nature of the pupil must determine all the details of his education. 3. “Work in general is the surest of all exercises for the attention, and man is much more truly educated through that which he does than through that which he memorizes.” Knowledge without the ability to apply it is a “fearful lot for a human being.” 4. The method of learning must primarily be based upon the analysis of experience. “Put the student of the road which the discoverer of the subject himself took and had to take.” 5. “We get our knowledge by our own investigation and not by endless talk about the results of art and science.” 6. Organization and correlation of experiences are necessary.
The Buel report closes with the words: “The Honorable Stephen van Rensselaer has offered a gratuitous deed of lands required for the use of the institution.” The State legislature was, however, not yet ready to take so progressive a step, and the proposed bill was not passed. The next year van Rensselaer wrote to the Rev. Samuel Blatchford:
I have established a school at the north end of Troy . . . for the purpose of instructing persons who may choose to apply themselves in the application of science to the common purposes of life. My principal object is to qualify teachers for instructing the sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics . . . in the application of experimental chemistry, philosophy, and natural history to agriculture, domestic economy, the arts, and manufactures. From the trials which have been made by persons in my employment . . . I am inclined to believe that competent instructors may be produced in the school at Troy, who will be highly useful to the community in the diffusion of a very useful kind of knowledge, with its application to the business of living. Apparatus for the necessary experiments has been so simplified . . . that but a small sum is now required as an outfit for an instructor in the proposed branch of science; consequently every school district may have the benefit of such a course of instruction about once in two or three years, as soon as we can furnish a sufficient number of teachers. I prefer this plan to the endowment of a single public institution, for the resort of those only whose parents are able and willing to send their children from home or to enter them for several years, upon the Fellenberg plan. It seems to comport bettor with the habits of our citizens and the genius of our Government to place the advantages of useful improvement within the reach of all.
The founder also directed—
that with the consent of the proprietors, a number of well-cultivated farms and workshops in the vicinity of the school be entered on the records of the school as places of scholastic exercise for students, where the application of the sciences may be most conveniently taught. The details of organization of the school were entrusted to Amos Eaton, a graduate of Williams College who had done graduate work in science under Silliman at Yale. The methods which he employed differed from those of other schools in three important ways: (1) The pupil is given the place of the teacher in all his exercises. Being under the necessity of relying upon his own resources and of making every subject his own, he becomes an adept as a matter of necessity. (2) In every branch of learning the student begins with its practical application, and is introduced to a knowledge of elementary principles from time to time as his progress requires. By this method a strong desire to study an elementary principle is excited by bringing his labors to a point where he perceives the necessity of it, and its direct application to a useful purpose. (3) Corporal exercise is not only necessary for the health of students, but for qualifying thern for the business of life. . . . Such exercise as running, jumping, climbing, scuffling and the like are calculated to detract from that dignity of deportment which beeomes a man of science. Therefore . . . such exercises as hand surveying, general engineering, . . . examining workshops and factories, watching the progress of agricultural operations . . . are made the duties of students' for a stated number of hours on each day. Prof. Eaton was always very insistent that this method of instruction was— not Fellenbergian, nor Lancastrian, but purely Rensselaerean. The Rensselaerean scheme for communicating scientific knowledge had never been attempted on either continent until it was instituted at this school, two years ago. Many indeed mistook it, at first, for Fellenberg's method; but its groat superiority has now been satisfactorily tested by its effects. It is perfectly clear that the Rensselaerean method, with its marked emphasis on motivated self-activity in achieving the mastery of things, was very different from the method in common use in the schools and colleges, with its enforced repetition of words and phrases. A careful analysis shows, however, that it differed from the method of Fellenberg only in the means that were employed to attain the ends described by the educational principles of Pestalozzi. Both aimed to give an all-round training in harmony with the nature of the student. Both sought to accomplish this by practical analysis of experience, personal investigation, and correlation. Both were thus striving, each in its own way, to give concrete expression to the same ideals of education for use. The year 1824 witnessed the inauguration of another enterprise that has been of far-reaching usefulness to technical education. Samuel W. Merrick, a young man, 21 years of age, “without a mechanical education, with scarcely a mechanical idea,” became the
owner of a workshop. He realized that “without knowledge he could not succeed; and that as a mechanic he was socially degraded, for in those days people despised mere mechanics.” The mechanics on the other hand, refused him membership in their mutual benefit association, because he was confessedly not a mechanic. Although in 1816 Count Rumford had endowed at Harvard a chair in “the application of science to the useful arts,” and although that same year the University of Pennsylvania had “created a new department to be devoted to the study of natural science,” Merrick was unable to get the kind of instruction he needed.
In this dilemma he decided to establish a new institution that would meet his own needs. A similar effort had been made the previous year by Prof. Keating, who held the newly established chair of “chemistry in its application to agriculture and the mechanic arts” at the University of Pennsylvania; but this effort had failed. Fortunately, Keating and Merrick combined forces, and this combination of Merrick's need with Keating's knowledge proved effective. The Franklin Institute began its long career of usefulness. One of its first students, a bricklayer named Thomas U. Walter, became architect of the dome of the Capitol at Washington. Merrick himself became the first president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. .
The objects of the institute were the promotion of science and the useful arts—
First, by the delivery of lectures on the arts and the application of science to them; second, by the formation of a library of books relating to science and the useful arts, and the opening of a reading room; third, by the examination of all new inventions and discoveries by a committee of learned and honorable men; fourth, by the publication of a journal to contain essays on science and art, specifications of English and American patents, etc.; fifth, by holding exhibitions of American manufactures and awarding medals to worthy workmen; sixth, by building a hall for the meetings of the institute and the use of the members; seventh, by collecting machines, minerals, materials, etc., used in the mechanic arts; eighth, by the establishment of schools in which should be taught architecture and mechanical drawing, chemistry applied to the arts, mechanics, and, if possible, of a high school for giving young men a liberal and practical course of education.
The Journal of the Franklin Institute was started in 1826. In it were published regularly the specifications of American patents until the Patent Office commenced to issue reports. It contains the only complete list of American patents since 1825. In 1820 the Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York opened its apprentice school and library. The Maryland Institute of Baltimore (1825) and the Ohio Mechanics, Institute at Cincinnati (1829) are other similar schools of this period. At this time (1827) the public schools reached the low-water mark of their efficiency, and various movements aimed at their reorganization were set on foot.