Imatges de pÓgina

than half a century, he never sold an Gorham, the present head of the house, article of a lower standard of purity eldest son of the founder, came upthan the one established by law or by on the scene, an aspiring, ingenious the nature of the precious metals. young man, whose nature it was to

About the year 1825, some Boston excel in anything in which he might people discovered that a tolerable sil

chance to engage.

The silversmith's ver spoon could be made much thinner art was then so little known in the than the custom of the trade had pre- United States that neither workmen viously permitted, and that these thin nor information could be obtained here spoons could be sold by pedlers very in its higher branches. Mr. John Goradvantageously. The consequence of ham crossed the ocean soon after comthis discovery was, that silver spoons ing of age, and examined every leadbecame an article of manufacture in ing silver establishment in Europe. He Boston, whence pedlers conveyed them was freely admitted everywhere, as no to the remotest nooks of New England. one in the business had ever thought One day, in 1830, the question occur- of America as a possible competitor; red to Jabez Gorham, Why not make still less did any one see in this quiet spoons in Providence, and sell them Yankee youth the person who was to to the pedlers who buy our jewelry? annihilate the American demand for The next time he took his trunk of European silver-ware, and produce artrinkets to Boston, he looked about ticles which famous European houses him for a man who knew something of would servilely copy. From the time the art of spoon-making. One such he of Mr. John Gorham's return dates found, a young man just “out of his the eminence of the present company, time,” whom he took back with him to and of the production of the costlier Providence, where he established him in kinds of silver-ware, on a great scale, an odd corner of his jewelry shop. In in the United States. From first to this small way, thirty-seven years ago, last, the company have induced sixtythe business began which has grown three accomplished workmen to come to be the largest and most complete from Europe and settle in Providence, manufactory of silver-ware in the world. some of whom might not unjustly be For the first ten years he made nothing enrolled in the list of artists. but spoons, thimbles, and silver combs, The war gave an amazing developwith an occasional napkin-ring, if any ment to this business, as it did to all one in Providence was bold enough to others ministering to pleasure or the order one. Businesses grew very slowly sense of beauty. When the war began, in those days. It was thought a grand in 1861, the Gorham Company employed success when Jabez Gorham, after nearly about one hundred and fifty men; and twenty years' exertion, had fifteen men in 1864 this number had increased to employed in making spoons, forks, four hundred, all engaged in making thimbles, napkin-rings, children's mugs, articles of solid silver. Even with this and such small ware. Nor would Mr. great force the company were someGorham, of his own motion, have ever times unable to supply the demand for carried the business much farther ; cer- their beautiful products. On Christmas tainly not to the point of producing ar- morning, 1864, there was left in the ticles that approach the rank of works store in Maiden Lane, New York, but of art. We have heard the old gen- seven dollars' worth of ware, out of an tleman say, that he often stood at a average stock of one hundred thousand store-window in Boston, wondering by dollars' worth. Perhaps we ought not what process certain operations were to be surprised at this. Consider our performed in silver, the results of which silver weddings. It is not unusual for he saw before him in the form of pitch- several thousands of dollars' worth of ers and teapots.

silver to be presented on these occaBut in due course of time Mr. John sions, - in one recent instance, sixteen thousand dollars' worth was given. And umes which exhibit the glories of archiwhat lady can be married, now-a-days, tecture. “The first requisite,” he mainwithout having a few pounds of silver tains, “of a good piece of silver-plate given to her? For Christmas presents, is that it be well built." The artist in of course, silver-ware is always among silver has also to keep constantly in the objects dangerous to the sanity of view the practical and commercial limthose who go forth, just before the holi- itations of his art The forms which days, with a limited purse and unlimit- he designs must be such as can be ed desires.

executed with due cconomy of labor What particularly surprises the visit- and material, such as can be easily or to the Gorham works at Providence cleaned, and such as will please the is to see labor-saving machinery — the taste of the silver-purchasing public. ponderous steam-hammer, the stamp- It is by his skill in complying with ing and rolling apparatus -employed these inexorable conditions, while proin silver work, instead of the baser ducing forms of real excellence, that metals to which they are usually ap- Mr. Wilkinson has given such celebrity plied. Nothing is done by hand which to the articles made by the company to can be done by machinery; so that the which he belongs. three hundred men usually employed in Few of us, however, will ever be able solid ware are in reality doing the work to buy the dinner-sets, the tea-sets, the of a thousand. The first operation is gorgeous salvers, and the tall épergnes to buy silver coin in Wall Street. In a with which the warerooms of this manbag of dollars there are always some ufactory are filled. A silver salver bad pieces; and as the company em- of large size costs a thousand dollars. bark their reputation in every silver A complete dinner-set for a party of vessel that leaves the factory, and are twenty-four costs twelve thousand dolalways responsible for its purity, each lars. The price of a nice tea-set can dollar is wrenched asunder and its easily run into three thousand dollars. goodness positively ascertained before We noticed one small vase (six or eight it is thrown into the crucible. The inches high) exquisitely chased on two subsequent operations, by which these sides, which Mr. Wilkinson assured us spoiled dollars are converted into ob- it cost the company about seven hunjects of brilliant and enduring beauty, dred dollars to produce. There are, as can better be imagined than described. yet, but two or three persons in all

New forms of beauty are the constant America who would be likely to bestudy of the artist in silver. One large come purchasers of the articles in silapartment in the Gorham establish- ver which rank in Europe as works of ment -- the artists' room — is a kind art, and which are strictly entitled to of magazine or storehouse of beautiful that distinction. The wonder is who forms, which have been gathered in the buys the massive utilities that are course of years by Mr. George Wilkin- stacked away in such profusion in son, the member of the company who Maiden Lane. The Gorham Comhas charge of the designing, and who pany have always in course of manuis himself a designer of singular taste, facture about three tons of silver, and fertility, and judgment. Here are de- usually have a ton of finished work for posited copies or drawings of all the sale. former products of the establishment. An important branch of their business Here is a large and most costly library is one recently introduced, the manuof illustrated works in every depart- facture of a very superior kind of plated ment of art and science. Mr. Wilkin- ware, intended to combine the strength son gets ideas from works upon botany, of baser metal with the beauty of silsculpture, landscape, - from ancient ver. The manufacture of such ware bass-reliefs and modern porcelain; but, has attained great development in Engmore frequently, from those large vol- land of late years, owing chiefly to the application of the mysterious power of left them upon a table near the conducelectricity to the laying-on of the silver. tor of an electrical machine. A student, We must discourse a little upon this while experimenting with the machine, admirable application of science to the chanced to touch with a steel instruarts.

ment one of the frogs at the intersecHamlet amused his friend Horatio tion of the legs. The sick lady obby tracing the noble dust of Alexan- served that, as often as he did so, the der till he found it stopping a bunghole. legs were convulsed, or, as we now say, If we trace the course of discovery that were galvanized. Upon her husband's resulted in this beautiful art, we shall return to the room, she mentioned this have to reverse Hamlet's order: we strange thing to him, and he immedimust begin with the homely object, and ately repeated the experiment. end with magnificent ones. Electro- From 1760 to 1790, as the reader is plating, electrotyping, the electric tele- probably aware, all the scientific world graph, and many other arts and won- was on the qui vive with regard to elecders, all go back to that dish of frogs tricity. The most brilliant reputations which the amiable and fond Professor of that century had been won by elecGalvani was preparing for his sick tric discoveries. Franklin was still wife's dinner one day, about the year alive, to reward with his benignant ap1787. It was a curious reflection, when proval those who should contribute anywe were illuminating our houses to cel- thing valuable after his own immense ebrate the laying of the first Atlantic additions to man's knowledge of this cable, that this bewildering and unique alluring and baffling element. It was, triumph of man over nature had no therefore, as much the spirit of the time more illustrious origin than the legs of as the genius of the man, that made Galan Italian frog. We are aware that the vani seize this new fact with eagerness, honor has been claimed for a Neapoli- and investigate it with untiring enthutan mouse. There is a story in the siasm. It was a sad day for the frogs books of a mouse in Naples that had of the Pope's dominions when Signora the impudence, in 1786, to bite the leg Galvani observed those two naked legs of a professor of medicine, and was fly apart and crook themselves with so caught in the act by the professor him- much animation. There was slaughter self, who punished his audacity by dis- in the swamps of Bologna for many a secting him. While doing so, he ob- month thereafter. For mankind, howserved that, when he touched a nerve ever, it was a day to be held in evof the creature with his knife, its limbs erlasting remembrance, since it was were slightly convulsed. The profes- then that was taken the first step tosor was struck with the circumstance, ward the galvanic battery! was puzzled by it, mentioned it, and it As fortune favors the brave, so acciwas recorded; but as nothing further dent aids the ingenious. After Profescame of it, no connection can be es- sor Galvani had touched the muscles tablished between that mouse and the and nerves of many frogs with the spark splendors of silver-plated ware and the drawn from the electrical machine, anwonders of the telegraph. The claims other accident occurred which led diof Professor Galvani's frog rest upon rectly to the discovery of the galvanic a sure foundation of fact.

Signora Gal- battery. Having skinned a og, he vani — so runs one version of the story chanced to hang it by a copper hook - lay sick upon a couch in a room in upon an iron nail ; and thus, without which there was that chaos of domes- knowing it, he brought together the eletic utensils and philosophical apparatus ments of a battery, — two metals and a that may still be observed sometimes wet frog. His object in hanging up this in the abodes of men addicted to sci- frog was to see if the electricity of the ence. The Professor himself had pre- atmosphere would produce any effects, pared the frogs for the stew-pan, and however slight, similar to those pro

[ocr errors]


duced when the spark of the machine power for this electricity, and facilitates was applied to the creature. It did not. its movement and its passage from one After watching his frog awhile, the Pro- part of the nervous system to another ; fessor was proceeding to take it down, while the oily coating of these organs and while in the act of doing so the hinders the dissipation of the fluid, and legs were convulsed ! Struck with this permits its accumulation.” He also occurrence, be replaced the frog, took thought that the muscles were the Leyit down again, put it back, took it down, den jars of the animal system, in which until he discovered that, as often as the the electricity generated by the brain damp frog (still hanging upon its copper and conducted by the nerves was hoardhook) touched the iron nail, the con- ed up for use. When a man was tired, traction of the muscles took place, as if he had merely used his electricity too the frog had been touched by a con- fast; when he was fresh, his Leyden ductor connected with an electrical ma- jars were all full. chine. This experiment was repeated The publication of these experiments hundreds of times, and varied in as in 1791, accompanied by Galvani's themany ways as mortal ingenuity could ory of animal electricity, produced a devise. Galvani at length settled down sensation in scientific circles only inupon the method following: he wrap- ferior to that caused by Franklin's demped the nerves taken from the loins of onstration of the identity of lightning a frog in a leaf of tin, and placed the with electricity, thirty years before. legs of the frog upon a plate of copper; The murder of innocent frogs extended then, as often as the leaf of tin was from the marshes of Bologna to the brought in contact with the plate of swamps of all Christendom. “Whercopper, the legs of the frog were con- ever,” says a writer of the time, “frogs vulsed.

were to be found and two different metPeople regard Charles Lamb's story als could be procured, every one was of the discovery of roast pig as a most anxious to see the mangled limbs of extravagant and impossible fiction ; but, frogs brought to life in this wonderful really, Professor Galvani comported way.” Or, as Lamb says, in the dishimself very much in the manner of sertation upon Roast Pig : “ The thing that great discoverer. It was no more took wing, and now there was nothnecessary to employ the frog's nerves ing to be seen but fire in every direcin the production of the electricity, tion.” At first the facts and the thethan it was necessary to burn down a ory of Galvani were equally accepthouse roasting pig for dinner. The ed; and a grateful world insisted upon poor frog contributed nothing to it but styling the new science, as it was his dampness,

-as every boy in a tel. deemed, “ Galvanism.”' Thus a word egraph office now perceives. He was was added to all the languages, which merely the wet in the small galvanic has been found useful in its literal battery. Professor Galvani, however, sense, and forcible in its figurative. exulting in his discovery, leaped to the Whatever we may think of Galvani's conclusion that this electricity was not philosophy, we cannot deny that he the same as that produced by friction. immortalized his name. He died a few He thought he had discovered the long- years after, fully satisfied with his theosought something by which the mus- ry, but having no suspicion of the many, cles move obedient to the will.“ All the peculiar, the marvellous results that creatures,” he wrote, “ have an electric were to flow from the chance discovery city inherent in their economy, which of the fact, that a moist frog placed beresides specially in the nerves, and is tween two different metals was a kind by the nerves communicated to the of electrical machine. whole body. It is secreted by the Among the Italians who caught at brain. The interior substance of the Galvani's discovery, the most skilful nerves is endowed with a conducting and learned was Professor Volta, of


Como, who had been an ardent elec- geneous. But it cost thousands of extrician from his youth. Many of our periments to reach this result, and ten readers have seen this year the colos- years of ceaseless thought and exertion sal statue of that great man, which to arrive at the invention of the “pile," adorns his native city on the southern which merely consists of many pairs of shore of the lake. The statue was heterogeneous plates, each separated worthily decreed, because the man who by a moist substance. The weight of contributes ever so little to a grand dis- so much metal squeezed the wet cloth covery in science – provided that little dry, and this led to various contrivances is essential to it -- ranks among the for keeping it wet, resulting at last in greatest benefactors of his species. And the invention of the familiar "troughwhat did the admirable Volta discover ? battery,” now employed in all telegraph Reducing the labors of his long life to offices and manufactories of electrotheir simplest expression, we should say anything. Instead of Galvani's frog that his just claim to immortality con- or Volta's wet rag, the conductor is a sists in this, — he found out that the solution of sulphuric acid, which Volta frog had nothing to do with the pro- himself suggested and employed. The duction of electricity in Galvani's ex- negative electricity is conveyed to the periment, but that a wet card or rag earth by a wire, and the positive is conwould do as well. This discovery was ducted from pair to pair, increasing as the central fact of his scientific career it goes, 'until, if the battery is large of sixty-four years. It took all of his enough, it may have the force to send familiar knowledge of electricity, ac- a message round the world. And the quired in twenty-seven years of entire current is continuous. The galvanic devotion to the study, to enable him to battery is an electrical machine that goes interpret Galvani's apparatus so far as without turning a handle. By the galto get rid of the frog; and he spent the vanic battery, electricity is made subremaining thirty-seven years of his ex- servient to man. Among other things, istence in varying the experiment thus it sends his messages, faces his type freed from that “demd, damp, moist, with copper, silvers his coffee-pot, and unpleasant body.” It was a severe af- coats the inside of his baby's silver fliction to the followers of Galvani and mug with shining gold. to the University of Bologna to have The old methods of covering metals their darling theory of the nervous elec- with a plating of silver were so difficult tricity so rudely yet so unanswerably and laborious, that durable ware could refuted. “I do not need your frog ! never have been produced by them exexclaimed the too impetuous Volta. cept at an expense which would have “ Give me two metals and a moist rag, defeated the object. In those slow and and I will produce your animal electri- costly ways plated articles were made city. Your frog is nothing but a moist as late as the year 1840 ; and thus they conductor, and this respect is not as might be made at the present moment, good as a wet rag.” This was a de- if Signora Galvani had been looking the cisive fact, and it silenced all but a few other way when the student touched of the disciples of the dead Galvani. the frog with his knife. More than fifty

Volta was led to discard the frog by years elapsed before that chance disobserving that no electric results fol- covery was made available in the art lowed when the two plates were of the we are considering. For many years same metal. Suspecting from this that the discoveries of Galvani and Volta the frog was merely a conductor (in- did not appear to add much to the restead of the generator) of the electric sources of man, though they excited fluid, he tried the experiment with a his “special wonder.” Elderly readers wet card placed between two pairs of can perhaps remember the appalling plates, and thus discovered that the accounts that used to be published, secret lay in the metals being hetero- forty years ago or more, of the gal


« AnteriorContinua »