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Title: Every-day Science: Volume VII. The Conquest of Time and Space
Author: Williams, Henry Smith, 1863-1943, Williams, Edward Huntington, 1868-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Every-day Science: Volume VII. The Conquest of Time and Space" ***

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It will be seen that there are two passengers on the aeroplane, one
being Mr. Wilbur Wright, the other a pupil.]









    Copyright, 1910, by THE GOODHUE CO.

    _All rights reserved_




  Geographical knowledge of the ancient Egyptians, p. 5--The
  mariner's compass, p. 7--Reference to the thirty-two points
  of the compass by Chaucer, p. 9--Halley's observations on
  the changes in the direction of the compass in a century,
  p. 10--Deviation of the compass, p. 11--The voyage of the
  _Carnegie_, the non-magnetic ship, p. 12--The "dip of the needle"
  first observed by Robert Norman, p. 13--The modern compass
  invented by Lord Kelvin, p. 14--Sailing by dead reckoning, p.
  14--The invention of the "log," p. 15--The modern log, p. 17--The
  development of the sextant, p. 18--The astrolabe, p. 19--The
  quadrant invented by Hadley, p. 20--The perfected sextant, p.
  21--Perfecting the chronometer, p. 23--The timepieces invented
  by the British carpenter, John Harrison, p. 25--The prize won by
  Harrison, p. 27--Finding time without a chronometer, p. 28--The
  _Nautical Almanac_, p. 30--Ascertaining the ship's longitude, p.
  31--Difficulties of "taking the sun" at noon, p. 33--Measuring
  a degree of latitude, p. 34--The observations of Robert Norman,
  p. 35--The function of the _Nautical Almanac_, p. 37--Soundings
  and charts, p. 41--Mercator's projection, p. 44--The lure of the
  unknown, p. 45--The quest of the Pole, p. 47--Commander Peary's
  achievement, p. 49--How observations are made in arctic regions,
  p. 50--Making observations at the Pole, p. 52--Difficulties as to
  direction at the Pole, p. 54.



  Use of sails in ancient times, p. 56--Ships with many banks
  of oars, p. 57--Mediæval ships, p. 59--Modern sailing ships,
  p. 60--The sailing record of _The Sovereign of the Seas_,
  p. 60--Early attempts to invent a steamboat, p. 63--Robert
  Fulton's _Clermont_, p. 64--The steamboat of Blasco de Gary,
  p. 66--The _Charlotte Dundas_, p. 67--The steamboat invented
  by Col. John Stevens, p. 68--Fulton designs the _Clermont_,
  p. 71--The historic trip of the _Clermont_ up the Hudson, p.
  71--Sea-going steamships, p. 73--Ships built of iron and steel,
  p. 74--The _Great Eastern_, p. 76--Principal dimensions of the
  _Great Eastern_, p. 78--Twin-screw vessels, p. 80--The triumph
  of the turbine, p. 81--The _Lusitania_ and _Mauretania_, p.
  82--Submarine signalling, p. 83--The rescue of the _Republic_,
  p. 84--How the submarine signalling device works, p. 86--The
  _Olympic_ and _Titanic_, p. 90--Liquid fuel, p. 90--Advantages
  and disadvantages of liquid fuel, p. 91.



  Slow development of submarine navigation, p. 93--The first
  submarine, p. 94--Description of David Bushnell's boat, p.
  94--Attempts to sink a war vessel during the American Revolution,
  p. 97--Robert Fulton's experiments, p. 98--The attack on the
  _Argus_ by Fulton's submarine, p. 100--The attack upon the
  _Ramilles_ in 1813, p. 102--A successful diving boat, p. 103--The
  sinking of the _Housatonic_, p. 104--Recent submarines and
  submersibles, p. 105--The _Holland_, p. 106--The Lake type of
  boat, p. 108--Problems to be overcome in submarine navigation, p.
  109--Present status of submarine boats, p. 111--The problem of
  seeing without being seen, p. 113--The experimental attacks upon
  the cruiser _Yankee_ in 1908, p. 115--The possibility of using
  aeroplanes for detecting the presence of submarines, p. 117.



  The earliest railroad, p. 119--The substitution of flanged
  wheels for flanged rails, p. 120--The locomotive of Richard
  Trevithick, p. 121--The cable road of Chapman, p. 123--Stephenson
  solves the problem, p. 124--Versatility of Stephenson, p.
  125--His early locomotives, p. 126--Stephenson's locomotive of
  1825, p. 127--The first passenger coach, p. 128--The Liverpool
  and Manchester Railway projected, p. 129--Conditions named
  for testing the competing locomotives, p. 130--The _Rocket_
  and other contestants, p. 132--Description of the _Rocket_,
  p. 133--Improvements on the construction of the _Rocket_, p.
  134--Improvements in locomotives in recent years, p. 135--The
  compound locomotive, p. 137--Advantages of compound locomotives,
  p. 138--The Westinghouse air brake, p. 141--The "straight air
  brake," p. 143--The automatic air brake, p. 144--The high-speed
  air brake, p. 146--Automatic couplings, p. 147--Principle of the
  Janney coupling, p. 149--A comparison--the old and the new, p.



  When were carts first used? p. 152--The development of the
  bicycle, p. 154--The pneumatic tire introduced, p. 155--The
  coming of the automobile, p. 156--The gas engine of Dr. Otto,
  p. 157--Cugnot's automobile, p. 158--The automobile of William
  Murdoch, 1785, p. 158--Opposition in England to the introduction
  of automobiles, p. 159--An extraordinary piece of legislation,
  p. 161--Scientific aspects of automobile racing, p. 164--Some
  records made at Ormonde, p. 165--Records made by Oldfield
  in 1910, p. 166--Comparative speeds of various vehicles and
  animals, p. 167--Speed of birds in flight, p. 168--A miraculous
  transformation of energy, p. 170--Electrical timing device for
  measuring automobile speeds, p. 171.



  New York the first city to have a street railway, p. 175--Cable
  systems, p. 177--Early self-sustained systems, p. 178--The
  electro-magnetic locomotive of Moses G. Farmer, p. 179--The
  efforts of Professor Page to produce a storage battery car,
  p. 180--The experiments of Siemens and Halske with electric
  motors, p. 181--The Edison electric locomotive, p. 182--Third
  rails and trolleys, p. 184--The inventions of Daft and Van
  Depoele, p. 185--The work of Frank J. Sprague in developing
  electric railways, p. 186--How the word "trolley" was coined, p.
  187--Storage battery systems, p. 188--The Edison storage battery
  car of 1910, p. 189--Monorail systems, p. 191--Electric aerial
  monorail systems, p. 193.



  Mr. Louis Brennan's car exhibited before the Royal Society in
  London, p. 195--How the gyroscope is installed on this car, p.
  196--Gyroscopic action explained, p. 197--Why does the spinning
  wheel exert gyroscopic power? p. 199--Mr. Brennan's model car,
  p. 200--The "wabble" of the gyroscope explained, p. 202--How
  the Brennan gyroscopes work, p. 203--Technical explanation of
  the gyroscope, p. 204--The evolution of an idea, p. 213--Sir
  Henry Bessemer's experiment, p. 214--What may be expected of the
  gyrocar, p. 215.



  Bessemer's costly experiment, p. 217--Dr. Schlick's successful
  experiment, p. 219--The action of Dr. Schlick's invention
  explained, p. 220--Did gyroscopic action wreck the _Viper_? p.
  222--Theoretical dangers of the gyroscope, p. 223--Probable use
  of the gyroscope on battleships, p. 225.



  Some mediæval traditions about airships, p. 266--The flying
  machines devised by Leonardo da Vinci, p. 277--The flying
  machine of Besnier, p. 228--The discovery of hydrogen gas and
  its effect upon aeronautics, p. 230--The balloon invented, p.
  231--The first successful balloon ascension, p. 232--Rozier, the
  first man to make an ascent in a balloon, p. 235--Blanchard's
  attempt to produce a dirigible balloon, p. 238--Hot-air
  balloons and hydrogen-gas balloons, p. 240--Rozier, the first
  victim of ballooning, p. 241--Progress in mechanical flight,
  p. 244--Cocking's parachute, p. 245--Henson's studies of the
  lifting power of plane surfaces, p. 246--The flying machine
  of Captain Le Bris, p. 248--Giffard "the Fulton of aerial
  navigation," p. 251--The flights of the _Giant_, p. 252--The
  record flight of John Wise in 1859, p. 256--Early war balloons
  and dirigible balloons, p. 257--The use of balloons during the
  Franco-Prussian war, p. 258--The dirigible balloon achieved, p.
  262--The dirigible balloon of Dupuy de Lome, p. 263--The aluminum
  balloon of Herr Schwartz, p. 264--The dirigible balloons of Count
  Zeppelin, p. 266--Early experiments of Santos-Dumont, p. 267.



  Balloon versus aeroplane, p. 272--The kite as a flying machine,
  p. 273--How the air sustains a heavier-than-air mechanism, p.
  274--Langley's early experiments, p. 275--Experiments in soaring,
  p. 277--Lilienthal's imitation of the soaring bird, p. 279--Sir
  Hiram Maxim's flying machine, p. 283--Langley's successful
  aerodrome, p. 284--The failure of Langley's larger aerodrome,
  p. 287--Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplish the impossible, p.
  288--The first public demonstration by the Wright brothers, p.
  290--The Wright aeroplane described, p. 291--A host of imitators,
  p. 292--Mr. Henry Farman's successful flights, p. 293--Public
  demonstrations by the Wright brothers in America and France, p.
  293--The English Channel crossed by Blériot, p. 294--Orville
  Wright fulfils the Government tests, p. 295--Spectacular
  cross-country flights, p. 296--The Wright brothers the true
  pioneers, p. 300.


  THE WRIGHT AEROPLANE IN FRANCE IN 1908              _Frontispiece_

                                                       _Facing page_
  "TAKING THE SUN" WITH THE SEXTANT                               22

  THE OLD AND THE NEW--A CONTRAST                                 60



  THE "CLERMONT"                                                  72

  ROBERT FULTON                                                   98

      THE BROOKLYN NAVY YARD                                     108


  GEORGE STEPHENSON                                              124




  THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LOCOMOTIVE                              150

      OF TO-DAY                                                  154

  THE EVOLUTION OF THE BICYCLE                                   156

  THE EXTREMES OF AUTOMOBILE DEVELOPMENT                         158

      OF 1909                                                    162

  A RACING AUTOMOBILE                                            166

      CLINTON TRAIN AND THE GYROCAR                              200


  AN INTERNATIONAL BALLOON RACE                                  242

  TWO FAMOUS FRENCH WAR BALLOONS                                 264

  THE ZEPPELIN DIRIGIBLE BALLOON                                 266

  AN ENGLISH DIRIGIBLE BALLOON                                   268

      WRIGHT AEROPLANE                                           270

  THE AEROPLANE OF M. SANTOS-DUMONT                              272

  LEARNING HOW TO FLY                                            278

  FLYING MACHINES OF THE MONOPLANE TYPE                          284

  THE WRIGHT AEROPLANE                                           288

      WITH HIS PUPIL M. CASSANDIER                               292

  THE FARMAN AEROPLANE                                           294

  THE MONOPLANES OF BLÉRIOT AND LATHAM                           296

  A BRITISH AEROPLANE                                            298

      OCTOBER 4, 1909                                            300



The preceding volume dealt with the general principles of application
and transformation of the powers of Nature through which the world's
work is carried on. In the present volume we are chiefly concerned
with man's application of the same principles in his efforts to set at
defiance, so far as may be, the limitations of time and space.

Something has already been said as to the contrast between the
material civilization of to-day and that of the generations prior to
the nineteenth century. The transformation in methods of agriculture
and manufacture has been referred to somewhat in detail. Now we
have to do with contrasts that are perhaps even more vivid, since
they concern conditions that come within the daily observation of
everyone. Steamships, locomotives, electric cars, and automobiles,
are such commonplaces of every-day life that it is difficult to
conceive a world in which they have no part. Yet everyone is aware
that all these mechanisms are inventions of the nineteenth century.
Meantime the aeroplane, which bids fair to rival those other means
of transportation in the near future, is a creation of the twentieth

In order to visualize the contrast between the practical civilization
of to-day and that of our grandparents, it suffices to recall that the
first steam locomotive that carried passengers over a railway was put
in operation in the year 1829; and that the first ship propelled by
steam power alone did not cross the ocean until 1838. Not until well
towards the middle of the nineteenth century, then, were the conditions
of transportation altered materially from what they had been since the
very dawn of civilization,--conditions under which one hundred miles
constituted about the maximum extent of a hard day's land journey.

The elaboration of railway and steamship lines through which nearly
all portions of the habitable globe have been made accessible, has
constituted one of the most remarkable examples of economic development
that man has ever achieved. It requires but the slightest use of the
imagination to realize with some measure of vividness the extent to
which the entire structure of present-day civilization is based upon
this elaboration of means of transportation. To point but a single
illustration, the entire central and western portion of the United
States must have remained a wilderness for decades or centuries had not
the steam locomotive made communication easy between these regions and
the seaboard.

Contrariwise no such development of city life as that which we see
throughout Christendom would have been possible but for the increased
facilities, due primarily to locomotives and steamships, for bringing
all essential food-stuffs from distant regions.

What this all means when applied on a larger scale may be suggested
by the reflection that the entire character of the occupation of the
average resident of England has been changed within a century. A
century ago England was a self-supporting nation, in the sense that
it produced its own food-stuffs. To-day the population of England as
a whole is dependent upon food shipped to it from across the oceans.
Obviously such a transformation could never have been effected had
not the application of steam revolutionized the entire character of

Far-reaching as are the economic aspects of the problem of
transportation, this extraordinary revolution, the effects of which
are visible on every side, has been brought about by the application
of only a few types of mechanisms. The steam engine, the dynamo, and
the gas engine are substantially responsible for the entire development
in question. In the succeeding pages, which deal with the development
of steamships, locomotives, automobiles, and flying machines, we have
to do with the application of principles with which our previous
studies have made us familiar; and in particular with the mechanisms
that have engaged our attention in the preceding volume. Yet the
application of these principles and the utilization of these mechanisms
gave full opportunity for the exercise of inventive ingenuity, and
the story of the development of steamships, locomotives, electric
vehicles, automobiles, gyro cars, and flying machines, will be found
to have elements of interest commensurate with the importance of these
mechanisms themselves. Before we take up these stories in detail,
however, we shall briefly review the story of geographical discovery
and exploration in its scientific aspects.



The contrast between modern and ancient times is strikingly suggested
by reflection on the limited range of geographical knowledge of those
Oriental and Classical nations who dominated the scene at that remote
period which we are accustomed to characterize as the dawn of history.
The Egyptians, peopling the narrow valley of the Nile, scarcely had
direct dealings with any people more remote than the Babylonians
and Assyrians occupying the valley of the Euphrates. Babylonians
and Assyrians in turn were in touch with no Eastern civilization
more remote than that of Persia and India, and knew nothing of any
Western world beyond the borders of Greece. Greeks and Romans, when
in succession they came to dominate the world stage,--developing a
civilization which even as viewed from our modern vantage-ground seems
marvelous,--were still confined to narrow strips of territory about the
shores of the Mediterranean, and had but the vaguest notions as to any
other regions of the earth.

In the later classical period, to be sure, the globe was subjected,
as we have seen, to wonderful measurements by Eratosthenes and by
Posidonius, and the fact that man's abiding place is a great ball
utterly different from the world as conceived by the Oriental mind,
was definitely grasped and became more or less a matter of common
knowledge. It was even conceived that there might be a second habitable
zone on the opposite side of the equator from the region in which
the Greeks and Romans found themselves, but as to just what this
hypothetical region might be like, and as to what manner of beings
might people it, even the most daring speculator made no attempt
to decide. The more general view, indeed, precluded all thought of
habitable regions lying beyond the confines of the Mediterranean
civilization; conceiving rather that the world beyond was a mere waste
of waters.

Doubtless the imaginative mind of the period must have chafed under
these restrictions of geographical knowledge; and now and again a more
daring navigator must have pressed out beyond the limits of safety,
into the Unknown, never to return. Once at least, even in the old
Egyptian days, a band of navigators surpassing in daring all their
predecessors, and their successors of the ensuing centuries, made bold
to continue their explorations along the coast of Africa till they had
passed to a region where--as Herodotus relates with wonder--the sun
appeared "on their right hand," ultimately passing about the southern
extremity of the African continent and in due course completing the
circumnavigation, returning with wonder tales to excite the envy,
perhaps, but not the emulation of their fellows.

Then in due course some Phœnician or Greek navigators coasted along the
northern shores beyond the "Pillars of Hercules" and discovered at the
very confines of the world what we now term the British Isles. But this
was the full extent of exploration throughout antiquity; and the spread
of civilization about the borders of the known world was a slow and
haphazard procedure during all those centuries that mark the Classical
and Byzantine periods.


The change came with that revival of scientific learning which was
to usher in the new era that we speak of as modern times. And here
as always it was a practical mechanism that gave the stimulus to new
endeavor. In this particular case the implement in question was the
mariner's compass, which consists, in its essentials, as everyone is
aware, of a magnetized needle floated or suspended in such a way that
it is made under the influence of terrestrial magnetism to point to the
north and south.

The mysterious property whereby the magnetized needle obeys this
inscrutable impulse is, in the last analysis, inexplicable even to
the science of our day. But the facts, in their cruder relations,
had been familiar from time immemorial to a nation whose habitat lay
beyond the ken of the classical world--namely, the Chinese. It seems
to be fairly established that navigators of that nation had used the
magnetized needle, so arranged as to constitute a crude compass, from
a period possibly antedating the Christian Era. To Western nations,
however, the properties of the magnetized needle seem to have
been quite unknown--at least its possibilities of practical aid to
the navigator were utterly unsuspected--until well into the Middle
Ages. There is every reason to believe--though absolute proof is
lacking--that a knowledge of the compass came to the Western world from
the Far East through the medium of the Arabs. The exact channel of
this communication will perhaps always remain unknown. Nor have we any
clear knowledge as to the exact time when the all-important information
was transmitted. We only know that manuscripts of the twelfth century
mentioned the magnetic needle as an implement familiar to navigators,
and from this time forward, we may feel sure, the new possibilities of
exploration made possible by the compass must have suggested themselves
to some at least of the more imaginative minds of each generation.
Indeed there were explorers in each generation who pushed out a little
into the unknown, as the discovery of various groups of Islands in
the Atlantic shows, although the efforts of these pioneers have been
eclipsed by the spectacular feat of Columbus.

The exact steps by which the crude compass of the Orientals was
developed into the more elaborate and delicate instrument familiar to
Western navigators cannot be traced by the modern historian. It is
known that sundry experiments were made as to the best form of needle,
and in particular as to the best way of adjusting it on approximately
frictionless bearings. But a high degree of perfection in this regard
had been attained before the modern period; and the compass had
been further perfected by attaching the needle to a circumferential
card on which the "points of the compass," thirty-two in number,
were permanently marked. At all events the compass card had been so
divided before the close of the fourteenth century, as is proved by
a chance reference by Chaucer. The utility of the instrument thus
perfected--indeed its entire indispensableness--was doubtless by this
time clearly recognized by all navigators; and one risks nothing in
suggesting that without the compass no such hazardous voyage into the
unknown as that of Columbus would ever have been attempted.

No doubt the earliest observers of the needle believed that it pointed
directly to the North. If such were indeed the fact the entire science
of navigation would be vastly simpler than it is. But it required no
very acute powers of observation to discover that the magnetized needle
does not in reality point directly towards the earth's poles. There
are indeed places on the earth where it does so point, but in general
it is observed to deviate by a few degrees from the exact line of the
meridian. Such deviation is technically known as magnetic declination.
That this declination is not the same for all places was discovered by
Columbus in the course of his first transatlantic voyage.

A century or so later, the accumulated records made it clear that
declination is not a fixed quantity even at any given place. An
Englishman, Stephen Burrows, is credited with making the discovery
that the needle thus shifts its direction slightly with the lapse
of time, and the matter was more clearly determined a little later
by Gillebrand, Professor of Geometry at Graham College. Dr. Halley,
the celebrated astronomer--whose achievements have been recalled to
succeeding generations by the periodical return of the comet that bears
his name--gave the matter attention, and in a paper before the Royal
Society in 1692 he pointed out that the direction of the needle at
London had changed in a little over a century (between 1580 and 1692)
from 11 degrees 15 minutes East to 6 degrees West, or more than 17

Halley conclusively showed that similar variations occurred at all
other places where records had been kept. He had already demonstrated,
a few years earlier, that the deviations of the compass noted at sea
are not due to the varying attractions of neighboring bodies of land,
but to some influence having to do with the problem of terrestrial
magnetism in its larger aspects. Halley advocated the doctrine, which
had first been put forward by William Gilbert, that the earth itself
is a gigantic magnet, and that the action of the compass is dependent
upon this terrestrial source and not, as many navigators believed, on
the influence of a magnetic star, or on localized deposits of lodestone
somewhere in the unknown regions of the North.

Further observations of the records presently made it clear that there
are also annual and even daily variations of the compass of slight
degree. The fact of diurnal variations was first discovered by Mr.
Graham about the year 1719. More than half a century later it was
observed by an astronomer named Wales, who was accompanying Captain
Cook on his famous voyage round the world (1772-74), that there is yet
another fluctuation of the compass due to the influence of the ship
on which it is placed. Considerable quantities of iron were of course
used in the construction of wooden ships, and it was made clear that
the ship itself comes under the influence of the earth's magnetism and
exerts in turn an appreciable influence on the compass. The fluctuation
due to this source is known as deviation, in contradistinction to the
larger fluctuation already referred to as declination.

Not only is the deviation due to the ship's influence a matter of
importance, but it was discovered by Captain Matthew Flinders, in the
course of his explorations along the coast of New Holland in the year
1801-02, that the influence of the ship over its compass varies with
the direction of the ship's prow.

Needless to say, the problem of the deviation of the compass due to the
influence of the ship is enormously complicated when the ship instead
of being constructed chiefly of wood is made of iron or steel. It then
becomes absolutely essential that the influence of vessels shall be
reckoned with and so far as possible compensated. Such compensation may
be effected by the adjustment of bodies of iron, as first suggested
by Barlow, or by the use of permanent magnets, as first attempted
by England's Astronomer Royal, Professor Airy. At the very best,
however, it is never possible totally to overcome the ship's perverting
influence, allowance for which must be made if an absolutely accurate
conclusion is to be drawn from the record presented by the compass.

Early in the twentieth century an American ship, christened the
_Carnegie_, in honor of the philanthropist who supplied funds for the
enterprise, was constructed for the express purpose of making accurate
charts of the lines of magnetic declination in various parts of the
globe. This ship differs from every other vessel of considerable size
ever hitherto constructed in that no magnetic material of any kind
was used in connection with its structure or equipment. For the most
part iron was substituted by copper or other non-magnetic metal.
Pins of locust-wood largely took the place of nails; and wherever it
was not feasible to do away with iron altogether it was used in the
form of non-magnetic manganese steel. The purpose of the _Carnegie_
is to provide accurate charts of magnetic declination for the use
of navigators in general. The value of observations made with this
non-magnetic ship will be clear when it is reflected that with an
ordinary ship the observer can never be absolutely certain as to what
precise share of the observed fluctuation of the compass is due at any
given moment to the ship's influence. In other words--using technical
terminology--he can never apportion with absolute accuracy the
influence of declination and of deviation. Yet it is highly important
that he should be able to do so, inasmuch as the declination of the
compass is an all-important element in reckoning the exact location of
the ship, and would be the same for every ship at that place, whereas
deviation denotes a purely local disturbance which would never be the
same for any two ships of different construction.

Not only does the magnetized needle thus tend to vary in the direction
of its horizontal action, but it also tends when suspended at the
middle to shift its vertical axis. In regions near the equator, indeed,
the magnetized needle maintains a horizontal position, but if carried
into northern or southern latitudes it progressively "dips," its
polar end sinking lower and lower. This dipping of the needle seems
to have been first observed by Robert Norman, an English nautical
instrument maker, about the year 1590. It was brought to the attention
of Gilbert and carefully tested by him in the course of his famous
pioneer experiments. Gilbert was led to predicate the existence of
magnetic poles, the exact location of which would be indicated by the
dipping needle, which, sinking lower and lower as northern latitudes
were attained, would ultimately at the magnetic pole itself assume a
vertical direction.

That this is a correct expression of the facts was determined in
the year 1831 by Sir James Ross, who in the course of his Arctic
explorations observed the vertical dip and so located the northern
magnetic pole at about 70 degrees 5 minutes north latitude and 96
degrees 43 minutes west longitude. It was thus proved that the magnetic
pole is situated a long distance--more than 1,200 miles--from the
geographical pole. The location of the south magnetic pole was most
accurately determined in 1909 by Lieutenant Shackleton's expedition at
about 73 degrees south latitude and 156 degrees east longitude. The two
magnetic poles are thus not directly opposite each other on the earth's
surface, and the magnetic axis of the earth does not coincide with the
geographical center of the globe itself.

From the standpoint of practical navigation the dip of the needle is
a matter of much less significance than its horizontal fluctuations.
Robert Norman himself attempted to overcome the dip by a balancing
apparatus applied to the needle; and the modern compass is suspended
in such a way that the propensity to dip does not interfere with
the lateral movements which supply the navigator with all important
information. The modern compass in question is the invention of
Lord Kelvin and was patented by him in 1876. It consists of a
number of small magnets arranged in parallel and held in position
by silk threads, each suspended, cobweb-like, from the circular
rim of aluminum. The weight--which in the aggregate is relatively
slight--being thus largely at the circumference, the instrument has a
maximum period of oscillation and hence a high degree of stability. Its
fluctuations due to the ship's influence are corrected by a carefully
adjusted disposition of metal balls and magnets.


While the compass gives indispensable information as to direction,
and is constantly under the eye of the pilot, it of course can give
no direct information as to the distance traversed by the ship, and
hence does not by itself suffice to tell the navigator his whereabouts.
In the early days there was indeed an expectation that the observed
declination of the compass would reveal to the navigator his longitude
and that the observation of the dip might enable him to determine his
latitude. But more extended observation shows that this was asking
altogether too much of the compass, and while it may be useful as
an accessory it is by no means the navigator's chief reliance in
determining his location. This is accomplished, as everyone is aware,
in clear weather by the observation of the heavenly bodies. In cloudy
weather, however, such observations obviously cannot be made, and the
seaman must direct his ship and estimate his location--an all important
matter when he is approaching the coast--by what is called dead
reckoning. One element of this reckoning is furnished by the compass,
inasmuch as that is his sole guide in determining the direction of
the ship's progress. The other element is supplied by the log which
furnishes him a clue as to the distance traversed hour by hour.

It is rather startling to reflect that the navigators of the middle
ages had no means whatever of determining the rate of progress of a
ship at sea, beyond the crudest guesses unaided by instrument of any
kind. When Columbus made his voyage he had no means of knowing what
distance he had actually sailed; nor was any method of measuring the
ship's speed utilized throughout the course of the ensuing century. In
the year 1570, however, one Humfray Cole suggested a theoretical means
of measuring the ship's rate of progress by means of an object dropped
back of the ship and allowed to drag through the water; and this
suggestion led a generation later to the introduction of the log, which
was first actually tested, so far as can be learned, in the year 1607.

The original log was so called because it consisted essentially of
an actual log or piece of wood. To the center of this a string was
attached, and in testing the ship's rate of progress this string was
allowed to slip through the fingers of a sailor who counted the number
of knots--placed, of course, at regular intervals on the string--that
passed through his fingers in a given time. As the log itself would
remain practically stationary in the water where it was dropped, the
number of knots counted indicated the distance traversed by the ship in
a given time. In practice the time was usually gauged by a half-minute
sand glass, and the knots were arranged at such a distance on the cord
that, in the course of the half minute, one knot would pass through
the fingers for each nautical mile covered by the ship in an hour. The
actual distance between the knots was therefore about fifty feet. The
nautical or geographical mile represents one degree of the earth's
circumference at the equator, amounting therefore to 6,008 feet, as
against the 5,280 feet of the statute mile. It was the use of the
log-line with its knots, as just explained, that led to the dubbing
of the nautical mile by the name "knot," which is still familiarly
employed, though the knotted log-line itself has been superseded in
recent times, except on very old-fashioned sailing ships.

The log retains its place even in the most modern ship, though its form
is materially altered, and its importance is somewhat lessened owing to
the fact that the experienced skipper can test the speed of his ship
very accurately by noting the number of revolutions per minute of the
ship's propellers. It is indeed the ship's propeller that supplies
the model for the modern log, in which the primitive piece of wood is
replaced by a torpedo-like piece of metal with miniature propeller-like
blades at its extremity. This apparatus is towed at the end of a long
line, and its blades, whirling more or less rapidly according to the
speed of the ship, communicate their motion to a recording apparatus,
adjusted at the ship's stern, to which the line is attached and the
face of which ordinarily presents a dial on which the speed of the ship
may be observed as readily as one observes the time by the clock.

Some recent modifications of the log employ an electrical device to
register the progress, but the principle of the revolving vanes, which
owe their speed to the rate at which they are dragged through the
water, is the fundamental one upon which the action of the log usually
depends, though attempts have been made to substitute pressure-gauge

While the modern log records the speed of the ship with a fair degree
of accuracy, its register shows at best only an approximation of the
facts. As already mentioned, the rate of revolution of the ship's
propeller blades furnishes what most navigators regard as a rather more
dependable test of speed. An apparatus for recording this is found on
the bridge of the modern ship. But due allowance must of course be made
for the effect of winds, waves, and ocean currents. These constantly
variable factors obviously make the estimate as to the precise distance
traversed by a ship in a given time a matter not altogether devoid of
guess work; and no navigator who has been obliged to sail for several
days by dead reckoning approaches a coast with quite the same degree
of satisfaction that he may entertain if his log has been checked by
observation of the sun or stars. In case, however, a navigator is able
to check his reckoning by astronomical observations, aided by the
chronometer, he determines his location with great accuracy.


The instrument with which such astronomical observations are made is
known as the sextant. Its purpose is to measure with great accuracy the
angle between two objects, which in practice are the horizon line on
one hand and some celestial body, usually the sun, on the other. The
determination of the latitude of the ship, for example, is a matter of
comparative ease, if the sun chances to be unobscured just at midday.
The navigator has merely to measure the exact elevation of the sun as
it crosses the meridian,--that is to say when it is at its highest
point,--and, having made certain corrections for so-called dip and
refraction, to which we shall refer more at length in a moment, a very
simple calculation reveals the latitude--that is to say, the distance
from the terrestrial equator.

That the latitude of a ship could thus be determined, with greater or
less accuracy, has been familiar knowledge to seamen from a very early
period. It was by the use of this principle that the earth was measured
by Eratosthenes and Posidonius in classical times, and the sailors of
antiquity probably carried with them a crude apparatus for measuring
the height of sun and stars, as the mediæval navigators are known to
have done.

The simplest and crudest form of measurer of which the record has been
preserved is known as the cross-staff. This consisted essentially of a
stick about a yard in length, called the staff, on which a cross-piece
was arranged at right angles, so adjusted at the center as to slide
back and forth on the staff. An eye-piece at one end of the staff was
utilized to sight along projections at either end of the cross-piece.
If the apparatus is held so that one of the lines of sight is directed
to the horizon, and then the cross-piece slid along the staff until
the other line of sight is directed toward the sun or a given star,
the angle between the two lines of sight will obviously represent the
angle of altitude of the celestial body in question. But the difficulty
of using an apparatus which requires two successive observations to be
made without shift of position is obvious, and it is clear that the
information derived from the cross-staff must have been at best very
vague--by no means such as would satisfy the modern navigator.

Even the navigators of the fifteenth century were aware of the
deficiencies of the cross-staff and sought to improve upon it. The
physicians of Henry the Navigator of Portugal, Roderick and Joseph by
name, and another of his advisers, Martin de Bohemia, are credited
with inventing, or at least introducing, a much improved apparatus
known as the astrolabe. This consists of a circle of metal, arranged
to be suspended from a ring at the side, so that one of its diameters
would maintain the horizontal position through the effect of gravity.
A superior quadrant of the circle was marked with degrees and minutes.
A straight piece of metal, with sights so that it could be accurately
pointed, was adjusted to revolve on a pivot at the center of the
circle. This sighting piece being aimed at the sun, for example, the
elevation of that body could be read directly on the measuring arc
of the circle. Here, then, was no new principle involved, but the
instrument had obvious points of advantage over the cross-staff, in
particular because only a single sight need be taken, the horizon
line being determined, as already explained, through the action of

The astrolabe did not gain immediate favor with practical navigators,
and it was at best a rather clumsy instrument, subject to peculiar
difficulties when used on a rolling ship. Many attempts were made to
improve upon it, but for a long time none of these was altogether
successful. The final suggestion as to means of overcoming the
difficulties encountered in measuring the altitude of astronomical
bodies was made by Sir Isaac Newton. But nothing practical came of
his discovery, as it was not published until a long time after his
death. Meantime independent discovery of the same principle was
made by Thomas Godfrey of Philadelphia, in 1730, and by the English
astronomer Hadley, who published his discovery before the Royal Society
in 1731. The instrument which Hadley devised was called a quadrant.
The principle on which it worked involved nothing more complex than
the use of two mirrors, one of them (known as the horizon glass and
having only half its surface mirrored) fixed in the line of vision of
a small telescope; the other (called the index mirror) movable with
the arm of an indicator, which is so adjusted as to revolve about the
axis of the quadrant. In operation these two mirrors enable the images
of two objects, the distance between which is to be measured, to be
superimposed. The telescope may be pointed at the horizon, for example,
directly under the position of the sun, and the arm of the instrument,
altering the position of the so-called index mirror, may be rotated
until the limb of the sun seems just to touch the horizon--the latter
being viewed through the unsilvered half of the horizon glass. The
scale at the circumference of the instrument is marked in half-degrees,
which, however, are registered as whole degrees, and which, so
interpreted, give the direct measurement of the angular distance
between the horizon and the sun; in other words the measurement of the
sun's altitude or so-called declination.

The instrument just described, perfected as to details but not modified
as to principles, constitutes the modern sextant, which is used by
every navigator, and which constitutes, along with the compass and
chronometer, the practical instrumental equipment that enables the
seaman to determine--by using the tables of the _Nautical Almanac_--his
exact position on the earth's surface from observation of the sun or
certain of the fixed stars. The modern instrument is called a sextant
because it has, for convenience' sake, been restricted in size to about
one-sixth of a circle instead of the original one-quarter, the small
size being found to answer every practical purpose, since it measures
all angles up to 120 degrees.

In practice the sextant is an instrument only six or eight inches in
diameter. It is held in the right hand and the movable radial arm is
adjusted with the left hand with the aid of a micrometer screw, and
the reading of the scale is made accurate by the vernier arrangement.
The ordinary observation--which every traveler has seen a navigator
make from the ship's bridge just at midday--is carried out by holding
the sextant in a vertical position directly in line of the sun, and
sighting the visible horizon line, meantime adjusting the recording
apparatus so as to keep the sun's limb seemingly in touch with the
horizon. As the sun is constantly shifting its position the vernier
must be constantly adjusted until the observation shows that the sun is
at the very highest point. The instrument being clamped and the scale
read, the latitude may be known when proper correction has been made
for the so-called dip, for refraction, and where great accuracy is
required for parallax.


The instrument is held in the right hand, and levelled at the horizon;
the left hand manipulating the micrometer screw which adjusts the
radial arm carrying the index mirror (at top of figure). The result is
read on the Vernier scale (arc at bottom of figure) with the aid of the
magnifying glass.]

Dip, it may be explained, is due to the fact that the observation is
made not from the surface of the water but from an elevation, which
is greater or less according to the height of the bridge, and which
therefore varies with each individual ship. The error of refraction
is due to the refraction of the sun's light in passing through the
earth's atmosphere, and will vary with the temperature and the degree
of atmospheric humidity, both of which conditions must be taken into
account. The amount of refractive error is very great if an object
lies near the horizon. Everyone is familiar with the oval appearance
of the rising or setting sun, which is due to refraction. With the sun
at the meridian, the refractive error is comparatively slight; and
when a star is observed at the zenith the refractive error disappears

By parallax, as here employed, is meant the error due to the difference
in the apparent position of the sun as viewed by an observer at any
point of the earth's surface from what the apparent position would
be if viewed from the line of the center of the earth, from which
theoretical point the observations are supposed to be made. In the case
of bodies so distant as the sun, this angle is an exceedingly minute
one, and in the case of the fixed stars it disappears altogether. The
sun's parallax is very material indeed from the standpoint of delicate
astronomical observations, but it may be ignored altogether by the
practical navigator in all ordinary observations. There is one other
correction that he must make, however, in case of sun observations;
he must add, namely, the amount of semi-diameter of the sun to his
observed measurement, as all calculations recorded in the _Nautical
Almanac_ refer to the center of the sun's disk.


The observation of the sun's height, with the various corrections just
suggested, suffices by itself to define the latitude of the observer.
Something more is required, however, before he can know his longitude.
How to determine this, was a problem that long taxed the ingenuity of
the astronomer. The solution came finally through the invention of the
chronometer, which is in effect an exceedingly accurate watch.

Time measurers of various types have, of course, been employed from the
earliest times. The ancient Oriental and Classical nations employed
the so-called clepsydra, which consisted essentially of receptacles
from or into which water dripped through a small aperture, the lapse of
time being measured by the quantity of water. At an undetermined later
date sand was substituted for the water, and the hour glass with which,
in some of its forms, nearly everyone is familiar, came into use. For
a long time this remained a most accurate of time measurers, though
efforts were early made to find substitutes of greater convenience.
Then clocks operated by weights and pulleys were introduced; and,
finally, after the time of the Dutchman Huygens, the pendulum clock
furnished a timepiece of great reliability. But the mechanism operated
by weight or pendulum is obviously ill-adapted to use on shipboard.
Portable watches, in which coiled springs took the place of the
pendulum, had indeed been introduced, but the mechanical ingenuity
of the watchmaker could not suffice to produce very dependable
time-keepers. The very idea of a watch that would keep time accurately
enough to be depended upon for astronomical observations intended to
determine longitude was considered chimerical.

Nevertheless the desirability of producing a portable time-keeper
of great accuracy was obvious, and the efforts of a large number
of experimenters were directed towards this end in the course of
the eighteenth century. These efforts were stimulated by the hope
of earning a prize of twenty thousand pounds offered by the British
Government for a watch sufficiently accurate to determine the
location of a ship with maximum error of half a degree, or thirty
nautical miles, corresponding to two minutes of time, in the course
of a transatlantic voyage. It affords a striking illustration of the
relative backwardness of nautical science, and of the difficulties
to be overcome, to reflect that no means then available enabled the
navigator at the termination of a transatlantic voyage to be sure of
his location within the distance of thirty nautical miles by any means
of astronomical or other observation known to the science of the time.

The problem was finally solved by an ingenious British carpenter
named John Harrison, who devoted his life to the undertaking, and
who came finally to be the most successful of watchmakers. Harrison
first achieved distinction by inventing the compensating pendulum--a
pendulum made of two metals having a different rate of expansion under
the influence of heat, so adjusted that change in one was compensated
by a different rate of change in the other. Up to the time of this
discovery, even the best of pendulum clocks had failed of an ideal
degree of accuracy owing to the liability to change of length of the
pendulum--and so, of course, to corresponding change in the rate of
its oscillation--with every alteration of temperature. Another means
of effecting the desired compensation was subsequently devised by Mr.
Graham, through the use of a well of mercury in connection with the
pendulum, so arranged that the expansion of the mercury upward in its
tube would compensate the lengthening of the pendulum itself under
effect of heat, and vice versa; but the Harrison pendulum, variously
modified in design, remains in use as a highly satisfactory solution of
the problem.

Harrison early conceived the idea that it might be possible to apply
the same principle to the balance-wheel of the watch. This problem
presented very great practical difficulties, but by persistent effort
these were finally overcome, and a balance-wheel produced, which, owing
to the unequal expansion and contraction of its two component metals
under changing temperature, altered its shape and so maintained its
rate of oscillation almost--though never quite--regardless of changing
conditions of temperature.

In 1761 Harrison produced a watch which was tested on a British ship
in a trip to the West Indies in that and the succeeding year, and
which proved to be a time-keeper of hitherto unexampled accuracy. The
inventor had calculated that the watch, when carried into the tropics,
would vary its speed by one second per day with each average rise
of ten degrees of temperature. Making allowance for this predicted
alteration, it was found that the watch was far within the limits of
variation allowed by the conditions of the test above outlined. It had
varied indeed only five seconds during the journey across the ocean.
On the return trip the watch was kept in a place near the stern of
the ship, for the sake of dryness, where, however, it was subjected
to a great deal of joggling, which led to a considerably greater
irregularity of action; but even so its variation on reaching British
shores was such as to cause a maximum miscalculation of considerably
less than thirty nautical miles.

Although Harrison seemed clearly enough to have won the prize,
there were influences at work that interfered for a time with full
recognition of his accomplishment. Presently he received half the
sum, however, and ultimately, after having divulged the secret of his
compensating balance and proved that he could make other watches of
corresponding accuracy, he received the full award.

Minor improvements have naturally been made in the watch since that
time, but the essential problem of making a really reliable portable
timepiece was solved by the compensating balance-wheel of Harrison.
The ship's chronometer of to-day is merely a large watch, with an
escapement of particular construction, mounted on gimbals so that it
will maintain a practically horizontal position.

Modern ships are ordinarily provided with at least three of these
time-keepers in order that each may be compared with the others, and
a more accurate determination of the time made than would be possible
from observation of a single instrument; inasmuch as no absolutely
accurate time-keeper has ever been constructed. Two chronometers would
obviously be not much better than one, since there would be no guide as
to whether any variation between them had been caused by one running
too fast or the other too slowly. But with a third chronometer to check
the comparison, it is equally obvious that a dependable clue will be
given as to the exact time.

It is to be understood of course that the variation of any of the
chronometers will be but slight if they are good instruments. Moreover
the tendency to vary in one direction or the other of each individual
instrument will be known from previous tests. Such tests are constantly
made at the Royal Observatory in England and elsewhere, and the
best chronometers bear certificates as to their accuracy and as to
their rate of variation. It may be added that a chronometer or other
timepiece is technically said to be a perfect instrument, not when
it has no variation at all--since this has proved an unattainable
ideal--but when its variation is slight, is always in one direction,
and is perfectly or almost perfectly uniform.


In the reference made above to the testing of Harrison's watch, it
was stated that that instrument varied by only a certain number of
seconds in the course of the westerly voyage across the Atlantic, and
that its variation was somewhat greater on the return voyage. This
implies, clearly, that some method was available to test the watch in
the West Indies, without waiting for the return to England. At first
thought this may cause no surprise, since the local time can of course
be known anywhere through meridian observations; but on reflection
it may seem less and less obvious as to just what test was available
through which the exact difference in time between Greenwich, at
which the watch was originally tested, and local time at the station
in the West Indies could be determined. There are, however, several
astronomical observations through which this could be accomplished, and
in point of fact the comparative times and hence the precise longitudes
at many points on the Western Hemisphere--and indeed of all portions
of the civilized globe--were accurately known before the day of the

One of the simplest and most direct means of testing the time of a
place, as compared with Greenwich time, is furnished by observation
of the occultation of one of the moons of Jupiter. By occultation is
meant, as is well known, the eclipse of the body through passing into
the shadow of its parent planet. This phenomenon, causing the sudden
blotting out of the satellite as viewed from the earth, occurs at
definite and calculable periods and is obviously quite independent
of any terrestrial influence. It occurs at a given instant of time
and would be observed at that instant by any mundane witness to whom
Jupiter was at that time visible. If then an observer noted the exact
local time at which occultation occurred, and compared this observed
time with the Greenwich time at which such occultation was predicted
to occur, as recorded in astronomical tables, a simple subtraction
or addition will tell him the difference in time between his station
and the meridian at Greenwich; and this difference of time can be
translated into degrees of longitude by merely reckoning fifteen
degrees for each hour of time, and fractions of the hour in that

It will be noted that this observation has value for the purpose
in question only in conjunction with certain tables in which the
movements of Jupiter and its satellite are calculated in advance. This
is equally true of the various other observations through which the
same information may be obtained--as for example, the observation of a
transit of Mars, or the measurement of apparent distance between the
moon and a given fixed star. Before the tables giving such computations
were published it was quite impossible to determine the exact longitude
of any transatlantic place whatsoever. We have already pointed out that
Columbus had only a vague notion as to how far he had sailed when he
discovered land in the West. The same vagueness obtained with all the
explorations of the immediately ensuing generations.

It was not until about the middle of the sixteenth century that
Mercator and his successors brought the art of map-making to
perfection; and the celebrated astronomical tables of the German Mayer,
which served as the foundation for calculations of great importance
to the navigator, were not published until 1753. The first _Nautical
Almanac_, in which all manner of astronomical tables to guide the
navigator were included, was published at the British Royal Observatory
in 1767.

At the present time, a navigator would be as likely to start on a
voyage without compass and sextant as without charts and a _Nautical
Almanac_. Indeed were he to overlook the latter the former would
serve but a vague and inadequate purpose. Yet, as just indicated, this
invaluable adjunct to the equipment of the navigator was not available
until well toward the close of the eighteenth century. But of course
numerous general tables had been in use long before this, else--to
revert to the matter directly in hand--it would not have been possible
to make the above-recorded test in the case of Harrison's famous watch
in the voyage of 1761-62.


In the days before the chronometer was perfected, almost numberless
methods of attempting to determine the longitude of a ship at sea were
suggested. There were astronomers who advocated observation of the
eclipse of Jupiter's satellites; others who championed the method of
so-called lunars--that is to say, calculation based on observation of
the distance of the moon at a given local time from one or another of
certain fixed stars arbitrarily selected by the calculator. Inasmuch as
the seaman could always regulate even a faulty watch from day to day
by observation of the meridian passage of the sun, it was thought that
these observations of Jupiter's satellite or of the moon would serve
to determine Greenwich time and therefore the longitude at which the
observation was made with a fair degree of accuracy. But in practice
it is not easy to observe the eclipse of Jupiter's satellite without a
fair telescope; and it was soon found that the tables for calculating
the course of the moon were by no means reliable, hence theoretically
excellent methods of determining longitude by observation of that body
proved quite unreliable in practice.

It was with the chief aim of bettering our knowledge of the moon's
course through long series of very accurate observations that the Royal
Observatory at Greenwich was founded. Perhaps it was not unnatural
under these circumstances that certain of the Astronomers Royal should
have advocated the method of lunars as the mainstay of the navigator.
In particular Maskelyne, who was in charge of the Observatory in
the latter part of the eighteenth century, was so convinced of
the rationality of this method that he was led to discredit the
achievements of Harrison's watches, and for a long time to exert an
antagonistic influence, which the watchmaker resented bitterly and it
would appear not without some show of reason.

Ultimately, however, the accuracy of the watch, and its
indispensableness in the perfected form of the chronometer, having been
fully demonstrated, the method of lunars became practically obsolete
and the mariner was able to determine his longitude with the aid of
sextant, chronometer, and _Nautical Almanac_, by means of direct
observation of the altitude of the sun by day and of sundry fixed stars
by night, a much simpler calculation sufficing than was required by the
older method.

As the sun is the chief time-measurer, whose rate of passage in a
seeming circumnavigation of the heavens is recorded by the dial of
clock, watch, or chronometer, it would seem as if the simplest
possible method of determining longitude would be found through
observation of the sun's meridian passage. The user of the sextant on
shipboard always makes, if weather permits, a meridian observation
of the sun, and such observation gives him an accurate gauge of the
altitude of the sun at its highest point and hence of his own latitude.
By adjusting the arm of the sextant with which this observation is
made, the observer is able to determine the exact point reached by the
sun in its upward course with all requisite accuracy.

But, unfortunately for his purpose, the sun does not poise for an
instant at the apex of its upward flight and then begin its descent. On
the contrary, its orbit being circular, the course of the sun just at
its highest point is approximately horizontal for an appreciable length
of time, and while the observer therefore has adequate opportunity to
measure with accuracy the highest point reached, he cannot possibly
make sure, within the limits of a considerable fraction of a minute, as
to the precise moment when the center of the sun is on the meridian. He
can, indeed, determine this point with sufficient accuracy for rough
calculations, but modern navigation demands something more than rough
calculations, inasmuch as a variation in time of one minute represents
one-quarter of a degree of longitude, or fifteen nautical miles at the
equator, and such uncertainty as this would imply can by no means be
permitted in the safe navigation of a ship that may be passing through
the water at the rate of a nautical mile in less than three minutes.

It follows that meridian observation of the sun, owing to the necessary
inaccuracy of such observation, is not the ideal method. In point of
fact the sun may be observed for this purpose to much better advantage
when it is at a considerable distance from the meridian, since then
its altitude above the horizon at a given moment is the only point
necessary to be determined. The calculation by which the altitude of
the sun may be translated into longitude is indeed more complicated
in this case; but while spherical trigonometry is involved in the
calculation, the tables supplied by the _Nautical Almanac_ enable the
navigator to make the estimate without the use of any knowledge beyond
that of the simplest mathematics.


While these observations tell the navigator his exact location in
degrees of latitude and longitude, such knowledge does not of course
reveal the distance traversed unless the precise length of the degree
itself is known; and this obviously depends upon the size of the
earth. Now we have seen that the earth was measured at a very early
date by Greek and Roman astronomers, but of course their measurements,
remarkable though they were considering the conditions under which
they were made, were but rough approximations of the truth. Numerous
attempts were made to improve upon these early measurements, but it
was not until well into the seventeenth century that a really accurate
measurement was made between two points on the earth's surface, the
difference between which, as measured in degrees and minutes, was
accurately known.

In June of the year 1633, the Englishman Robert Norman made very
accurate observations of the altitude of the sun on the day of the
summer solstice (when of course it is at its highest point in the
heavens); the observation being made with a quadrant several feet
in diameter stationed at a point near the Tower of London. On the
corresponding day of the following year he made similar observations at
a point something like 125 miles south of London, in Surrey. The two
observations determined the exact difference in latitude between the
two points in question.

Norman then undertook a laborious survey, that he might accurately
measure the precise distance in miles and fractions thereof that
corresponded to these known degrees of latitude. He made actual
measurements with the chain for the most part, but in a few places
where the topography offered peculiar difficulties he was obliged to
depend upon the primitive method of pacing.

The modern surveyor, equipped with instruments for the accurate
measuring of angles, not differing largely in principle from the
quadrant of the navigator, would consider Norman's method of
measurement a very clumsy one. He would measure only a single original
base line of any convenient length, but would make that measurement
with very great accuracy, using, perhaps, a rod packed in ice that
it might not vary in length by even the fraction of an inch through
changes in temperature. An accurate base line thus secured, he
would depend thereafter on the familiar method of triangulation, in
which angles are measured very accurately, and from such measurement
the length of the sides of the successive triangles determined by
simple calculation. In the end he would thus have made the most
accurate determination of the distance involved, without having
actually measured any portion thereof except the original base line.
Notwithstanding the crudity of Norman's method, however, his estimate
of the actual length of a degree of the earth's surface was correct,
as more recent measurements have demonstrated, within twelve yards--a
really remarkable result when it is recalled that the total length of
the degree is about sixty nautical miles.

Inasmuch as the earth is not precisely spherical, but is slightly
flattened at the poles, successive degrees of latitude are not
absolutely uniform all along a meridian, but decrease slightly as the
poles are approached. The deviation is so slight, however, that for
practical purposes the degree of latitude may be considered as an
unvarying unit. But obviously such is not the case with a degree of
longitude. The most casual glance at a globe on which the meridian
lines are drawn, shows that these lines intersect at the poles, and
that the distance between them is, in the nature of the case, different
at each successive point between poles and equator. It is only at the
equator itself that a degree of longitude represents 1/360 of the
earth's circumference. Everywhere else the parallels of latitude cut
the meridians in what are termed small circles--that is to say, circles
that do not represent circumference lines in the plane of the earth's
center. Therefore while all points on any given meridian of longitude
are equally distant in terms of degrees and minutes of arc from the
meridian of Greenwich, the actual distances from that meridian of the
different points as measured in miles will depend entirely upon their

At the equator each degree of longitude corresponds to (approximately)
sixty miles, but in the middle latitudes traversed for example by the
transatlantic lines, a degree of longitude represents only half that
distance; and in the far North the meridians of longitude draw closer
and closer together until they finally converge, and at the poles all
longitudes are one.

It follows, then, that the navigator must always know both his latitude
and his longitude in order to estimate the exact distance he has
sailed. We have seen that a single instrument, the sextant, enables
him to make the observations from which both these essentials can be
determined. We must now make further inquiry as to the all important
guide without the aid of which his observations, however accurately
made, would avail him little. This guide, as already pointed out, is
found in the set of tables known as the _Nautical Almanac_.


Had the earth chanced to be poised in space with its axis exactly at
right angles to its plane of revolution, many computations of the
astronomer would be greatly simplified. Again, were the planetary
course circular instead of elliptical, and were the earth subject to
no gravitational influences except that of the sun and moon, matters
of astronomical computation would be quite different from what they
are. But as the case stands, the axis of the earth is not only tipped
at an angle of about twenty-three degrees, but is subject to sundry
variations, due to the wobbling of the great top as it whirls.

Then the other planets, notably the massive Jupiter, exert a perverting
influence which constantly interferes with the regular progression of
the earth in its annual tour about the sun. A moment's reflection makes
it clear that the gravitation pull of Jupiter is exerted sometimes in
opposition to that of the sun, whereas at other times it is applied in
aid of the sun, and yet again at various angles. In short, on no two
successive days--for that matter no two successive hours or minutes--is
the perturbing influence of Jupiter precisely the same.

What applies to the earth applies also, of course, to the varying
action of Jupiter on the moon and to the incessantly varied action of
the moon itself upon the earth. All in all, then, the course of our
globe is by no means a stable and uniform one; though it should be
understood that the perturbations are at most very slight indeed as
compared with the major motions that constitute its regular action and
lead to the chief phenomena of day and night and the succession of the

Relatively slight though the perturbations may be, however, they are
sufficient to make noteworthy changes in the apparent position of the
sun and moon as viewed with modern astronomical instruments; and they
can by no means be ignored by the navigator who will determine the
position of his ship within safe limits of error. And so it has been
the work of the practical astronomers to record thousands on thousands
of observations, giving with precise accuracy the location of sun,
moon, planets, and various stars at given times; and these observations
have furnished the basis for the elaborate calculations of the
mathematical astronomers upon which the tables are based that in their
final form make up the _Nautical Almanac_, to which we have already
more than once referred.

These calculations take into account the precise nature of the
perturbing influences that are exerted on the earth and on the moon
on any given day, and hence lead to the accurate prediction as to the
exact relative positions of these bodies on that day. Stated otherwise,
they show the precise position in the heavens which will be held at
any given time by the sun for example, or by the important planets,
as viewed from the earth. How elaborate these computations are may be
inferred from the statement that the late Professor Simon Newcomb used
about fifty thousand separate and distinct observations in preparing
his tables of the sun. Once calculated, however, these tables of
Professor Newcomb are so comprehensive as to supply data from which the
exact position of the sun can be found for any day between the years
1200 B.C. and 2300 A.D., a stretch of some thirty-five centuries.

Such a statement makes it clear how very crude and vague the
deductions must have been from the observations of navigators, however
accurately made, prior to the time when such tables as those of the
_Nautical Almanac_ had been prepared. Fully to appreciate this, it
is necessary to understand that the observations supplied in such
profusion for the use of the mathematical astronomer are in themselves
subject to errors that might seriously vitiate the results of the final
computation. They must, therefore, be made with the utmost accuracy,
and with instruments specially prepared for the purpose. The chief
of these instruments is not the gigantic telescope but the small
and relatively simple apparatus known as a transit instrument. This
constitutes essentially a small telescope poised on very carefully
adjusted trunnions, in such a way that it revolves in a vertical
axis, bringing into view any celestial body that is exactly on the
meridian, and bodies in this position only. To make observation of
the transit--that is to say the passage across the meridian line--of
any given body more accurate, the transit instrument has stretched
vertically across the center of its field of vision a spider web, or a
series of parallel spider webs; in order, in the latter case, that the
mean time of several observations may be taken.

So exceedingly difficult is it to manufacture and mount an instrument
of requisite nicety of adjustment, that the effort has almost baffled
the ingenuity of the mechanic. Sir George Airy, in making a transit
instrument for use at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, required the
trunnions on which it was to be mounted to be ground truly cylindrical
in form within a variation of one thirty-two-thousandth of an inch
as determined by a delicate spirit level. Even when all but absolute
decision has been obtained, however, it is quite impossible to maintain
it, as the slightest variation of temperature--due perhaps to the
application of the hand to one of the pillars on which the trunnions
rest--may disturb the precise direction of the spider webs and so
militate against absolute accuracy of observation. The instrument must,
therefore, be constantly tested and its exact range of errors noted and
allowed for.

To devote so much labor to details, merely in the effort to determine
the precise moment at which a star or planet crosses the meridian,
would seem to be an absurd magnification of trifles. But when we
reflect that the prime object of such observations is to supply
practical data which will be of service in enabling navigators on all
the seas of the globe to bring their ships safely to port, the matter
takes on quite another aspect. We have here, obviously, another and
a very striking illustration of the close relationship that obtains
between the work of the theoretical devotee of science and that of the
practical man of affairs.


Though the navigator, thanks to his compass, sextant, and _Nautical
Almanac_, may determine with a high degree of precision his exact
location, yet even the best observations do not enable him to approach
a coast without safeguarding his ship by the use of another piece of
mechanism calculated to test the depth of the waters in which he finds
himself at any given moment. In its most primitive form--in which form,
by the bye, it is still almost universally employed--this apparatus is
called the lead,--so called with much propriety because it consists
essentially of a lump of lead or other heavy weight attached to a small
rope. Knots in the rope enable the sailor who manipulates the lead to
note at a glance the depth to which it sinks. Most ocean travelers have
seen a sailor heaving the lead repeatedly at the side of the ship and
noting the depth of the water, particularly as the ship approached the
Long Island shore.

While this simple form of lead suffices for ordinary purposes, when
the chief information sought is as to whether the water is deeper than
the draft of the ship, it is at best only a rough and ready means of
testing the depth in relatively shallow waters. For deeper waters and
to test with greater accuracy the depths of uncharted regions, and in
particular to determine the character of the sea bottom at any given
place, more elaborate apparatuses are employed. One of the most useful
of these is the invention of the late Lord Kelvin. In this the lead
is replaced by a cannon ball, perforated and containing a cylinder
which is detached when the weight reaches the bottom and is drawn to
the surface filled with sand or mud, the cannon ball remaining at the
bottom. In another form of patent lead, a float becomes detached so
soon as the weight strikes the bottom and comes at once to the surface,
thus recording the fact that the bottom has been reached,--a fact not
always easy to appreciate by the mere feel of the line when the water
is fairly deep.

It is obvious that however well informed the navigator may be as to
his precise latitude and longitude, he can feel no safety unless he
is equally well informed as to the depth of the water, the proximity
of land, the presence or absence of shallows in the region, and the
like. He must, therefore, as a matter of course, be provided with maps
and charts on which these things are recorded. From the days when
navigation first became a science, unceasing efforts have been made
to provide such maps and charts for every known portion of the globe.
Geographical surveys, with the aid of the method of triangulation, have
been made along all coasts, and elaborate series of soundings taken for
a long distance from the coast line, and there are now few regions into
which a ship ordinarily sails, or is likely to be carried by accident,
for which elaborate charts, both of coast lines and of soundings, have
not been provided. The experienced navigator is able to direct his ship
with safety along coasts that he visits for the first time, or to enter
any important harbor on the globe without requiring the services of a
local pilot,--albeit the desire to take no undue risk makes it usual to
accept such services.

Time was, however, when maps and charts were not to be had, and when
in consequence the navigator who started on his voyages of exploration
was undertaking a feat never free from hazard. Until the time of
Mercator there was not even uniformity of method among map makers in
the charting of regions that had been explored. The thing seems simple
enough now, thanks to the maps with which every one has been familiar
since childhood. But it required no small exercise of ingenuity to
devise a reasonably satisfactory method of representing on a flat
surface regions that in reality are distributed over the surface of a
globe. The method devised by Mercator, and which, as everyone knows, is
now universally adopted, consists in drawing the meridians as parallel
lines, giving therefore a most distorted presentation of the globe, in
which the distance between the meridians at the poles--where in reality
there is no distance at all--is precisely as great as at the equator.
To make amends for this distortion, the parallels of latitude are not
drawn equidistant, as in reality they practically are on the globe, but
are spaced farther and farther apart, as we advance from the equator
toward either pole. The net result is that an island in the arctic
region would be represented on the map several times as large as an
island actually the same size but located near the equator. Doubtless
most of us habitually conceive Alaska and Greenland to be vastly more
extensive regions than they really are, because of our familiarity with
maps showing this so-called "Mercator's projection."

Of course maps are also made that hold to the true proportions,
representing the lines of latitude as equidistant and the meridians of
longitude as lines converging to a point at the poles. But while such
a map as this has certain advantages--giving, for example, a correct
notion of the relative sizes of polar and other land masses--it is
otherwise confusing inasmuch as places that really lie directly in
the north and south line cannot be so represented except just at the
middle of the map, and it is very difficult for the ordinary user of
the map to gain a clear notion as to the actual points of the compass.
A satisfactory compromise may be effected, however, by using Mercator's
projection for maps showing wide areas, while the other method is
employed for local maps.


While the average man, even with well developed traveling instincts,
would perhaps prefer always to feel that he is sailing in well charted
waters and along carefully surveyed coasts, there have been in every
generation men who delighted in taking risks, and for whom half the
charm of a voyage must always lie in its dangers. Such men have been
the pioneers in exploring the new regions of the globe. That there was
no dearth of such restless spirits in classical times and even in the
dark ages, records that have come down to us sufficiently attest. For
the most part, however, their names have not been preserved to us. But
since the ushering in of the period which we to-day think of as the
beginning of modern times, records have been kept of all important
voyages of discovery, and at least the main outlines of the story of
the conquest of the zones are familiar to everyone.

Some of the earliest explorers, most notable among whom was the
Italian Marco Polo, traveled eastward from the Mediterranean and
hence journeyed largely by land. But soon afterward, thanks to
the introduction of the compass,--which instrument Marco Polo has
sometimes been mistakenly accredited with bringing from the East,--the
adventurers began to cast longing eyes out toward the western
horizons. Among the first conspicuous and inspiriting results were the
discoveries of the groups of islands known as the Cape Verdes and the
Azores. The Canary Islands were visited by Spaniards even earlier, and
became the subject of controversy with the other chief maritime nation
of the period, the Portuguese.

When the controversy was adjusted the Spaniards were left in possession
of the Canaries, but the Portuguese were given by treaty the exclusive
right to explore the coast of Africa. Following up sundry tentative
efforts, the daring Portuguese navigator, Bartholomeo Dias, in the
year 1487, passed to the southern-most extremity of Africa, which he
christened the Cape of Good Hope. At last, then, it had been shown
that Africa did not offer an interminable barrier to the passage to
the fabled land of treasures in the East. Before anyone had ventured
to follow out the clues which the discovery of the Cape had presented,
however, Columbus had seemingly solved the problem in another way by
sailing out boldly into the West and supposedly coming to the East
Indies in 1492.

The western route was barred to the Portuguese but the eastern one
remained open to them, and before the close of the century Vasco da
Gama had set out on the voyage that ultimately led him to India by way
of the Cape (1497-1500 A.D.). Twenty years later another Portuguese
navigator, Magellan by name, started on what must ever remain the most
memorable of voyages, save only that of Columbus. Magellan rounded the
southern point of South America and in 1521 reached the Philippines,
where he died. His companions continued the voyage and accomplished
ultimately the circumnavigation of the globe; and in so doing afforded
the first unequivocal practical demonstration, of a character
calculated to appeal to the generality of uncultured men of the time,
that the world is actually round.

Two routes from Europe to the Indies had thus been established, but
both of them were open to the objection that they necessitated long
detours to the South. To the geographers of the time it seemed more
than probable that a shorter route could be established by sailing
northward and coasting along the shores either of Europe to the East
or--what seemed more probable--of America to the West. Toward the
close of the sixteenth century the ships of the Dutch navigators had
penetrated to Nova Zembla, and a few years later Henry Hudson visited
Spitzbergen, thus inaugurating the long series of arctic expeditions.
Then Hudson, still sailing under the Dutch flag, made heroic efforts to
find the fabled northwest passage, only to meet his doom in the region
of the Bay that has since borne his name.


This was in the year 1610. For long generations thereafter successors
of Hudson were to keep up the futile quest; and when finally it
had been clearly established that no northwest passage to the
Pacific could be made available, owing to the climate, the zest for
arctic exploration did not abate, but its goal was changed from the
hypothetical northwest passage to the geographical pole.

Henry Hudson had in his day established a farthest North record of
about the eighty-second parallel of latitude--leaving only about five
hundred miles to be traversed. But three centuries were required in
which to compass this relatively small gap. Expedition after expedition
penetrated as far as human endurance under given conditions could carry
it. Some of the explorers returned with vivid tales of the rigors of
the arctic climate; others fell victim to conditions that they could
not overcome. But the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries
passed and left the "Boreal Center" undiscovered.

Toward the close of the nineteenth century the efforts of explorers
seemed to be redoubled and one famous expedition after another
established new records of "farthest North." The names of Nansen, the
Duke of the Abruzzi, and Peary, became familiar to a generation whose
imagination seemed curiously in sympathy with that lure of the North
which determined the life activities of so many would-be discoverers.
So when in the early Autumn of 1909 it was suddenly announced that two
explorers in succession had at last, in the picturesque phrasing of one
of them, "penetrated the Boreal Center and plucked the polar prize,"
the popular mind was stirred as it has seldom been by any other event
not having either a directly personal or an international political

The two men whose claims to have discovered the pole were thus
announced in such spectacular fashion, were Dr. Frederick A. Cook,
of Brooklyn, and Lieutenant Commander Robert E. Peary, of the United
States Navy. Dr. Cook claimed to have reached the pole, accompanied
only by two Eskimo companions, on the twenty-first day of April, 1908.
Commander Peary reported that he had reached the pole, accompanied by
Mr. Matthew H. Henson and four Eskimos, on the seventh day of April,

The controversy that ensued regarding the authenticity of these
alleged discoveries is not likely to be forgotten by any reader of our
generation. Its merits and demerits have no particular concern for the
purely scientific inquirer. At best, as Professor Pickering of Harvard
is reported to have said, "the quest of the pole is a good sporting
event" rather than an enterprise of great scientific significance. It
suffices for our present purpose, therefore, to know that Dr. Cook's
records, as adjudged by the tribunal of the University of Copenhagen,
to which they were sent, were pronounced inadequate to demonstrate the
validity of his claim; whereas Peary and Henson were adjudged by the
American Geographical Society, after inspection of the records, to have
accomplished what was claimed for them. What has greater interest from
the present standpoint is the question, which the controversy brought
actively to the minds of the unscientific public, as to how tests are
made which determine, in the mind of the explorer himself, the fact of
his arrival at the pole.

The question has, indeed, been largely answered in the earlier pages
of this chapter, in our discussion of the sextant and the _Nautical
Almanac_; for these constitute the essential equipment of the arctic
explorer no less than of the navigators of the seas of more accessible
latitudes. There is one important matter of detail, however, that
remains to be noted. This relates to the manner of using the sextant.
On the ocean, as we have seen, the navigator levels the instrument at
the visible horizon; but it is obvious that on land or on the irregular
ice fields of the arctic seas no visible horizon can be depended upon
as a basis for measuring the altitude of sun or stars. So an artificial
horizon must be supplied.

The problem is solved by the use of a reflecting surface, which may
consist of an ordinary mirror or a dish of mercury. The glass reflector
must be adjusted in the horizontal plane with the aid of spirit levels;
mercury, on the other hand, being liquid, presents a horizontal surface
under the action of gravitation. Unfortunately mercury freezes at
about 39 degrees below zero; it is therefore often necessary for the
arctic explorer to melt it with a spirit lamp before he can make use
of it. These, however, are details aside from which the principles of
use of glass and mercury horizon are identical. The method consists
simply in viewing the reflected image of the celestial body--which in
practice in the arctic regions is usually the sun--and so adjusting the
sextant that the direct image coincides with the reflected one. The
angle thus measured will represent twice the angular elevation of the
body in question above the horizon,--this being, as we have seen, the
information which the user of the sextant desires.

Of course the explorer makes his "dash for the pole" in a season when
the sun is perpetually above the horizon. As he approaches the pole the
course of the sun becomes apparently more and more nearly circular,
departing less and less from the same altitude. Hence it becomes
increasingly difficult to determine by observation the exact time when
the sun is at its highest point. But it becomes less and less important
to do so as the actual proximity of the pole is approached; and as
viewed from the pole itself the sun, circling a practically uniform
course, varies its height in the course of twenty-four hours only
by the trifling amount which represents its climb toward the summer
solstice. Such being the case, an altitude observation of the sun may
be made by an observer at the pole at any hour of the day with equal
facility, and it is only necessary for him to know from his chronometer
the day of the month in order that he may determine from the _Nautical
Almanac_ whether the observation really places him at ninety degrees of
latitude. Nor indeed is it necessary that he should know the exact day
provided he can make a series of observations at intervals of an hour
or two. For if these successive observations reveal the sun at the same
altitude, it requires no _Almanac_ and absolutely no calculation of any
kind to tell him that his location is that of the pole.

The observation might indeed be made with a fair degree of accuracy
without the use of the sextant or of any astronomical equivalent
more elaborate than, let us say, an ordinary lead pencil. It is only
necessary to push the point of the pencil into a level surface of ice
or snow and leave it standing there in a vertical position. If, then,
the shadow cast by the pencil is noted from time to time, it will be
observed that its length is always the same; that, in other words,
the end of the shadow as it moves slowly about with the sun describes
a circle in the course of twenty-four hours. If the atmospheric
conditions had remained uniform, so that there was no variation in the
amount of refraction to which the sun's rays were subjected, the circle
thus described would be almost perfect, and would in itself afford a
demonstration that would appeal to the least scientific of observers.

An even more simple demonstration might be made by having an Eskimo
stand in a particular spot and marking the length of his shadow as cast
on a level stretch of ice or snow. Just twelve hours later let the
Eskimo stand at the point where a mark had been made to indicate the
end of the shadow, and it would be found that his present shadow--cast
now, of course, in the opposite direction--would reach exactly to the
point where he had previously stood. The only difficulty about this
simple experiment would result from the fact that the sun is never
very high as viewed from the pole and therefore the shadow would
necessarily be long. It might therefore be difficult to find a level
area of sufficient extent on the rough polar sea. In that case another
measurement similar in principle could be made by placing a pole
upright in the snow or ice and marking on the pole the point indicated
by the shadow of an Eskimo standing at any convenient distance away.
At any interval thereafter, say six or twelve hours, repeat the
experiment, letting the man stand at the same distance from the pole as
before, and his shadow will be seen to reach to the same mark.

Various other simple experiments of similar character may be devised,
any of which would appeal to the most untutored intelligence as
exhibiting phenomena of an unusual character. Absolutely simple as
these experiments are, they are also, within the limits of their
accuracy, absolutely demonstrative. There are only two places on the
globe where the shadow of the upright pencil would describe a circle,
or where the man's shadow would be of the same length at intervals of
twelve hours, or would reach to the same height on a pole in successive
hours. These two regions are of course the poles of the earth. It may
reasonably be expected that explorers who reach the poles will make
some such experiments as these for the satisfaction of their untrained
associates, to whom the records of the sextant would be enigmatical.
But for that matter even an Eskimo could make for himself a measurement
by using only a bit of a stick held at arm's length--as an artist
measures the length of an object with his pencil--that would enable
him to make reasonably sure that the sun was at the same elevation
throughout the day--subject, however, to the qualification that the
polar ice was sufficiently level to provide a reasonably uniform

While, therefore, it appears that the one place of all others at which
it would be exceedingly easy to determine one's position from the
observation of the sun is the region of the pole, it must be borne in
mind that the low elevation of the sun, and the extreme cold may make
accurate instrumental observations difficult; and it is conceivable
that the explorer who had the misfortune to encounter cloudy weather,
and who therefore gained only a brief view of the sun, might be left
in doubt as to whether he had really reached the goal of his ambition.
Fortunately, however, the explorers who thus far claim to have reached
the pole record uninterruptedly fair weather, enabling observations to
be taken hour after hour. Under these circumstances, there could be no
possibility of mistake as to the general location, although perhaps no
observation, under the existing conditions, could make sure of locating
the precise position of the pole within a few miles.

A curious anomaly incident to the unique geographical location of
the pole is that to the observer stationed there all directions are
directly south. Yet of course all directions are not one, and the query
may arise as to how an explorer who has reached the pole may know in
what direction to start on his return voyage. The answer is supplied
by the compass, which--perforce pointing straight south--indicates the
position of the magnetic pole and so makes clear in which direction
lies the coast of Labrador. Moreover if the explorer is provided with
reliable chronometers, which of course record the time at a given
meridian--say that of Greenwich--these will enable him to determine by
the simplest calculation what particular region lies directly beneath
the sun at any given time. If, for example, his chronometer shows five
o'clock Greenwich time, he knows that the sun's position, as observed
at the moment, marks the meridian five hours (_i.e._, 75° of longitude)
west of Greenwich.

While the arctic region appears thus to have given up its last secret,
this is not as yet true of the antarctic. The expedition of Lieutenant
(now Sir Ernest) Shackleton, in 1908, approached within about one
hundred and eleven miles of the South Pole. The intervening space--less
than two degrees in extent--represents, therefore, the only stretch of
latitude on the earth's surface that has not been trodden by man's foot
or crossed by his ships. More than one expedition is being planned to
explore this last remaining stronghold, and in all probability not many
years--perhaps not many months--will elapse before the little stretch
of ice that separated Lieutenant Shackleton from the South Pole will be
crossed, and man's conquest of the zones will be complete.



There is no doubt that the use of sails for propelling boats is as old
as civilization itself. We know that the Egyptians used sails at least
4,000 years before the Christian era. They did not depend entirely upon
the sails, however, but used oars in combination with them. Steering
was done with single or double oars lashed to the stern and controlled
by ropes or levers. This method of steering remained in use until late
in the Middle Ages, the invention of the rudder being one of the few
nautical inventions made during the centuries immediately following
that unproductive period of history known as the Dark Age.

Following the Egyptians, the Phœnicians were the greatest maritime
nation of ancient times, but unfortunately they have left no very
satisfactory and authentic records describing their boats. In all
probability, however, their ships were galleys having one or two banks
of oars, fitted with sails similar to those of the Egyptians.

If our knowledge of Phœnician boats is meager, our knowledge of Greek
boats, particularly the fighting craft, is correspondingly full. From
the nature of its geographical location Greece was necessarily a
maritime nation, and it was here that boat-building reached a very
high state of development during the period of Greek predominance.
Large ships fitted with sails and having several banks of rowers were
used habitually in commerce and war, and it was here also that the
management of sails became so well understood that oars were often
dispensed with except as auxiliaries.

It was in Greece that the custom of having several banks of oars
superimposed reached its highest development, but the fabulous number
of such banks credited by some authors seems to be entirely without
foundation. It is possible that as many as seven banks were used,
although the evidence in favor of more than five is very slight.

The writings of Callixenos describe a ship said to have been used by
Ptolemy Philopater, which was a forty-banker. This ship is described as
450 feet long, 57 feet broad, carrying a crew of about 7,000 men, of
whom 4,000 were rowers. This description need not be taken seriously,
as there is no proof that boats of such proportions were ever attempted
in ancient times. But it is certain that the Greeks did build large
vessels, some of them at least one hundred and fifty feet long--perhaps
even larger than this. The tendency of shipbuilders during the later
Greek period was to build large, unwieldy boats, which used sails
under favorable circumstances, but depended entirely upon oars for
manœuvering in battle.

The Romans used similar vessels of large size until the time of the
battle of Actium, where the clumsy, many-banked ships of Antony and
Cleopatra were destroyed by the lighter single- or double-banked
vessels of Augustus. Augustus had adopted the low, swift, handy vessels
of a piratical people, the Liburni, who had learned in their sea fights
against all kinds of vessels that the lighter type of boat could be
used most effectively. Structurally the hulls of these boats were not
unlike modern wooden vessels.

While the various types of vessels were being developed in the
Mediterranean region, a race of mariners far to the north were
perfecting boats in which they were destined to overrun the Western
seas from the tropics to the arctic circle. These people, the Norsemen,
left few written descriptions that give a good idea of the construction
of their boats, which were sufficiently seaworthy to enable the Danes
to cross the Atlantic and colonize America. But thanks to one of their
peculiar burial customs some of their smaller boats have been preserved
and brought to light in recent years. It was their custom when a great
chief died, to bury him in a ship, heaping earth over it to form a
great mound. In most instances the wood of such boats, buried for a
thousand years, has entirely disappeared; but in some mounds the boats
have been preserved almost intact.

From the specimens so preserved it is known that the Norsemen knew
how to shape the hulls of their boats almost as well as the modern
boat-builder. This fact is interesting because the immediate successors
of the Norsemen, either through ignorance or choice, reverted to most
primitive types in building their boats. Thus it required centuries for
them to develop a knowledge of hull-construction that was familiar in
ancient times to the northern rovers. Scandinavia itself never entirely
forgot the art, and there are boats built in Norway to-day closely
similar in all essentials to some of the boats constructed by the


The contrast in shape and construction between the trim ships of the
Norsemen and the short, top-heavy vessels which were the approved
European type during the early Middle Ages, is most striking. The
Mediæval shipbuilders in striving to improve their craft, making them
as seaworthy and as spacious as possible, first added decks, and then
built towering superstructures at bow and stern. The result was a
vessel which would have been so top-heavy that it would be likely to
capsize had it not been so broad that "turning turtle" was out of the

It was in such ships that Columbus made his voyage of discovery in
1492, although the superstructures fore and aft on his boat were
less exaggerated than in some later vessels. Nevertheless they were
veritable "tubs"; and we know from the experience of the crew that
sailed the replica of the _Santa Maria_ across the ocean in 1893, that
they were anything but comfortable craft for ocean traveling.

This replica of the _Santa Maria_ was reproduced with great fidelity
by the Spanish shipbuilders, and, manned by a Spanish crew, crossed
the ocean on a course exactly following that taken by Columbus on his
first voyage. Sir George Holmes' terse description of this voyage is
sufficiently illuminating without elaboration. "The time occupied was
thirty-six days," he says; "and the maximum speed attained was about 6½
knots. The vessel pitched horribly!"

Two full centuries before the discovery of America the rudder had
been invented. There is no record to show who was responsible for
this innovation, although its superiority over the older steering
appliances must have been appreciated fully. But after the beginning of
the fourteenth century the rudder seems to have come into general use,
entirely supplanting the older side-rudder, or clavus.


For a full century after the voyage of Columbus little progress was
made in ship construction; short, stocky boats, with many decks high
above the water-line at bow and stem continuing to be the most popular
type. In the opening years of the seventeenth century, however,
the English naval architect, Phineas Pett, departed from many of
the accepted standards of his time, and produced ships not unlike
modern full-rigged sailing vessels, except that the stern was still
considerably elevated, and the bow of peculiar construction. One of
Pett's ships, _The Sovereign of the Seas_, was a vessel 167 feet long,
with 48 foot beam, and of 1,683 tons burthen. The introduction of this
type of vessel was a distinct step forward toward modern shipbuilding.


The replica of Henry Hudson's famous _Half Moon_, a typical fighting
ship of the 16th century, and a modern submarine. The photograph
was taken in New York Harbor during the Hudson-Fulton celebration,
September, 1909.]

The tendency of shipbuilders during the eighteenth century was to
increase the length of vessels in proportion to the breadth of beam
and diminish the depth of the hull and superstructures, above the
water line, with improved sailing qualities. England's extensive trade
with India and the far East was conducive to this development, as the
"East Indiamen" were necessarily a combination of merchant vessel and

In the first half of the nineteenth century America rose to great
commercial importance thanks to her fleets of fine sailing vessels.
Speed rather than strength in their ships was the aim of American
ship-builders, to gain which they built boats proportionately longer
and narrower than ever constructed before for ocean traffic. The
culminating type of wooden sailing ship was represented by the
"Baltimore clippers," in which the length was five, and even six,
times the beam, with light rigging and improved mechanical devices for
handling it, whereby the amount of manual labor was greatly lessened.
One of these ships, the _Great Republic_, built in 1853, was over three
hundred feet long, and 3,400 tons register. She was a four-masted
vessel, fitted with double topsails, with a spread of canvas about
4,500 square yards.

The modern descendant of the wooden clipper ship is the schooner with
from four to six masts. Some of these vessels exceed the older boats
in size and carrying capacity, if not in speed. Perhaps the largest
schooner ever constructed is the _Wyoming_, which was completed at
Bath, Maine, early in the year 1910. This vessel is 329 feet long
and 50 feet broad. It has a carrying capacity of 6,000 tons. The
construction of such a vessel at so recent a period suggests that the
day of the sailing ship is by no means over notwithstanding that a
full century has elapsed since the coming of the steamboat. Here, as
so often elsewhere in the history of progress, it has happened that
the full development of a type has not been reached until the ultimate
doom of that type, except for special purposes, had been irrevocably
sealed. Ever since the full development of the steamboat in the early
decades of the nineteenth century, the sailing ship has seemed almost
an anachronism; and yet, in point of fact, the steamship did not at
once outrival its more primitive forerunner. Even in the matter of
speed, the sailing ship more than held its own for a generation or
so after the steamship had been placed in commission. In 1851 the
American clipper _Flying Cloud_ made 427 knots in twenty-four hours;
and _The Sovereign of the Seas_ bettered this by averaging over
eighteen miles an hour for twenty-four consecutive hours. The Atlantic
record for sailing vessels is usually said to have been made in 1862
by the clipper ship _Dreadnought_ in a passage between Queenstown
and New York, the time of which is stated as nine days and seventeen
hours. It should be remarked, however, that the authenticity of this
extraordinary performance has been challenged.

Be that as it may, it is certain that the speediest sailing ships,
granted favorable conditions of wind and wave, more than surpassed
the best efforts of the steamship until about the closing decades of
the nineteenth century. But of course long before this the steamship
had proved its supremacy under all ordinary conditions. Even though
sailing ships continued to be constructed in large numbers, their
picturesque rigging became less and less a feature in all navigable
waters, and the belching funnel of the steamship had become a
characteristic substitute as typifying the sea-going vessel.

The story of the development of this new queen of the waters must now
demand our attention. It begins with the futile efforts of several more
or less visionary enthusiasts who were contemporaries of James Watt,
and who thought they saw great possibilities in the steam engine as a
motive power to take the place of oars and sails for the propulsion of


Among the first of these was an American named John Fitch. Judged by
the practical results of his efforts, he was not a highly successful
inventor; as a prophet, however, and as an experimenter whose efforts
fell just short of attainment, he deserves a conspicuous place in the
history of an epoch-making discovery. Yet his prophecy was based on his
failures. From 1780, for twenty years he strove to perfect a steamboat.
His efforts did not carry him far beyond the experimental stage. But
his courage and enthusiasm never waned. "Whether I bring the steamboat
to perfection or not," he declared, "it will some time in the future be
the mode of crossing the Atlantic for packets and armed vessels."

At that very time Benjamin Franklin said this would never be. But
twenty years later Fulton's _Clermont_ paddled up the Hudson River
from New York to Albany and opened the era that saw Fitch's prophecy
fulfilled. This was in 1807--a year that must stand as the most
momentous in maritime history. In that year the little _Clermont_
steamed slowly from New York to Albany, a distance of one hundred
and fifty miles in thirty-two hours, unaided by sails or oars, and
propelled entirely by steam-power. A sail-boat could cover the distance
in the same number of hours; a modern torpedo boat in one-sixth the
time. Yet no performance of any boat, before or since, had such
far-reaching effects upon the progress of the world.

When Fulton turned his attention from his favorite theme--the invention
of a submarine boat--and took up the question of perfecting a boat
propelled by steam, he did not find himself the first or the only
inventor in the field. For a hundred years, in round numbers, men had
been wrestling with the question of applying steam pressure to boat
propulsion. All manner of more or less ingenious devices had been
conceived, most of them having a germ of success in the principles
involved, but all of them being failures in actual practice.

Among the most promising of these first steamboats were those in which
the propeller, or the paddle-wheel, was tried; but neither of these
methods was looked upon favorably at first. Less promising was one in
which the motive power was a jet of water pumped through a submerged
tube--a principle that still periodically fascinates certain modern


The small figure in the centre represents a very remarkable steamboat
constructed in America by John Fitch. The precise date of its
construction is not clearly established, but the inventor had made
efforts at steam navigation as early as 1776. The upper figure shows a
marine engine made in Scotland in 1788 for Patrick Miller by William
Symington. It was used to equip a double-hulled pleasure boat which it
is said to have propelled at the rate of five miles an hour. The motive
power is supplied by two open-top Newcomen cylinders. The lower figure
represents a modern side wheel steamer with oscillating engines.]

But the boats that seemed to have come nearer attaining practical
success for the moment were those in which several sets of oars
worked by steam were placed vertically on each side of the hull, the
machinery so arranged that the oars were dipped into the water and
drawn sternward by one motion of the machinery, raised and carried
toward the bow by the opposite motion. In some of these boats it was
planned to have four sets of oars, two sets on each side, which were to
work alternately, so that while one set was traveling forward through
the air, its mate would be paddling through the water, thus insuring a
continuous forward impulse. But the machinery for these boats proved
to be too cumbersome and complicated for practical results, and this
idea was finally abandoned. The jet of water did not prove any more
successful, and but two other methods were available--the propeller and
the paddle-wheel.

Both of these methods of utilizing the power of moving water had been
familiar in the form of the Archimedian screw and the commonplace
overshot or undershot mill-wheel. In these examples, of course,
the force of the water was used to move machinery, reversing the
action of the paddle-wheel of the boat. And yet the principles were
identical. Obviously if the conditions were reversed, and the undershot
mill-wheel, for example, forced against the water with corresponding
power, the propulsive effect might be great enough--since action and
reaction are equal--to move a boat of considerable size. But curiously
enough, at the time when Fulton began his experiments there was a wave
of general belief that when this principle was applied to boats it
would fail. The reason for this lay in the fact that several such boats
had been built from time to time, and all had failed. The fault, of
course, lay in some other place than in their paddle wheels; but for
the time being the wheel, and not the machinery, was shouldered with
the blame.

Just a hundred years before Fulton finally produced his practical
paddle-wheel steamboat, a prototype was built by the Spaniard, Blasco
de Gary. In 1707, this inventor constructed a model paddle-wheel
steamboat, and tried it upon the river Fulda. But this model boat
failed to work, and the experiment was soon forgotten.

Twenty-five years later Jonathan Hulls of England patented a marine
engine which he proposed to use in a boat which was to be propelled by
a stern wheel. His idea was to use his boats as tug- or tow-boats, and
to equip the larger vessels themselves with steam. But his engines were
defective and his boats did not achieve commercial success.

During the time of the American Revolution, a French inventor, the
Marquis de Jouffroy, made several interesting experiments with
steam-propelled boats, using the principle of the paddle which was
dipped and raised alternately as referred to a few pages back. His
boats made several public trials, one of them ascending the Seine
against the current; but nevertheless, the French government refused
to grant the inventor a patent. Presumably, therefore, the boat was
not considered a practical success in official circles; and this view
is tacitly conceded by the fact that no more boats of its type were
constructed. Had they been really practical steamboats it is a fair
presumption that others would have been constructed and put into
operation, regardless of patents. Nevertheless, in France to-day,
the Marquis de Jouffroy is often referred to as the father of steam

The idea of propelling a boat by means of a jet of water pumped out at
the stern by steam pumps was given a practical test in 1784, by James
Rumsey. His boat made a trial trip on the Potomac River in September
of that year, General Washington and other army officers being present
on this occasion. The boat was able to make fairly good progress
through the water, and seemed so promising that a company was formed
by capitalists known as the Rumsey Society, for promoting the idea and
building more boats. Rumsey was sent to England where he undertook the
construction of another boat, meanwhile taking out patents in Great
Britain, France, and Holland. Before his boat was completed, however,
he died suddenly, and the Rumsey Society passed out of existence
shortly afterwards.

An even closer approach to practical success was made in Scotland by
James Symington, who in 1788, in association with two other Scotchmen,
Miller and Taylor, constructed a boat consisting of two hulls, with a
paddle-wheel between them worked by a steam-engine. This boat worked
so well that in 1801, Lord Dundas engaged Symington to build a smaller
boat to be used for towing on the Caledonian Canal. This boat, called
the _Charlotte Dundas_, completed in 1802, is said to have been capable
of towing a vessel of one hundred and forty tons "nearly four miles an
hour." But in doing this the resulting "wash" so threatened the banks
of the canal that the vessel was laid up and finally rotted and fell to

By many impartial judges this boat is considered the first practical
steamboat, and its failure to establish its claim due to the force
of circumstances rather than to any inherent defects. Symington was
too poor to pursue his work independently, and was deterred by the
attitude of James Watt, who "predicted the failure of his engine,
and threatened him with legal penalties if it succeeded." And when at
last he received an order for eight smaller vessels from the Duke of
Bridgewater, his patron died before the details of the agreement had
been completed. So that while he failed in accomplishing what was done
by Fulton a few years later, it is certain that, as Woodcraft says, "He
combined for the first time those improvements which constitute the
present system of steam navigation."

Some of Symington's engines have been preserved, and one of them is now
in the Patent Office Museum in London. Since the beginning of practical
steam navigation this engine has been tested several times, the result
showing that Woodcraft's estimate is not overdrawn.

While Symington was thus perfecting a paddle-boat, an American, Col.
John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey, was on the verge of accomplishing
the same end with a screw-propeller boat--a form of steamship that did
not come into use until some forty years later.


The "Charlotte Dundas" (lower figure) was built in 1801 by A. Hart at
Grangemouth, Scotland, and engined by William Symington, for service on
the Forth and Clyde Canal. Its length was 56 feet; beam 18 feet; depth
8 feet. The boat was a practical success, but its use was discontinued
because of the damage done to the banks of the Canal by the wash of
the paddles. The upper left-hand figure is a picture of Fulton's
"Clermont." The diagram at the right represents the "Clermont's" paddle
wheels and the mechanism by which they were worked.]

Stevens also invented what he called a "rotary engine" which was really
an engine constructed on the same principle as the modern turbine
engine. It was a small affair which he placed in a skiff, and used for
turning the screw-propeller of a boat which was able to travel at a
rate of three or four miles an hour on the North River, during the fall
of 1802. But Stevens found so much difficulty in packing the blades of
this engine without causing too much friction that he finally abandoned
it for the more common type of reciprocating engine. But if this little
steamboat had its defects, it nevertheless contained the germs of two
great features of steam navigation--the screw propeller and the turbine
engine, the advantage of the first of which was not recognized for
nearly half a century, and the other not until almost a full century

In 1804 Stevens produced another propeller steamboat, this one using
the ordinary type of reciprocating engine, and being notable for having
twin screws of a pattern practically identical with the screws now in
use. This boat was able to steam at a rate of four miles an hour on
many occasions, and at times almost double this rate, according to some
observers. The engines of this boat are still in existence, and on
several occasions since 1804 have been placed in hulls corresponding
as nearly as possible to the original, and have demonstrated that
they could force the boat through the water at six or eight miles an
hour. These engines in a modern hull were exhibited at the Columbian
Exposition at Chicago, in 1893. They supply irrefutable evidence that
the practical steamboat had been invented at least three years before
Fulton's historic voyage in 1807. Yet no one questions that it was
Fulton's, not Stevens', invention that inaugurated steam navigation.

Just why this was so is a little difficult to comprehend at this time,
unless it was that Stevens' boat was such a small affair that it did
not attract the attention it deserved, as did Fulton's larger boat.
And yet we should not be guided too much by retrospective judgment.
The significant fact remains that Stevens himself did not have entire
confidence in his boat, or in the principle of his screw propeller, as
is shown by the fact that three years later, while Fulton was building
the _Clermont_, Stevens was also constructing a steamboat, not along
the lines of his previous inventions, but as a paddle-wheel boat. This
leaves little room for doubt that Stevens had not full confidence in
the propeller; and when an inventor himself mistrusts his own device,
there is little likelihood that anyone else will supply the necessary
confidence. This may account for the fact that Stevens found difficulty
in securing financial backing for his enterprise; and when such backing
was found it was for the construction of the paddle-wheel boat, which
was finished a few months after Fulton's boat had solved the problem of
steam navigation.


As we shall see in another place, Fulton was no novice in the
construction of peculiar boats at this time. He had built experimental
boats both at home and abroad, was familiar with the principle of the
screw and the paddle-wheel, and had come to have absolute confidence
in the possibility of propelling boats at a good rate of speed by the
use of steam. When he began his now famous _Clermont_, in the spring of
1807, it was not as an experimental skiff, but as a boat of one hundred
and fifty tons burden--half again the size of the boats in which
Columbus had discovered America--to be placed in commission between
Albany and New York city. By August, this boat was completed, and the
engines in place, and, under her own steam, the new boat was moved
from the Jersey shipyard where she was constructed, and tied up at a
New York dock. On August 7th, she started on her maiden trip up the
Hudson. To the astonishment of practically every one of the persons in
the great throng that had gathered along the shores, she left her dock
in due course, and with wind and tide against her, steamed up the river
at the rate of about five miles an hour. At this speed she covered
the entire distance between New York and Albany, settling forever the
question of the practicability of steam navigation.

The impression this fire-belching monster made upon the sleepy
inhabitants as it passed along the river can be readily imagined. An
eye-witness account of this first passage of the _Clermont_ has been
given by an inhabitant at the half-way point near Poughkeepsie.

"It was the early autumn in 1807," he wrote, "that a knot of villagers
was gathered on the high bluff just opposite Poughkeepsie, on the
west bank of the Hudson, attracted by the appearance of a strange,
dark-looking craft which was slowly making its way up the river. Some
imagined it to be a sea-monster, while others did not hesitate to
express their belief that it was a sign of the approaching Judgment.
What seemed strange in the vessel was the substitution of lofty and
straight black smoke-pipes, rising from the deck, instead of the
gracefully tapered masts that commonly stood on the vessels navigating
the stream; and, in place of spars and rigging, the curious play of the
working-beam and pistons, and the slow turning and splashing of the
huge, naked paddle-wheels, met the astonished gaze. The dense clouds of
smoke as they rose wave upon wave, added still more to the wonderment
of the rustics.

"This strange looking craft was the _Clermont_, on her trial trip to
Albany. On her return-trip, the curiosity she excited was scarcely
less intense--the whole country talked of nothing but the sea-monster,
belching fire and smoke. The fishermen became terrified and rowed
homewards, and they saw nothing but destruction devastating their
fishing grounds; whilst the wreaths of black vapor, and rushing noise
of the paddle-wheels, foaming with the stirred-up water, produced great
excitement among the boatmen."

[Illustration: THE CLERMONT

The replica of Robert Fulton's first steamboat which took part in the
Hudson-Fulton celebration in September, 1909. The small picture shows
one of the paddle-wheels in detail. The original _Clermont_, the first
commercially successful steamboat, was put in commission for the New
York-Albany service in 1807.]

While acknowledging fully Fulton's right to the claim of being "the
father of steam navigation," as he has been called, there is no
evidence to show that he introduced any new principle or discovery
in his application of steam to the _Clermont_. The boiler, engine,
paddle-wheel--every part of the boat had been known for years. Yet
this does not detract from the glory of Fulton, who first combined
this scattered knowledge in a practical way, and demonstrated the
practicality beyond question.


The first war steamer and ocean steamer ever attempted was built by
Fulton, in 1813. It was called the _Demolgos_, and was not a practical
success, and made no attempts to take protracted ocean voyages. The
first steamship to cross was the _Savannah_ in 1819. She made the
voyage from Savannah to Liverpool in twenty-five days, using her
paddle-wheels part of the time, but at other times depending entirely
upon her sails. She was a boat of three hundred and fifty tons, and her
paddle-wheels were arranged so that they could be hauled in upon the
deck and stowed away in bad weather.

Following the _Savannah_ several similar combination sailing and
steam-propelled boats were constructed, the navigators coming to have
more and more faith in the possibilities of steam, so that less sail
was carried. These vessels continued to reduce the time of the passage
between Europe and America, until the voyage had been made in about
seventeen days. Then, in 1838, two vessels, the _Sirius_ and the _Great
Western_, for the first time using steam alone as motive power, made
record voyages, the _Great Western_ crossing in twelve days, seven and
a half hours. This was considered remarkable time--an average speed of
over two hundred miles a day. Something like four hundred and fifty
tons of coal were consumed on the voyage, which impressed many as a
great extravagance of fuel. Some of the ocean liners at present consume
more than twice this amount in a single day.

On July 4, 1840, the _Britannia_, the first steamer of the Cunard
Line, started on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Boston. The
voyage was made in fourteen days, among the passengers being Samuel
Cunard, a Quaker of Halifax, who was the founder of the enterprise.
The population of Boston went mad on the arrival of this boat; streets
and buildings were decorated, and the day was given over to the
regular holiday amusements. Cunard received upward of eighteen hundred
invitations to dinner that evening.

The year 1840, then, may be considered as one of the vital years
in the progress of steam navigation. Since that time no year has
passed without seeing some important addition and improvement made
in the conquest of the ocean, either in size, shape, or speed of the


Even before the introduction of steam as a motive power for boats
shipbuilders had been casting about for some satisfactory substitute
for wood in the construction of vessels. One reason for this was that
suitable wood was becoming scarce and very expensive. But also there
was a limit to the size that a wooden vessel might be built with
safety. A wooden boat more than three hundred feet long cannot be
constructed without having dangerous structural weakness.

Naturally the idea that the only suitable material for boat-building
was something lighter than water,--something that would float--which
had been handed down traditionally for thousands of years, could not be
overcome in a moment. And surely such a heavy substance as iron would
not be likely to suggest itself to the average ship-builder. But at the
beginning of the nineteenth century rapid strides were being made in
theoretical, as well as applied science, and the idea of using metal in
place of wood for shipbuilding began to take practical form.

Richard Trevithick, whose remarkable experiments in locomotive building
have been noted in another chapter, had planned an iron ship as early
as 1809. He did not actually construct a vessel, but he made detailed
plans of one--not merely a boat with an iron hull, but with decks,
beams, masts, yards, and spars made of the same material. It was nearly
ten years after Trevithick drew his plans, however, before the first
iron ship was constructed. Then Thomas Wilson of Glasgow built a vessel
on practically the same lines suggested by Trevithick.

This vessel, finished in 1818, and called the _Vulcan_, was the pioneer
of all iron boats. For at least sixty years it remained in active
service. Indeed, for aught that is known to the contrary, this first
iron boat may be still in use in some capacity.

One of the most surprising and interesting things to shipbuilders
about the _Vulcan_, and the boats that were constructed after her,
was the fact that they were actually lighter in proportion to their
carrying capacity than ships of corresponding size built of wood. In
wooden cargo ships the weight of the hull and fittings varies from 35
to 45 per cent. of the total displacement, while iron vessels vary from
25 to 30 per cent. This was a vital point in favor of the iron vessel,
and one that appealed directly to practical builders. But the public
at large looked askance at the new vessels. To "sink like a stone" was
proverbial; and everyone knows that iron sinks quite as readily as

But very soon a convincing demonstration of the strength of iron
vessels brought them into favor. A great storm, sweeping along the
coast of Great Britain in 1835, drove many vessels on shore, among them
an iron steamboat just making her maiden voyage. The wooden vessels
without exception were wrecked, most of them destroyed, but the iron
vessel, although subjected to the same conditions, escaped without
injury, thanks to the material and method of her construction.

From that time the position of the iron steamship was assured. And
whereas sea voyagers had formerly looked askance at iron passenger
boats they now began to distrust those built of wood. By the middle of
the century, iron shipbuilding was at its height, and in the decade
immediately following, the _Great Eastern_ was finished--possibly the
largest and most remarkable structure ever built of iron, on land or
sea. In recent years larger ships have been constructed, but these
ships are made of steel.

The _Great Eastern_ marked an epoch in shipbuilding. In size she was a
generation ahead of her time, but the innovations in the method of her
construction gave the cue to modern revolutionary shipbuilding methods.
Sir George C. V. Holmes gives the following account of the great ship:

"She was originally intended by the famous engineer, Mr. I. K. Brunel,
to trade between England and the East. She was designed to make the
voyage to Australia without calling anywhere _en route_ to coal, a feat
which, in the then state of steam-engine economy, no other vessel could
accomplish. It was supposed that this advantage, coupled with the high
speed expected from her great length, would secure for her the command
of the enormous cargoes which would be necessary to fill her. Mr.
Brunel communicated his idea that such a vessel should be constructed
for the trade to the East to the famous engineer and shipbuilder, the
late Mr. John Scott Russell, F.R.S., and he further persuaded his
clients, the directors of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company, of the
soundness of his views, for they resolved that the projected vessel
should be built for their company, and entrusted the contract for its
execution to the firm of John Scott Russell & Co., of Millwall.

"Mr. Scott Russell and Mr. Brunel were, between them, entitled to the
credit of the design, which, on account of the exceptional size of the
ship, presented special difficulties, and involved a total departure
from ordinary practice.

"Mr. Scott Russell had systematically, in his own previous practice,
constructed iron ships with cellular bottoms, but the cells had only
five sides, the uppermost side on the inside being uncovered. Over
a large portion, however, of the bottom of the _Great Eastern_ the
cells were completed by the addition of an inner bottom, which added
greatly both to the strength and to the safety of the ship. It was
also Mr. Brunel's idea that the great ship should be propelled by both
paddles and screw. Mr. Scott Russell was responsible for the lines and
dimensions, and also for the longitudinal system of framing, with its
numerous complete and partial transverse and longitudinal bulkheads.

"The following are some of the principal dimensions and other _data_ of
the _Great Eastern_:

    Length between perpendiculars                       680 feet
    Length on upper deck                                692  "
    Extreme breadth of hull                              83  "
    Width over paddle-box                               120  "
    Depth from upper deck to keel                        58  "
    Draught of water (laden)                             30  "
    Weight of iron used in construction              10,000 tons
    Number of plates used in construction            30,000
    Number of rivets used in construction         3,000,000
    Tonnage, gross                                   18,914 tons
    Nominal power of paddle engine                    1,000 H. P.
    Nominal power of screw engines                    1,600   "

"The accommodation for passengers was on an unprecedented scale. There
were no less than five saloons on the upper, and as many on the lower
deck, the aggregate length of the principal apartments being 400 feet.
There was accommodation for 800 first-class, 2,000 second-class, and
1,200 third-class passengers, and the crew numbered 400. The upper
deck, which was of a continuous iron-plated and cellular structure,
ran flush from stem to stern, and was twenty feet wide on each side of
the hatchways; thus two spacious promenades were provided, each over a
furlong in length. The capacity for coal and cargo was 18,000 tons.

"The attempts to launch this vessel were most disastrous, and cost no
less than £120,000, an expense which ruined the company. The original
company was wound up, and the great ship sold for £160,000 to a new
company, and was completed in the year 1859. The new company very
unwisely determined to put her on the American station, for which she
was in no way suited. During her preliminary trip the pilot reported
that she made a speed of fully 14 knots at two-thirds of full pressure,
but the highest rate of speed which she attained on this occasion was
15 knots, and on her first journey across the Atlantic the average
speed was nearly 14 knots, the greatest distance run in a day having
been 333 nautical miles. The great value of the system adopted in her
construction was proved by an accident which occurred during one of her
Transatlantic voyages. She ran against a pointed rock, but the voyage
was continued without hindrance. It was afterwards found that holes of
the combined length of over 100 feet had been torn in her outer bottom;
but, thanks to the inner water-tight skin, no water was admitted."

Between the years 1860 and 1870 great improvements were made in marine
engines, and screw-steamers very generally replaced side-wheel boats
for ocean traffic. The improvements in the engines consisted largely
in the use of higher pressures, surface condensation, and compounding
of the cylinders, which resulted in a saving of about half the amount
of fuel over engines of the older type. As a result steamers were able
to compete successfully with the sailing ships, even as freighters for
long voyages, such as those between Europe and Australia.

During the reactive period in France immediately following the
Franco-Prussian war, when there was great activity in shipbuilding,
the use of mild steel plates in place of wrought iron was tried. The
superiority of this material over iron was quickly demonstrated, and
as the cost of steel was constantly lessening, thanks to the newly
discovered methods of production, steel practically replaced iron in
ship construction after this time.

It was during this same period that a new type of passenger steamer was
produced--the "ocean greyhound." The first of these was the _Oceanic_,
built by the White Star Company in 1871. This ship was remarkable in
many ways. Her length, four hundred and twenty feet, was more than
ten times her beam; iron railings were substituted for bulwarks; and
the passenger quarters were shifted from the position near the stern
to the middle of the vessel. All these changes proved to be distinct
improvements, and the _Oceanic_ became at once the most popular, as
well as the fastest ocean liner.

Like all the other boats of the seventies and early eighties, the
_Oceanic_ was a single-screw vessel. The advantage of double propellers
in case of accident had long been recognized, but hitherto twin-screws
had not proved as efficient as a single screw in developing speed. But
in 1888 the _City of Paris_ (now the _Philadelphia_) a twin-screw boat,
began making new speed records, and the following year her sister ship,
the _New York_, and the new _Majestic_ and _Teutonic_, entering into
the ocean-record contests, cut the time of the passage between Europe
and America to less than six days.

The advantages of the double-screw over the single are so many and so
manifest as to leave no question as to their superiority. The disabling
of the shaft or screw of the single-screw steamer, or the derangement
of her rudder renders the vessel helpless. Not so the twin-screw ship;
for on such ships the screws can be used for steering as well as
propelling. And it has happened many times that twin-screw ships have
crossed the ocean with the steering gear disabled, or with one screw
entirely out of commission.


In recent years the greatest revolutionary step in steamship
construction has been the invention and development of the turbine
engine, the mechanism of which has been described elsewhere. Since
the day of the little _Turbinia_, whose speed astonished the nautical
world, the limit for size and speed of ships has again been materially
advanced, and no thinking person will venture to predict restricting
limits without a modifying question mark.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a keen rivalry had developed
between England and the Continent for supremacy in transatlantic
traffic, America having dropped out of the race. The Germans in
particular had produced fast boats, such as the _Deutschland_ and
_Kaiser Wilhelm II_, which for several years held the ocean record for
speed. But meanwhile the turbine engine was being perfected in England,
the land of its invention, and presently turbine "greyhounds" began
crossing the ocean and menacing the records held by the boats equipped
with the older type of engine.

The reciprocating marine engine, however, had been steadily improved,
until it was a marvel in efficiency. Quadruple expansion engines
driving twin-screws of a size and shape known to develop the greatest
efficiency, for several years offered invincible competition to the new
type of engine. There were new conditions to be met, new difficulties
to be overcome.

A decisive test of the merits of the turbine engine was given in
1905, when the Cunard Company built two vessels, the _Caronia_ and
_Carmania_, of exactly the same size and shape, the _Caronia_ having
the highest type of quadruple expansion reciprocating engines, while
the _Carmania_ was equipped with turbine engines. Here was a fair
test of efficiency between the two types. And the turbine boat proved
herself the better of the two by developing more than a knot greater
speed per hour.

Still the _Carmania_ offered no serious competition in speed to
several of the German flyers. But in 1908 two more turbine ships,
the _Lusitania_ and _Mauretania_ began making regular transatlantic
voyages, and quickly distanced all competitors.

In size as well as in speed these sister ships mark an epoch in
navigation. Turbine engines take the place of the usual reciprocating
type, acting on four propellers for going ahead, and two separate
propellers for going astern. These engines develop 68,000 horse-power.
Stated in this way these figures convey little idea of the power
developed. But when we say that it would take a line of horses one
hundred and twenty miles long hitched tandem to develop the power
generated in the compact space of the _Mauretania's_ engine room, some
idea of the power is gained.

It is not the matter of power, size, or speed alone that makes the
twentieth century passenger steamer so completely outclass her
predecessors. It is really the matter of comfort and safety afforded
the ocean travelers. Safety against sinking from injury to the hull
was provided for by the introduction of watertight compartments half a
century ago, as we have seen; and the size of the _Great Eastern_ has
been surpassed in only a few instances. But it is since the beginning
of the present century that two revolutionary safety devices have been
perfected--wireless telegraphy and the submarine signaling apparatus.
The wireless apparatus has been described in another chapter, and as
it is used almost as much on land as at sea, cannot be considered as
solely a nautical appliance. But the submarine signaling device, which
is dependent upon water for transmission, is essentially a nautical


It is difficult for the average landsman to appreciate that the one
thing most dreaded by mariners is fog. Dark and boisterous nights
which frighten the distressed landsman have no terrors for the sailor.
Given an open sea-way he knows that he can ride out any gale that
blows. It is the foggy night that fills him with apprehension.

In perfectly still weather the sound of the fog horn carries far
enough, and indicates location well enough so that two ships
approaching each other, or a ship approaching a bell buoy, can detect
its location and avoid danger. But this is under favorable conditions;
and unfortunately such conditions do not always prevail. And if there
is a wind stirring or the sea running high atmospheric sounds cannot be
depended upon. A fog whistle whose sound ought to carry several miles
under ordinary conditions, may not be heard more than a ship's length
away. And scores of accidents, such as collisions between ships, have
happened in fogs, when both vessels were sounding their fog whistles at
regular intervals.

When wireless telegraphy was perfected sufficiently to be of
practical use, great hopes were entertained that this discovery could
be used to give warning and prevent accidents to fog-bound vessels. But
experience has shown that its usefulness is confined largely to that
of calling for help after the accident, rather than in preventing it.
Thus in 1908 when the wireless operator on board the steamer _Republic_
flashed his message broadcast telling ships and shore-stations for
hundreds of miles around that his vessel had been run down in a fog
and was sinking, he could only give the vessels that hurried to the
_Republic's_ aid an approximate idea of where they could find her. The
use of another electric appliance, of even more recent invention than
the wireless telegraph, was necessary for locating the exact position
of the stricken ship. This was the submarine signaling device, which
utilizes water instead of air as a medium for transmitting sound.

Benjamin Franklin pointed out more than a century ago that water
carries sound farther and faster than air, and carries it with greater
constancy. Density, temperature, and motion of the atmosphere act upon
aerial sound waves to reflect and refract them in varying degrees;
but these waves are not affected when water is the medium through
which they are passing. The knowledge of these facts was turned to
little practical account until the closing years of the last century
when Arthur J. Mundy of Boston, and a little later Prof. Elisha Gray
of Chicago, began experiments together that resulted finally in a
practical submarine signaling apparatus which is now installed as
a system on boats and buoys in dangerous places along the coasts,
particularly near the great highways of ocean travel.

The principle upon which this system is based is simply that of sound
waves transmitted through the water and detected at a distance by a
submerged electrical transmitter. The sound transmitted is usually
that of a submerged bell. It is possible for a person whose head is
submerged to hear the ringing of such a bell distinctly for a long
distance; but of course for practical purposes such submergence is out
of the question. The receiving apparatus of the Mundy-Gray signaling
device offers a substitute in the form of a submerged "artificial
ear"--an electrical transmitter, connected with a telephone receiver.

In the early experiments a small hollow brass ball filled with water
and containing a special form of electrical transmitter was lowered
over the side of a ship and connected by insulated wires to the
receiver of a telephone in the pilot house. The sound of a submerged
bell could be heard in this manner at a distance of ten or twelve
miles. The location of the bell could be determined by having two
such brass balls, one on each side of the hull of the vessel but not
submerged to a depth below that of the hull, so that the ship itself
acts as a screen in obstructing the sound waves coming from the bell.
By listening alternately to the sounds of the bell transmitted through
these two submerged balls it was found that the ball on the side of the
ship toward the bell gave a distinctly louder sound. By turning the
ship so that the sounds were of equal intensity the direction of the
bell could be determined as either directly ahead or astern; and by
using the compass the exact location could be determined.

But such brass-ball transmitters can be used only when the vessel
is moving at a rate not exceeding three miles an hour. They are,
therefore, of little value for ocean liners whose reduced speed far
exceeds this. But the inventors discovered presently that by using the
inside of the outer steel skin of the ship's hull below the water line
as one side of the brass ball, the transmitter would work equally well.
Indeed, with added improvements, this hollow metal device fastened to
the inside of the hull on each side, with connecting wires leading to
the pilot house, in its perfected form will pick up the sound of the
submerged bell equally well at any speed, regardless of calm or storm.

The chief defect of this arrangement was that the sound of the
pulsations of the engines of the ship were also heard, and interfered
seriously with the detection of the sound of the bell. But presently
a receiving device was perfected which ignored all sounds but those
of the bell, thus giving the mariner a means of protection against
accidents that could be depended upon absolutely at all times
regardless of speed or weather conditions.

When this stage of perfection of the signaling device was reached
the various governments began installing the instruments on buoys,
lighthouse sites, and light-ships, using various mechanical devices for
ringing the bells, and timing the strokes so that the mariners could
tell by the intervals just what bell he was in touch with, as he knows
each lighthouse by the intervals between the Hashes of its lights. A
further development in the signaling device was to equip ships with
submerged bells, as well as with the receiving apparatus. In this way
two ships could communicate with each other, or with a shore receiving
station, by using the Morse telegraph code, just as in the case of

The maximum distance at which such communications may be detected is
about fifteen miles, and the approximate distance from the bell can be
gauged from the clearness of the sound heard in the telephone receiver.
At the distance of a quarter of a mile the sound of the bell is so
loud that it is painful to the listener if the receiver is held against
the ear, while at ten or twelve miles the sound is scarcely audible.

Probably the most dramatic rescue at sea in recent years was that
of the passengers and crew of the steamer _Republic_, referred to a
few pages back. When her wireless messages of distress were received
a score of vessels went groping in the fog to her assistance, while
the entire civilized world waited in breathless expectancy. Most
of the rescuing vessels, although constantly in communication with
the stricken ship, were unable to locate her. But the successful
vessel finally got in touch with the _Republic's_ submarine signaling
apparatus, and aided by this located the vessel and rescued the crew
and passengers.

This is only one instance of the practical application of the submarine
signaling apparatus. But its use is not confined to the larger boats.
The apparatus can be made so small that even boats the size of a
fishing dory may be equipped at least with the sounding device, and
thus protected.

On the Newfoundland fishing banks one of the chief causes of loss of
life is the running down of the fishing boats in the fog by passing
steamers, and also the loss of the dories of the fishermen who are
unable to find their way back to their vessels. Many of these fishing
vessels now supply each of the attending dories with a submarine bell
which weighs about forty pounds and is run by clockwork. When caught
in the fog the fisherman hangs this bell over the side of his dory and
thus warns approaching steamers of his position, at the same time
affording his own vessel a guide for finding him and picking him up. In
this manner the appalling loss of life in the fogs on the fishing banks
has been greatly lessened. Thus the submarine signaling device gives
aid to the smaller craft as well as the larger vessels.

For the moment this is the last important safety device that has been
invented to help lessen the perils of sea voyages. Indeed the perils
and discomforts of ocean voyages are now largely reminiscent, thanks
to the rapid succession of scientific discoveries and their practical
application during the last half century. The size of modern vessels
minimizes rolling and pitching. Turbine engines practically eliminate
engine vibrations. The danger from fires was practically eliminated by
the introduction of iron and steel as building material; the danger of
sinking after collisions is now guarded against by the division of the
ship's hull into water-tight compartments; sensitive instruments as
used at present warn the mariner of the presence of ice-bergs; wireless
telegraphy affords a means of calling aid in case of disabled machinery
and giving the ship's location in a general way; while the submarine
signal makes known the exact location of the stricken vessel in foggy

In a trifle over half a century the time of crossing the Atlantic has
been reduced by more than one-half. In 1856 the _Persia_ crossed the
ocean between Queenstown and New York in nine days, one hour, and
forty-five minutes, making a new record. In 1909 the _Mauretania_
covered the same distance in four days, ten hours, and fifty-one
minutes. In March, 1910, the same vessel completed a passage over
the longer winter course, a distance of 2,889 knots, in four days,
fifteen hours, and twenty-nine minutes, reducing the previous record by
twenty-nine minutes.

When the _Lusitania_ and _Mauretania_ were completed many short-sighted
persons predicted that these vessels would never be surpassed in size
or speed. As if to refute such predictions, however, the White Star
Company at once began constructing two vessels, the _Olympic_ and
_Titanic_, each with a displacement of one-fourth more than the great
Cunarders, and of overshadowing proportions in everything save the
matter of speed. Against the _Mauretania's_ average twenty-six knot
speed the new boats are designed to make only twenty-one.

These new boats are eight hundred and ninety feet in length, as against
the _Lusitania's_ seven hundred and ninety. They are ninety-two feet in
beam, and sixty-two feet in molded depth. The roof of the pilot house
is seventy feet above the water. The maximum draft is thirty-seven and
a half feet and the displacement sixty thousand tons.

They resemble the _Great Eastern_ in that they have two systems
of engines. Two reciprocating engines drive the two outer of the
three screws, and the exhaust from these engines is utilized in a
low-pressure turbine engine, driving the center propeller.


Another step that has been taken to increase the efficiency of the
steam engine on ships, is the adoption of liquid fuel in place of coal
for making steam. For years the advantages of this form of fuel have
been recognized, the Russians having brought its use to a high state of
perfection, both in boats and locomotives. Practically all the steamers
on the Black and Caspian seas, as well as on such rivers as the Volga,
burn oil exclusively. And early in 1910 the British Navy decided to
substitute oil for coal on all its vessels.

The advantages claimed for oil over coal as fuel are many. It is
smokeless, produces more heat than coal, occupies less space for
storage, can be loaded more quickly and easily, is cleaner, and reduces
the engine-room force to one-fourth or one-third the number of men
required when coal is used. Incidentally it reduces the difficult
physical task of stoking to one relatively pleasant and easy. It
gives a steadier fire, does not foul the boilers, and does away with
cumbersome ashes and clinkers.

Its disadvantage lies in the danger from fire. An inflammable
liquid carried in a ship's hold is obviously more dangerous than a
corresponding quantity of relatively incombustible coal. Yet the
obvious advantages of this form of fuel have been so compelling that it
is now coming into use on all classes of war vessels, and seems likely
to supplant coal entirely on some types of boats, such as the torpedo
destroyers. Moreover, the experience of the Russian boats on the Black
and Caspian seas seems to indicate that the dangers from the use of
oil as a fuel when properly handled have been greatly exaggerated,
and passenger and freight steamers all over the world are gradually
adopting it.

Some tests were made by the Navy Department of the United States in
1909-1910 using a vessel which was formerly a coal-burning boat.
In these tests it was found that the steaming radius was greatly
increased, the firing force reduced, and fuel taken into the ship in
about one-fourth the time it takes to coal. It was possible to get up
steam in any boiler, or set of boilers, much more quickly than with

Of course where oil is used for fuel some special form of burner is
necessary. Many types have been tried, but in the most effective the
oil is atomized by the use of steam spray, or air blast, it being
impossible to get proper combustion of the oil except when used in
minutely divided particles. Used in this manner a uniform temperature
can be maintained easily, or may be increased or decreased very quickly.

As used at present liquid fuel simply substitutes coal for heating the
ordinary type of boiler. But there seems every reason to believe that
in the near future some type of internal combustion engine will be
perfected that will use the crude, cheap oil, as the finer and lighter
oils are used in motors to-day. When this occurs the space-consuming
boilers and furnaces used in ships at present will be replaced by
compact machinery, quite as efficient, but occupying only a fraction of
the space. Nor need we expect that the invention of some such type of
engine will be long delayed, if we may judge by the rapid strides made
in perfecting other internal combustion engines during the past few



The development of submarine vessels has been one of the slowest in
the history of modern inventions. Submarine boats, using submarine
torpedoes, were able to destroy ships a hundred years ago; and a little
less than half a century ago naval vessels were destroyed in actual
warfare by these boats. But curiously enough no vessel has ever been
destroyed in actual warfare by a submarine boat since that time. Yet
these boats are essentially war-vessels, and, with the exception of
boats of the Lake type, of no use whatever for commercial purposes.

Perhaps the explanation for this tardy development lies in the fact
that until recent years naval men have not looked with favor upon this
style of fighting craft. In Admiral Porter's book, written in 1878,
he makes the statement that one of the reasons why they did not show
more enthusiasm about the submarine made by Robert Fulton early in
the nineteenth century, was that such boats "menaced the position of
the naval men, whose calling would be gone did the little submarine
boat supplant the battle-ship." We need not, however, depend upon
this statement, made as it was three-quarters of a century after the
demonstrations by Fulton, for there are many similar statements made
at the time to be had at first hand. Thus Admiral Earl St. Vincent,
when opposing the views of William Pitt, who had become enthusiastic
over the possibilities of Fulton's submarines, is on record as having
opposed such craft on the ground that by encouraging such development
"he was laying the foundation which would do away with the navy." In
1802, M. St. Aubin wrote in this connection, "What will become of the
navies, and where will sailors be found to man ships of war, when it is
a physical certainty that they may at any time be blown into the air by
diving boats, against which no human foresight can guard them?"

Such opposition has undoubtedly tended to retard the progress of
submarine navigation; but be the cause what it may, it has made slow
and laborious work of it; and we are only now approaching a solution
of the question that seemed almost within grasp a hundred years
ago--before the days of steam or electricity.


As early as the sixteenth century the possibilities of submarine
navigation was the dream of the mariner, and tentative attempts at
submarine boats are said to have been made even at an earlier period
than this; but the first practical submarine boat capable of navigation
entirely submerged for any length of time was made by David Bushnell,
of Westbrook (then Saybrook), Maine, U. S. A., in 1775. Details as to
the construction of the remarkable craft, are recorded in a letter
written by the inventor to Thomas Jefferson in 1789, and recorded
in the _Transactions of the American Philosophical Society_. In this
letter Bushnell says:--

"The external shape of the submarine vessel bore some resemblance to
the upper tortoise shells of equal size, joined together, the place
of entrance into the vessel being represented by the opening made by
the swell of the shells at the head of the animal. The inside was
capable of containing the operator and air sufficient to support him
thirty minutes without receiving fresh air. At the bottom, opposite to
the entrance, was fixed a quantity of lead for ballast. At one edge,
which was directly before the operator, who sat upright, was an oar
for rowing forward and backward. At the other edge was a rudder for
steering. An aperture at the bottom, with its valves, was designed to
admit water for the purpose of descending, and two brass forcing-pumps
served to eject the water within when necessary for ascending. At
the top there was likewise an oar for ascending or descending, or
continuing at any particular depth. A water-gauge or barometer
determined the depth of descent, a compass directed the course, and
a ventilator within supplied the vessel with fresh air when on the

"The vessel was chiefly ballasted with lead fixed to its bottom; when
this was not sufficient a quantity was placed within, more or less
according to the weight of the operator; its ballast made it so stiff
that there was no danger of oversetting. The vessel, with all its
appendages and the operator, was of sufficient weight to settle it very
low in the water. About two hundred pounds of lead at the bottom for
ballast could be let down forty or fifty feet below the vessel; this
enabled the operator to rise instantly to the surface of the water in
case of accident.

"When the operator would descend, he placed his foot upon the top of a
brass valve, depressing it, by which he opened a large aperture in the
bottom of the vessel, through which the water entered at his pleasure;
when he had admitted a sufficient quantity he descended very gradually;
if he admitted too much he ejected as much as was necessary to obtain
an equilibrium by the two brass forcing-pumps which were placed at each
hand. Whenever the vessel leaked, or he would ascend to the surface, he
also made use of these forcing-pumps. When the skillful operator had
obtained an equilibrium he would row upward or downward, or continue at
any particular depth, with an oar placed near the top of the vessel,
formed upon the principle of the screw, the axis of the oar entering
the vessel; by turning the oar one way he raised the vessel, by turning
it the other he depressed it.

"An oar, formed upon the principle of a screw, was fixed in the fore
part of the vessel; its axis entered the vessel, and being turned one
way, rowed the vessel forward, but being turned the other way rowed it
backward; it was made to be turned by the hand or foot.

"Behind the submarine vessel was a place above the rudder for carrying
a large powder magazine. This was made of two pieces of oak timber,
large enough when hollowed out to contain one hundred and fifty pounds
of powder, with the apparatus used in firing it, and was secured in
its place by a screw turned by the operator. A strong piece of rope
extended from the magazine to the wood screw above mentioned, and was
fastened to both. When the wood screw was fixed to be cast off from
its tube, the magazine was to be cast off likewise by unscrewing it,
leaving it hanging to the wood screw; it was lighter than the water,
that it might rise up against the object to which the wood screw and
itself were fastened.

"Within the magazine was an apparatus constructed to run any proposed
length of time under twelve hours; when it had run its time it
unpinioned a strong lock resembling a gun-lock, which gave fire to the
powder. This apparatus was so pinioned that it could not possibly move
till, by casting off the magazine from the vessel, it was set in motion.

"The skillful operator could swim so low on the surface of the water
as to approach very near a ship in the night without fear of being
discovered, and might, if he chose, approach the stem or stem above the
water with very little danger. He could sink very quickly, keep at any
depth he pleased, and row a great distance in any direction he desired
without coming to the surface, and when he rose to the surface he could
soon obtain a fresh supply of air. If necessary, he might descend again
and pursue his course.

"After various attempts to find an operator to my wish, I sent one
who appeared more expert than the rest from New York to a fifty-gun
ship lying not far from Governor's Island. He went under the ship
and attempted to fix the wooden screw in her bottom, but struck, as
he supposed, a bar of iron which passes from the rudder hinge, and
is spiked under the ship's quarter. Had he moved a few inches, which
he might have done without rowing, I have no doubt but that he would
have found wood where he might have fixed the screw, or if the ship
were sheathed with copper he might easily have pierced it; but not
being well skilled in the management of the vessel, in attempting to
move to another place he lost the ship. After seeking her in vain for
some time he rowed some distance and rose to the surface of the water,
but found daylight had advanced too far that he durst not renew the
attempt. He says that he could easily have fastened the magazine under
the stem of the ship above the water, as he rowed up to the stern and
touched it before he descended. Had he fastened it there the explosion
of one hundred and fifty pounds of powder (the quantity contained in
the magazine) must have been fatal to the ship. In his return from the
ship to New York he passed near Governor's Island, and thought he was
discovered by the enemy on the island. Being in haste to avoid the
danger he feared, he cast off the magazine, as he imagined it retarded
him in the swell, which was very considerable. After the magazine had
been cast off one hour, the time the infernal apparatus was set to run,
it blew up with great violence."

[Illustration: ROBERT FULTON.]


The work begun by Bushnell in 1775 was taken up ten years later by
Robert Fulton whose diving-boats so nearly fulfilled the conditions
necessary for practical submarine navigation. As America was at
peace at this time, and as her financial condition was at the lowest
ebb, Fulton transferred his skill and energy to Europe which was
then involved in the Napoleonic wars. Several attempts were made to
interest the French government in his invention, but although certain
commissions reported favorably on his ideas, nothing came of them for
a time. In 1800, however, Fulton succeeded in interesting Napoleon in
his scheme, and the following year he was given the opportunity of
building his first submarine boat, the _Nautilus_. This boat was cigar
shaped, about twenty-one feet long and seven feet in diameter, and made
of copper supported by iron ribs. When operating at the surface this
boat used a peculiarly shaped sail; but when submerged it was propelled
by a screw actuated by machinery turned by hand. In this boat, Fulton,
with three companions, descended to a depth of twenty-three feet and
remained submerged for twenty minutes; and at a depth of five or six
feet they are said to have remained submerged for six hours, air being
supplied by a copper vessel, probably containing oxygen or compressed

The first experiment made in attempting actually to destroy a vessel
with the _Nautilus_, was successful, a small vessel being sunk.
Encouraged by this success Fulton proposed to build larger boats of
this same type capable of destroying the largest battle-ships. In
return he asked that a reward be paid him for each vessel destroyed,
the price of his diving boat reimbursed, and a patent be given himself
and the members of his crew, so that in case of capture they would
be treated as prisoners of war and not hanged as pirates. Strangely
enough this latter clause was the greatest stumbling-block, as the
proposed methods of destroying battle-ships by torpedoes was held in
such disrepute that the French government would not grant a patent
rating the crew of torpedo boats or submarine boats as legitimate
belligerents. In effect, their attitude was, that while a person was at
liberty to destroy an empire from the surface of the water, he would be
hanged as a criminal if he dived beneath the surface and destroyed a

Discouraged by this stand of the French government, Fulton removed to
England, where he succeeded in interesting the prime-minister, William
Pitt, in his novel boat. A commission was appointed consisting of a
number of prominent men, including Mr. Pitt, and Fulton was requested
to demonstrate what could be done in actual practice by his submarine.
On October 15, 1805, an old brig detailed for the purpose was destroyed
by Fulton by the explosion of a torpedo containing one hundred
and seventy pounds of powder. Yet in the face of this remarkable
demonstration the commission remained unfavorable to Fulton's scheme,
although Mr. Pitt to the last retained his faith in the possibilities
of such boats.

Recognizing that further attempts in England would be fruitless,
Fulton returned to the United States. Here, in 1810, Congress became
sufficiently interested to appropriate five thousand dollars to assist
him in his work, and as a final test of the boat he had built, the
naval authorities prepared the brig _Argus_ to resist an attack by
the submarine. This preparation consisted in surrounding her with
protecting booms of logs, supporting strong netting, and held a
distance from the hull by spars. In fact all possible means short of
actually building a wall about the _Argus_ were taken to defeat the
attack. It is probable that the brig, when her preparations for defense
were completed, would have been invulnerable even to a modern torpedo,
and it is not surprising, therefore, that Fulton's attack upon her
utterly failed.

Commenting upon this failure and the means taken by the authorities to
protect the _Argus_, Fulton significantly remarked that the very fact
that a war vessel was obliged to make use of such means to protect
herself against a system of attack then in its infancy, spoke volumes
for the possibilities of this method of attacking when it should be
more fully developed.

But although this failure to destroy the _Argus_ caused Congress to
withdraw its aid for future experiments in submarine warfare, Fulton
himself never lost faith in the importance of his work. Even after
his successful invention of the steamboat, for surface navigation, he
is said to have remarked that, while this invention was important, it
could in no wise compare with the revolutionary effects upon navigation
that would eventually be produced by submarine boats. And despite his
failure to convince the government of the possibilities of his diving
boats, he continued his experiments with them. How nearly he succeeded
in making a practical submarine was shown in the second war with
England that followed soon after.

In this war a "diving boat," supposed to have been one of Fulton's
submarines, made several attacks upon the British man-of-war
_Ramillies_ off New London, in the summer of 1813. In the first two
attempts the approach of the submarine was detected by the crew of
the man-of-war, who cut their cables, and stood out of the harbor as
quickly as possible. In the third attempt, the diving boat succeeded in
coming up in a position directly under the _Ramillies_, fastened itself
to the keel and made a hole in the planking large enough to receive the
screw which was to fasten the torpedo in place. In the act of fastening
it, however, this screw was broken off, and the attempt had to be
abandoned for the moment.

This attack created such a panic aboard the British boat, that she
did not return to the inner harbor but kept constantly in motion
outside. Not satisfied with this protection against such "dishonorable
attempts," the British commander took on board his vessel a hundred
prisoners, apprising the Americans of the fact, and assuring them that
a similar action would be taken by all the ships of the British fleet,
so that in case a vessel was torpedoed the American prisoners would be
blown up with her crew. This effectually frustrated Fulton's plans; for
when the fact became known in the United States, the Americans were
naturally as vigorous as the British in protesting against Fulton and
his boats.

Obviously the rule that "everything is fair in war" was not accepted
in practice a hundred years ago. Fulton's attempts were regarded as
the acts of a pirate, those of the British commander as perfectly
legitimate and honorable methods.


From the time of Fulton to the outbreak of the American Civil War there
were few attempts at submarine navigation. On the opening of this war,
however, efforts were made to perfect diving boats; and these efforts
were so well directed that eventually one of these boats succeeded in
destroying the Federal boat _Housatonic_ in Charleston Harbor on the
night of February 17, 1864.

The submarine that accomplished this was one of the most remarkable
boats ever constructed. It was cigar shaped, about sixty feet long,
and carried a crew of nine men. It was submerged partly by means of
ballast tanks and partly by lateral fins. As a weapon it carried a spar
torpedo fastened to its blunt nose. It was propelled by hand-power,
eight of the nine members of the crew working on a crank which actuated
the propeller. The ninth man, crouching in the bow, steered the boat.
No reserve air was carried, and consequently the length of time the
boat could remain submerged was limited to a very few minutes. On
account of this, and because of its unfortunate career, it was aptly
called the "peripatetic coffin"; and it justified this name by sinking
five different times, drowning thirty-five out of forty of the members
of its different crews. Nevertheless it succeeded in destroying an
American war vessel, thus demonstrating that this feat is possible
under condition of actual warfare.

The submarines of the Civil War came to be known by the general name of
"Davids," and several of them of different types were built. The only
successful attack of any of these Davids, however, was the one which
destroyed the _Housatonic_. In his book, _The Naval History of the
Civil War_, Admiral Porter described this attack upon the _Housatonic_
as follows:--

"At about 8.45 P.M. the officer of the deck on board the unfortunate
vessel discovered something about one hundred yards away, moving along
the water. It came directly toward the ship, and within two minutes of
the time it was first sighted was alongside. The cable was slipped,
the engines backed, and all hands called to quarters. But it was too
late--the torpedo struck the _Housatonic_ just forward of the mainmast,
on the starboard side, in a line with the magazine. The man who steered
her knew where the vulnerable spots of the steamer were, and he did his
work well. When the explosion took place the ship trembled all over as
if by the shock of an earthquake, and seemed to be lifted out of the
water, and then sunk foremost, heeling to port as she went down.

"Her captain, Pickering, was stunned and somewhat bruised by the
concussion, and the order of the day was 'Sauve qui peut.' A boat
was despatched to the _Canandaigua_, not far off, and that vessel at
once responded to the request for help, and succeeded in rescuing the
greater part of the crew.

"Strange to say the David was not seen after the explosion, and
was supposed to have slipped away in the confusion; but when the
_Housatonic_ was inspected by divers, the torpedo-boat was found
sticking in the hole she had made, and all her crew were dead in her.
It was a reckless adventure these men had engaged in, and one in
which they could scarcely have hoped to succeed. They had tried it
once before inside the harbor, and some of the crew had been blown
overboard. How could they hope to succeed on the outside, where the sea
might be rough, when the speed of the David was not over five knots,
and when they might be driven out to sea! Reckless as it might be, it
was the most sublime patriotism, and showed the length to which men
could be urged on behalf of a cause for which they were willing to give
up their lives and all they held most dear."


After the Civil War several nations interested themselves in the
subject of submarines, and during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71,
France attempted the construction of such vessels, but without success.
Yet the possibility of producing these boats was becoming more apparent
every year by the improvements in electrical motors, gasoline engines,
compressed-air motors, and the automobile- or fish-torpedo--itself a
miniature submarine boat.

In America the progress made in submarine-boat construction has been
fully as great, if not greater, than in any other country. Undoubtedly
the foremost figure in this progress has been Mr. P. Holland; and his
efforts and successes are largely responsible for the present fleet of
submarine boats built already, or in the process of construction, as
well as for those of several foreign countries. Indeed, in the matter
of submarine inventions, only one country can be considered as rivaling
America, that nation being France, whose enthusiasm for submarine
navigation has been much greater than that of any other nation,
although in the matter of results she has not outstripped the United

Mr. Holland's first submarine boat was built in 1875. It was called
a "diving canoe," being only sixteen feet in length and wide enough
to hold one man clothed in a diving-suit. Four years later, however,
Holland built a larger boat called the _Holland No. 3_ constructed
along similar lines to the most recent submarines. This was the first
buoyant submarine to be steered up and down by horizontal rudders
alone, and may be said to mark an epoch in submarine navigation. But
the No. 3 had many defects, and Mr. Holland continued to build and
improve new boats, until finally his ninth boat, which is the one
familiarly known as the _Holland_, represented a practical form of
submarine vessel. This boat was 53 feet 10 inches long, 10 feet 3
inches in diameter, had a displacement of 75 tons, and carried 10 tons
of water ballast. The gasoline engine which it used when running at the
surface propelled the boat at the rate of seven knots an hour, and it
could travel a distance of fifteen hundred miles at this rate of speed
with the amount of fuel carried. When submerged it could run a distance
of about fifty knots without coming to the surface.

In diving, the Holland type of boat takes in sufficient water ballast
to lower it to the surface of the water. The horizontal rudders are
then brought into use causing it to descend to the desired depth, and
keeping it at an approximately uniform distance from the surface while
running submerged. By this arrangement the boat can dive very quickly,
requiring only a matter of eight or ten seconds for reaching a depth of
thirty feet. Record plunges have been made in less time than this.

The armament of the Holland boat was originally designed to consist
of three tubes, two of which were for throwing aërial torpedoes and
shells, and the third for discharging Whitehead torpedoes. One of
these aërial guns was placed in the bow, and one in the stem; but
later the stern tube was abandoned. The bow gun was designed to
discharge projectiles a distance of about one mile, such projectiles
weighing something over two hundred pounds and carrying one hundred
pounds of gun-cotton. The tube for discharging the Whitehead torpedo
was practically the same as the submerged tubes in use at present on

Although this _Holland_ is now the type of diving boat most familiar to
the majority of people, and the one in use in several navies, it should
not be understood that the Holland boats were the only successful
submarines constructed up to this time. France and Russia had produced
successful diving boats; and in America those invented by Simon Lake,
some of which are used for wrecking and salvage work as well as for
war purposes, have proved quite as practical as the Hollands. In recent
tests of these two types by the United States Government the Holland
boats showed themselves to be slightly superior to the Lake boats in
certain particulars, but the margin of superiority was a very narrow

The boats of the "Octopus" type are strictly speaking "diving boats,"
while the Lake boats are of the "even-keel" type. These terms refer to
the method of submergence, the diving boats changing their horizontal
trim when submerging, while the even-keel boats retain their horizontal
trim, or nearly so.

The Lake boats have some features not usually embodied in other
submarines, since some of the boats are designed for purposes other
than warfare. Thus, they are equipped with wheels, or buffers, on which
they can roll along the bottom of the ocean or bay. In the bow is an
air-tight compartment with an opening in the bottom through which a
diver can emerge and work on wreckage, or laying and disconnecting
mines. These boats have also a safety device in the form of a
detachable keel weighing several tons. In case of accident, when it
might otherwise be impossible to rise to the surface, this keel can be
detached simply by pulling a lever, thus giving the boat sufficient
buoyancy to rise to the surface. This particular feature of the
detachable keel is not peculiar to the Lake boats alone, some of the
foreign submarines using a similar arrangement as a safeguard.


Technically speaking the name "submarine" is now used only as applying
to those boats that are operated solely by electric power, have
little buoyancy, and do very little running at the surface. The term
"submersible" is applied to a submarine boat, actuated by electricity
while submerged, but using gasoline motors for motive power while
running at the surface. These gasoline engines are used at the same
time for charging the storage batteries; so that the submersible is
a much more practical boat than the submarine, and at the same time
is quite as good a diver. Indeed, although many naval writers are
very careful to make a distinction in the use of these terms, there
seems little need of doing so, since only one type of boat--the
submersible--is now considered practical. But as the word submarine
is the older and more popular, it is used here to cover both classes
except in specific cases.

For several years there were two classes of submarines under
observation--those possessing no floatability when submerged, and
those having some reserve buoyancy. The advantage claimed for the
no-floatability class of boats is that, having no buoyancy, they are
kept more easily at a certain depth below the surface of the water
instead of tending to come to the surface constantly as in the case of
boats of the other type.

But in actual practice the theoretical possibilities of such boats have
not come up to the expectations of their advocates. For keeping the
boat at a uniform depth, the most universally accepted method is by
the use of horizontal rudders. The fact that the vertical direction of
a boat may be controlled by horizontal rudders, when her buoyancy is
small, has long since been established in submarine navigation; and
the simplicity of this method naturally helps its popularity. If there
were no shifting of weight in a submarine, or no wave disturbance,
it would not be difficult to set the rudders at such an angle that
the boat would travel for long distances at an approximately uniform
submergence, the depth of submergence being indicated by gauges acted
upon by the water pressure on the surface of the boat. And in actual
practice it is possible to do this at the present time, part of the
problem having been solved by automatic and other devices.

It should be remembered that many things enter into the disturbance of
the submarine's equilibrium. The movement of a member of the crew from
one point to another shifts the ballast; a certain amount of leakage of
water cannot be avoided, and the sudden discharge of a torpedo weighing
several hundred pounds from her bow tends to bring the boat quickly
to the surface if this lost weight is not compensated for quickly. By
various ingenious devices all these difficulties have been practically
overcome, most of them automatically.

But the great unsolved problem of submarine navigation--practically
the only one that now opposes a question mark to its great utility
in warfare--is that of steering with certainty of direction when
submerged. Once the submarine is under water it is in utter darkness as
far as seeing to steer is concerned; and what adds to the difficulty
is the fact that the compass cannot be relied upon, because of the
surrounding electrical apparatus. It would be possible, perhaps, to
construct a powerful electric lamp to throw a light some distance
ahead of the boat, but this would defeat the primary object of
submarine attack, as such a light would be seen by an enemy.

In still water, when the boat is running within a distance of ten
or fifteen feet of the surface, it is possible to steer with great
precision by the use of an optical tube or "periscope." This periscope
is a straight, hollow tube, connected with the steering compartment
in the submarine, and protruding above the water. In the upper end
are a mirror and lenses so arranged that the surrounding objects are
reflected downward through the tube, and show on a screen, or some
other device, so that the helmsman sees things of exactly the same size
that they would appear to the naked eye. The periscope is also fitted
with a telescope attachment which magnifies objects like the binoculars
used in surface navigation. On some recent submarines there are two
periscopes, a movable one for use of the commanding officer, and one
that looks straight ahead for the helmsman's use.

In still water the periscope works admirably, but it is seriously
interfered with even by small waves. It is so small and inconspicuous,
however, that it might enable a submarine to creep within torpedo range
even in daylight, and launch the torpedo with accuracy, as was proved
in 1908 when a fleet of submarines actually accomplished this feat in
an experimental test.


To most people, one of the most surprising things in the Russo-Japanese
war was the fact that submarine boats played no part in it whatever.
There is only one possible conclusion to be drawn from this: the day of
the submarine as a determining factor in naval battles on the high seas
had not arrived.

The reason for the surprise of the generality of people in finding the
submarine was not as yet an entirely practical war engine, is due to
the enthusiastic misrepresentations of the daily press and magazines,
whose readers have been led to infer that the modern submarine boat
is so far perfected that it can do things under water almost as well
as boats on the surface. Nothing is farther from the truth. Under
ideal (and consequently unusual) conditions, the submarines, and
submersibles, have done, and can do, some remarkable things, such as
staying submerged for hours, diving to a depth of two hundred feet, and
running long distances. But these are only the first requisites of the
under-water fighting boat--simply the "creeping stage" of development.
The common impression that the submarine boat, such as the ones of the
Holland and Lake types, can go cruising about, fish-like, for hours,
watching for its prey in some mysterious manner without coming near the
surface, is a dream not yet realized.

If one will pause to consider that light is necessary to sight and that
one hundred feet of sea water makes almost as efficient an obstacle to
vision as a stone wall, it will be easy to understand why the submarine
is still struggling with difficulties that oppose its perfection. The
fanciful illustration seen so often of a submarine diving hundreds of
feet deep in the water, swimming about and finally coming up under the
keel of a battle ship and destroying it, are as yet the creations of
vivid imaginations. For submarine marksmen, like all others, require
a fairly clear view of the target--even such a huge target as a
battle-ship--to direct their shots with any degree of certainty.

The greatest problem now confronting the submarine navigator,
therefore, is that of seeing without being seen. At night, and at long
ranges, this is not difficult, as the little conning-tower, or tiny
periscope tube protruding above the waves, is not easily detected
even by strong searchlights, sharp eyes, and marine glasses. But long
ranges are of little use to the submarine; and there is always another
difficulty--the leviathan battle-ship does not lie still waiting to be
stabbed by its sword-fish enemy, but keeps moving about, twisting and
turning, at a rate of from fourteen to eighteen knots an hour, while
the submarine can only make about eleven knots when submerged. In a
stern chase, therefore, the submarine is one of the most harmless of
sea-monsters, in the open ocean. For harbor work, however, the case is
different. In some recent tests the submarine boats made eighty per
cent. in hits while attacking moving vessels in a harbor at night--a
far higher percentage than is usually made by surface torpedo boats
under the same circumstances.

At present the best solution of the problem of steering the partly
submerged submarine is offered by the use of a conning-tower elevated
five or six feet above the body of the submarine, which can be kept
just above the waves, and present an inconspicuous target. The early
Holland boats did not have this, although the American Lake boats have
had it from the first; but at the present time all boats are being so
made. At first these towers were made circular in form; but it was
found that towers of this shape made sufficient splash in passing
through the water to attract attention at a considerable distance on a
still night. This shape was abandoned, therefore, and a boat-shaped one

With such a noiseless conning-tower the submersible can cruise about
on foggy nights, or when the waves are just high enough to make a
disturbance on the surface, running with the top of the conning-tower
open so as to secure good ventilation as long as possible, until the
enemy is nearly within striking distance. As the target is approached
the conning-tower must be closed, the protruding top sunk lower and
lower in the water, and finally completely submerged, nothing appearing
at the surface but the periscope tube just above the waves. With the
aid of this instrument the target may still be seen distinctly, but the
arc of vision is limited, and guessing the distance or rate of speed of
the target is very difficult. Nevertheless, by estimating the distance
before submerging, and knowing the rate of speed of his little craft,
the submarine gunner may still get his range and find his target.
If the waves are at all high, this is very difficult, as the water,
slopping over the periscope, obscures the vision for several seconds at
a time and is very distracting. But some experiments carried on during
the summer of 1908 show that, even in broad daylight, it is no easy
matter for a battle-ship to detect the approach of submarines until
well within torpedo range, even when an attack is expected.

In these experiments the United States cruiser "Yankee" in Buzzard's
Bay was attacked by five submarines of the most recent type. The
"Yankee" remained stationary expecting the attack, but to offset this
disadvantage the crew was fully aware of the exact time that the attack
was to be made. Indeed the officers of the cruiser had watched the
submarines steam away until they disappeared. When twenty miles from
the "Yankee" the five submarines submerged and headed for the cruiser,
making observations at intervals by means of the periscope.

The day was perfectly clear, and all on board the "Yankee" were keenly
watching for the expected submarines. Yet the first intimation they had
of the proximity of the diving boats was the striking of five torpedoes
against the cruiser's hull. Each submarine had scored a bull's-eye.
Not content with this success, the submarines repeated the attack from
a nearer point, again scoring five hits before their presence was

One great obstacle to successful submarine navigation on an extended
scale is the difficulty of keeping a supply of air not only for the use
of the crew, but for the engines. Any really powerful engine, either
steam or gas, consumes an enormous amount of air. This is not true, of
course, of the storage batteries which furnish the power for running
while submerged, but these, at best, are but feeble generators of
energy, although Edison's recent improvements may materially improve
their power. If gasoline engines could be used during submergence a
far greater speed would be acquired; but this is out of the question,
as such engines would consume the air supply of the little boat far too
rapidly. The compromise, now adopted universally, is to use gasoline
motors while running at the surface or partly submerged, when the
conning-tower is open, utilizing part of their energy meanwhile to
charge the storage batteries.

It is evident, therefore, that no great speed can be expected of the
submarine in its present state; and in point of fact the largest type
is able to develop only about ten or eleven knots when submerged, and
fifteen while at the surface--far below the speed of any other type
of war vessel. But the experimental attacks upon the "Yankee" prove
that they are dangerous fighting craft, and a recent voyage by a
flotilla of Italian submersibles shows that such boats are no longer
harbor-locked vessels. In 1908 the Italian flotilla in question made
a voyage from Venice to Spezia, a distance of thirteen hundred miles,
without assistance from auxiliary boats. About the same time a British
submarine flotilla, on a three-hundred mile trip, remained submerged
for forty consecutive hours. The depth of the submergence in this case
was only a few feet, but great depths may be reached with relative
safety. In one test a Lake boat carrying her crew sank to a depth of
one hundred and thirty-eight feet, returning to the surface in a few
minutes. At another time the "Octopus," without her crew, was lowered
to a depth of two hundred and five feet, sustaining a pressure of
fifteen thousand tons, without injury.


Such performances as these are thought-provocative, to say the least.
Submarine boats that can hit the target without being detected, go on
cruises unattended for more than a thousand miles, and remain submerged
for more than a day and a half, must be classed as efficient engines of

Since the submersible is designed to spend most of its time on the
surface of the water like an ordinary boat, it must have considerable
buoyancy, but it must also have some means of getting rid of this
buoyancy quickly when submergence is necessary. The submarine proper
has only from five to eight per cent. buoyancy, while some of the
submersibles have twenty-five per cent. or more. With such boats of
the ordinary size some fifty tons of water must be admitted before
bringing them to a condition in which they can be submerged; but this
can be done very quickly. One of the submarines of the U. S. fleet in
an actual test filled her ballast tanks and dived to a depth of twenty
feet in four minutes and twenty seconds.

It is not impossible that the recent triumphs in aërial navigation may
have an important bearing on the use of submarines in future wars. It
is well known that large objects when submerged even to a considerable
depth are discernible from a height in the air directly above them.
It is quite possible, therefore, that swift aeroplanes circling about
a fleet of war vessels might be able to detect submarine boats when
these boats were near enough the surface to use their periscopes. If
so it might be possible for the aeroplanes to drop torpedoes upon the
submerged boats without danger to themselves. Or if the aeroplanes
carried no effective weapons, they could at least act in the capacity
of scouts and warn their battleship consorts of the presence of the
submarine. Of course, this would be possible only in daylight, the
airships giving no protection against night attacks.



Modern railroads are the outcome of the invention of the locomotive;
yet the invention of the practical locomotive was the outcome of iron
railroads which had been in existence for half a century. These iron
railroads were a development from wooden predecessors, which were the
direct descendants of the smooth roadways of the Greeks and Romans.
Indeed it is quite reasonable to suppose that the ancients may have
been familiar with the use of parallel rails with grooved or flanged
wheels to fit them; but if so there seems to be no definite record of
the fact, and our knowledge of true railroads goes back only to the
seventeenth century.

As early as 1630, it is recorded that a road built of parallel rails of
wood upon which cars were run was used in a coal-mine near Newcastle,
England; and there is no reason to suppose that this road was a novelty
at the time. Half a century later there was a railroad in operation
near the river Tyne which has been described by Roger North as being
made of "rails of timber placed end to end and exactly straight, and in
two parallel lines to each other. On these rails bulky cars were made
to run on four rollers fitting the rails, whereby the carriage was
made so easy that one horse would draw four or five chaldrons of coal
to a load."

At this time the use of iron rails had not been thought of, or at least
had not been tried, probably from the fact that iron was then very
expensive. Even the wooden rails in use, and the wheels that ran upon
them, were of no fixed pattern. Some of these rails were in the form
of depressed grooves into which an ordinary wheel fitted. But these
were very unsatisfactory because they became filled so easily with dirt
and other obstructions, and a more common type was a rail raised a few
inches above the ground like a molding, a grooved wheel running on the

Such rails were short lived, splitting and wearing away quickly, and
being easily injured by other vehicles. But they were, on the whole,
more satisfactory than the depressed rails, and were the type adopted
when iron rails first came into use, about 1767. Ten years later the
idea of the single flange was conceived, not placed on the wheels of
the cars as at present, but cast on the rails themselves. These flanges
were first made on the outside of the rails, and later placed on the
inside, the wheels of the cars used on such rails being of the ordinary
pattern with flat tires.

But, in 1789, William Jessop, of Leicestershire, began building cars
with wheels having single flanges on the inside like modern car wheels,
to run upon an elevated molding-shaped iron rail; and the many points
of superiority of this type of wheel soon led to its general adoption.
So that aside from some minor changes, the type of rails and wheels in
use at the close of the eighteenth century was practically the same as
at present.

It is probable that if the first inventors had attempted to make
locomotives to run upon the railroads then in existence they would have
been successful many years before they were, but the advantages of
railroads was not as evident then as now, and the inventors' efforts
were confined to attempts to produce locomotive wagons--automobiles--to
operate upon any road where horses and carts could be used.

Some of their creations were of the most fanciful and impractical
design, although quite a number of them were "locomotives" in the sense
that they could be propelled over the ground by their own energy, but
only at a snail's pace, and by the expenditure of a great amount of
power. Several inventors tried combining the principle of the steamboat
and the locomotive in the same vehicle, and in 1803 a Philadelphian by
the name of Evans made a steam dredge and land-wagon combined which
was fairly successful in both capacities of boat and wagon. He called
his machine the "Oruktor Amphibious," and upon one occasion made a
trip through the streets of Philadelphia, and then plunged into the
Schuylkill River and continued his journey on the water. But as he was
unable to arouse anything but curiosity, the financiers refusing to
take his machine seriously, he finally gave up his attempts to solve
the problem of steam locomotion.

The year before this, in 1802, Richard Trevithick, in England, had
been more successful in his attempts at producing a locomotive. He
produced a steam locomotive that operated on the streets of London
and the public highways, hauling a wagonload of people. But the
unevenness of the roads proved disastrous to his engine, and as it
could make no better time than a slow horse, it was soon abandoned. But
Trevithick had learned from this failure that a good roadbed was quite
as essential to the success of a locomotive as the machine itself,
and two years later he produced what is usually regarded as the first
railway locomotive. This was built for the Merthyr-Tydvil Railway in
South Wales, and on several occasions hauled loads of ten tons of iron
at a fair rate of speed. It was not considered a success financially,
however, and was finally abandoned.

At this time a curious belief had become current among the inventors
to the effect that if a smooth-surface rail and a smooth-surface wheel
were used, there would not be sufficient friction between the two to
make it possible to haul loads, or more than barely move the locomotive
itself. Learned mathematicians proved conclusively on paper by endless
hair-splitting calculations that the thing was impossible,--that
any locomotive strong enough to propel itself along a smooth iron
rail would be heavy enough to break the strongest rail, and smash
the roadbed. In the face of these arguments the idea of smooth rails
and smooth wheels was abandoned for the time. Trevithick himself was
convinced, and turned his attention to the perfecting of an engine
with toothed drive-wheels running on a track with rack-rails. But this
engine soon jolted itself and its track into the junk-heap without
doing anything to solve the problem of locomotion.

Shortly after this, a man named Chapman, of Newcastle, built a road and
stretched a chain from one end to the other, this chain being arranged
to pass around a barrel-wheel on the locomotive, which thus pulled
itself along, just as some of the boats on the Rhine do at the present
time. But the machinery for operating this engine was clumsy and
unsatisfactory, and the road proved a complete failure.

Perhaps the most remarkable locomotive ever conceived and constructed
was one built by Brunton, of Derbyshire, in 1813. This machine was
designed to go upon legs like a horse, and was a combination of steam
wagon and mechanical horse. The wagon part of the combination ran upon
a track like an ordinary car, while the mechanical legs were designed
to trot behind and "kick the wagon along." "The legs or propellers,
imitated the legs of a man or the fore-legs of a horse, with joints,
and when worked by the machine alternately lifted and pressed against
the ground or road, propelling the engine forward, as a man shoves a
boat ahead by pressing with a pole against the bottom of a river." This
machine was able to travel at a rate somewhat slower than that at which
a man usually walks; and its tractive force was that of four horses.
But after it had demonstrated its impotency by crawling along for a few
miles, it terminated its career by "blowing up in disgust," killing and
injuring several by-standers.

The much disputed point as to whether a smooth-wheeled locomotive would
be practical on smooth rails was not settled until 1813. An inventor
named Blackett, of Wylam, who with his engineer, William Hedley, had
built several steam locomotives which only managed to crawl along the
tracks under the most favorable conditions, wishing to determine if it
were the fault of locomotives or the system on which they worked that
accounted for his failures, constructed a car which was propelled by
six men working levers geared to the wheels, like the modern hand-car.

In this way he determined that there was sufficient adhesion between
smooth rails and smooth wheels for locomotives to haul heavy loads
behind them, even on grades of considerable incline. The experiments of
Blackett settled this question beyond the possibility of controversy,
and removed a very important obstacle from the path of future
inventors. Among these inventors was young George Stephenson, who was
rapidly making a reputation for himself as a practical engineer.



Stephenson was born on June 9, 1781, in the small colliery village
of Wylam, on the river Tyne. His parents were extremely poor, and
as the boy was sent to work as soon as he was large enough to find
employment of any kind, he was given no education, even to the extent
of learning the alphabet. It was only after he had spent many years
in the colliery, and had finally worked himself up from the position
of "picker" at three pence a day to that of fireman, that he was able
to spend the necessary time and pennies to acquire something of an
education. Then he attended a night school, learned his alphabet,
was able to scrawl his name at eighteen years of age, and a little
later could read, write, and do sums in arithmetic.

But if deficient in letters, there was one field in which he had no
superior,--that was in the practical handling of a steam-engine.
His position in the mine gave him a chance to study the workings of
the engines then in use, and at every opportunity, on holidays and
after working-hours, he was in the habit of dismantling his engine,
and carefully studying every detail of its construction. Thus by the
time he had reached his majority he was a skillful engineer, besides
having many new ideas that had developed during his examinations
of the machinery. But besides his knowledge of engineering, he was
an accomplished workman in other fields. He was a good shoemaker,
watch-and clock-repairer, and tailors' cutter, at all of which trades
he worked at odd times to increase his income. Thus he was a veritable
jack-of-all-trades; with the unusual qualification, that he was master
of _one_.

By the time he was twenty-six years old he was holding the position
of engineer to a coal-mining company, and had acquired the confidence
of his employers to such an extent that he was permitted to build a
locomotive for them--a thing that had been his ambition for several
years. This was in 1807, the same year that Robert Fulton demonstrated
the possibilities of steam navigation.

In the construction of this engine Stephenson introduced several novel
features of his own inventing, although on the whole no new principles
were involved; and in practice this engine showed several points
of superiority over its predecessors. It would draw eight loaded
wagons of thirty tons' weight at the rate of four miles an hour on
an ascending grade of one in four hundred and fifty feet. But it had
two very radical defects--it would not keep up steam and the noise of
the steam-pipe exhausting into the open air frightened the horses of
the neighborhood to such a degree that the authorities ordered the
inventor either to stop running his engine, or suppress its noise. As
an experiment, therefore, Stephenson arranged the exhaust pipes so that
they opened into the smokestack, where the sound would be muffled.
But when the engine was now tried he found to his surprise that this
single expedient had solved both difficulties, the exhausting steam
causing such an improvement in the draught of his furnace that double
the quantity of steam was generated. This discovery helped to simplify
later experiments, for the difficulty of keeping up steam had been one
of the great obstacles encountered by the inventors.

Stephenson's second locomotive was an improvement over his first in
many ways, but it was still far from being the practical machine that
was to supplant horse-power. It could haul heavier loads than teams of
horses, and was more convenient for certain purposes; but it was no
more economical.

As yet the only use to which locomotives had been put was that
of hauling cars in coal-mines. Indeed, the only railroads then
constructed were those used in mines, the idea of utilizing such
roads for passenger and freight traffic not having occurred to anyone
until about 1820. Then the Englishman, Thomas Gray, suggested
the construction of such a road between Liverpool and Manchester,
advocating steam as the motive power. His idea was looked upon as
visionary, and as he persisted in his efforts to interest prominent
people in the scheme, he came to be very generally regarded as an
enthusiastic but somewhat crackbrained fanatic.

But meanwhile the coal railroads were being extended to such lengths
that they were assuming the proportions of modern railroads. The
motive power on most of the roads was horses, although here and there
a traction engine using chain or cable, was employed for certain
purposes. In 1825, however, Stephenson began the construction of an
improved locomotive, this time at his own modest establishment; and a
little later this engine made the trial that really demonstrated the
possibilities of steam locomotion, although this was not universally
recognized until the success of the _Rocket_ a few years later.

A great deal of excitement and speculation arose throughout the country
when the trial day approached. Great crowds assembled from every
direction to witness the trial; some, more sanguine, came to witness
the success, but far the greater portion came to see the bubble burst.
The proceedings began at Busselton incline, where the stationary engine
drew a train up the incline on one side and let it down on the other.
The wagons were then loaded.

"At the foot of this plane a locomotive, driven by Mr. Stephenson
himself, was attached to the train. It consisted of six wagons loaded
with coal and flour, next a passenger coach (the first ever run upon
a railroad) filled with the directors and their friends, then twenty
wagons fitted up with temporary seats for passengers, and lastly came
six wagons loaded with coal, making in all twenty-eight vehicles.
The word being given that all was ready, the engine began to move,
gradually at first, but afterward, in part of the road, attaining a
speed of twelve miles an hour. At that time the number of passengers
amounted to four hundred and fifty, which would, with the remainder
of the load, amount to upwards of ninety tons. The train arrived at
Darlington, eight and three-quarter miles, in sixty-five minutes.
Here it was stopped and a fresh supply of water obtained, the six
coal-cars for Darlington detached, and the word given to go ahead. The
engine started, and arrived at Stockton, twelve miles, in three hours
and seven minutes including stoppages. By the time the train reached
Stockton the number of passengers amounted to over six hundred."

From this description it will be seen that the coal roads had been
extended to form interurban railways. In this connection it is
interesting to note the increase of traffic that developed on this
particular road in the years immediately following the invention of
the practical locomotive. When the road was projected it was estimated
that its maximum carrying capacity would not exceed 10,000 tons of coal
yearly. A few years later, when locomotives had come into use, the
regular yearly carriage amounted to 500,000 tons.


Fig. 1.--The Blenkinsop locomotive, built in 1812-13 to work on the
rack Railway between Leeds and the Middleton colliery, a distance of
3.5 miles. This was the first commercially successful enterprise in
which steam locomotives were employed. Fig. 2.--Model of locomotive
engine No. 1 of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, England, built by
Messrs R. Stevenson & Company in 1825. This engine ran successfully
for 21 years. Fig. 3.--The locomotive "Royal George" which worked on
the Stockton and Darlington Railway 1827-1842. It will be observed
that each of these engines antedated Stevenson's famous "Rocket." Fig.
4.--Shows, by way of contrast with these earliest types of locomotive,
the "Twentieth Century Limited" train of the New York Central Railroad,
and a racing automobile, either of which can easily make better time
than a mile a minute, as against the two or three miles per hour of
their prototypes.]

The passenger coach on this first train, the first of its kind
ever constructed for the special purpose of carrying passengers, was
remarkable for its simplicity. One writer described it as "a modest
and uncouth-looking affair, made more for strength than for beauty.
A row of seats ran along each side of the interior, and a long table
was fixed in the centre, the access being by the doorway behind, like
an omnibus. This vehicle was named the _Experiment_, and was the only
carriage for passengers upon the road for some time."

About this time the now famous Liverpool and Manchester Railway was
projected. It was elaborately planned and carried out at an enormous
expense. The construction of the road-bed was given special attention,
although as yet the question of what motive power should be used had
not been decided. Most of the directors and engineers favored the use
of horses. The few that were in favor of steam did not favor the use
of locomotives, but a system that would now be called a relay-cable
system. According to this plan the road of about thirty miles was to
be divided into nineteen sections, over each of which a stationary
steam-engine was to work a chain or cable. But when the board of
engineers appointed to investigate the possibilities of this system
reported on the matter, it was found that there were several vital
defects in such a system. For example, should any one of the sections
of cable break or become inoperative, the entire line would have to
stand idle; and furthermore, the cost of building and maintaining these
nineteen stations offered serious financial obstacles.

It is an interesting fact that until the report of this board was made
"not a single professional man of eminence could be found who preferred
the locomotive over the fixed engine, George Stephenson only excepted."
But with the glaring defects of the cable road, and the enormous cost
of maintenance impressed upon the directors, the idea of the locomotive
became at once more attractive, and the performance of Stephenson's
locomotive was more carefully investigated. The upshot of these
investigations was the offer of a prize of £500 for a locomotive that,
on a certain day would perform certain duties named under the eight
following headings:--

1. The engine must effectually consume its own smoke.

2. The engine, if of six tons' weight, must be able to draw, day by
day, twenty tons' weight, including the tender, and water-tank, at ten
miles an hour, with a pressure of steam upon the boiler not exceeding
fifty pounds to the square inch.

3. The boiler must have two safety-valves, neither of which must be
fastened down, and one of them completely out of the control of the

4. The engine and boiler must be supported upon springs and rest on six
wheels, the height of the whole not exceeding fifteen feet to the top
of the chimney.

5. The engine with water must not weigh more than six tons, but
an engine of less weight would be preferred although drawing a
proportionately less load behind it; if of only four and one-half tons
it might be put on four wheels.

6. A mercurial gauge must be affixed to the machine, showing the steam
pressure about forty-five pounds to the square inch.

7. The engine must be delivered, complete and ready for trial, at the
Liverpool end of the railway, not later than October 1, 1829.

8. The price of the engine must not exceed £550.

What strikes one as most peculiar in this set of requirements and
specifications is the first clause--that of the engine consuming its
own smoke; for even at the present time this is considered a difficult
problem. But this was not so considered by the inventors of that time,
their great stumbling-block being the high speed required. Ten miles an
hour struck most of them as absurd and out of the question.

One eminent person, who was to become later one of England's leading
engineers, stated publicly that "if it proved to be possible to make
a locomotive go ten miles an hour, he would undertake to eat a stewed
engine-wheel for his breakfast." It is not recorded whether or not this
terrible threat was carried out.

But there was more than one engineer and engine-builder who took a more
sanguine view of the prize offer. The firm of Braithwait & Ericsson
signified its intention of competing, with a locomotive that they named
the _Novelty_. Another firm entered the contest with an engine called
the _Sans-pareil_; still another firm entered the _Perseverance_; and
George Stephenson was on hand with the now-famous _Rocket_.

In the series of trials that followed, the _Sans-pareil_ and the
_Perseverance_ were so clearly outclassed by the other two competing
locomotives that they need not be considered here; but the _Novelty_
and the _Rocket_ were close competitors. The _Novelty_, indeed,
made such a good showing, and afterwards proved to be such a good
locomotive, that although it lost the contest, many competent judges
have since regarded it as equal to the _Rocket_, if not superior, in
principle. Be that as it may, later experiments proved conclusively
that the cause of failure on the final day of the prize contest was
due to defects in workmanship rather than to defective principle of

The _Novelty_ has been described as having the appearance of "a
milk-can set in the rear end of a wagon, with a little smokestack in
front looking like a high dashboard." It carried its supply of fuel
and water in the "wagon-box" part of the engine frame, in front of the
boiler, so that it required no tender. On its first trial, running
without any load, it reached a speed of twenty-four miles an hour--a
speed more than double the "stewed engine-wheel" limit. But at each
subsequent trial, although it hauled loads for short distances, some
part of its machinery became disabled, so that it was necessarily
regarded as inferior to its more stable rival, the _Rocket_.



These vehicles are shown together here because of their similarity
of plan of construction. Cugnot's original engine (upper figure) was
built in France in 1769. The vehicle shown above was made in 1770,
after Cugnot's designs, for the French Government. It was intended for
the transportation of artillery, and the specifications called for a
carrying capacity of about 4½ tons and a speed of 2¼ miles per hour
on level ground. Cugnot's original engine had attained this speed on
a common road while carrying four persons; notwithstanding which fact
the machine above shown was for some reason never given a trial. It is
now preserved in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, in Paris. It is
particularly noteworthy that the successful road engine of Cugnot was
constructed in 1769, the year in which James Watt took out the first
patents on his steam engine. Just 60 years elapsed before Stephenson's
"Rocket" convinced the world of the feasibility of transportation by

The locomotive shown in the lower figure competed in the famous tests
of 1829 against the "Rocket" and the "Sans Pareil." It excited much
interest, attaining a speed of almost 32 miles per hour when running
light, but owing to breakdowns was unable to fulfill the required tests
and was therefore withdrawn from the competition. It was afterwards
used commercially.]

The _Sans-pareil_ was considerably over the maximum weight and
according to a strict interpretation of the stipulations, should not
have been allowed to contest; but although this question of over-weight
was waived by the judges, and the engine given a fair trial, it showed
such a capacity for consuming fuel without any corresponding ability to
perform work, that it was decided inferior to the _Novelty_ and the
_Rocket_. The _Perseverance_ was clearly outclassed by all the other
competing engines, as its maximum speed was only five or six miles an

The most consistent performer, and the final prize-winner, as everyone
knows, was Stephenson's _Rocket_, the direct ancestor of all modern
locomotives. The boiler of this locomotive was horizontal, as in
modern locomotives, cylindrical, and had flat ends. It was six feet in
length and a little over three feet in diameter. The upper half of the
boiler was used as a reservoir for steam, the lower half being filled
with water and having copper pipes running through it. The fire-box,
two feet wide and three feet high, was placed immediately behind the
boiler. Just above this, and on each side, were the cylinders, two
in number, acting obliquely downward on the two front wheels of the
engine, the piston-rod connecting with the driver by a bar pinned to
the outside of the wheel, as in modern American locomotives.

The engine with its load of water weighed a trifle over four
tons--seemingly little more than a toy-locomotive, as compared with
the modern monsters more than thirty times that weight. But for its
size the little _Rocket_ was a marvelous performer, even as judged by
recent standards. On the first day of the contests over the two miles
of trial tracks, it covered twelve miles in considerably less than an
hour, shuttling back and forth over the road. The next day, as none
of the other engines was in condition to exhibit, Stephenson offered
to satisfy the curiosity of the great crowd that had gathered--a
crowd that contained representatives from all over the world--by an
unofficial trial of the _Rocket_. He coupled the little engine to a
car, loaded on thirty-six passengers, and took them for a spin over the
road at the rate of from twenty-six to thirty miles an hour.

The following day some of the competing locomotives were still unable
to exhibit, and again the _Rocket_ was given a semi-official trial.
Hauling a car loaded with thirteen tons' weight, it ran back and forth
over the two-mile road, covering thirty-five miles in one hour and
forty-eight minutes including stoppages. The maximum velocity attained
was about twenty-nine miles an hour. As this performance was duplicated
on the day of the official trial, the _Rocket_ was declared the winner,
and awarded the prize.


Stevenson's celebrated "Rocket" is known to everyone as the winner of
the competition for the prize of 500 pounds offered in 1829 by the
Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The "Sans Pareil,"
which, like the "Rocket," is still preserved at the South Kensington
Museum in London, competed unsuccessfully for the prize. Though not
equal to the "Rocket" it was in many respects a well-made locomotive.
It was purchased by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company and
saw many years of active service.]

Naturally there were many minor defects in the construction of
this first locomotive, although most of them were too trivial and
unimportant to affect the excellence of the machine as a whole. But it
had one serious defect: the inclination of the cylinders caused the
entire machine to rise and fall on its springs at every double stroke,
producing great unsteadiness when running at any considerable speed.
This was corrected a few months later by the suggestion of Timothy
Hackworth, who drew plans for a locomotive having horizontal cylinders
to be used on the Stockton & Darlington Railway. His plans were
submitted to Stephenson, who constructed an engine from them called the
_Globe_, which differed from the _Rocket_ in having the cylinders not
only horizontal, but placed on the inside of the wheels. A little later
Stephenson built the _Planet_ on much the same lines as the _Globe_,
and this engine became the model for engine builders the world over. It
is an interesting fact that American engineers adopted, and still cling
to, Stephenson's original plan of having the cylinders act on rods
attached to the outside of the wheels as in the _Rocket_, while English
engineers have always built their locomotives with the cylinders on the
inside, as arranged on the _Planet_.

Since the time of the _Planet_ the general shape and arrangement of
most locomotives has remained unchanged. In America the inclemencies of
the climate compelled the invention of the cab; and it was here also
that the bell, whistle, pilot, and sand-box were first introduced. But
by 1850 the present type of locomotive had been produced; and although
constant modifications are being introduced, the general appearance of
the locomotive remains the same, the difference being mostly in the


During the closing years of the nineteenth century the general
improvements in the rolling-stock of railroads, and the constantly
increasing demand for faster passenger service, stimulated
manufacturers to attempt numerous improvements as well as many changes
in the size of the more recent types of locomotives. In a general way
these changes may be summarized as follows: A great increase in the
size and weight, with increased speed and tractive power; the use
of larger boilers with thicker shells; the substitution of steel
for cast-iron in certain parts of the locomotive, thereby greatly
increasing the strength; and finally, the economizing of steam by

There is no way of determining the exact amount of increase in the
weight of engines during the last decade, but the figures of some of
the great manufacturing establishments will give a fair idea of this
increase in a general way. In one of these establishments the average
weight of a locomotive turned out ten years ago was 92,000 pounds for
the engine alone, without the tender. At the present time the engines
being manufactured by the same firm average 129,000 pounds, an increase
of 37,000 pounds, or something over forty per cent. This average
weight, however, gives but an inadequate conception of the size of the
largest locomotives now being manufactured. The "hundred-ton" engine
has become a commonplace. In 1909 a locomotive weighing, with its
tenders, 300 tons was manufactured for passenger traffic on the Santa
Fé lines.

In America there seems to be no limit to the sizes that may be reached;
or at least up to the present time this limit has not been attained. In
England and several of the Continental countries a great difficulty has
been found to exist in the unlimited size of locomotives, in the fact
that the bridges and tunnels of these railroads are, almost without
exception, so low that any very great vertical increase in the size of
the engine is out of the question without reconstructing many miles of
bridges and tunnels at an enormous cost.

The increased demand for greater speed has also caused a marked
increase in the amount of steam pressure per square inch in the
boilers. In 1870 the average was about 130 pounds; by 1890 this had
been increased to about 160 pounds; while at the present time steam is
used frequently at a pressure of 225 pounds. Naturally this increase
in pressure compels the use of heavier steel boiler plates. In 1890
the usual thickness of the steel sheets was one-half inch; but at the
present time it is no unusual thing to use plates seven-eighths of an
inch in thickness.

But probably the most important improvement in locomotive construction
in recent years is the introduction of the compounding principle in the
use of steam--a system whereby practically the entire energy of the
steam is utilized, instead of a considerable portion of it being a dead
loss, as in the older type of engine. As every one knows, the passage
of the steam through a single cylinder of an engine does not exhaust
its entire energy. In the compounding system this exhausted steam is
made to pass through one or more cylinders after coming from the first,
the energy of all these cylinders being utilized for the production of

The application of this principle of compounding is not new even in
the field of locomotive construction. As early as 1846 patents for
a compound locomotive were taken out in the United States, and such
an engine built in 1867; but it is only since 1890 that compound
locomotives have become popular in this country. In these compound
locomotives the two cylinders are of unequal diameter, so proportioned
"that the steam at high pressure in the smaller cylinder exerts upon
the piston approximately the same force that is exerted by steam at a
lower pressure in the larger cylinder. Steam is admitted first into the
smaller cylinder, where it expends a portion of its initial energy, and
then passes into the larger cylinder, where it performs an equal amount
of work by exerting a diminished pressure upon a larger surface. This
is the principle of compounding, the relative sizes and positions of
the cylinders being varied according to the conditions to be met by the
engine, or the ideas of the designer or builder, or of the purchaser.
While in the marine and stationary engine the compound principle has
been carried with success and economy to three and four stages of
expansion in the use of steam, it has not been found practicable to go
beyond two stages in compound locomotives."

In a pamphlet issued recently by one of the leading locomotive works of
the country, some points of interest concerning the compound locomotive
were stated concisely as follows:

"In stationary-engine practice the chief measure of the boiler
efficiency is the economical consumption of coal. In most stationary
engines the boilers are fired independently, and the draft is formed
from causes entirely separate and beyond the control of the escape
of steam from the cylinders. Hence any economy shown by the boilers
must of necessity be separate and distinct from that which may be
effected by the engine itself. In a locomotive, however, the amount
of work depends entirely upon the weight on the driving wheels, the
cylinder dimensions being proportioned to this weight, and, whether
the locomotive is compound or single expansion, no larger boiler can
be provided, after allowing for the wheels, frame and mechanism, than
the total limit of weight permits. The heating surface and grate areas
in both compound and single-expansion locomotives of the same class
are practically the same, and the evaporative efficiency of both
locomotives is chiefly determined by the action of the exhaust, which
must be of sufficient intensity in both cases to generate the amount
of steam necessary for utilizing to the best advantage the weight on
the driving wheels. This is a feature that does not appear in any
stationary engine, so that the compound locomotive cannot be judged
by stationary standards, and the only true comparison to be made is
between locomotives of similar construction and weight, equipped in one
case with compound and in the other with single-expansion cylinders.

"No locomotive, compound or single-expansion, will haul more than its
adhesion will allow. The weight on driving wheels is the limiting
factor in the problem which confronts the locomotive engineer. Power
can, of course, be increased by building a larger engine and augmenting
this weight but in the present construction of tracks and bridges the
limit of driving wheel load has almost been reached. Hence in modern
locomotive practice the goal before the designer and engineer is to
obtain maximum efficiency for the minimum weight admissible.

"It is not claimed for compound locomotives that a heavier train can
be hauled at a given speed than with a single-expansion locomotive of
similar weight and class; but the compound will, at very slow speed,
on heavy grades, keep a train moving where a single-expansion will
slip and stall. This is due to the pressure on the crank-pins of the
compound being more uniform throughout the stroke than in the case
of the single-expansion locomotive, and also to the fact that, when
needed, live steam can be admitted to the low-pressure cylinders."

Of course, the principal reason for compounding the locomotive is
to economize steam, and this is unquestionably accomplished; but
nevertheless the comparative economy of compound and single-expansion
locomotives was for some time a mooted question. Numerous tests have
been made with these two classes of engines, and the widest ranges of
differences were shown in many instances. In some cases the compounds
seem to show a saving of some forty per cent. in fuel; but this is by
no means a determinative factor in the daily use of an engine. It is
found that repairs on the compound are more difficult to make, and
consequently more expensive than on the single-expansion engines; but
on the whole it is very generally conceded that the compound saves its
owners from ten to twenty-five per cent. over the older type.

The rapid increase of the size, and consequent coal-consuming capacity,
of the modern locomotive has added another problem to engineering--that
of keeping the yawning maw of the fire-box supplied with coal. There
is a limit to the amount of work that the fireman can do, and the great
engines in use at present tax even the strongest fireman to the utmost.
If the size or speed of locomotives is increased very materially in
the future it will be necessary to have two men, instead of one, as
firemen, or to use mechanical stokers, or to find some other kind of
fuel. In point of fact the mechanical stoker has been recently tried
with success, and this will probably help in solving the problem. But
there is also the strong probability that the use of liquid fuel will
become more and more popular. At the present time many locomotives
in the West and Southwest, as well as in Europe and in Asia, have
been equipped with burners for the consumption of crude petroleum. No
modification in the construction of the locomotive is required for
this change of fuel except some slight alteration in the arrangement
of the brickwork of the fire-box, and the introduction of the burners.
These, however, are simple arrangements that throw into the fire-box, a
spray of steam and vaporized oil, which burns freely and generates an
intense and steady heat. With this kind of fuel the fireman need not be
considered, as the largest engine thus equipped may be "fired" with far
less labor than is required on the smallest coal-burning, narrow-gauge


The application of steam as a motive power for running trains of cars
solved one great problem; but it created another. The second one was
the problem of how to stop the trains once they had started. On short
trains made up of the light cars used at first, the hand brakes were
sufficiently effective for practical purposes. But as trains were
increased in length and weight and were run at high speeds, it became
imperative to find some means of stopping such trains quickly and with

With a hand brake working on each pair of trucks, as on passenger
coaches, it was possible to make reasonably quick stops when there were
enough members of the train crew to work all the brakes simultaneously.
But in practice it was found impossible to maintain this ideal
condition. For emergency stops the brakemen were summoned by signals
of the whistle given by the engineer, and there was necessarily some
little interval of time after this signal before the most alert crew
could begin the relatively slow process of applying the brakes.

The engineer himself could give valuable aid in stopping the train by
reversing his engine, the locomotive acting as a brake to check the
oncoming cars. But this check acted only at the forward part of the
train, and being applied suddenly, caused the rear cars to rush against
the forward cars with terrific force, sometimes driving in the bumpers
and wrecking the train. Obviously an ideal system of brakes must be
one that acted upon all the cars of the train simultaneously and under
control of the engineer; and presently such a system was invented by
Mr. George Westinghouse.

Other inventors had tried to produce a practical system of brakes,
such as those using steam as a working force, or systems of hand-wound
springs; but Mr. Westinghouse utilized compressed air, and from the
first his brakes proved effective.

His first air brake, operated successfully in 1869, was the "straight
air brake" type--one that has now been replaced almost universally by
the automatic. In this brake system there was an air reservoir on the
locomotive, and steam was used for making the compression. From this
reservoir a line of gas pipe ran through the cab of the engine beneath
the tender and under each car, the space between the cars being bridged
by rubber tubes and easily-adjusted couplings. This line of pipe,
called the train pipe, was connected near the centre of each car with
a cylinder which contained a piston with a stem which acted upon the
brake shoes by means of a series of levers and connecting rods.

In the cab, placed conveniently for the engineer, was a valve by means
of which he could cause the compressed air to flow into the train
pipe and thus act upon the brake cylinders of the cars. This could be
done gradually for making a slow stop, or with full force as the case
required, and the brakes could be released by turning the valve to a
point which opened a vent and allowed the air to escape.

The effect of this invention was revolutionary. Stopping the train
was no longer dependent upon manual labor applied intermittently at
different points, but was placed entirely in the hands of the engineer
who applied the required power almost simultaneously at all points
along his line of cars. Thus the brakeman was relieved of one of his
perilous tasks, which on freight trains took a heavy toll in loss of

This relatively simple, and usually effective, system had two grave
defects. The first of these lay in the fact that if there was a
leak--even a very small one--anywhere along the line of the train pipe
or the brake cylinders, the brakes would not work, the compressed air
being exhausted into the atmosphere instead of acting on the brake
cylinders. The common accident of having his train "break in two"
rendered the engineer powerless to stop the cars, and disastrous
"runaways" sometimes resulted. The second defect, which became more
and more apparent as the length of trains was increased, was the
impossibility of applying the air to the brakes of the rear cars as
quickly as to those near the engine, since the compressed air could not
travel the length of the train pipe instantaneously, on account of the
frictional resistance.

These defects were quickly recognized by Mr. Westinghouse, and in
1876, seven years after he applied his first invention, he produced
his automatic air brake which overcame them effectually. In this brake
the train pipe and the air reservoir were retained as in the straight
air brake system, but in addition each car was equipped with a storage
reservoir of sufficient size to supply the brake cylinder. In place
of the older arrangement in which the train pipe simply retained air
at atmospheric pressure when not in use, the new system kept the air
in the train pipe under a considerable pressure at all times when the
brake was not in use. And, reversing the conditions of the straight air
brake, the engineer in order to apply the brakes let out the air in
the train pipe instead of forcing air into it, a "triple valve" on each
car performing the work of operating the brake cylinder automatically.

The advantage of this system over the older one is obvious. Whereas the
detachment of a portion of the train, or a leak in any part of the air
brake system heretofore had left the engineer helpless, exactly the
reverse condition was produced in the new system. Any leakage of air,
either from a break or a defect, caused every brake on the entire train
to be applied to the wheels and brought the train to a stop. Moreover,
with the new system it was now possible to equip each car with a valve
which would lessen the pressure of air in the train pipe so that
the train could be brought to a stop by the trainmen in the rear or
intermediate coaches as readily as by the engineer.

This system worked perfectly on passenger trains; but on long freight
trains the resistance to the passage of the escaping air through the
train tube was so great that if an emergency required the full force
of the brake to be applied suddenly, the brakes of the rear cars did
not come into use until several seconds after those of the forward
cars. The result was that the momentum of the rear cars caused them
to strike the forward cars with great violence. But Mr. Westinghouse
overcame this defect by an ingenious use of the triple valve mechanism
of each car, whereby the application of the emergency brake by the
engineer caused the air in the train pipe on each car to be discharged
simultaneously into the brake cylinder. In this manner the discharge
of air not only allowed the brakes to act, but assisted them in doing
so. This was only the case, however, when the emergency application of
the brake was made, this system of venting on each car into the brake
cylinder not being brought into play when ordinary stops were made.
Thus the engineer in this quick-action automatic air brake has really
two brakes at his command, one for making ordinary stops, the other for

In 1891 a so-called high-speed air brake was perfected, this brake
being really a modified quick-action automatic brake. This modification
consists of the addition of an automatic pressure-reducing valve
connected with each brake cylinder. In the high-speed air brake as
applied when the train is running rapidly, the highest possible
pressure is applied at once to the wheels, but this pressure is
lessened by the automatic pressure-reducing valves as the speed
diminishes. This method of applying the brakes is the most effective
way of getting the full benefit of their stopping power. This
high-speed brake, therefore, represents the highest perfection in
train-stopping devices.

We have referred here specifically to the air brake as used on steam
railroads. In another chapter the subject has been touched upon in
connection with electric railroads. In such brakes the compression
of the air is accomplished by electricity instead of steam, but the
general principles involved are the same as those just described.

It should not be understood that the Westinghouse air brake was the
only one, or the only type of brake, devised and brought to practical
perfection. For a time a vacuum brake, which utilized atmospheric
pressure, offered keen rivalry. But eventually the type of brake
perfected by Mr. Westinghouse, modified in certain details in the
various countries of Europe and America, gained precedence, which it
still retains.


The perfection of the air brake removed one great source of danger
that menaced the crews of freight trains. There still remained another
almost as great, particularly in the matter of maiming its victims,
when not actually killing them. This was the old method of coupling
freight cars as practiced in America. There were few old-time trainmen,
indeed, who could show a complete set of full length digits, the
buffers of the old-fashioned couplings being responsible for the lost
and shortened members.

The freight brakeman has to make scores of couplings on every trip. And
he literally took his life in his hands upon each and every occasion of
making a coupling by the old method.

This old form of couplings consisted of two buffers--one on each
car--joined together by an iron link about fifteen inches long, a
movable pin inserted at either end holding the link in place and thus
joining the cars. When a coupling was to be made the brakeman raised
the pin in the buffer of the stationary car and tilted it at an angle
in the pin-hole at the top of the buffer so that, while it remained
raised, the jar of the striking buffers at the moment of coupling
caused it to fall into place and complete the coupling. The link
was left hanging in the moving car which was being shunted in to be
coupled; but in this position the projecting end was so low that it
would miss the hole in the opposite buffer, and thus fail to make the
coupling, unless raised and inserted just at the moment before the
buffers came together.

This raising and inserting of the link was the dangerous part of making
a coupling. It could only be done by the brakeman while standing
between the cars. And he must raise the link, insert it, and remove
his hand in a fraction of a second if the car was moving at a fair
rate of speed, otherwise his fingers or hand would be caught between
the buffers and crushed. And a crushed hand or arm meant subsequent
amputation, for the force of the collision between the buffers crushed
the bones beyond repair.

There was a way in which the coupling could be made whereby the hand
was not endangered. This was by using a stick for raising and guiding
the link into the buffer. Some railroads at first furnished sticks for
this purpose. But no brakeman would stoop to use them. Had he done so
he would have been hooted and jeered off the road by his train mates.
And so his pride made him risk his limbs and his life, and fostered the
recklessness of the old-time brakeman.

But in 1879 Mr. Eli Janney, of Pittsburg, patented an automatic
car-coupler that was both simple and effective; and in 1887 the Master
Car Builders' Association accepted this type of coupler. A little later
the U. S. Government, influenced by the appalling loss of life among
the brakemen, passed laws compelling all cars to be equipped with some
form of automatic coupling device, and naturally the Janney coupling
was the one adopted. In using this coupling the brakeman did not have
to step into the dangerous position between the cars, either for making
the coupling, or disconnecting the car. The act of coupling was done
automatically, while the uncoupling was effected by the use of a lever
operated from the side of the car.

A somewhat technical description of this coupling is as follows:

"The Janney coupling consists of a steel jaw fitted on one side with a
knuckle or L-shaped lever turning on a vertical pin; this knuckle when
being swung inward lifts a locking pin which subsequently drops and so
prevents the return of the knuckle. An identical coupler is fitted to
the end of the adjacent vehicle, and, so long as both or either of the
knuckles are open when the vehicles come into contact, coupling will
be effected; to uncouple, it is only necessary to raise either of the
locking pins, by means of a chain or lever at the side of the vehicle.
The knuckles have each a hole in them to permit of the use of the
old link and pin coupler, when such a fitting is met with. At first,
this coupling gave some trouble through the locking pins occasionally
creeping upward, but in the larger model, which represents the later
form, there is an automatic locking pawl that prevents this motion;
owing, however, to the pawl being attached to the lifting shackle, it
in no way interferes with the pin being raised when disconnecting."

Even before the invention of the Janney coupling a semi-automatic
coupling device had been used extensively on passenger cars. But this
device which in effect was that of two crooked fingers hooked together,
allowed the ends of the coaches to swing and roll in a manner most
disagreeable to many passengers. The Janney couplings corrected this,
since these couplings in their improved form hold the ends of the cars
as in a vice.


Stephenson's locomotive and its tender, when loaded to full capacity
with fuel and water, weighed seven and three-quarter tons. The
locomotive itself was a trifle over seven feet long. In 1909 the
Southern Pacific Railway purchased a Mallet Compound locomotive which,
with its tender, weighs three hundred tons, or approximately forty
times the weight of the little _Rocket_. This great locomotive is over
sixty-seven feet long, or some nine times the length of the _Rocket_,
and will haul more than twelve hundred tons back of the tender.



The lower figure represents a longitudinal section of a modern French
locomotive, for comparison with the sections of the famous engines of
1829. The weight of the "Rocket," with its four-wheel tender which
carried 264 gallons of water and 450 pounds of coke was 4¼ tons. The
French locomotive with its tender in working order, carrying 3300
gallons of water and five tons of coal, weighs 99 tons, and the length
of the engine and tender is 56.3 feet.]

The cylinders of the _Rocket_ were eight inches in diameter, with a
seventeen inch stroke; the high-pressure cylinders of this Mallet
locomotive are twenty-six inches in diameter, and the low-pressure
cylinders are forty inches. But curiously enough the driving wheels of
the two engines show little discrepancy, those of the _Rocket_ being
fifty-six inches in diameter, as against fifty-seven for those of the
larger engine. The total heating surface of the _Rocket_ was one
hundred and thirty-eight square feet, that of the new locomotive 6,393
square feet. To heat this great surface oil is used for fuel, so that
the task for the fireman is lighter than on many locomotives less than
one-half the size.

On this locomotive there are two sets of cylinders driving two sets
of driving wheels on each side, making a total of sixteen drivers in
all. From the size of these drivers it is evident that the engine is
designed for strength rather than speed, although of course relatively
high speed can be attained if desired. On the section of road over
which it operates there is a maximum grade of one hundred and sixteen
feet per mile, and it was for negotiating such grades with full loads
that the locomotive was designed.



The use of the wheel as a means of reducing friction dates from
prehistoric times. The introduction of this device must have marked a
veritable revolution in transportation, but unfortunately we have no
means of knowing in what age or country the innovation was effected. We
only know that the Chinese have used wheelbarrows and carts from time
immemorial, and that sundry very ancient pictures and sculptures of
the Egyptians and Babylonians prove that these peoples were entirely
familiar with wheeled vehicles.

The earliest form of wheel was doubtless a solid disk, and such a wheel
is still in use in many places in the East; but the wheels of the
Assyrian chariot were spoked after the modern fashion, and provided
with rims of metal. The introduction of the wagon spring, however, was
a comparatively modern innovation. The use of springs very considerably
reduces the resistance, thus adding to the efficiency of wheeled
vehicles; but the reduction is not very obvious unless the roads are
tolerably good, nor is it probable that the ancient nations could
readily have measured the effect even had the idea of springs suggested

As regards good roads, these are, to be sure, no modern invention,
since the Romans had carried the art of road-building to a very high
degree of perfection. The integrity of the Roman Empire depended very
largely upon the highways that linked all parts of its circumference
with the Imperial centre; and in a perfectly literal sense all its
roads led to Rome. The Roman roadbed was constructed of several layers
of stone, and it was one of the most resistant and permanent structures
ever devised. As late as the sixteenth century of our era there were
no roads worthy of the name in England except the remains of those
constructed many centuries before by the Roman occupants. It was not
until well toward the close of the eighteenth century that Macadam and
Telford devised methods of road-making whereby broken stone and gravel,
pounded to form a smooth surface, gave the modern world roadbeds that
were in any way comparable to those early ones of the Romans.

This development of road-building corresponded, naturally enough,
with an advance in the art of carriage building, and the increased
popularity of stage coaches. We are told that about 1650 the average
rate of speed of the stage wagons in England was only four miles an
hour; whereas the stage coaches moved over the improved roadbeds of
the nineteenth century at an average speed of about eight miles an
hour, which was sometimes increased to eleven miles. After about the
year 1836, however, the stage coach was rapidly displaced by the steam
railway, and the interest in roadbeds somewhat abated until brought
again prominently to public attention by the users of bicycles and


It is rather surprising to learn that in point of time the automobile
antedates the bicycle. Yet such, as we shall see in a moment, is
the fact. Every one is aware, however, that the bicycle came into
popularity at a time when the very existence of the automobile had been
practically forgotten, and that subsequently it lost its popularity
almost over night when the automobile came to its own. Viewing the
subject retrospectively, perhaps the most singular thing is that both
vehicles were so long delayed in making their way to public favor.
There were, however, sundry very practical obstacles placed in the
way of the larger vehicle; and the bicycle was not at first a device
calculated to prove attractive to the average wayfarer.


For a brief period about 1820 the hobby horse was very popular with
English dandies. Our illustration reproduces a contemporary print. The
(1909) motor cycle shown in the small picture is compassing a mile in
40 seconds.]

The very earliest bicycle appears to have been the so-called hobby
horse or dandy horse introduced about the year 1818 by Baron von Drais
in France. It was a primitive vehicle, the user of which half rode
and half ran, propulsion being effected simply by thrusting the feet
against the ground. In effect the rider of the hobby horse ran with a
stride greatly lengthened through the partial support afforded by the
saddle, and with correspondingly increased speed. He could, of course,
on occasion coast down hill or on a level surface when considerable
momentum had been acquired, and supports for his feet were provided to
facilitate this end. At first the machine promised to become popular,
but it was soon ridiculed out of court.

Something like twenty years later--that is to say about the year
1840--a treadle-bicycle was invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, an
English blacksmith. The machine did not become popular, however, and
it was not until simple cranks were fitted to the front wheel of the
bicycle that this form of vehicle came into anything like general
use. This very simple expedient was first suggested, seemingly, by
Pierre Lallament, a Frenchman, in 1866. His machine came to be known
in England as the bone shaker, and doubtless it deserved its name, for
as yet neither the wire suspension wheel nor the rubber tire had been
invented. Both these improvements were quickly introduced, however;
the suspension wheel by Mr. E. A. Cowper, in 1868. The first rubber
tires, used about 1870, were solid, and it was not until 1888 that the
Irishman, Mr. J. B. Dunlap, introduced the pneumatic tire. Meantime the
geared bicycle, with which every one is nowadays familiar, had been
introduced in 1879 by Mr. H. J. Lawson and brought to the familiar form
of the "safety" in 1885 by Mr. Starley. The combination of low wheels
geared to any desired speed with pneumatic tires was the finishing

The problem of making the bicycle a relatively speedy vehicle had
indeed been solved by the use of a large wheel--sometimes sixty inches
in diameter--operated by a simple crank after the manner of the early
machine of Lallament; but while bicycles of this type attained a
considerable measure of popularity, the danger of taking a "header"
on encountering any obstacle in the road was one that seemed to the
average person to out-measure the pleasure or benefit to be derived
from rapid transit thus attained. The safety bicycle, however,
practically eliminated this danger. It was, moreover, comparatively
easy to balance; and not long after its introduction in perfected form,
with pneumatic tires, it had made an appeal to which all the world
responded. For a few years the safety bicycle was the most conspicuous
of vehicles on every country road, and partisans of outdoor life
believed that the health and stamina of the generation were to be
increased immensely by the new vehicle.

Nor were these anticipations altogether visionary, as undoubtedly
the bicycle did do much to improve the average health of nearly all
classes of citizens. But its popularity was too suddenly acquired to
be permanent, and at the very moment when it was most used, another
vehicle was suddenly developed which was to lead to its practical
abandonment by the great mass of people for whom it might have been
supposed to afford a means of permanent recreation.


Fig. 1.--The hobby horse or dandy horse, the forerunner of the bicycle,
which was patented in France in 1818 by Charles, Baron von Drais.
Fig. 2.--The so-called "Bone Shaker" invented about 1865 by Pierre
Lallement. Fig. 3.--"Phantom" bicycle introduced in England about 1869,
its most important improvement consisting of wire spokes in tension in
place of rigid spokes. Fig. 4.--"Bantam" bicycle introduced in 1893.
Its peculiarity is an epicyclic gearing through which the wheel is
made to revolve more rapidly than the cranks. Fig. 5.--An early safety
bicycle introduced in 1876. The crank and lever driving apparatus is
similar to that of a machine made by Kirkpatrick MacMillan in 1839.
Fig. 6.--"Kangaroo" bicycle patented in England by W. Hillman in 1884.
The peculiarity consists in the use of a chain gearing to increase
the speed of the wheel. The principle is precisely that of the modern
bicycle, though the application of the chain to the front wheel made a
cumbersome apparatus.]


The vehicle that effected this sudden eclipse of the bicycle is, as
everyone knows, that form of power-driven carriage known in England as
the motor car, and in France and America as the automobile. The first
form of this vehicle to gain popularity was a tricycle driven by a
small steam motor. But almost immediately the recently devised gas
engine was called into requisition, and after that the development of
the automobile was only a matter of detail. But, as so often happens
with practical inventions, there are disputed questions of priority
regarding the application of the gasoline engine to this particular
use. The engine itself was perfected, as we have elsewhere seen, about
1876, by the German, Dr. Otto.

It appears that in 1879 an American, Mr. George B. Selden, applied for
a patent designed to cover the use of the internal combustion engine as
a motor for road vehicles. Owing to technical complications the patent
was not actually issued until the year 1895. Meantime at least as early
as 1885 Herr Daimler in Germany had used the gasoline motor for the
practical propulsion of a tricycle; and not long after that date the
right to use his patents had been acquired in France by Messrs. Panhard
and Levassor. These men soon applied the Daimler motor to four-wheeled
vehicles of various types, and almost at a bound the automobile as we
know it was developed. Early in the '90's the custom of having annual
road races was introduced, and before the century had closed the
automobile was everywhere a familiar object on the roads of Europe and

While the introduction of the automobile is thus a comparatively recent
event, it should be known that the idea of using mechanical power
to propel a road vehicle is by no means peculiar to our generation.
Practical working automobiles were constructed long before any person
now living was born. The very first person to construct such a vehicle
was probably the Frenchman, Cugnot, who manufactured a steam-driven
wagon, using the old Newcomen type of engine, in the very year--by a
curious coincidence--in which James Watt took out his first patent for
a perfected steam engine; that is to say, in the year 1769.

Cugnot's automobile was a heavy four-wheeled affair intended for
military service. It actually progressed along the road at the rate
of three or four miles an hour. But the problem of carrying fuel and
water had not been solved, and either for that reason or because
the authorities in charge lacked imagination and did not regard the
device as offering advantages over traction by horses, nothing came of
Cugnot's effort except the scientific demonstration that the idea of
a self-propelled vehicle was not merely the dream of a visionary. A
second automobile truck of similar design, made by Cugnot a year or two
later, may be seen to this day in the Museum of Arts and Measures in

A few years later--namely in 1785--an Englishman, William Murdoch by
name, whose interest in steam engines is evidenced by the fact that he
was in the employ of Bolton and Watt, manufactured a small tricycle
driven by a Watt engine. This vehicle, running under its own power,
developed a good degree of speed; and had not Murdoch's employers
forbidden him to continue his experiments, the practical automobile
might perhaps have gained popularity an entire century earlier than it


At the left, William Murdock's automobile of about the year 1781.
Murdock made several experimental models which worked successfully,
but strangely enough Bolton and Watt, his employers, discouraged
his efforts and induced him ultimately to abandon the invention,
which nevertheless had demonstrated the possibility of propelling a
vehicle by steam power. At the right, the original model of Richard
Trevethick's road locomotive, constructed in 1797. The success of
this model led Trevethick to construct a steam carriage which was
successfully tried on the roads in England in 1801. The small picture
in the upper corner shows the modern craft that is the outgrowth of
these crude vehicles--the winning automobile in the Vanderbilt race on
Long Island in 1909.]

As the case stands, however, the automobile of Murdoch failed as
signally as had that of Cugnot to gain general recognition. But it is
quite possible that a knowledge of the device had come to the attention
of another Englishman, Richard Trevithick by name, who was at once a
practical experimenter of great skill and a man of fertile imagination.
Trevithick, himself the inventor of a high-pressure steam engine,
adjusted his engine to a large road vehicle, and in the year 1804
exhibited this automobile on the roads of Cornwall, and subsequently
in London, where it would probably have made its way had not the
inventor been an extremely erratic genius, who presently shut up his
coach and turned his attention to another form of vehicle. This, it
will be observed, was full twenty-five years before that memorable
date on which Stephenson launched his famous _Rocket_. Nothing came of
Trevithick's experiment at the moment, beyond the demonstration of a
principle--which indeed was much; but it was not long before various
other inventors took up the idea, and as early as 1824 a number of
automobiles, some of them weighing as much as three or four tons, were
in successful operation on the highways of England. Some of these even
gave regular passenger service, and attained the unprecedented speed
of twelve or fourteen miles an hour. All this, it will be observed,
was before the first locomotive running on rails had attracted any
attention. Stephenson had indeed begun his experiments, but up to this
time they had been confined exclusively to tramways in connection with

In the year 1829 Stephenson made his famous demonstrations with the
_Rocket_, a locomotive running on rails, which attained a speed of
thirty miles an hour, contrary to all the predictions of the wiseacres,
who had declared the inventor a lunatic for hoping to attain even ten
miles. We have already noted that the railway on which the test was
made was not built with the expectation of utilizing steam power, that
being regarded as a dreamer's vision. Lord Darlington prevented the
construction of the road for a time because it chanced to run near his
fox covers; and legislative permission was finally secured only with
the proviso that the railway was to avoid the region of the preserves.
Stephenson with difficulty secured permission to make an experiment
on the railway with his engine, in competition with other would-be
inventors; and it was his unexpected success that turned the scale in
favor of steam power. But even the startling success of the Rocket did
not make a great impression upon the British public, the incident being
given but slight notice in the periodicals of the day, and no mention
being made of it in the _Annual Register_.

All this is of interest as showing the attitude of a conservative
public toward the steam locomotive running on a railway, and as
partially explaining the antagonism to self-propelled road vehicles
which found, most unfortunately, an exponent in no less a personage
than the Duke of Wellington, then prime minister. The opinion and
attitude of the duke were made evident in 1829, in connection with a
steam automobile invented by a Mr. Gurney, which was capable of running
on an ordinary road at a rate of at least ten miles an hour. The duke
was old, and age had strengthened his inherent conservatism. He lent
a ready ear to the claims--largely instigated, no doubt, by persons
interested in horse traffic--that the automobile on an ordinary road
was a menace to public safety, and no doubt his influence had a large
share in helping on the unfavorable public opinion and the adverse
legislation which were presently to block the further progress of the
motor car.

Doubtless also the amazing success of the railway locomotive tended
to attract the attention of the public away from the automobile, and
thus made possible the passage of restrictive laws. In any event, the
motor car, notwithstanding its demonstrated possibilities, virtually
passed from the scene at about the time when the railway locomotive
made its spectacular entrance. That public interest in the matter did
not subside immediately, however, is evidenced by the fact that such a
book as Gordon's _Treatise on Elementary Locomotion by Means of Steam
Carriages on Common Roads_ passed through three editions between the
years 1832 and 1836.


Indeed, notwithstanding legislative rebuffs, here and there an inventor
kept up his experiments, and in 1861 the automobile had attained so
much prominence as to be given parliamentary attention. Four years
later, in 1865, an extraordinary law was passed which deserves to be
remembered as one of the greatest monuments of legislative folly ever
recorded in connection with an economic question. This law provided
that, in the case of any locomotive moving on a public highway, the
number of persons required to drive the engine should be increased to
three, and that the vehicle should be preceded by a man with a red flag.

The latter provision suggests at first sight that the British
legislator had here been moved to curiously un-British facetiousness;
but there was really no such intent, as another provision of the
law, limiting the maximum speed to four miles an hour, sufficiently

Other laws of similar tenor supported this one, and the validity of
these decrees was finally sustained through an appeal to the Court of
Queen's Bench, which brought forth the decision that the law applied to
every type of self-propelled vehicle from the traction engine to the
Bateman steam tricycle. Naturally this decision gave the quietus to
automobile--or, to use the more English word, motor car--progress in
Great Britain.



The steam coach constructed in 1827 by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney was the
prototype of several others which entered upon regular and successful
service between various English cities, and which are said to have
maintained an average speed of about 12 miles and a maximum speed of
a little over 20 miles an hour. The above figure reproduced from a
contemporary lithograph shows the carriage that operated between London
and Bath. It weighed about 2 tons and carried six inside and 12 outside

It appears, then, that the idea of an automobile travelling on an
ordinary highway preceded that of the locomotive railway. It was,
indeed, by far the more natural idea of the two, since tramways were at
that time but little used outside of collieries. And it seems scarcely
open to doubt that the repressive legislation was directly responsible
for deflecting the progress of mechanical invention away from what
seemed the more natural direction of development. It is always
hazardous in such a case to attempt to guess what might-have-been under
different circumstances; but considering the practical results already
achieved as early as 1824, one can scarcely avoid the conviction
that had legislation favored, instead of opposing, the inventor, the
automobile might have been developed in Great Britain as rapidly as
railway traffic; in which event the middle of the nineteenth century
would have seen the world at least as near the horseless age as we are
in reality at the close of the first decade of the twentieth century.
What this would have meant in its economic bearings on civilization
during the past fifty years, the least imaginative reader can in some
measure picture for himself.

In opposition to this view it might be urged that the real progress
of the automobile has taken place since 1885, when the Daimler oil
engine was substituted for the steam engine in connection with motor
vehicles. But in reply to this it must be remembered that the workable
gas engine had been invented as early as 1860, and that the Otto
engine, of which the Daimler is a modification, was patented as early
as 1876. These developments, it will be noted, took place at just about
the time when the new interest in the automobile had been aroused,
as evidenced by the repressive British legislation just referred
to. It can be but little in question that had the early interest in
the British automobile been maintained, inventive genius would long
since have provided a suitable motor. There was no incentive for the
English inventor during those long years when the automobile was under
legislative ban; and in the meantime the idea of the highway automobile
seems not to have taken possession of other nations.

When that idea did make its way, it was very soon put into tangible
operation, as everybody knows. And the fact that England made no
progress whatever in this line until the repressive laws were repealed
in 1896, whereas France, Germany, and America had leaped far ahead in
the meantime, is in itself demonstrative. Moreover, as regards the
question of a motor for the automobile, it should not be forgotten
that the steam-engine is by no means obsolete. The victories of Mr.
Ross' machine at Ormonde in 1905, and of the Stanley steamer in 1906
(a mile in 28-1/5 seconds), show that steam is distinctly a factor,
notwithstanding the popularity of the gasoline engine. The steam motor
might have served an admirable purpose until such time as a better
power had been developed.

However, it is futile to dwell on might-have-beens. Let us rather
consider for a moment the spectacular development of the automobile
with particular reference to its striking capacities as an eliminator
of space.


A mile in 34-1/5 seconds. That is the automobile record established
at Ormonde Beach in January, 1905. The record mile was made by Mr.
H. L. Bowden, of Boston, with a machine of peculiar construction. It
consisted essentially of two four-cylinder motors adjusted to one
machine, giving an engine of 120 horse-power. The machine weighed
2,650 pounds, exceeding thus by more than four hundred pounds the
usually prescribed limits of weight. The record, therefore, stood
as a performance in a class by itself. But that is something that
interests only the specialist. For the general public it suffices that
an automobile propelled by a gasoline engine covered a mile in 34-1/5
seconds, or at the rate of one hundred and five miles an hour.

This record was made on Wednesday, January 25, 1905. A little
earlier on the same day the previous automobile record of a mile in
thirty-nine seconds--made at Ormonde by Mr. William K. Vanderbilt,
Jr., in 1904--had been twice broken; first by Mr. Louis Ross, who made
the mile in his 40 horse-power steam auto of "freak" construction
in thirty-eight seconds; and by Mr. Arthur McDonald, driving a 90
horse-power car belonging to Mr. S. F. Edge. Mr. McDonald's record was
a mile in 34-2/5 seconds, and this stood for a time as the new record
for cars of regulation weight.

It thus appears that Mr. Vanderbilt's record was reduced first by
one second, then by 4-1/5 seconds, and finally by 4-2/5 seconds on
the same day. Obviously the conditions were peculiarly favorable on
that day, or else a very marked improvement in the construction of
racing automobiles had taken place within a single year. The latter is
doubtless the true explanation, since, according to all reports, the
conditions at Ormonde Beach that year were not peculiarly favorable,
but rather the reverse. The fact, too, that the five mile record was
reduced to the low figure of three minutes seventeen seconds--this also
by Mr. Arthur McDonald--on the day preceding that on which the mile
record was so completely smashed, corroborates the idea of improved
mechanism rather than improved conditions. In any event, the jump from
39 to 34-1/5 seconds is a notable one; as will be evident from a simple
computation which shows that the record holders of 1905 would have run
away from the champion of 1904 at the rate of no less than nineteen
feet for each second of the mile.

Let us pass at once--omitting transition stages--from these records to
the new mark set on March 16th, 1910, at Ormonde Beach by Mr. Barney
Oldfield. Driving a Benz automobile of two hundred horse-power, he
compassed the mile in 27.33 seconds. The new record has a peculiar
interest, not merely because it is the fastest mile ever made by an
automobile, but because it is in all probability the fastest mile
ever travelled by a human being who lived to tell the tale. A few
unfortunates, falling from balloons, or from mountain cliffs, may have
passed through space at a yet more appalling speed; but they lost
consciousness, never to regain it, long before the mile was compassed.
The automobile driver retains his senses throughout his breakneck
mile--they are keenly on the alert indeed--and comes away unscathed to
tell the story of what must be a truly thrilling experience.


In this 200-horse-power Benz car Barney Oldfield reduced the world's
mile record to 27. 33 seconds--a speed of 131.72 miles an hour--and the
two-mile record to 55.87 seconds. The mile record was made at Ormonde
Beach, Florida, March 16, 1910; the two-mile record at the same place a
few days later.]

Nor is it merely in contrast with other human experiences that the new
performance takes on "record" proportions. It is at least doubtful
whether any member of the animal kingdom ever passed through a mile of
space at such a speed as that attained by Mr. Oldfield. The fastest
quadruped on the globe is almost unquestionably the thoroughbred
horse. But the fastest mile ever compassed by a horse--Salvator's
straightway dash in 1:35½--is a snail's pace in comparison with Mr.
Oldfield's speed. Salvator covered a little over fifty-five feet per
second; the racing motor covered a trifle over 193 feet--thus gaining
138 feet in each second.

The trotting horse at its best--a mile in 1:58½--is of course much
slower still; Lou Dillon's record mile being made at the rate of 44½
feet per second. Dan Patch, the swiftest pacer, in his mile in 1:56
made just one foot per second more than the trotter. Both pacer and
trotter, it should be added, made their records with the aid of a
wind-shield, without which their best performances are some seconds

If we make comparisons with different varieties of man-made records,
we find that the swiftest human runner covers his mile at the rate of
about twenty-one feet per second; the skater brings this up to about
thirty-four feet; and the bicyclist attains the acme of muscle-motor
speed with his eighty feet per second. In the case of the bicyclist,
the wind-shield pace-maker on the auto-cycle plays an important part.
But even so the cyclist would be left behind one hundred and thirteen
feet each second by the flying automobile.

All these types of record maker, therefore, are quite outclassed. If we
could not find any real competition for the automobile in the animate
world, we must seek it in bird-land. Here, it might be supposed, the
space devourer would find a match. But it is not quite certain that
such is the case. The old-time books on natural history tell us,
to be sure, of flight speeds that make the new records seem slow.
They credited the European swift, for example, with two hundred and
fifty miles an hour. But more recent observers, made cautious by the
scientific spirit of our age, are disposed to discredit such estimates,
which confessedly are little better than guesses.

The only officially timed bird flights are the flights of homing
pigeons; and here the record credits the homing bird with only one
hundred miles an hour. This means 124 feet a second, as against the
motor's 193. According to these figures, the automobile could give the
pigeon a start of almost two thousand feet and yet sweep forward and
overtake it in its flight, before it passed the mile-post. Perhaps the
comparison is not quite fair, since no doubt the pigeon may perform
some individual miles of its journey at more than the average speed;
but it may well be doubted whether its maximum ever reaches the
mile-rate of 27.33 seconds.

It is within the possibilities, however, that some other birds have
even surpassed this speed. The falcon, for example, is probably a
swifter bird than the pigeon, at least for short distances. Some one
indeed has credited the hawks with a speed of one hundred and fifty
miles an hour. But this, I feel sure, is a great exaggeration. I once
saw a hen harrier pursue a prairie-chicken, without seeming to gain
appreciably for a long distance; yet the prairie-chicken is by no means
among the speediest of birds. Many of our ducks, for example, quite
outclass it; indeed I should be disposed to admit that the teal or the
canvasback at full speed might give the automobile a race.

There is, to be sure, one way in which the bird might get the better of
a machine, thanks to its capacity to rise to a height. This would be
by taking a sloping course downward. The little shore-lark often gives
an exhibition of the possibilities open to the bird in this direction.
After rising to a cloudlike height it soars about for a time singing,
then suddenly sweeps downward, and, closing its wings, launches itself
directly toward the earth, falling with meteoric speed till it almost
reaches the surface, when it makes a parachute of its wings and swoops
away in safety. During this performance the little lark is, I veritably
believe, the swiftest-moving animate thing in all the world. But there
is a reason why the bird could not increase its speed indefinitely by
imitating the lark's feat in a modified form, and this is the obstacle
of atmospheric pressure. Air moving at the rate of sixty feet a second
constitutes a serious storm; at ninety feet it becomes a tornado, and
at one hundred and fifty feet it is a tornado at its worst--a storm
that tears up trees and overthrows houses, and against which no man can
stand any more than that he could breast the current of Niagara. Now,
of course, it is all one whether the air moves at this rate against you
or whether you move at a corresponding rate against the air--action
and reaction being equal. Therefore a very serious check is put upon
the bird's flight; and it is this consideration which makes it seem
doubtful whether any bird, except when aided by a strong wind, can
attain such speeds as have been suggested.

Of course, atmospheric pressure affects the automobile no less than the
bird. In record-breaking speed tests of the automobile, machine and
driver are in effect subjected to the influence of a veritable tornado.
Theoretically it seems almost incredible that any power could drive a
ton of metal against the air at such a speed; practically we see the
feat accomplished. But the automobilist has tales to tell of the power
of the wind against his face that are easily credible. Even at ordinary
speed in a touring-car, as most of us can testify, the wind blows a
gale, veritably forcing tears from the eyes of the novice and blowing
them back over his ears. To modify the antagonism of the wind, the
constructors of racing motor cars adopt a model suggested originally by
the body of a bird or of a fish, and long since made familiar by the


Most of the automobiles, as everybody is aware, are propelled by
gasoline engines. This is not their least wonderful feature. To the
ordinary observer it seems quite incredible that a little whiff of air
mixed with the fumes of a few drops of gasoline should produce a power
that can drive pistons with such force as to throw forward what is
virtually a bullet weighing more than a ton.

The power that propels this amazing projectile consisted in the
aggregate of a few cubic feet of gaseous vapors. The forward motion
of the piston sucked a whiff of the gasoline vapor and air into the
cylinder; the backward motion of the piston compressed this gas; an
electric spark ignited it; the heat of the electric spark enabled the
gasoline molecules to unite with the oxygen molecules with explosive
suddenness; the conflagration thus started spread instantly to other
parts of the compressed gas; the myriad particles of the gas rebounding
from one another at inconceivable speed, pressed with the aggregate
power of multitudes upon the cylinder, and drove it back with terrific
force; then an escape valve opened; the return thrust of the piston
drove out the exploded gas, and one revolution of the engine was

Over and over again this cycle was repeated; each revolution requiring
for its performance but a bare fraction of the time required to
describe it. The thing is simple enough in practice, but it is a
marvelous mechanism when you stop to think of it. That such power
should be latent in a seemingly harmless whiff of gas is one of
Nature's miracles. And that man should have constructed an engine so
nicely adjusted in all its parts as to utilize this power is little
less than a miracle of mechanics.

A word should be said about another interesting mechanism that pertains
not indeed to the speed of the automobile, but to an accurate record
of that speed. That is an electrical timing-device with which absolute
accuracy of timing is assured. A moment's reflection will show that it
would be quite impossible to time the automobile moving at record speed
by the old stop-watch method. The nervous impulse through which the
mandate of the brain is conveyed to the hand, and thus made to operate
on the stop-watch, travels along the nerve of the arm at the rate of
not much more than a hundred feet a second. The delay thus involved,
added to the time required for the brain itself to act on the message
from the eye, is distinctly appreciable, and every one is aware that
individuals differ as to their reaction time.

The practical result, therefore, is that timers are often at variance
to the extent of as much as two-fifths of a second. Now in two-fifths
of a second, as we have seen, the record motor car covers a distance
of over 77 feet. Obviously such latitude in measurement could not be
permitted. Hence an electric device has been elaborated which tests the
speed with absolute accuracy, recording it automatically on a strip of
tape. Therefore the fractional seconds are now stated in hundredths
instead of in mere quarters or fifths, and we may be confident--as we
could not always be regarding the old-time records--that the different
fractions of a second represent an actual difference of speed.

It may be of interest to make a further comparison between the speed of
the record automobile and the fastest speed ever attained by a railway
locomotive--namely, a mile in thirty seconds. The gap is by no means an
insignificant one. A mile in thirty seconds means 176 feet a second.
This would allow the champion automobile a lead of over seventeen
feet each second; and at the end of a mile the locomotive would be
distanced by 1040 feet. It is interesting to visualize the procession
that the automobile would leave behind if placed in competition with
the various kinds of champions whose feats have been mentioned. As the
automobile crossed the line the locomotive would be almost one-fifth
of a mile in the rear; 1,900 feet farther back would come the homing
pigeon; after a long gap Salvator, the first runner, would come
straggling along, having covered little more than one-fourth of a mile;
Lou Dillon would be just beyond her first fifth of a mile; the fastest
cyclist would be placed between the racer and the trotter; while
Hutchins, the swiftest runner at the distance, would have gone only 240
yards from the tape.

For distances greater than two miles, the locomotive record has not
as yet been surpassed by the automobile. A locomotive on the Plant
system, for example, is credited with a run of five miles in two and
one-half minutes (in 1901). But, of course, there is nothing except the
mere matter of speed that makes the locomotive engineer's performance
comparable to that of the chauffeur. The engineer is driving a machine
that runs on a fixed track. He has to do little more than keep up
steam and open the throttle. The chauffeur must pick his course, for
at any moment a soft spot in the sand may tend to deflect him. How
appalling may be the result of a slight deflection with a machine going
at great speed has been illustrated by the tragic accidents that have
marred the success of many important racing-events, and have led to
the oft-repeated question as to whether, after all, such speed tests
are worth while. It is a question that everyone must answer for
himself. The dangers are obvious; but, on the other hand, most athletic
competitions have an element of danger; and enthusiasts may well
contend that speed tests make for progress, and are largely responsible
for the great mechanical improvement that is in evidence.



The United States has been preëminent in the development of street
railways of all kinds, from the earliest type of horse-car to the
modern city and interurban electric cars. Nevertheless, very few of
the great general underlying principles upon which these numerous
inventions are based have been discovered upon this side of the
Atlantic. American inventors have simply excelled in applying the known
general principles to practical mechanisms. But although the American
inventors have largely monopolized this field of progress, the names of
many Europeans also are connected with it. In several instances these
foreign inventors, as naturalized American citizens, have done their
work in America, being attracted to this country by the exceptional
opportunities offered.

In recent years the city of New York has not shown conspicuous activity
in adopting innovations and improvements on its street-railway lines.
Nevertheless, New York was the first city in the world to have a
passenger street railway. This, built in the early 20's, and running
along Fourth Avenue, had rails made of straps of iron laid on stone
ties. On this primitive line an omnibus horse-car, called the _John
Mason_, was operated. This car was built on the lines of the early
railway carriages, having three compartments, with doors opening at the
sides. It was, in short, an early type of the side-door cars now used
so universally on all European railways. The driver's seat was high in
the air as in the case of the ordinary omnibus, and there were seats on
the top for passengers.

For several years this primitive road remained the only street railway
in existence. But it did not prove a particularly good business
venture, and for some time capitalists were wary of investing their
money for the construction of other lines. Twenty years later, however,
a somewhat similar road, considerably improved, was built on Sixth
Avenue. This proved to be a financial success; other lines were soon
constructed, and the era of street railways opened.

The great advantage of these horse-car lines over the system of
omnibuses then in use lay in the fact that greater loads could be
hauled with the same expenditure of horse-power, regardless of weather
conditions. The contrast in this respect was particularly marked in
American cities where the streets, almost without exception, were badly

By 1850, several cities in the United States had installed street
railways; and by 1870 over a hundred lines had been built. Between 1870
and 1890 this number had been increased to over seven hundred, not
taking into account the numerous extensions that had been made to many
of the older lines.


Even in the early days of street-railway construction the extravagance
of the method of horse-power traction was fully appreciated, and the
numerous improvements in steam-engines stimulated attempts to adapt
the locomotive in some form to city railways. But there were many
difficulties in the use of the ordinary, or specially constructed,
locomotives in the crowded thoroughfares of the larger cities. It was
practically impossible to eliminate their smoke; and their puffing and
wheezing, which frightened horses, caused numerous accidents. But even
if these defects could be corrected, the locomotive was known to be an
expensive form of motive power, when applied to a single short car,
carrying at most only a few passengers and making frequent stops, as
was necessary in street-car traffic. The inventors, therefore, looked
about for other methods of applying steam power. But it was not until
1873 that this idea took the practical form of the cable road, on which
single cars could be operated by means of underground cables travelling
in slotted tubes, and propelled from a stationary power-plant.

The first practical cable system was made by Andrew S. Hallidie, and
his associates, who planned and put into operation the first cable
line in San Francisco. It proved to be entirely successful, and was
imitated almost immediately in most of the larger cities of the United
States, and in some European cities. Within a decade the number of
cable railways installed had so reduced the number of horses necessary
for operating street-car lines all over the country that there was an
appreciable depression in the market prices of such horses.

The importance of this method of transportation is shown in the fact
that between the years 1873 and 1890 more than a thousand different
patents directly connected with the operation of cable roads were
issued by the United States Patent Office. But by 1890 electric
traction had become practical, and the issuing of patents for cable
lines ceased as abruptly as it had begun. Before the close of the
century practically every important cable line in the United States had
changed its motive power to electricity. Thus in a brief quarter of a
century this method of street-car traction had come into existence,
revolutionized all hitherto known methods, and become obsolete.


In most of the earlier attempts to solve the problem of electrical
propulsion the motor vehicles were constructed on a self-contained
plan--that is, the power was generated on the locomotive itself,
just as in the case of the steam locomotive. As early as 1835 Thomas
Davenport, a blacksmith of Brandon, Vermont, constructed such a motor
operated by cells, and built a small circular railway in Springfield,
Massachusetts, on which he drove this electro-magnetic engine. This
miniature railroad was of no practical importance, but it has the
distinction of being the pioneer electric road.

Shortly after this, Prof. Moses G. Farmer, a distinguished American
inventor and investigator, constructed an electro-magnetic locomotive,
which drew a little car, and carried passengers, on a track a foot
and a half wide. The locomotive used about fifty Grove cells, which
developed a relatively small amount of energy at an enormous cost.

"In 1850-51," says Martin, "Mr. Thomas Hall, of Boston, exhibited a
small working-motor on a track forty feet long, at the Mechanics'
Charitable Fair in Boston, and while this was a mere toy, and used
but a couple of cells of battery, it sufficed to illustrate the
principles of a motor or locomotive with a single trial car. About this
time (1847) an interesting demonstration was also made with a small
working-model, one of the features of which has been most instrumental
in the success of the modern electric methods, that of the utilization
of the track as part of the return circuit for the current. Doctor
Colton, once a famous dentist in New York City, and noted for his early
application of laughing-gas in that work, was associated with Mr. Lilly
in the construction and operation of a small model locomotive which ran
around a circular track. The rails were insulated from each other, each
connecting with one pole of the battery. The current from the battery
was taken up by the wheels, whence it passed to the magnets, upon whose
alternating attraction and repulsion motion depended; then it returned
to the other rail, connected the other pole of the battery, and thus
completed the circuit necessary for the flow of the current. In like
manner in a great majority in use at present, the current passes from
one power-house to circuits of one polarity, through the trolley pole
to the motor or electro-magnetic propelling system, thence through the
wheels to the track, which completes the circuit by being connected to
the other pole or side of the dynamo at the power-house. The principles
are obviously identical, but it took more than a quarter of a century
to develop the proper method of application in all its details.

"The most serious and sustained attempt in the early period to
operate a self-sustained vehicle or car--which would correspond
with the storage-battery cars--was that due to Prof. C. C. Page,
of the Smithsonian Institution. About 1850, Professor Page devoted
considerable time to the development of electric engines or motors, in
which the reciprocating action of a system of magnets and solenoids
or armatures was applied by crank-shafts to driving a fly-wheel, to
which rotary motion was thus imparted. This reciprocal motion, as
in steam-engines, was one of the prevailing features of the early
electric-motor work in this country and in Europe; but it was not long
before its general inapplicability was realized, and it was abandoned
for the simpler and more direct rotation of the armature before or
between the poles of electro-magnets.

"On April 29, 1857, with an electric locomotive on which he had
installed a large reciprocating motor developing over 16 horse-power,
Professor Page made a trial trip along the track of the Washington
and Baltimore Railroad, starting from Washington. In order to obtain
current for energization, the motor was equipped with one hundred
cells of Grove nitric-acid battery, each having as one element a
platinum plate eleven inches square, dipped in the acid. Bladensburg,
a distance of about five and one-quarter miles, was reached in
thirty-nine minutes, and a maximum speed of nineteen miles an hour was
attained; the entire trip to and from Bladensburg occupied one hour
and fifty-eight minutes. But many disasters happened to the batteries.
Some of the cells cracked wide open, and jolts due to inequalities of
track threw the batteries out of working order. These experiments must
have been extremely costly, and no little discouragement among people
in general attended this failure; but Professor Page was not daunted,
and for some years continued his work on electric motors, displaying
great ingenuity, but not able, apparently, to give up the reciprocating

The invention of the commercial dynamo, shortly after the middle of
the nineteenth century, opened the era of practical electric-railway
construction on both sides of the Atlantic. The German experimenters,
Siemens and Halske, and later the American, Stephen D. Field, paved the
way by numerous experiments and discoveries. It was not until about
1880, however, that the idea of using a third rail for transmitting the
current was conceived. Hitherto, most of the inventors had attempted to
use one rail as a receiving part of the circuit to the motor, the other
rail completing the return part of the circuit. And it was several
years after the idea of the third rail had germinated before the
attempts to utilize one of the traction rails for conveying the current
was abandoned.


In 1880, Mr. Thomas A. Edison, at Menlo Park, New Jersey, perfected a
series of electric-railway motors and locomotives that were actually
employed in hauling freight and passengers. The following year Mr.
Edison made a contract with Mr. Henry Villard, which stipulated that
the inventor was to construct an electric railway at least two miles
and a half in length, which was to be equipped with two locomotives
and three cars, one locomotive for freight and one for passengers, the
passenger locomotive to have a capacity of sixty miles an hour. It
was agreed that if the experiment with this railway proved successful
Mr. Villard was to reimburse Mr. Edison for the actual outlay, and to
install at least fifty miles of electric road in the wheat regions of
the Northwest.

The electric locomotives built by Mr. Edison were constructed along the
usual lines of steam locomotives, with cab, headlight, and cowcatcher,
the motive power being applied from the motors to the axle by means
of friction pulleys. This method was soon abandoned, as the pulleys
slipped a great deal before the locomotive actually started. A system
of belts which was substituted proved more satisfactory. The current
was conveyed to the motor through the track, and was supplied to
the road by underground cables connecting from the dynamo-room of
Mr. Edison's laboratory. The rails were insulated from the ties by
coatings of Japan varnish, and by placing them on pads made of muslin
impregnated with tar.

From the very first this road gave promise of success. The tireless
genius of Edison was constantly finding and correcting defects,
and there was every prospect that in a few months a practical and
economical electric railway would be an accomplished fact. Then came
the financial crash of the Northern Pacific Railway, involving the
fortune of Mr. Villard, and tying the hands of the inventor at Menlo
Park for the time being.

The year following, however, Mr. Field and Mr. Edison combined their
forces and formed a company for perfecting and constructing electric
locomotives and railways. In the same year an electric railway was put
in operation at the Chicago Railway Exposition, the chief promoters of
this enterprise being Messrs. Field, F. B. Rae, and C. O. Mailloux. In
the gallery of the building a circular track, something like a third
of a mile in length, was laid, and on this an electric locomotive
named _The Judge_ hauled a single car which carried over twenty-six
thousand passengers in the month of June. In the autumn of the same
year, _The Judge_ was used for hauling passengers on a track at the
Louisville Exposition. It was capable of attaining a speed of twelve
miles an hour, and its average speed was eight miles. It was twelve
feet long over all, weighed something like three tons, and, like
Edison's locomotive, was equipped with cowcatcher, headlight, and cab.
The current was taken from a surface, or feed rail, by means of bundles
of phosphor-bronze wire, so arranged that a good clean contact would
be made on each side of the rail whether the car was moving forward or


At the same time an Englishman named Leo Daft, then living in America,
was making some important experiments with motors for the purpose
of driving machinery, these motors being operated from central
power-stations located at distant points. Mr. Daft constructed an
electric locomotive, and in November, 1883, constructed what was known
as the Saratoga and Mount MacGregor Railroad. This railroad was twelve
miles in length and included many steep grades. The locomotive, which
hauled a regular passenger-car, received the current from a central
rail. The year following Mr. Daft built and equipped a small road on
one of the long piers of Coney Island, which carried something like
forty thousand passengers in one season. It was an improvement over
the Siemens electric railway established in Germany in 1881--which,
however, was the first road ever established.

The following year the inventor began the equipment of the Baltimore
Union Passenger Railway Company, a line that ran a distance of about
two miles and reached an elevation of one hundred and fifty feet
above the city of Baltimore. This road was put into regular operation
in 1886, and was the second electric street railway in America for
carrying on regular passenger service.

The Baltimore Union Railway had several novel and important features,
one of them being the equipment of part of the line with an
overhead-trolley service, the practical importance of which had been
demonstrated shortly before by Van Depoele. The projector, Mr. Daft,
also built several other lines in different parts of the country,
constantly improving upon his earlier efforts, sometimes using two
overhead trolley wires, with two trolley contacts, thus doing away with
the use of the track as a means of current supply, or for use as part
of the circuit. Although in recent years double overhead trolleys have
largely disappeared, some of them are still in use both in America and
in Europe.

Van Depoele was a Belgian who had come to America in 1869. Although
primarily a cabinet-maker, he had a great liking for the study of
electricity, and devoted all his spare time and money to efforts to
solve the problem of practical street-car propulsion. In 1883, at the
Industrial Exposition at Chicago, he operated a car by electricity,
using an overhead-trolley system somewhat similar to Daft's. By 1885,
he had made sufficient progress to construct a line one mile long for
carrying passengers from the railway station to the Annual Exhibition
grounds at Toronto, Canada. On a single track he operated three cars
and a motor, carrying an average of ten thousand passengers daily,
his train sometimes attaining a speed of thirty miles an hour. For
receiving the current he used an underrunning trolley and pole very
similar to the form now in common use, this being one of the first
instances of employing this particular method of receiving the current.
In this system an insulated track was used for returning the current.

Van Depoele's next venture was the equipment of an electric railway
at South Bend, Indiana, on which five separate cars were operated at
one time--a thing supposed by many to be impossible. The cars of this
road were equipped with motors placed under the cars instead of above
them, thus saving valuable seating-space. In place of the underrunning
trolley and pole, however, the current was taken from the overhead
wire by means of a flexible cable. Later Van Depoele invented an
underrunning trolley and pole, taking out the original patents. His
claims to priority were contested eventually, but they were sustained
by the United States courts.

At this time there were at least a score of inventors whose work added
something of importance to the solution of the problem of electric
traction. But without belittling others, it is probably only justice
to say that the work of Frank J. Sprague, a one-time lieutenant in
the United States Navy, marks the beginning of the modern era of
street railways. In 1888, after a period of struggle and a series of
disheartening disasters, Mr. Sprague and his associates opened an
electric line for the Union Passenger Railway of Richmond, Va., which
"forms a landmark in the history of this industrial development." Over
a line of road with grades at that time considered impossible, thirty
cars were put into use at the same time, the contract for the equipment
calling for its completion in ninety days. The success of this
enterprise, when on the opening day more electric cars were operated
than in all the rest of America together, settled forever the question
of the practicality of electric street railways, as well as many of
the questions of the practical application of the current, thanks to
Sprague's inventive genius.

This road was an overhead trolley-wire system, with an underrunning
trolley held in place by the now-familiar trolley pole. The number
of difficulties that had to be solved in perfecting this apparently
simple piece of apparatus is shown by the statement of Mr. Sprague that
"probably not less than fifty modifications of trolley wheels and poles
were used before what is known as the 'universal movement' type was

In this connection the origin of the word "trolley" is interesting. It
seems to have been corrupted from the word "troller" by the workmen of
a Kansas City car-line. On this line an overhead wire was used, the
travelling carriage taking the current from the wire being known as
the "troller." The employees of the road, however, shortly corrupted
"troller" into "trolley"; and "trolley" it has remained ever since.

As in the case of Van Depoele, whose perfection of the underrunning
trolley was contested legally, Sprague's great contribution to electric
traction, the suspension of the motor directly upon the axle, had
finally to be sustained by the United States courts. Sprague's method
was to hang the motor under the car directly upon the axle, by an
extension or solid bearing attached directly to the motor. This plan
of constructing the motor, together with numerous other improvements,
principally in the direction of lightness, simplicity, and
adaptability, soon superseded all pre-existing methods of construction.
Thus Van Depoele's method of taking the current from the wire, and
Sprague's method of utilizing it in the propulsion of the car, must be
regarded as epoch-marking steps in the history of electric traction.
Sprague's invention demonstrated the validity of his contention, now
universally accepted, that motors should be placed under each car
instead of being used on locomotives.


From the earliest attempts at solving the question of electric
traction, efforts were made to produce some form of storage battery
whereby the cars might be made independent of a distant generating
plant. The advantages of a self-contained vehicle are so obvious that
it is not surprising to find the inventors persistent in their attempts
at producing practical cars of this type. Such battery cars would not
require the dangerous, expensive, and cumbrous system of overhead
wires, or the more sightly but also more expensive system of conduits.
With such a system of cars the elaborate mains and feeders for bringing
the current to the track from the power-house, and for effecting the
return circuit, could be dispensed with. Moreover, the independent
action of such cars over a system where the power is furnished from a
single source, where the stoppage of the current stops every car along
the line, is inestimable.

Between the years 1880 and 1883 many storage-battery cars were built
and put in service both in European and American cities. Probably the
most important one of these lines was that which was built by the
Belgian, Mr. E. Julien, in New York city, in 1887-8. On the Fourth
Avenue road something like a dozen storage-battery cars were put in
operation for a considerable time, and later, improved modifications
of these cars were operated in Philadelphia under the direction of Mr.
Anthony Rackenzaun, of Vienna. But despite the apparent simplicity of
the storage-battery idea, innumerable difficulties were perpetually
presenting themselves in its practical application. Despite the
disheartening results, however, storage-battery cars were not entirely
abandoned in practice until 1903, New York city being the last to
surrender, as it had been about the last to adopt them.

But in February, 1910, the storage-battery street car again made
its appearance on trial in New York--not the old heavy type of
unsatisfactory car, but an entirely new and lighter creation of Thomas
A. Edison, who had been striving for years to solve the storage-battery
problem. This car, which had been tested on the Orange, New Jersey,
street-car line on January 20th, 1910, maintained a speed of fifteen
miles an hour in actual practice, and ran a distance of about one
hundred and fifty miles without re-charging the batteries.

There are some novel features about the car itself, but the
all-important one is the peculiar and novel storage battery which it
has taken Mr. Edison some nine years to perfect. In an imperfect form
this battery was given a trial in 1903, and much was expected of it
because it was not only lighter than the usual form of storage battery,
but it promised more permanency because an alkali was used in place of
an acid as an electrolyte.

In this battery the positive element, which consisted of nickel oxide
interspersed with layers of graphite, was packed in perforated nickel
tubes. The negative element was iron oxide, with potassium hydrate as
the electrolyte. This battery showed no bad effects from over-charging
or from being rapidly discharged, but it was found that the graphite
soon became oxidized and interfered with the working of the battery.
This defect was corrected by substituting chemically pure nickel for
the graphite, but another was soon discovered. Under the pressure
of the oxide of nickel the square tubes containing the nickel were
frequently injured so that the powdered nickel oxide was sifted down on
the pure nickel layers and insulated them.

The only solution of this difficulty seemed to be to pack the nickel
in strong round tubes four inches long and about the size of a lead
pencil, the sides of the tubes being finely perforated. But the expense
of producing such tubes by ordinary methods was prohibitive. A machine
was finally invented, however, which made the tubes economically
by using spirally wound ribbons of metal, the edges being fastened
together during the coiling process. By the use of these tubes the
battery was so far perfected that it was given extensive trials in
1908 on electric vehicles; and as these tests proved satisfactory,
Mr. Edison began the construction of a specially designed street
car equipped with two 5-horse-power 110-volt motors of very light
construction. The car weighs complete about five tons, and the
batteries are stored under the seats running along each side.

This car was tested continuously for three weeks on one of the New
York cross-town lines and performed its work so satisfactorily and
economically that the management of the line decided to give the
system a permanent trial. The regular daily run of this car averaged
something over sixty-six miles, but this by no means exhausted the
capacity of the batteries; and it is estimated that it could easily
have run at least one-quarter farther without re-charging. The
surprising feature of these tests was the low cost of running. The
total cost of electric power for the day's run was about thirty cents,
or 4.3 mills for each mile. The ordinary New York street car costs on
an average about five cents per mile for electrical energy; but on the
other hand, the carrying capacity of these cars is almost twice that of
the Edison car.

The actual cost of running the car, however, was only one of its many
advantages. The fact that no underground conduits have to be laid
or overhead wires erected and maintained makes the initial cost of
installing the line far less than by any other system. The reduction in
the cost of maintenance of the line is also an important item, as it is
estimated that the cost of repairs on conduit lines is about $15,000
annually per mile.

But the most convincing proof that Mr. Edison has really produced a
practical storage battery car lies in the fact that, after testing his
car for three weeks in actual traffic, the managers of the street-car
line ordered sixteen similar cars for operation over their road.


The introduction of electricity facilitated the construction of
monorail systems of roads, which had long been the dream of railroad
constructors, since this power could be applied with so much more
flexibility. The defects of the parallel rail system are apparent both
in construction of the roadbed and the operating of trains. It is
almost impossible to lay and maintain the rails in exact parallels,
and even more difficult to keep each rail at the proper height at all
points. Both these factors enter very largely into the determination
of the speed that a train can make over such tracks, any very
great variation from the parallel causing derailment, while slight
depressions or elevations of either rail cause violent and dangerous
rocking of the cars travelling at high speed.

In any monorail system the first of these difficulties, the deviation
of the rail from the parallel, is, of course, eliminated; and it is
found that on a single rail the elevations and depressions are not
serious obstacles. Moreover, the cost of construction of a single-rail
track must obviously be less than for a double-rail track, and the
power necessary to operate cars over such a track far less. But until
the invention of the gyrocar (which is referred to at length in the
following chapter) the methods of balancing the car on a single rail
presented difficulties which quite offset the advantages of the
monorail system. Some of these methods are unique and a few of them are
practical in actual operation.

In Germany a suspension monorail system is in operation, the cars being
suspended from an overhead track. But obviously such a system, which
requires elaborate and expensive steel trestle-work along every fork of
the road, is not adapted to the use of long-distance roads except in
thickly populated districts. A less expensive and highly satisfactory
system is the one invented by Mr. Howard Hansel Tunis and used at the
Jamestown Exhibition in 1907.

In this system the wheels, arranged in tandem, have double flanges
which keep them on the single-rail track, and the cars are prevented
from toppling over by overhead guides. These guides must be supported
on a frame-work, but as there is little tendency to sway on a
single-rail track, they can be relatively light structures. It is the
cost of these frames, however, that practically offsets the low cost
of road-bed construction, so that, everything considered, the mere
matter of initial cost has no very great advantage over the ordinary
double-rail road. But the cost of operating is considerably less than
the older type, and this road would undoubtedly come rapidly into
popularity but for the fact that such gyrocars as the ones invented
in England and Germany are self-sustaining on the rail, doing away
with the expensive overhead frame-work construction, and are likely to
become practical factors in the problem of transportation.

In 1909 an electric aerial monorail up the Wetterhorn in the Alps was
put into operation. On this line a car suspended on two cables, one
above the other and without supports except at the upper and lower
terminals, rises at an angle of forty-five degrees through a distance
of 1,250 feet. There are two sets of these cables, each carrying a car
so arranged as to work in alternate directions simultaneously, this
counter-balancing effecting a great saving in power. The power-plant
is located at the upper end of the ascent, and consists of winding
drums actuated by electricity which raise and lower the cars by means
of cables. On the cars themselves, therefore, there is no power, but
each car is equipped with brakes powerful enough to stop and hold it
notwithstanding the steepness of the incline.

There is nothing particularly novel in the principles involved in this
aerial road, but it is the first of its kind to be built for passenger
traffic. Similar less pretentious roads have been in use for freight
transportation for several years. But the success of this road means
the building of others on inaccessible mountain inclines where the
laying of ordinary roadbeds is out of the question, and the operating
of cog roads too expensive.



On the 8th of May, 1907, Mr. Louis Brennan exhibited, at a _soirée_ of
the Royal Society in London, a remarkable piece of mechanism, which
stirred the imagination of every beholder, and--next morning--as
reported by the newspapers, aroused the amazed interest of the world.
This invention consists of a car run on a single rail, standing erect
like a bicycle when in motion; but, unlike the bicycle, being equally
stable when at rest.

It is a car that could cross the gorge of Niagara on a tight-rope,
like Blondin himself, but with far greater security; a car that shows
many strange properties, seeming to defy not gravitation alone but the
simplest laws of motion. For example, if a weight is placed on one edge
of the car that side rises higher instead of being lowered.

If you push against the side with your hand, the mysterious
creature--you feel that it must be endowed with life--is actually felt
to push back as if resenting the affront.

Similarly, if the wind blows against the car, it veers over toward the
wind. If the track on which it runs--consisting of an ordinary gas-pipe
or of a cable of wire--is curved, even very sharply, the car follows
the curve without difficulty, and, in defiance of ordinary laws of
motion, actually leans inward as a bicycle rider leans under the same
circumstances, instead of being careened outward as one might expect.

A curious mechanism, surely, this new car, with its four wheels set in
line, bicycle fashion, running thus steadily. But strangest of all it
seemed when it poised and stood perfectly still on its tight-rope, as
no Blondin could ever do. As stably poised it stood there as if it had
two rails beneath it instead of a single wire; and there was nothing
about it to suggest an explanation of the miracle, except that there
came from within the car the murmur of whirling wheels.

The mysterious wheels in question would be found, if we could look
within the structure of the car, to be two in number, arranged quite
close together on each side of the centre of the car. They are two
small fly-wheels, in closed cases, revolving in opposite directions,
each propelled by an electric motor. These are the wonder-workers. They
constitute the two-lobed brain or, if you prefer, the double-chambered
heart of the strange organism. All the world has learned to call them
gyroscopes. The vehicle that they balance may conveniently be termed a
gyrocar--a name that has the sanction of the inventor himself.

Let it be understood once for all that a gyroscope is merely a body
whirling about an axis. A top such as every child plays with is a
gyroscope; a hoop such as every child rolls is a gyroscope; the
wheels of bicycles, carriages, or railway-cars are gyroscopes; and
the earth itself, whirling about its axis, is a gyroscope. You can
make a gyroscope of your own body if you choose to whirl about, like
a ballet-dancer. In a word, the gyroscope is the most common thing
imaginable. Indeed, if I wished to startle the reader with a seeming
paradox, I might say without transcending the bounds of truth that,
in the last analysis, there is probably nothing known to us in the
universe but an infinitude of gyroscopes--atoms and molecules at one
end of the scale; planets and suns at the other--all are whirling
bodies. Still there are gyroscopes and gyroscopes, as we shall see.


Now a word about gyroscopic action. If you have rolled a hoop or spun a
top you have unwittingly learned some practical lessons on the subject
which, had you possessed Mr. Brennan's imagination and ingenuity, might
have enabled you to anticipate him in the invention of the gyrocar.
Harking back to the days when you rolled hoops, you will recall that
the child who most excelled in the art was the one that could make the
hoop go fastest. The hoop itself might be merely a wheel of wire, which
would fall over instantly if not in motion; but if given a push it
assumed an upright position and maintained it with security, so long as
it was impelled forward. It seemed able, so long as it whirled about,
to defy the ordinary laws of gravity. A bicycle in motion gives an even
more striking illustration of the same phenomenon. And best of all, a
spinning-top. Everyone knows how this familiar toy, which topples over
instantly when at rest and can in no wise be balanced on its point,
rises up triumphant when whirled about, and stands erect, poised in a
way that would seem simply miraculous to all of us, had we not all
spun tops at an age when the world was so full of wonders that we
failed to marvel at any of them.

All these familiar things illustrate one of the principles of
gyroscopic action which Mr. Brennan has put to account in developing
his wonderful car--the fact, namely, that every revolving body tends
to maintain its chief axis in a fixed direction, and resents--if I
may be permitted to use this expressive word--having that direction
changed. The same principle is illustrated on a stupendous scale by our
revolving earth, which maintains the same tilt year after year as it
whirls on its great journey, notwithstanding the fact that the sun and
the moon are tugging constantly at its protuberant equatorial region in
a way that would quickly change its direction if it were not spinning.

But note, please, that whereas the whirling body assumes a certain
rigidity in space as regards the direction in which its axle points,
the mere translation of the body itself through space in any direction
is not interfered with in the least, provided the axle is kept parallel
with its original position.

You may test this if you like in a very simple way. Remove one of the
wheels of your bicycle, and carry it about the room, holding it by the
axle while it is spinning rapidly. You will discover that it requires
no more force to carry it when spinning than when at rest, provided you
do not attempt to tip it from its plane of rotation, but that if you do
attempt so to tip it, the wheel seems positively to resist, exerting
a force of which it did not show a trace when at rest. A large top,
arranged within the kind of frames or hoops called gimbals, if you can
secure such a one, will show you the same phenomenon; it will resist
having its axis diverted from the direction it chanced to have when it
was set spinning.

If you ask why the spinning wheel exerts this power, it may not be
easy to give an answer. The simplest things are hardest to explain.
No man knows why and how gravitation acts; no one knows why a body at
rest tends always to remain at rest until some force is applied to
it; nor why when a body is once in motion it tends always to move on
at the same rate of speed until some counter-force stops it. Such are
the observed facts; they are facts that underlie all the principles of
mechanics; but they are matters of observation, not of explanation or
argument. And the fact that a revolving body tends to maintain its axis
in a fixed position is a fact of the same category.

So far as we can explain it at all, we may, perhaps, say that the
inertia which the matter composing the wheel shares with all other
matter is accentuated by the fact that its whirling particles all tend
at successive instants to fly in different directions under stress
of centrifugal force. At any given instant each individual particle
tending to fly off in a particular direction may be likened to a man
pulling at a rope in that direction.

If you imagine an infinite number of men circled about a pole to which
ropes are attached, and evenly distributed, each one pulling with
equal force, it will be clear that the joint effort of the multitude
would result in fixing the pole rigidly at the centre. The harder the
multitude pulled, so long as they remained evenly distributed about
the circle, the more rigid the pole would become. But if, on the
other hand, all the men were to stop pulling and slacken the ropes,
the pole would at once fall over. The pole, under such circumstances,
would represent the axis of the revolving wheel, which acquired
increased stability in exact proportion to the increased velocity of
its revolutions, and therefore of the increased force with which its
particles tend to fly off into space.

But be the explanation what it may, the fact that the axis of a
revolving wheel acquires stability and tends to maintain its fixed
position in space is indisputable; and it is this fact which determines
primarily the action of the little revolving wheels of the gyroscopes
that balance Mr. Brennan's car. There are certain very important
additional principles involved that I shall refer to in a moment, but
first let us glance at the car itself and see how the gyroscopes are
arranged. We shall find them fastened within the frame-work of the car,
at its longitudinal centre, in such a way that their axles are parallel
to the axles of the ordinary car-wheels when the car stands in a normal
position. Granted that the gyroscopes are thus transverse and normally
horizontal, and at right angles to the track, the exact location of the
mechanism within the car is immaterial. But the two gyroscopes must
revolve in opposite directions for a reason to be given presently.


The De Witt Clinton engine, with its archaic coaches, represents the
earliest type of railway transportation in America. The Gyro-car, two
views of which are given, is the working model of a single-rail vehicle
exhibited in England by Mr. Louis Brennan in 1907. It is balanced by an
ingenious gyroscopic mechanism, which its inventor believes will prove
equally successful when applied to vehicles on a commercial scale.]


The Brennan car as at first exhibited was only a working-model about
six feet in length, and the gyroscopes that balanced it were about
five inches in diameter. It seems almost incredible that wheels so
small should be able to balance a car six feet in length, but it must
be understood that these small gyroscopes whirl at the rate of about
seven thousand revolutions per minute, and, of course, the gyroscopic
force is proportionate to the rate of revolution. If we recall that a
light hoop making perhaps fifty or a hundred revolutions per minute
acquires a considerable stability, we shall cease to wonder at the
rigidity of the axles of the wheels revolving at such enormous speed.

The model car accomplished the feat of carrying a passenger weighing
about one hundred and forty pounds across a little valley on a wire
cable, a voyage in some respects the most remarkable that any man has
thus far been privileged to make. The car has shown that it can go up
or down a sharp incline; but this, as a moment's reflection will show,
does not involve any change of direction of the gyroscopic axle, and
therefore involves only the ordinary laws of mechanics. It is all one
to the gyroscope whether the car moves on the level or up or down hill,
so long as it moves straight ahead.

Nor do the gyroscopes interfere in the least with the turning of the
car in passing round a curve, when the two of them are linked together,
as Mr. Brennan links them, so that any lateral change in the axis of
one is balanced by an opposite change of the axis of the other. With
the single gyroscope, such as Mr. Brennan used when he first began his
experiments, the car encounters difficulties at curves in the track.

But before we can understand how the two gyroscopes balance each other
in such a way as to make the Brennan car lean in while passing about
a curve, we must investigate more fully the action of the individual
gyroscopes. I have already said that there is another principle
involved as supplementary to the principle of the fixed axis; this we
must now investigate.

Perhaps it would be fairer to say that what we have to consider is
not a new principle but a complication as to the application of the
principle of gyroscopic action already put forward. In any event there
is an elementary fact about the gyroscope that I have not yet stated.
It is this: in order that the gyroscope may exercise its fundamental
property of holding its axis fixed, it must have that axis so adjusted
that it is free to oscillate or wabble. That sounds distinctly
paradoxical, but it is a very essential fact. If Mr. Brennan had merely
fixed two wheels rigidly in the frame of his car, they would have had
no appreciable effect in balancing it. Had nothing more than that been
necessary, some one would have invented a gyrocar long ago. But very
much more than that was necessary, as we shall see.

The complication of which I am speaking is illustrated by the action
of the simplest top, which likewise owes its stability to its wabble.
Your top does not rise merely because it spins, but because it wabbles
as it spins--wabbling being the familiar word for what the machinist
calls "precession." A freely spinning top, if in equilibrium, has no
inherency to rise up against gravitation, as your top may have led
you to suppose. Your top rises because it is not spinning freely in
equilibrium, its action being interfered with by the friction of the
point on which it rests; it is seeking a position of equilibrium,
which, owing to the location of its centre of gravity, will be found
when its spindle is erect. But a top supported at both ends and
properly balanced, does not tend to rise but only to maintain its


It is such a balanced top as this that we must call to our aid in
explaining the action of Mr. Brennan's gyroscopes. The explanation will
involve the use of a diagram perhaps rather unpleasantly suggestive of
the days when you studied geometry, and I fear I cannot hope to make
interesting reading of the explanation. But it will be worth your while
to follow it, that you may understand the action of one of the most
remarkable and ingenious of inventions. Figure 1 represents a kind of
top called a Foucault gyrostat. It is merely a top or gyroscope in
gimbal frames, such as I have already referred to. With certain slight
modifications, the diagram that represents it might also be a diagram
of one of the gyroscopes in Mr. Brennan's car. Indeed, it was such a
top as this that led Mr. Brennan to his discovery. Once while on a
visit to Cannes, he purchased a top like this of a street vender--and
the gyrocar is the outcome of the studies he made with it. This is also
the kind of top with which Foucault, after whom it is named, proved
that the earth revolves; but we shall come to that story in another

[Illustration: FIG. 1.]

Reverting to the diagram, the gyroscope or top proper is at the centre,
revolving on the axis _O A_. It is pivoted on the frame _B A C_,
which frame is in turn pivoted so that it can rotate on the axis _B
C_. Lastly, the outer frame _B D C E_ is pivoted on the axis _D E_.
Thus the apparatus as a whole is capable of revolving on each of its
three principal axes. But under ordinary conditions it is only the
inner wheel that is spinning. As this wheel is perfectly balanced, it
will maintain steadily any position that it chances to have when it
is set spinning, and the outer frames will remain stationary unless a
disturbing force is applied to them.

Suppose, now, that the wheel has been set spinning on its axis _O A_ in
the direction indicated by the arrow, while its axis is horizontal, as
represented in the diagram. The wheel will then tend to maintain its
position and resist any attempt to displace it. But its resistance will
be shown in a very peculiar way--whereby hangs our tale. If you apply a
steady downward pressure to the frame _B A C_ at point _A_, attempting
thus to deflect the axis of the spinning wheel of the gyroscope, the
frame will not tip down as you expect it to do (and as it would do if
the top were not spinning) but instead, it will move in a horizontal
plane along the arc _C A B_, the entire mechanism rotating on the axis
_D E_. This motion is equivalent to the wabble of the top, and it is
called "precession."

Please remember the word and its meaning, for we must use it repeatedly.

But now, curiously enough, if you were to apply a sidewise pressure at
_A_, pushing to the left (as we view the diagram) to help on the motion
of precession, the obstinate apparatus will cease altogether to move in
that direction and the point _A_ will begin to rise instead, the frame
_B A C_ rotating on its axis _B C_. This rise of the axis _O A_ will
take place even though the downward pressure is continued. You have
disturbed the equilibrium of the top--unbalanced it--and it must seek a
new position. Contrariwise, if you would have the point A moved to the
right, you must push it upward; if you would have it go down, you must
push it to the right.

This seems rather weird behavior, but if you will note the direction
of the arrow on the wheel you will see a certain method in it. It will
appear that in each case the force you apply has been carried round
a corner, as it were, by the whirling disc, and made to act at right
angles to the direction of its application. This change of direction
of a force applied is strictly comparable to the change effected by
the familiar device known as a pulley. With that device, to be sure,
a pull instead of a push is used, but this is a distinction without a
difference, for pushing and pulling are only opposite views of the same

Possibly this suggested explanation of the action of the gyrostat may
not seem very satisfactory, but the facts are perfectly clear, and
if you will bear them steadily in mind you will readily be able to
understand the Brennan gyroscope, as you otherwise cannot possibly
hope to do. You have only to recall that pushing down at _A_ causes
motion (called "precession") to the left, and pushing up at _A_, motion
to the right; and that in order to make _A_ either rise or fall, you
must "accelerate precession" by pushing to the left or to the right,
respectively. But you must understand further, that when, through the
application of any of these disturbing forces, you have forced the axis
_O A_ into a new position, it will tend to maintain that new position,
having no propensity whatever to return to its original position. It is
quite as stably in equilibrium with its axis pointing upward as when in
the position shown in the diagram. One position is quite like another
to it; but having accepted a position it resents any change whatsoever.

Now we are prepared to understand the Brennan gyroscope, which consists
essentially of two such gyrostats as that shown in our diagram _A_, set
into the frame of the car on the axis _D E_, their wheels revolving
in opposite directions and their outer frames so linked together that
when one turns in one direction on its axis _D E_, the other must turn
in the opposite direction. As the sole object of having two of the
gyroscopes is to facilitate the going around curves, we may for the
moment neglect the second one, and consider the action of only one of
the pair.

Our diagram 2, then, will represent one of Mr. Brennan's gyroscopes
in action. It is pivoted into the framework of the car on the axis _D
E_. If you examine it you will see that it is essentially the Foucault
gyrostat of our other diagram, with the axis _O A_ projected beyond the
frame to the point _F_.

In practice, the frame _B A C_ is made to carry the field-magnet of
an electric motor for spinning the wheel. But this in no wise affects
the principles of action. Mr. Brennan's invention consists of the
exceedingly ingenious way in which he applies these principles; and
to understand this we must follow our diagram closely. Looking at it,
you will see that the spindle _O F_ carries two rollers _R1_ and _R2_
which may come in contact under certain circumstances with the curved
segment marked _G1_, _G2_, _G3_, _G4_, which are strong segments of
the car-frame itself--the segments, indeed, upon which the force
of the gyroscope is expended in holding the car in equilibrium. It
must be understood further that the roller _R1_ is loosely fitted to
the spindle _O F_ and hence can whirl with it when pressed against
the segment _G1_ or _G3_; whereas the roller _R2_ is fitted about a
non-revolving extension of the frame _B A C_, and not to the spindle
itself. Bearing in mind that the gyroscope itself is perfectly balanced
and hence tends to maintain its axis _O F_ in a fixed direction, we
shall be able to understand what must happen when the car is tipped
from any cause whatever--as the shifting of its load, the pressure of
the wind, or the centrifugal action due to rounding a curve.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

Suppose, for example, that the car tips to the right. This will bring
the segment _G1_ in contact with the roller _R1_, and the roller will
instantly tend to run along it, as a car-wheel runs along the track,
because friction with the spindle causes it to revolve. But this, it
will be evident, is equivalent to pushing the spindle _F_ (or the frame
_A_) toward _B_--"accelerating the precession"--and we know that the
effect of such a push will be to cause the spindle (thanks to that
round-the-corner action) to rise, thus pushing up the segment _G1_, and
with it the car itself.

The thrust will cause the car to topple to the left and this will free
the roller _R2_, but a moment later it will bring the segment _G2_ in
contact with roller _R2_ which thus receives an upward thrust. But an
upward thrust, we recall, will not cause the spindle to move upward,
but off to the right toward _C_; and so, a moment later still the
roller _R2_ will pass beyond the end of the segment _G2_ and the roller
_R1_ will come in contact with the segment _G3_, along which it will
tend to roll, thus accelerating the precession to the right, and so
causing the spindle to push downward, bringing the car back to its old
position or beyond it; whereupon the segment _G4_ will be brought in
contact with _R2_, retarding the further oscillation of the car and
causing the spindle to move back again to the left.

This sequence of oscillations will be repeated over and over so long
as any disturbing force tends to throw the car out of equilibrium. In
other words, the gyroscope, when its balance is disturbed by a thrust
due to any unbalancing of the car, will begin to wabble and continue
to wabble until it finds a position where it is no longer disturbed,
and this new position will be attained only when the car as a whole is
perfectly balanced again.

In this new position of balance, the car (owing to a shift of its load
or to the force of the wind) may be tipped far over to one side, as
a man leans in carrying a weight on one shoulder, to get the centre
of gravity over the rail, and in that event the axis of the gyroscope
will be no longer horizontal. But that is quite immaterial. There is
no more merit in the horizontal position than in any other, as regards
the tendency to keep a fixed axis. If it is usually horizontal, this is
only because under normal conditions the car will be balanced at its
physical centre, just as ordinarily a man stands erect and does not
lean to one side in walking.

Reverting for a moment to our diagram and the explanation just given,
it will be understood that the two rollers R1 and R2 are never in
action at the same time, and that it is only the roller R1 that gives
the sidewise push that accelerates the precession (since R2 is not in
contact with the axle itself).

The function of R2 is to retard the precession and bring the axis
to its normal position at right angles to the rail on which the car
runs. There is nothing of mystery about the action of either which the
action of our gyrostat does not explain, but the mechanism by which the
different segments of the car are made to push against the spindle, and
so force it to balance the car in order that it may maintain its own
balance, is exceedingly ingenious. Mr. Brennan himself tells me that he
has improved methods of accomplishing these results, which are not yet
to be made public. The principle, however, is the same as that outlined
in the earlier patents which I have just described.

If you have taken the trouble to follow carefully the description just
given, you will be prepared to understand the anomalies of action of
the gyrocar; for example, why its side rises when a weight is placed
on it; why it leans toward the wind, and why it leans to the inner and
not to the outer side of the track in rounding a curve. The substance
of the explanation is that the greater the force brought to bear on
the roller R1 by the segment of the car that strikes against it, the
stronger its precession, and hence the more powerful its lift. The
oscillations and counter-oscillations thus brought about continue to
operate powerfully on the roller R1 so long as the weight of the car is
out of balance; and balance is restored only when the heavier side of
the car rises, bringing the centre of gravity over the track, just as a
man carrying a weight on the right shoulder leans toward the left, and
vice-versa. Thus, when the gyrocar has a heavy weight on one side, or
encounters a strong wind, it may lean far over, but still be perfectly
and securely balanced, the gyroscopes finally remaining quiescent in
their new position until some new disturbance is applied.

It remains to be said, however, that there is another element
introduced when the car rounds a curve. To understand this, we must
revert to the action of the Foucault gyrostat, as illustrated in
diagram 1. If you held such a gyrostat in your hand in the upright
position in which it is shown in the diagram, and whirled it about, the
axis _O A_ would of course maintain a fixed direction so long as the
gyrostat was free to revolve on the axis _D E_. But if you prevented
such revolution, as by clutching the spindle _E_ firmly, and then
whirled the gyrostat about at arm's length, the axis _O A_ would at
once be forced to take an upright position. If your hand whirled to
the right, the point _A_ would rise; if your hand whirled to the left,
the point _A_ would go down; the principle determining this motion in
either case being that the direction of whirl of the gyroscope must
correspond to the direction of curve given to the apparatus as a whole
by the motion of your arm.

Exactly the same principle applies to the Brennan gyroscope when the
car to which it is attached goes about a curve. The frame pivoted at
_D E_ revolves only within a limited arc, and then becomes fixed, and
so the axis _O F_ tends to tip upward when the car rounds a curve. If
only a single gyroscope were used, this would tend to make the car tip
in opposite directions, according to whether the car is going forward
or backward, and the tip might be dangerous in going about a curve, as
Mr. Brennan found to his cost in his earlier experiments. But when the
two gyroscopes, revolving in opposite directions, are linked together,
the action of one balances that of the other, and their joint effect is
always to make the car lean in at a curve, which is precisely what it
should do to ensure safety. Moreover, the two linked gyroscopes keep
their planes of revolution parallel to the rail, as is essential to
their proper action, and as a single gyroscope would not do.

The balancing action of the gyroscope seems no whit less remarkable
after it is explained. It should be said, however, that the force
exerted by the mechanism is not so tremendous as might at first
thought appear, for the gyroscopes are by no means called upon to
counteract the entire force of gravity brought to bear on the car.
They do not in any sense _lift_ the car; they only balance its two
sides, which when left to themselves are approximately of equal
weight. The car, as a whole, weighs down on the track just as heavily
with the gyroscopes in action as when they are still. Balancing is a
very different feat from lifting, as everyone is aware from personal
experience. Two men pushing against the opposite sides of a monorail
car could keep it balanced on the central rail though its weight vastly
exceeded anything they could lift.


It goes without saying that so elaborate a mechanism as Mr. Brennan's
gyroscope was not perfected in a day. Neither was it hit upon by
accident. It belongs in the category of inventions that were thought
out to meet a mechanical need. Mr. Brennan is an Irishman by birth,
but he was taken by his parents to Australia at the age of nine and
remained there throughout the years of his early manhood. Observation
of the condition of the roads in Australia, and of the enormous
retardation of development due to inadequate transportation facilities
led him to ponder over the possibilities of improvement in this
direction, as he was jolted about the country in a coach with leather
straps in lieu of springs. It became clear to him that a way must be
found to build railroads more cheaply. Furthermore, it was brought to
his attention through observation of the condition of the cattle that
were shipped from North Australia across the continent, that a railway
car that would enable the cattle to make the journey in comfort, and
thus arrive in marketable condition, would have enormous value for this
purpose alone.

For years, Mr. Brennan tells me, the problem haunted him, of how
to make a monorail car balance itself. He studied the action of
rope-walkers, and he attempted various crude methods of balancing a
car, which all came to nothing. He thought about the possibility of
using the gyroscope, and even purchased several elaborate gyrostats in
order to study gyroscopic action. As a friend of Sir Henry Bessemer, he
knew of that gentleman's experiments with the gyroscope in attempting
to make a steady room in a ship, but these also availed him nothing. It
was not until he purchased the toy top at Cannes, as already mentioned,
that he got hold of a really viable idea; and then, of course, almost
numberless experiments were necessary before an apparatus was devised
that could meet all the requirements.

At last, however, a model car, more than fulfilling all his fondest
hopes, was in actual operation. It remained to build a car of
commercial size. To aid him in thus completing his experiments,
Mr. Brennan received a grant of $30,000 from the India Society. He
believed that a car one hundred feet long and sixteen feet wide would
be balanced by gyroscopes three and a half feet in diameter, so
effectively that it would stand erect and rigid though fifty passengers
were clustered on one side of its spacious room.

The accuracy of this prediction was put to the test in November, 1909,
when Mr. Brennan exhibited the first gyrocar of commercial size. The
result was demonstrative and convincing. The large car, carrying forty
or fifty passengers, operated exactly as its inventor had foretold,
and the doubts of the most skeptical were set at rest. Photographs of
the car in actual operation, with its load of passengers, were sent
broadcast, and it became apparent that the introduction of the gyrocar
in competition with railway, trolley, and motor cars of the old type
would be only a matter of time.

When we come thus to consider the gyrocar as a vehicle in which all
of us may soon have an opportunity to ride, there is one practical
question that is sure to present itself to the mind of almost every
reader. What will be the effect should the electrical power that drives
the gyroscopes give out at a critical moment, as, for instance, when
the car is just crossing a gorge or river on a cable? Mr. Brennan's
ingenuity has anticipated this emergency. The gyroscopes that balance
his cars operate in a vacuum, and all the bearings are so well devised
as to give very little friction. The wheels will continue running for
a considerable time after the power is shut off. The large gyroscopes
of the commercial car, it is estimated, will perhaps require two hours
to attain the highest rate of rotation, but they will then continue
revolving at an effective speed for some hours, even if no further
power is applied to them.

It may be said, too, that the gyrocar is provided with lateral legs
that may be let down in case of emergency or when the car is not in
use, to avoid waste of energy in needless running of the gyroscope.
All in all, it would appear that the dangers of travel in a gyrocar
should be fewer than those that attend an ordinary double-track car;
and Mr. Brennan believes that it will be possible, with the aid of the
new mechanism, to attain a speed of one hundred and fifty, perhaps even
two hundred miles an hour with safety.


The gyroscopic mechanism for automatically balancing the car is
contained in the cab-like anterior portion. The platform of the car
maintains its equilibrium even when the forty passengers are crowded on
one side, as shown in the upper picture.]



It must not be supposed that Mr. Louis Brennan's remarkable monorail
car affords the first illustration of an attempt to make practical use
of the principles of gyroscopic action. The fact is quite otherwise.
The idea of giving steadiness to such instruments as telescopes and
compasses on shipboard with the aid of gyroscopes originated half a
century ago, and was put into fairly successful operation by Professor
Piazzi Smyth (in 1856). More than a century earlier than that (in
1744), an effort was made to aid the navigator, by the use of a
spinning-top with a polished upper surface, to give an artificial
horizon at sea, that observations might be made when the actual horizon
was hidden by clouds or fog. The inventor himself, Serson by name,
was sent out by the British Admiralty to test the apparatus, and was
lost in the wreck of the ship _Victory_. His top seemed not to have
commended itself to his compatriots, but it has been in use more or
less ever since, particularly among French navigators.


These first attempts to use the gyroscope at sea were of a technical
character, and could have no great popular interest. But about
twenty-five years ago an attempt was made to utilize the principle of
the spinning-top in a way that would directly concern the personal
comfort of a large number of voyagers. It was nothing less than the
effort to give stability to a room on a steamship, in order that the
fortunate occupant might avoid the evils of seasickness. The man who
stood sponsor for the idea, and who expended sums variously estimated
at from fifty thousand to more than a million dollars in the futile
attempt to carry it into execution, was the famous Sir Henry Bessemer,
famed for his revolutionary innovations in the steel industry. It would
appear that Bessemer's first intention was to make a movable room to be
balanced by mechanisms worked by hand. But after his project was under
way his attention was called to the possibility of utilizing gyroscopic
forces to the same end. As the story goes, he chanced to purchase a top
for sixpence, and that small beginning led him ultimately to expend
more than a million dollars in playing with larger tops. His expensive
toy passed into history as the "Bessemer chamber." It was actually
constructed on a Channel steamer; but the would-be inventor, practical
engineer though he was, did not find a way properly to apply the
principle, and his experiment ended in utter failure.

With this, the idea that the gyroscope-wheel could ever aid in
steadying a ship at sea seemed to be proved a mere vagary unworthy the
attention of engineers. But not all experimenters were disheartened,
and since the day of Sir Henry Bessemer's fiasco a number of workers
have given thought to the problem--with the object, however, of
applying the powers of the revolving wheel not merely to a single
room but to an entire ship. I have personal knowledge of at least one
inventor, quite unknown to fame, who believed that he had solved the
problem, but who died before he could put his invention to a practical
test. It remained for a German engineer, Dr. Otto Schlick, to put
before the world, first as a theory and then as a demonstration, the
practical utility of the revolving wheel in preventing a ship from


In the year 1904 Dr. Schlick elaborated his theory before the Society
of Naval Architects in London. His paper aroused much interest in
technical circles, but most of his hearers believed that it represented
a theory that would never be made a tangible reality. Fortunately,
however, Dr. Schlick was enabled to make a practical test, by
constructing a wheel and installing it on a small ship--a torpedo-boat
called the _Sea-bar_, discarded from the German navy. The vessel is one
hundred and sixteen feet in length and of a little over fifty-six tons'
displacement. The device employed consists of a fly-wheel one meter in
diameter, weighing just over eleven hundred pounds and operated by a
turbine mechanism capable of giving it a maximum velocity of sixteen
hundred revolutions per minute. This powerful fly-wheel was installed
in the hull of the _Sea-bar_ on a vertical axis, whereas the Brennan
gyroscope operates on a horizontal axis. So installed, the Schlick
gyroscope does not interfere in the least with the steering or with
the ordinary progression of the ship. Its sole design is to prevent the
ship from rolling.

The expectations of its inventor were fully realized. On a certain day
in July, 1906, with a sea so rough that the ship rolled through an
arc of thirty degrees, when the balance-wheel was not in revolution,
the arc of rolling was reduced to one degree when the great top was
set spinning and its secondary bearings released. In other words, it
practically abolished the rolling motion of the craft, causing its
decks to remain substantially level, while the ship as a whole heaved
up and down with the waves. These remarkable results, with more in
kind, were recorded in the paper which Sir William White read before
the Institution of Naval Architects in London in April, 1907. He
himself had witnessed tests of the Schlick gyroscope, and, in common
with his colleagues, he accepted the demonstrations as unequivocal.

Fully to understand the action of Dr. Schlick's invention, one must
know that it is not a mere wheel on the single pivot, but a wheel
adjusted in such a fashion that it can oscillate longitudinally while
revolving on its vertical axis. In other words, it is precisely as
if one of the two gyroscope-wheels used in the Brennan car (greatly
enlarged) were so placed that its main axis was vertical, its secondary
axis, or axis of oscillation, being horizontal and at right angles to
the ship's length. Thus, while spinning on its vertical axis the body
of the top is able to oscillate, pendulum-like, lengthwise of the ship.

In principle the action of this wheel is not different from that of an
ordinary top on your table which wabbles to the right or to the left
when you push its axis straight away from you. Yet to the untechnical
observer it seems as if the Schlick gyroscope were a living thing,
governed by almost human motives. If you apply a brake to prevent the
longitudinal oscillations of the gyroscope, the effect, even though the
fly-wheel still revolves at full speed, is precisely as if you pinioned
the arms of a strong man, so that he saw the futility of resistance
and made no struggle to free himself. Under such circumstances the
gyroscope--though it continues to spin as hard as ever--has no effect
whatever in preventing the rolling of the ship; it stands there, like
the strong man bound, expressing its discontent with an angry groan.

But if you release the brake so that the entire mechanism is free to
oscillate lengthwise of the ship, all is changed. It is as if you cut
the cords that bound the strong man's arms. Instantly the mechanism
springs into action. It will no longer allow itself to be swung with
each roll of the ship; it will resist and prove which is master. Its
mighty mass, pivoted on the lateral trunnions, lunges forward and
backward with terrific force, as if it would tear loose from its
bearings and dash the entire ship into pieces. It causes the ship to
pitch a trifle fore and aft as it does so; but meantime its axis stands
rigidly erect in the lateral plane, though the waves push against the
sides of the ship as before. The decks of the vessel, that were tipping
from side to side, so that loose objects slid from one rail to the
other, are now held rigidly at a level, scarcely permitted to deviate
to the extent of a violent tremor. The gyroscope has won the contest.
To maintain its victory it must continue its backward and forward
plunging; but from side to side its axis will not swerve.


It was the failure to understand that a gyroscope-wheel, to work
effectively, must be given opportunity to oscillate in this secondary
fashion that led Sir Henry Bessemer to spend an enormous sum in a vain
effort to accomplish on a small scale what Dr. Schlick's gyroscope
accomplishes for the entire ship. Now it is clearly understood that
a marine gyroscope on an absolutely fixed shaft cannot exercise its
full action; but there is still a good deal of difference of opinion
among engineers as to just how much a spinning body must be permitted
to oscillate in order to make its gyroscopic effects noticeable. The
discussion that has taken place over the loss of the torpedo-boat
_Viper_ furnishes a case in point.

Some critics contend that the loss of the boat was due to the
gyroscopic action of its turbine engines. They believed that the
turbine at the stern of the little ship held that portion of the craft
in a rigid plane, while the anterior portion of the ship, caught in the
trough of a wave, broke away. That the ship broke in two is certain;
but competent engineers have denied that gyroscopic turbines could have
had any share in its destruction. According to their view, the turbines
of a ship are powerless to exert the gyroscopic action in question,
because their axes are fixed and they thus have not the opportunity for
secondary oscillation to which I have referred. Meanwhile there are
other equally competent mechanicians who believe that the vibration
or oscillation of the body of the ship itself may suffice, under
certain circumstances, to give the turbine precisely such freedom of
motion as will enable it to exercise a powerful gyroscopic effect.
Dr. Schlick himself contends, and seems with the aid of models to
demonstrate, that such a gyroscopic action is exercised by the wheels
of a side-wheel steamer, which revolve on a shaft no less fixed than
that of a turbine. If such is the case, there would seem to be no
reason why a turbine-engine may not at times exercise the power of a
tremendous gyroscope, such as it obviously constitutes. The question
must find practical solution at the hands of the naval architects of
the immediate future, as turbine engines are now in use in several of
the largest steamships afloat, and others are being installed in craft
of all descriptions.


It should be said that engineers disagree as to the practical utility
of the Schlick gyroscope. No one questions that it steadies the ship,
but some critics think that its use may not be unattended with danger.
It has been suggested that under certain circumstances--for example,
the sudden disturbance of equilibrium due to a tremendous wave--the
gyroscope might increase the oscillation of the ship to a dangerous
extent, though ordinarily having the opposite effect.

The danger from this source is probably remote. There is, however,
another danger that cannot be overlooked, and which marine architects
must take into constant account. What we have already seen has made
it clear that the revolving wheel of the Schlick gyroscope, to be
effective, must bear an appreciable relation to the mass of the entire
ship. Such a weight, revolving at a terrific speed and oscillating
like a tremendous pendulum, obviously represents an enormous store
of energy. It was estimated by Professor Lambert that a gyroscope of
sufficient size to render even a Channel steamer stable would represent
energy equal to fifty thousand foot-pounds--making it comparable,
therefore, to an enormous projectile. Should such a gyroscope in action
break loose from its trunnions, it would go through the ship with all
the devastating effect of a monster cannon ball.

The possibility of such a catastrophe is perhaps the one thing that
will cause naval architects to go slowly in the adoption of the new
device. We can hardly suppose that the difficulties represented are
insuperable, but undoubtedly a long series of experiments will be
necessary before the Schlick gyroscope will come into general use.
The apparatus has been tested, however, on a German coast steamer. It
may not be very long before craft of the size of Channel steamers and
boats that go to Cuba and the Bermudas are equipped with the device.
Naturally enough, this prospect excites the liveliest popular interest.
Visions of pleasant ocean voyages come before the mind's eye of many a
voyager who hitherto has dreaded the sea.

But whatever the future of the gyroscope as applied to pleasure-craft,
there can be little doubt about its utility as applied to vessels of
war. It seems a safe enough prediction that all battle-ships will be
supplied with this mechanism in the not distant future. Amid the maze
of engines of destruction on war-vessels, one more will not appal
the builder; while the advantage of being able to fling a storm of
projectiles from a stable deck must be inestimable.



If it were possible to regard all medieval literature without more than
a grain of doubt, we must believe that aerial flight by human beings
was accomplished long before science had risen even to the dignity of
acquiring its name. Thus, it is recorded by a medieval historian that
during the reign of Charlemagne some mysterious persons having acquired
some knowledge of aerostatics from the astrologers, who were credited
with numerous supernatural powers, constructed a flying-machine, and
compelling a few peasants to enter it, sent them off on an aerial
voyage. Unfortunately for the unwilling voyagers, so the story runs,
they landed in the city of Lyons, where they were immediately seized
and condemned to death as sorcerers. But the wise bishop of the city,
doubting the story of their aerial journey, pardoned them and allowed
them to escape.

That such a fabulous tale could gain credence is explained by the
prevailing belief in the powers of the astrologers and sorcerers at
that time. People who could seriously believe that an alchemist could
create gold and prolong life and youth indefinitely, would find nothing
startling in the announcement that he could also perform the relatively
simple feat of flying--a thing that birds and bats accomplish with
such obvious facility. And nothing is more certain than that attempts
at aerial flight have been made at various times since the beginning of

As with almost everything else in the matter of modern scientific
advancement, the mysterious writings of the monk, Roger Bacon, are
supposed to contain passages to show that the worthy friar had an
inkling of the secret of air navigation. But he himself admits that he
had only a theoretical knowledge of the subject, and had never seen a
flying-machine of any kind in actual flight.

Much more definite and tangible are the designs of possible
flying-machines still extant in the sketch-book of Leonardo da Vinci,
made in the fifteenth century. From Leonardo's sketches it appears that
the artist had conceived the idea of constructing jointed wings to be
worked with strings and pulleys, the motive power to be that of a man's
arms and legs. It appears also that later he had very definite ideas
as to the possibilities of an aerial screw, and he is believed to have
constructed one of these screws made on the same general plan as that
of the ordinary type of windmill in use at that time. But nothing of
practical importance came of any of Leonardo's experiments.

It is probable that his abandonment of the project of flying by means
of wings worked by muscular force was due to the discovery that the
strength of the muscles of even the strongest man was relatively slight
as compared with the corresponding muscle of birds. Leonardo was
peculiarly capable of discerning this discrepancy in strength, since
he himself was one of the strongest men of his time. It is said that
he could bend and straighten horseshoes with his hands. But in his
experiments with the aerial screw he probably discovered very soon that
even such muscular force as he was capable of exerting was entirely
inadequate; and there being no other mode of producing power at that
time, the idea of aerial navigation by this means was also abandoned.

About this time some imaginative persons, realizing the possibilities
of muscular development when begun in childhood and persistently
practiced, attempted the development of a race of men whose abnormally
strong pectoral muscles would enable them to use artificial wings for
flying. For this purpose a certain number of young boys were selected
and constantly drilled in exercises of flapping the arms, to which
broad sails were attached. These attempts were persisted in for several
years, and it is said that some of these boys became so expert that by
skipping along the surface of the ground and vigorously flapping their
wing-attachments, they could travel at incredible speed, although never
able actually to rise from the ground.

In 1678, a Frenchman named Besnier invented a flying-machine that is
credited with being more successful than any hitherto attempted. His
machine consisted of two bars of wood which were so hinged to a man's
shoulders that they could be worked up and down by movements of the
hands and feet. At the ends of these two bars were muslin wings made
like shutters, so arranged that they were opened by a downward stroke
and closed automatically by a reverse motion. The general appearance
presented by these wings was that of four book-covers fastened by
their backs to the ends of the bars, opening and closing alternately as
the bars were worked up and down.

The inventor began his experiments in a modest way. His first attempt
at flight was by jumping from a chair; next he tried a table; and
finally, emboldened by his success, he made flights from window-sills
and even house-tops. On one occasion he is said to have sailed from
his attic window over the roof of a neighboring cottage, alighting,
without injury, some distance beyond. It was even rumored at one time
that he would try to fly across the Seine, but if such a feat was ever
contemplated, it was never attempted.

Half a century later, however, the Marquis de Bacqueville actually made
such an attempt with a machine somewhat similar to that of Besnier. The
marquis had practiced in private with his machine with such encouraging
results that he felt confident the feat was not an impossible one--in
fact, that he was sure of accomplishing it. He therefore announced
publicly that at a certain time the attempt would be made, and on the
appointed day an immense crowd of people gathered on the banks of the
river to witness the spectacle. Starting from a building some little
distance away from the stream, the marquis made good progress at first,
but just as he reached the river-bank his machine collapsed and he was
tumbled out, alighting on a barge moored at the edge of the stream.
Fortunately, the only injury he sustained was a broken leg; but this
single attempt seems to have satisfied his aeronautic ambitions.

Until this time all attempts made at aerial flight had been those in
imitation of birds; but during the early part of the eighteenth century
the idea of the balloon was developed. This was the result of the
numerous important discoveries made about that time as to the qualities
of the atmosphere, and also several other "airs," as gases were called,
such as their expansion and contraction under different conditions of

In 1766 the English philosopher, Henry Cavendish, discovered that
hydrogen gas has only about one-seventh the weight of an equal bulk
of air, this scientific discovery pointing naturally to balloon
construction, since obviously if such a light gas were confined in a
suitable receptacle, the device would rise to a certain height through
the heavier atmosphere, as a cork rises through water. At the same
time the experiments of the chemist, Dr. Joseph Black, and those of
his younger contemporary, Doctor Priestly, were directed along the
same lines, all of them pointing to the possibility of constructing an
aerostat with buoyancy and lifting-power, and Priestly's _Experiments
Relating to the Different Kinds of Air_ is said to have been directly
responsible for stimulating the efforts of Stephen and Joseph
Montgolfier, the French paper manufacturers, who finally invented and
sent up the first balloon.

Even before Montgolfier's invention, Tiberius Cavallo, an Italian
living in England, had demonstrated the possibility of making
toy-balloons. But the balloons of Cavallo were small affairs made
of bladders or paper bags filled with hydrogen gas. One of these
materials being too heavy and the other too porous for successful
balloon construction, the performances of these toy-balloons were not
conclusively demonstrative.


Throughout the entire spring of 1783, all Auvergne, in France, was kept
in breathless expectancy by constant rumors that the two Montgolfiers
had really solved the problem of aerial flight, and would soon be seen
soaring over the country in a strange birdlike machine. Rumor pictured
this machine in various forms and sizes, but in point of fact there was
really very little secrecy on the part of the inventors themselves, who
frankly explained the principle of the balloon they were constructing.
It was hardly to be expected, however, that most persons would believe
the plain truth that so simple a device as a bag filled with hot air
would do what had long been considered impossible.

Spring advanced and lapsed into summer, however, and as no
flying-machine made its appearance, public clamor became so loud that
the Montgolfiers felt they could postpone their demonstration no
longer, although the balloon they were working on was not completed to
their entire satisfaction. Nevertheless, they fixed on the definite
date of June 5, (1783) as the day and Annonay as the place for making
the trial, and their faith in their invention was shown by the fact
that special invitations were sent to the leading persons in the
vicinity, and a general invitation extended to the world at large.

But in place of some complicated and birdlike machine, as rumor had
pictured the flying-machine, the multitude that gathered about the
starting-point found only an immense cloth bag about thirty-five feet
in diameter, without machinery or wings, and capable of containing some
twenty-two thousand cubic feet of air, which the Montgolfier brothers
and their assistants were inflating with heated air. As the bag filled,
one of the brothers announced with all seriousness, that as soon as it
was completely filled it would "rise to the clouds," carrying with it a
frame weighing some three hundred pounds.

This announcement was not received with the same seriousness with
which it was given. The idea of expecting anyone to believe that an
ordinary cloth bag would fly excited the risibilities even of the
more serious members of the crowd. Nevertheless, as the great globe
filled it became evident to the spectators that it was tugging at the
restraining ropes in efforts to rise, in a most extraordinary manner;
and when, at a signal from the inventors, the ropes were cast off and
the monster shot skyward, the crowd's smiles were turned to expressions
of gaping astonishment. Straight into the air the monster mounted,
and then, wafted by a gentle breeze, it continued to soar and rise
until in ten minutes it had reached an altitude of six thousand feet,
sailing easily in a horizontal direction for a short distance, then
gradually descending and alighting some eight thousand feet from the

The news of this triumph travelled quickly to Paris, and the Parisians
clamored to see the wonderful performance repeated in the capital. The
king and court were as interested as the savants and the populace, and
an order was sent at once by his Majesty, bidding the brothers bring
their balloon to the city.

In the meantime, however, a savant named Charles had started the
construction of a balloon that was to be filled with hydrogen gas
instead of heated air. This was a much more expensive undertaking, as
a thousand pounds of iron filings and five hundred pounds of sulphuric
acid were necessary to manufacture a sufficient quantity of gas to
fill the varnished silk bag. But by the 23rd of August everything
was in readiness for the filling process, and the following day this
first gas-balloon rose from the Champs de Mars to a distance of three
thousand feet and disappeared into the clouds. Three-quarters of an
hour later it descended in a field near the little village of Gonesse,
to the great consternation of the inhabitants of the neighborhood,
who supposed it to be some monster bird, animal, or flying dragon.
Arming themselves with scythes and pitchforks, therefore, but keeping
at a safe distance, the boldest of the peasants sallied out and
surrounded the field in which the creature had alighted. As it made no
offensive movement, however, one bold huntsman armed with his trusty
fowling-piece, crept cautiously within range and fired, tearing a
hole in the monster's side and causing it to writhe and collapse,
giving off what appeared to be a foul-smelling, poisonous gas in its
death-struggles. When finally it lay flat and still the villagers
became emboldened, and rushing upon it cut and tore it to shreds,
ending the performance by tying the fragments to a horse's tail and
sending the animal scurrying across the fields.

In anticipation of some such demonstration as this, the French
Government had sent out a proclamation on the day of the ascent.
"Anyone who should see in the sky a globe, resembling the moon in an
eclipse," the proclamation ran, "should be aware that far from being
an alarming phenomenon, it is only a machine, made of taffeta, or
light canvas covered with paper, that cannot possibly cause any harm,
and will some day prove serviceable to the wants of society." But
apparently none of the villagers of Gonesse had seen this proclamation.

The success of these balloon ascensions sent a wave of enthusiastic
interest in aeronautics all over France. The novelty and possibilities
of ballooning appealed to the French temperament, just as the
possibilities of submarine navigation and automobiling did a century
later. As a result, France became at once the centre of ballooning, the
whole nation being eagerly absorbed in the subject of navigating the
air. In the theatre of action, the Montgolfiers continued to occupy the
centre of the stage, and at all times showed themselves worthy of the
leading rôle. Pursuant to the order of the king, M. Montgolfier had
come to the capital, and on September 19th, before Louis XVI and his
queen and the court at Versailles, sent up another hot-air balloon, or
"Montgolfier," as this kind of balloon had come to be called.

A novel and important feature of this exhibition, however, was the
substitution of living animals for sand-bags or other ballast, as used
heretofore. In a wicker cage a cock, a duck, and a sheep were fastened,
and these were carried some fifteen hundred feet into the air,
descending uninjured, two miles from the starting-point, a few minutes
later. The cage was broken open in the descent, but its occupants
escaped injury, and the sheep was found quietly grazing when the rescue
party arrived.

The successful voyage of these caged animals stimulated the balloonists
to attempt the crucial test of sending up a balloon carrying a human
passenger. But from this perilous undertaking the boldest spirits
recoiled, even the Montgolfiers refusing to venture. In those days,
however, there was always a means of securing human beings, willing
or otherwise, for any undertaking. Where gold would not tempt, it
needed but a word of the monarch to commute the death-sentence of some
criminal, placing him at the disposal of the scientists for a better
or worse fate than the gallows, as the case might be. And so when
Louis XVI heard of the plight of the balloon-makers, he came to their
assistance with the offer of two condemned prisoners to be sent on the
first aerial voyage. This offer had an unexpected effect. The pride of
a certain high-minded aeronaut named Rozier, who had hitherto refused
to risk his life, was touched at the thought of criminals performing an
act that all honest men refused. "What! are vile criminals to have the
glory of being the first to ascend into the air?" he exclaimed. "No,
no, that must not be." And forthwith he offered his own services for
the hazardous undertaking.

The royal decree was accordingly repealed, to the chagrin of the
criminals, no doubt, and preparations made for the momentous attempt.
Montgolfier was engaged to construct a large balloon, and on the 15th
of October, 1783, the trial was made in a garden in the Faubourg St.
Antoine. Let no one suppose, however, that this first man-carrying
balloon was cut loose from the earth and sent skyward to shift for
itself, as might be gathered from the reluctance of persons to make the
ascent. On the contrary, the balloon was held by strong cables, and
allowed to rise only to a height of eighty feet--to the level of some
of the lower windows of a modern sky-scraper--the aeronaut keeping it
afloat for about five minutes by burning wool and straw in a grate made
for the purpose.

Those who have witnessed the reckless manner in which the modern
balloonist mounts thousands of feet into the air, seated on a trapeze
or clinging to flying rings attached to an old balloon, patched and
frequently rotten, may be inclined to sneer at the brave Rozier.
But it should be remembered that in 1783 people had not learned
nineteenth-century contempt for altitude. Furthermore, no one could
tell what might be the effect upon the human system of ascending to a
great height when away from a building or other terrestrial object.
Fainting, hemorrhages, heart-failure, and death had been predicted,
and could not be practically refuted. In short, it was an absolutely
new and untried field; and it required far greater courage on the
part of Rozier to mount eighty feet in a captive balloon than for a
modern aeronaut to sail thousands of feet skyward. In proof of this is
Rozier's subsequent record of ascents in free balloons, and dangerous
voyages, in the last of which he lost his life.

To France, therefore, belongs the honor of inventing the balloon and
being first to test it with a human passenger. On this last point,
however, France only eclipsed America by a few days. For while the
craze for balloon-making was at its height in France during the summer
of 1783, a somewhat similar craze on a small scale had started in some
of the American cities. Two members of the Philosophical Academy of
Philadelphia, Rittenhouse and Hopkins, constructed a peculiar balloon
having forty-seven small bags inflated with hydrogen attached to a car.
On November 28th, six weeks after Rozier's ascent, this balloon was
sent up, with James Wilcox, a carpenter of Philadelphia, as passenger.
Everything was going well with the voyager until he suddenly discovered
that the wind was wafting him toward the Schuylkill River, which so
alarmed him that in attempting to descend quickly he punctured the bags
so freely that he came to the ground with considerable force, escaping,
however, with a dislocated wrist.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a new danger to balloonists had arisen.
Fanaticism was rife, particularly in the vicinity of Paris, and many
members of the cloth were tireless in denouncing this "tampering
with God's laws by invading the inviolability of the firmament."
Fortunately, the king took a broader view, and his soldiers were
supplied freely for protecting balloonists and their property; but even
with this protection both were roughly handled at times.

By this time England had become aroused; balloon-making became popular
across the Channel, and some new records for time and distance were
soon made. One balloon sent up in London landed in Sussex, forty-eight
miles away, making the voyage in two hours and a half. A few days later
a small balloon sent up in Kent was blown across the Channel and landed
in Flanders. But neither of these balloons carried passengers.

As yet there had been few serious attempts at constructing dirigible
balloons, but now Jean-Pierre Blanchard opened a new era of experiments
by combining an ordinary balloon for obtaining the lifting power
with wings and rudder. In this balloon there was also placed an
umbrella-shaped sail interposed horizontally between the car and the
body of the balloon, which was to act as a sort of parachute in case of
accident. On the first voyage in this balloon Blanchard was to have had
for companion a Benedictine monk; but as the machine began to rise from
the ground the monk was seized with fear, turned deadly pale, crossed
himself, and seemed about to collapse. Fortunately at this moment a
leak was discovered in the balloon and it was accordingly lowered for
repairs. When these were completed the aeronaut decided to dispense
with the company of the monk, who was only too willing to gratify his
wish. But just as the car was again ready to start, a stripling student
from the Military Academy forced his way through the crowd, jumped
into the car, and announced his intention of making the ascent. Being
ordered from the car by Blanchard, he declared that he had the king's
license, and when asked to produce it he drew his sword, declaring that
this was the license he referred to. By this time the crowd had lost
patience; some one seized the young man unceremoniously by the collar,
hauled him from the car, and turned him over to the police.

A few years later particular attention was called to this incident by a
rumor, which finally grew into a fixed belief in France, that the young
military student in question was none other than the youthful Napoleon
Bonaparte, then a student at the Academy. Throughout the entire reign
of the emperor this was the general belief, and if it was denied at all
by Napoleon, the denial was not made with due emphasis. At St. Helena,
however, the captive emperor finally stated definitely that he was not
the hero of this escapade, who is now known to have been a student by
the name of Chambon.

Nothing of importance came of Blanchard's first attempt at guiding
a balloon with rudder and wings, except perhaps to emphasize the
fact that wings of an oarlike type were useless for propulsion; but
nevertheless Blanchard soon prepared a somewhat similar balloon in
which he proposed to steer himself across the English Channel. Before
this time, as will be remembered, several balloons had crossed the
Channel, but none of them had carried passengers. On this voyage
Blanchard proposed to make the attempt, taking with him as companion
an American physician named Jeffries. On January 7, 1785, these two
embarked from the cliffs of Dover, a strong wind at the time setting
toward the French coast. Before their journey was half completed they
discovered that an insufficient amount of ballast had been shipped,
and that the balloon was gradually descending at a rate which would
land them in the Channel several miles from shore. To avert this
calamity they were obliged to throw out everything in the car--books,
provisions, anchors, ropes, the "wings" that were intended for guiding,
and also most of their garments. They were, indeed, about to cut loose
the car itself, and climb into the shrouds, when suddenly the balloon,
caught by a fresh current of air, began to rise, and was wafted to a
safe landing place. This was the most daring exploit as yet performed
by the aeronauts.

Although at least fifty different persons had made more or less
extended aerial voyages during the two years that had intervened since
the invention of the first balloon, no one of them had been seriously
injured. Indeed, this apparently most dangerous undertaking had been
relegated to the grade of commonplace in popular opinion, owing to
these fortunate results. But the world was soon to learn that its first
estimates of the dangers of ballooning had not been exaggerated.

Since the invention of the Montgolfier balloon two distinct schools
of balloonists had arisen, one of which favored the hot-air, and the
other the hydrogen balloon. By the advocates of the hot-air balloon it
was claimed that the relatively small expense, and the fact that the
balloonist could descend at any time and renew his supply of fuel, made
this the most desirable type, at least for long-distance voyages. By
the advocates of the hydrogen balloon it was shown that the hot-air
balloon must be constructed much larger to obtain the same amount of
lifting power, could be maintained in the air for a comparatively short
time at most, and was in constant danger from the fire that must be
kept burning in the grate. In reply to this last charge the hot-air
advocates pointed out that a tiny spark of electricity, which would not
affect the hot-air balloon, might explode the hydrogen balloon, thus
introducing an element of danger quite as great as that of the fire in
the hot-air balloons.

As an outcome of these disputes, Pilatre de Rozier, the first man
ever to make an ascent, proposed to attempt to cross the Channel in a
new-type balloon, a combination of hot-air and hydrogen machine, which
was supposed to represent the good qualities of both types. Several
months were consumed in constructing it, and when finally completed he
and a companion attempted to cross the Channel, as had been done by
Blanchard and Jeffries a short time previously. All went well at first
and the balloon was several miles on its journey when suddenly the
wind changed, the balloon was blown back over the heads of the anxious
watchers below, and when a short distance inland, suddenly burst into
flames. At first it descended with an oscillating movement, and then,
freed from the restraining silk and canvas, it shot downward, striking
the earth with terrible force, the two occupants being killed. Thus the
man to make the first ascent in a balloon was also the first to lose
his life. Rozier himself seems to have expected some such ending to his
voyages, and just before making his last ascent he remarked to a friend
that, whatever the outcome, "one had lived long enough when one had
added something to humanity."

The fate of Rozier and his companion being known, and the awful
dangers of balloon ascensions thus forcibly brought home, there was a
popular outcry against such attempts and efforts were made to pass
laws forbidding them. But no such demand or suggestion came from the
balloonists themselves. They could point to the fact that, while as yet
the balloon had been of no importance commercially, it had at least
been turned to some account in the field of science, which was simply
a stepping-stone to commercial advancement. It had been the means
of settling forever the question of temperature and rarefaction at
different altitudes, besides numerous less important although no less
interesting subjects.

While it was true that many of the experiments of the aeronauts had
added largely to human knowledge, some of them were both dangerous
and foolhardy. An exhibition of this kind of folly was given by the
Frenchman, Testu-Bressy, who, wishing to test his theory that large
animals would bleed from the nose at a much lower elevation than man,
despite the thicker consistency of their blood, made an ascent mounted
on the back of a horse. On this occasion the aeronaut did not, even
take the simple precaution of tying the horse's feet to the car; and
what seems most remarkable, the animal made the journey without moving
or showing any sign of fear.


This view was taken before the start of an international balloon race
near Berlin. The balloons are of the ordinary non-dirigible type.]

The time was at hand, however, when Montgolfier, who had always
maintained that the true usefulness of the balloon would be in warfare,
was given the opportunity of seeing his contention verified. On the
breaking out of the French Revolution, balloon corps were at once
pressed into the service of the army. Napoleon Bonaparte carried with
him some balloons on his Egyptian campaign, partly for the purpose
of making observations, and partly to impress the Arabs with
the superiority of Christian armies. A school of aeronautics was
established at Meudon, and some fifty young men, sworn to secrecy,
assigned to it. Balloons were constructed, tested, and distributed
among the different divisions of the army, and one of these was used
for reconnoitering the position of the Austrian forces just before
the battle of Fleurus. In the course of the day two ascents were made
in this balloon, which was held captive by several thousand feet of
cable. The second ascent drew the fire of the enemy's cannon, but the
range was too great and no harm was done. Meanwhile the French general,
Jourdain, was furnished most valuable information by these aerial

The Revolutionary wars were also responsible, indirectly, for the
invention of the parachute. It will be recalled that even as early as
the fifteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci had conceived the idea of a
kind of parachute; and that Blanchard had a spread-canvas arrangement
to produce a similar effect attached to some of his balloons. It was
not until 1799, however, that the folding umbrella-like parachute was
invented, the inventor, Garnerin, having developed the idea in trying
to devise some means of escape from the fortress of Buda, Hungary,
where he was being kept prisoner after one of the battles in the North
between the Revolutionary forces and the Austrians and Prussians.
Although he did not actually effect his escape in this dramatic
manner, he finally proved that he had not dreamed in vain during his
imprisonment by demonstrating the entire practicality of the parachute.

Garnerin's first practical test of his invention was made in October,
1797, when he ascended to the height of six thousand feet in a balloon
to which was attached a parachute of the ordinary umbrella type still
used. At that altitude he cut loose the balloon which rushed upward
until it exploded, while the parachute, dropping rapidly at first,
finally settled slowly and gently to the earth, without injury to the


The attempts at navigating a balloon having proved thus far so
unsuccessful, many inventors now returned to the idea of producing a
flying-machine which was independent of the inflated balloon. It was
evident that the resistance presented by the great surface necessary
in a balloon of sufficient size to have the required lifting power was
such that no known efforts of propulsion could overcome this resistance
even in the face of a slight breeze, to say nothing of a strong wind.
The balloon was by no means abandoned, however, and two definite
schools of aeronauts gradually came into existence, each having ardent

As early as 1784, the aeronaut Gérard had proposed a flying-machine
which was to be made with body, wings, and steering apparatus, in
which propulsion was to be accomplished by the use of escaping gas and
gun-cotton. The inventor himself was so sanguine of the results, and so
many contemporary inventors were of the same opinion, that when this
machine proved to be an utter failure, the blow to the advocates of
the flying-machine was so great that they did not rally from it for
something like a quarter of a century. In 1809, however, a Viennese
watchmaker named Degen revived interest in attempts at mechanical
flight by inventing a flying-machine which consisted essentially of two
parachutes. These were worked by hand, and the inventor was said to
have been able to rise to a height of over fifty feet from the ground
"moving in any desired direction."

These claims were not borne out in fact, but they stimulated an
interest in the possibilities of mechanical flight, and in the
parachute, which had never come into popular favor despite its
successful use by the inventor, Garnerin. Hopes were again entertained
that a modification of this device might be utilized in solving the
problem of aerial flight, and in 1837 an aeronaut, Henry Cocking,
invented a new type in which he proposed to descend from a balloon.
The parachute of Garnerin, as we know, had been constructed like a
huge umbrella, whereas Cocking's parachute had the general appearance
of an umbrella held upside down. An unusual interest was aroused in
the prospective experiment from the fact that a great majority of
scientists did not consider that this parachute was constructed on
correct scientific principles, and predicted that the aeronaut would
be killed when he attempted to use it. Before the day of the trial
arrived numerous articles had been published, presenting arguments
for and against Cocking's device, and on the very day itself one of
the newspapers contained a long article by a leading authority on
aerostatics, reviewing the numerous reasons why the attempt would
surely prove a failure.

Despite the protests of the majority of interested persons, however,
Cocking and a companion named Green made the ascent at the appointed
time. After rising to a certain height the parachute was cast off,
the parachute's car containing the inventor, while Green remained in
the balloon. Instead of sailing slowly toward the earth, however, the
parachute fell rapidly, with an oscillating movement, gaining speed and
jerking violently as it descended, until finally when several hundred
feet in the air, Cocking was thrown from the car and dashed to pieces,
while the wreck of the parachute landed a few yards away. Thus the
predictions of the majority came true, although as we know now, the
cause of the tragedy was due to faulty material rather than the design
of the machine. For the American aeronaut, Wise, demonstrated a little
later that parachutes built on the same principle as that of Cocking
could be used successfully.

As we have seen, most of the flying-machines attempted heretofore
took for their model the bird with flapping wings. There were certain
persons, however, who had observed that this flapping movement was not
essential to flight--that certain large-winged birds, such as buzzards
and hawks, were able to soar in any direction at will, holding their
wings rigidly. It was evident, therefore, that shape, position, and
construction of the bird's wing played quite as important a part as the
flapping movement. The lifting power of plane surfaces, or aeroplanes,
was also carefully studied in this connection and in 1842 the inventor,
Henson, constructed a flying-machine utilizing this aeroplane
principle, his machine having thin, fixed surfaces, slightly inclined
to the line of motion, and supported by the upward pressure of the air
due to the forward movement.

Everyone will remember the distance to which a skilful juggler can
project an ordinary playing-card by giving it a certain inclination
in throwing. It will travel upward or on a level, and continue this
direction until the force of the movement of throwing is exhausted.
Obviously, if this force were self-contained in the card--if it could
continue rotating and moving forward--it could fly indefinitely. Henson
had studied and experimented with these miniature aeroplanes, and was
convinced that if the same principle that governed their flight were to
be applied to larger machines, practical flying-machines could be made.

"If any light and flat, or nearly flat, article," he wrote, "be
projected edgeways in a slightly inclined position, the same will rise
on the air till the force exerted is expended, when the article so
thrown or projected will descend; and it will readily be conceived that
if the article possessed in itself a continuous power or force equal to
that used in throwing or projecting it, the article would continue to
ascend so long as the forward part of the surface was upward in respect
to its hinder part, and that such article, when the power was stopped,
or when the inclination was recovered, would descend by gravity only if
the power was stopped, or by gravity, aided by the force of the power
contained in the article, if the power be contained, thus imitating the
flight of a bird."

But when Henson attempted to fly in his elaborately planned and
constructed flying-machine, it proved a complete failure. It showed
a tendency to rise, but its lifting power was insufficient for the
weight of the engine driving the propellers. It was evident, however,
that if the power of the engine could be sufficiently increased, or,
what amounts to the same thing, its weight sufficiently lightened, a
machine built on the aeroplane principle could be made to fly. But at
that time the lightest type of engine was a crude, heavy machine, and
for the moment nothing more was attempted in producing a mechanical
flying-machine propelled by steam.

Meanwhile the possibility of producing a dirigible balloon was again
brought into prominence by the suggestion of two aeronauts, Scott and
Martainville, to change the shape of the envelope of the balloon.
Hitherto, all balloons had been made globular or pear-shaped--shapes
that offered great resisting surfaces to the atmosphere. Now it was
proposed to make them in the form of long, horizontal cylinders, with
pointed ends, these cigar-shaped, or boat-shaped balloons offering
much less resistance. But here, as in the case of the flying-machine,
engines that were sufficiently strong to work the propellers were found
to be too heavy for the balloon to lift. Meanwhile the aeroplane idea
was brought into prominence from an unexpected quarter.

Among the numerous observers in the middle of the century who had noted
the soaring power of birds, was a French sea-captain named Le Bris. On
his long voyages he had studied the movements of the great albatross,
which, with wings rigidly distended, outsailed the swiftest ship
without any apparent exertion. Anxious to study the wing-mechanism of
this bird, the captain, overcoming the scruples of the mariner against
killing the sacred sea-rover, shot one of the birds. On removing a wing
and spreading it in the wind he thought that it had a very appreciable
tendency to pull forward into the breeze, and tended to rise when the
wind was strong. Convinced that by duplicating the shape of the bird he
could construct a successful flying-machine, Le Bris set to work and
succeeded in producing a most remarkable "air-ship."

The body of this machine, which was supposed to correspond to the body
of the bird, was made boat-shaped, and was about thirteen feet long and
four feet wide, being broadest at its prow, in imitation of the breast
of the bird. The front part was decked over, something like the bow of
the modern torpedo-boat, and through this deck protruded a small mast
which was used for supporting the pulleys and cords used in working
the machinery of the wings. Each wing was about twenty-five feet long,
so that the entire spread of the machine was fifty feet. There was
a tail-like structure so hinged that it could be used for steering
up, down, and sidewise, the total area of surface presented to the
atmosphere being something over two hundred square feet, although the
entire "albatross" weighed something less than a hundred pounds.

The front edges of the wings were made of pieces of wood fashioned
like the wings of the albatross, and feathers were imitated by a frame
structure covered with canton flannel. The front edges of the wings
could be given a rotary motion to fix them at any desired angle by an
ingenious device worked by two levers. In operating this artificial
bird the captain proposed to stand in the boat and control its flight
by these sets of levers and by balancing his body.

Having full confidence in the ability of his invention to soar once
it had been given an initial velocity, the captain selected a morning
when a good breeze was blowing and hired a cart-driver to carry him
out into the neighboring fields. The machine was placed horizontally
upon the cart and fastened to it with a rope which could be loosened
by the pulling of a slip-knot held by the captain, who took his
position in the boat. On reaching the open country the driver put his
horse into a brisk trot when, the levers controlling the wings being
set, the machine rose gracefully into the air and travelled forward a
distance of perhaps a hundred yards. At this moment the running-rope in
some unaccountable manner became wound about the body of the driver,
hauling him unceremoniously from his seat, and dangling him writhing
and shrieking at the end of the rope, several feet above the ground.
As it happened, his weight was just sufficient to counterbalance the
wind, so that acting in the capacity of the tail of a kite, he assisted
materially, if involuntarily, in keeping the artificial bird in flight.

When the captain became aware of what was going on below, he altered
the angle of the wings and came slowly to the earth, descending without
accident either to himself or to his machine. All things considered,
this was a remarkable performance, and it was so considered by people
in the neighborhood, who made a hero of the gallant mariner. His next
attempt, however, was less successful. Something went wrong with the
machine shortly after starting, landing the inventor in a stone-quarry
with a broken leg and a shattered machine. This accident also shook the
courage of the captain, and for several years he made no more attempts
at flight, confining his attention to sailing a coasting-vessel. But
his faith in his "albatross" never wavered, even if his courage did for
a time, and in 1867 he began building a more elaborate machine, aided
by public subscriptions. The outlook for this new device seemed very
promising, several fairly successful flights of perhaps two hundred
yards having been made, when a sudden gust of wind catching up the
machine one day during the momentary absence of the inventor, dashed
it to pieces upon the ground. This was the final blow to the hopes
of Captain Le Bris, who made no further attempts, his means and his
energies being entirely exhausted.


Meanwhile the advocates of the dirigible balloon had not remained idle,
many of them attempting to utilize the principle of the aeroplane
in connection with a balloon. Some of these machines were of most
fantastic design, but one in particular, that of Mr. Henri Giffard,
succeeded so well, and proved to be dirigible to such an extent, that
Giffard is sometimes referred to by enthusiastic admirers as "the
Fulton of aerial navigation." In principle, and indeed in general
appearance, this balloon was not unlike some of the balloons built by
Santos-Dumont fifty years later. It had the now-familiar cigar shape,
common to most modern dirigible balloons; and beneath was suspended a
car carrying a steam-engine that worked a screw propeller. The rudder,
placed at the stern just below the balloon in a position corresponding
to the rudder of a ship, was a large canvas sail set in a frame.
The envelope of the balloon was one hundred and fifty feet long and
forty feet in diameter and contained about ninety thousand cubic feet
of coal-gas. To lessen the danger of igniting this from the engine,
Giffard arranged the chimney so that it pointed downward, and suspended
it some forty feet below the envelope.

On September 24, 1852, he rose from the Paris Hippodrome, and succeeded
in making a headway of from five to seven miles an hour in the face
of a strong wind. In response to the rudder his balloon performed
some difficult evolutions, turning right or left at the will of
the operator. He continued his maneuvers for some time, and then
extinguishing his fire, opened the valve and returned safely to the
ground. This was a great victory for the advocates of the dirigible
balloon, and was indeed a performance that has not until recently been
surpassed in the fifty years that have intervened since that time.
But despite this initial success, Giffard soon renounced the field of
aeronautics, and no worthy successor appeared to take his place for
more than a quarter of a century.


One of the most remarkable balloons ever constructed, and one of the
most remarkable voyages ever made in any balloon, was that of the
mammoth aerostat constructed by the noted Parisian photographer,
Nadar, in 1863. Nadar belonged to the school of aviators who opposed
the principle of the balloon as against that of the aeroplane, and his
idea in constructing this leviathan balloon was simply for the purpose
of raising money so that he might build a practical flying-machine,
constructed on the aeroplane principle, and which, he declared,
would revolutionize air navigation. The _Giant_, he said, would be
the last balloon ever constructed, as thereafter air-ships, made on
the principle of the one he was about to construct, would supplant
balloons entirely. His plan was to make the ascent in the _Giant_ from
some large enclosed field near Paris, and the admission price of one
franc to be charged for entering the field was to supply funds for
defraying the expense of building the _Giant_, the surplus to be used
in constructing his flying-machine.

In making the _Giant_ twenty-one thousand yards of silk were used,
the balloon being over two hundred feet in height, with a lifting
capacity of nine thousand pounds. It was built as a double balloon,
one within the other, this being the idea of the aeronaut, Louis
Godard, as a means of preserving the excess of gas produced by dilation
at different altitudes, instead of losing this excess as was usual
with balloons constructed in the ordinary manner. But perhaps the
most interesting thing about this balloon was the structure of the
car and its contents. Like the ordinary car it was constructed of
wicker work, but was of the proportions of a small house, being built
two stories high, with an upper platform like the deck of a ship,
on which the passengers could stand. In the two floors below were a
saloon, compartments for scientific instruments, sleeping-cabins, and
practically all the conveniences of a small, modern house. In the car
and suspended about it were wheels, guns, a printing-press, cameras,
cages of carrier-pigeons, baskets of wine and provisions, games, and an
"abundant supply of confectionery."

The first ascent was made from the Champs de Mars, and twenty-five
thousand persons paid the admission fee to witness it. This did not by
any means represent the number of persons on the field, as the barriers
were broken down in many places early in the day, and a majority of
the spectators thus gained free admission. Fifteen persons made the
ascent upon this occasion, but instead of making a protracted voyage as
intended at first, the balloon was brought to the earth at nine o'clock
in the evening only a few leagues from Paris. It is said that this
landing was made contrary to the wishes of Nadar, but in deference to
the opinion of the Godard brothers, who believed that the balloon was
being carried out to sea, whereas, in point of fact it was travelling
due east, directly away from the Atlantic.

Three weeks later the second ascent was made, on this occasion eight
instead of fifteen persons starting on the voyage. These were under
the immediate command of Nadar, whose position was that of the captain
of a ship on the high seas, and whose authority none might presume to
question. A set of rules governing the conduct of those on board and
setting forth explicitly the authority of the captain was posted in
the cabin, the nature of some of these giving a cue to the peculiar
attitude of mind of the originator of the scheme. For example, it was
ordered that "Silence must be absolutely observed when ordered by
the captain." "All gambling is expressly prohibited." "On landing no
passenger must quit the balloon without permission duly acquired from
the captain."

The ascent was again successful, the balloon travelling in a
northeasterly direction during the night, all the passengers remaining
awake and alert, having constantly in mind the danger of falling into
the sea. The following morning on descending to a lower altitude
through the clouds, the voyagers found that they were passing the
border of Holland, near the sea. At this point an attempt was made to
land, but a violent gale having arisen, the anchor cables were broken,
and the car was dragged along the surface of the ground at terrific
speed, striking and rebounding into the air, dragging through marshes
and rivers, bruising and battering the occupants who were unable either
to leave the balloon or to check its flight. As they were whirling
across the country in this manner an immense forest came into view
directly in their path, and believing that when this was reached every
occupant of the car would be dashed to pieces against the trees, they
decided to take their chances by leaping. One after another they
jumped, striking the earth and turning over and over, breaking bones,
and mangling faces and bodies. The only female occupant of the car,
Mrs. Nadar, was fortunate in alighting in a river without serious
injury. Others received only slight bruises or a severe jolting while
the most unfortunate, M. St. Felix, had a broken arm, a dislocated
ankle, and numerous cuts and bruises.

Later the _Giant_ was captured many miles farther on and returned to
its owners in Paris. Subsequently it made numerous voyages, none of
which was particularly profitable, however, so that the purpose for
which it was designed was not fulfilled, and Nadar's proposed air-ship
was never constructed.

While the _Giant_ was the largest balloon hitherto constructed, it
broke no records either for speed attained or distance travelled, and
much more notable performances in this respect had been made before its
time and have been made since. Thus, one of Coxwell's balloons traveled
from Berlin in the direction of Dantzig, covering the distance of one
hundred and seventy miles in three hours. This was in 1849; and in the
same year M. Arban crossed the Alps from Marseilles to Turin, covering
the distance of four hundred miles in eight hours. In July, 1859,
the American aeronaut, John Wise, sailed from St. Louis, Missouri,
to Henderson, in New York State, in nineteen hours, travelling eight
hundred and fifty miles at the rate of forty-six miles an hour. This
was the longest voyage ever made until the time of the balloon-races
started from the Paris Exposition, in 1900. On this occasion Conte de
la Vaux, starting from Paris, remained in the air thirty-five hours and
forty-five minutes, landing at Korosticheff, in Russia, 1193 miles from
the starting-point, thus breaking all previous records.


Despite the fact that the "aviators"--the aeronauts whose efforts
were directed to flight by mechanical means in imitation of birds,
or by the use of what are now called aeroplanes--were in the field
centuries before the balloon was invented, from the time of the first
Montgolfier balloon until very recently, the balloonists had shown
their rivals a clean pair of heels in practical results. A dirigible,
man-carrying balloon that can be guided under favorable conditions, and
can maintain itself in the air for any considerable length of time, was
an accomplished fact at least five years before the practical aeroplane
flying-machine. Yet the majority of scientists had become convinced
several years before their convictions were verified by actual
demonstration, that some type of mechanical flying-machine--a machine
that is heavier than the atmosphere and that maintains itself by some
mechanical means--was the only one likely to solve the question of
aerial flight. Yet thus far balloons have rendered more actual service
to man than flying-machines.

It will be recalled that balloons were used for making military
observations during the French Revolution; and they were used for
similar purposes in several of the Continental wars during the first
half of the nineteenth century. After that time, however, interest
in their use for this purpose flagged somewhat until the time of the
Crimean War, when their usefulness was again demonstrated, as it was in
the American Civil War which followed shortly after.

But it was not until the Franco-Prussian War that the one thing for
which the Montgolfiers had predicted their usefulness in warfare--that
of sending messages out from a closely besieged city--was put to
practical test. During the siege of Paris by the Germans in 1870-71,
when every other possible means of communication had been cut off, the
Parisians still kept in communication with the outside world by means
of balloons and carrier-pigeons. On September 23rd, the first ascent
of the siege was made by the aeronaut Durouf, who carried a large
number of despatches from the city, landing near Evreux, after being
in the air about three hours. The success of this journey and several
others that quickly followed led the French Government to establish
a regular balloon-post, and to undertake the manufacture of balloons
for this purpose. The mere matter of balloon construction offered no
difficulty but a more serious one was met in the lack of experienced
aeronauts. In this emergency, however, it occurred to the authorities
that sailors, accustomed to climbing about at dizzy heights, might be
taught to take the place of trained aeronauts. This experiment proved
most successful, and in subsequent voyages these mariners maintained
their reputation for daring undertakings. Between September and January
sixty-four balloons were sent up, all but seven of which fulfilled
their mission and delivered their despatches; and the total number of
persons leaving Paris in balloons during the siege was one hundred and
fifty-five. These carried with them a total of nine tons of despatches
and something like three million letters, the speed with which these
journeys were made ranging from a minimum of twenty miles an hour to a
maximum velocity, in one instance, of eighty miles.

Shortly after this balloon-post was established, the Germans came into
possession of the new Krupp long-range rifle, with which they succeeded
in bringing down several of the balloons. Companies of Uhlans, the
swiftest cavalry of Germany, scoured the country constantly, and kept
such a sharp lookout that, as the German lines were extended, it became
difficult for the balloons to make their way over them in daylight.
Night voyages, therefore, became necessary; but naturally these
were extremely dangerous, and many of them had dramatic and tragic
terminations. One of the longest and most famous of these voyages was
that of the balloon named the _Ville d'Orléans_, which left Paris
about midnight of November 24th. As a strong wind was blowing from
the north at the time, it was hoped that the balloon would descend
in the vicinity of Tours. The first intimation that the voyagers had
that there was a deviation from this course was the sound of the
waves breaking against the shore beneath them. At this time they were
in a thick mist, and it was not until some time after daybreak that
this mist cleared away sufficiently for them to get an idea of their
surroundings. Then they found, to their horror, that they were over a
large body of water, out of sight of land, in what part of the world
they had not the slightest idea. The balloon appeared to be drifting
rapidly, and from time to time they passed over vessels, which were
frantically signaled by the voyagers. No notice was taken of these
signals except by one vessel, which responded by firing several shots
which went wide of the mark. The balloon continued on its course
northward until late in the day when land was sighted lying to the
northeast. By this time the ballast in the car had been entirely
expended, and the balloon, which had been sinking gradually for several
hours, seemed about to plunge into the ocean. In this extremity a heavy
bag of despatches was thrown out, and the balloon thus lightened again
rose to a considerable height, where another current of air carried it
over the land.

A successful landing was made in Norway, in a desolate but friendly
region, where the balloonists were treated with the greatest kindness.
The balloon and its contents were subsequently secured, and all the
despatches delivered to their proper destinations, except, of course,
the one package that had been thrown out as ballast.

A week after the eventful voyage of the _Ville d'Orléans_ a still
more unfortunate ascent was made by a sailor named Prince, in the
balloon called the _Jacquard_. As the ropes releasing this balloon
were cut, the enthusiastic mariner, standing in his car and extending
his hand toward the crowd, shouted dramatically, "I go upon a great
voyage!" He did--and on one much greater than he anticipated--for the
balloon was blown out to sea and lost. As he was passing over England
after successfully crossing the Channel, he threw out his package of
despatches, but this so lightened his balloon that it mounted quickly
and was soon far out over the Atlantic. It was never heard of again.
But the life of the enthusiastic voyager was not given in vain, for
most of the despatches eventually reached their destination.

Although, as has been seen, the balloons sent out of Paris were not of
the dirigible kind, and were entirely dependent upon the caprice of the
winds, they fulfilled their missions quite as well as could be expected
under the circumstances. In fact, there was small chance of failure,
starting as they did from a central point, and being almost certain of
success no matter what direction was taken, except, indeed, the one
that would blow them over the German frontier. But the other part of
the problem--the sending of balloons from the outside into Paris--was
an entirely different proposition. So different, and so difficult, in
fact, that it was never accomplished, although attempted several times.

But the millions of people in Paris, shut off completely from the
outside world, were just as anxious to receive news as to send it. In
attempting to establish communication from without, therefore, one
balloon leaving the city in the early days of the siege, carried with
it some trained dogs in the hope that they would make their way back to
the city through the German lines. But either they lost their way, or
were captured by the enemy, for nothing was ever heard of them after
starting on the return trip. In this extremity the members of the
"Société Colombophile" came forward with the offer of the use of their
homing-pigeons. The society had a large number of these birds, trained
to return to their cotes from long distances, and the experiment of
sending return despatches with them was tried at once. Three birds
were first sent out in one of the despatch-balloons, and within
sixteen hours after starting these had all returned to the capital,
bearing despatches. During the next few days a score more pigeons were
sent out, eighteen of which returned safely with their messages; and
thereafter a regular pigeon-post was organized.

As the weight that a pigeon is able to carry in its flight is extremely
small, microscopic photography was resorted to, so that, although each
bird carried only a single quill in which were rolled thin collodion
leaves, the whole weighing only fifteen grains, the amount of printed
matter thus carried was sometimes more than is contained in an ordinary

By photographic methods, thirty-two thousand words, or about half an
ordinary volume, were crowded upon a pellicule two inches long by one
and one-quarter inches wide, and weighing about three-quarters of a
grain! Twenty of these, representing six thousand words, or twice the
amount of printed matter contained in such a book as Scott's _Ivanhoe_,
or Prescott's _Conquest of Mexico_, were carried by each pigeon. One
bird carried forty thousand complete messages on a single trip.

When the bird arrived at its cote, the quill was secured and taken
to the government office, where the little leaflets were carefully
removed, placed in an enlarging optical apparatus, thrown upon a screen
with a magic lantern, and copied. The messages were then distributed to
their destination about the city.


By this war, France, the home of the balloon, was brought keenly to
realize the advantages and the limitations of such flying-machines;
and it was but natural, under the circumstances, that as soon as peace
was restored, efforts should be made there to produce a dirigible
balloon, or some other form of dirigible flying-machine. Giffard, as
we have seen, had been fairly successful; and now M. Dupuy de Lome,
chief naval constructor of France, took up the problem. He constructed
a balloon with a cigar-shaped envelope one hundred and twenty feet
long and fifty feet in diameter. Beneath this was a rudder placed in
the same position as that of a ship; and suspended still further below
was a large car fitted with a two-bladed screw-propeller, thirty feet
in diameter. Manual labor was to be used for turning this screw, two
relays of four men each relieving each other at the work. An ascent
was made in February, 1872, with fourteen persons in the car, who,
by working in relays, demonstrated that a speed of about seven miles
an hour could be maintained in any direction in still air. As the
wind was blowing about thirty miles an hour at the time, however, the
course of the balloon could only be deflected, and the main object of
the ascent--the return to Paris--could not be accomplished. In short,
De Lome's balloon demonstrated little more than had been accomplished
by Giffard with his steam-driven balloon. Both had shown that with
sufficient power the balloon could be made to travel in any direction
in still air, but neither had been able to make headway against a
strong wind.

It was estimated at the time of Dupuy de Lome's ascent, that had a
steam-engine of a weight corresponding to that of the eight workmen
been used, at least twice the power could have been obtained. But
steam was considered too dangerous, and some other motive power which
combined lightness with power seemed absolutely essential. The electric
motor gave promise of success in this direction, and in 1883 the two
Tissandier brothers in France applied such a motor to a balloon that
was able to make headway against a seven-mile breeze, but was still far
from fulfilling the requirements of an entirely dirigible balloon. Two
years later the motor-driven balloon _La France_, of Renard and Krebs,
attained a speed of fourteen miles an hour, and showed a distinct
advance over all preceding models.

Meanwhile motors were being reduced in weight and increased in power,
and the hearts of aviators and balloonists were cheered by the fact
that the light metal, aluminum, was steadily growing cheaper. Visions
of an all-aluminum balloon were constantly before the minds of the
inventors, and in 1894 such dreams took practical form in a balloon
whose construction was begun by Herr Schwartz, under the auspices
of the German Government. This balloon was of most complicated
construction, depending for its lifting power upon the gas-filled
aluminum tank, but utilizing for its steering-gear many of the features
of the aeroplane. It was essentially a balloon, not a flying-machine,
however, with a ten to twelve horse-power benzine-engine actuating four
propelling screws.


The lower figure the dirigible war balloon "La Patrie," which
manœuvered on the Eastern boundary of France, and which was blown
away and lost taking a northwesterly direction which probably landed
it ultimately in the Arctic Sea--in 1908. The upper figure represents
M. Deutsch's dirigible balloon "Ville de Paris" which was sent to the
frontier to take the place of the lost "Patrie."]

Before the balloon was completed Herr Schwartz died, but his plans were
known to his wife, and, although considerably altered, were carried to
completion. When all was finished, Herr Jaegels, an engineer who had
had no experience as an aeronaut, volunteered to make an ascent and
this metal ship-of-promise was launched. At first it rose rapidly and
appeared to be making good progress against a strong wind; but suddenly
it stopped, descended rapidly, and was smashed to pieces, the aeronaut
saving himself by jumping just before it touched the ground. It
developed later that he had lost control of the machine, simply because
the machinery was too complicated for a single operator to handle. On
discovering this, Herr Jaegels, confused for the moment, threw open the
valve, causing the balloon to descend too rapidly. Thus the fruit of
years of study and labor and the expenditure of fifty thousand dollars
in money resulted in only about six minutes of actual flight.

To most persons this experiment of the aluminum balloon would seem to
have been a dismal failure, but it was not so regarded by the advocates
of the dirigible balloon. The flight of the balloon, to be sure, was
far from a success; but this was attributed to improper management
rather than to any inherent defect in the balloon itself, or in the
principle upon which it was constructed. Instead of being discouraged,
therefore, the school of balloonists, who had lost some of their
prestige of late by the performances of the flying-machines of Maxim
and Langley, undertook, through their enthusiastic representative,
Count Zeppelin, the construction of the largest, most expensive,
and most carefully built dirigible balloon heretofore constructed.
This balloon was of proportions warranting the name of "air-ship."
The great cigar-shaped body was almost four hundred feet in length,
and thirty feet in diameter--the proportions of a fair-sized ocean
liner--and like the hull of its ocean prototype, was divided into
compartments--seventeen in number, and gas-tight. Its frame-work was of
aluminum rods and wires, and the skin of the envelope was made of silk,
coated with india-rubber. It was equipped with four aluminum screws,
and two aluminum cars were placed below the body at a considerable
distance apart. The motive power was supplied by benzine motors,
selected because of their lightness.

The company for constructing this balloon was capitalized at about two
hundred thousand dollars, the cost of the shed alone, which rested on
ninety-five pontoons on the surface of the lake of Constance, near the
town of Manzell, being fifty thousand dollars. July 2nd, 1910, the
count and four assistants in the cars, started on the maiden voyage.
The balloon rose and made headway at the rate of eighteen miles an
hour, responding readily to the rudder, but soon broke or deranged
some of the steering-gear so that it became unmanageable and descended
at Immerstaad, a little over three miles from the starting-point.
Considering the amount of thought, care, and money that had been
expended upon it, its performance could hardly be looked upon as a
startling success. By the advocates of the aeroplane principle it was
considered an utter failure.


Count Zeppelin's famous balloons are of the semi-rigid type, being
cased in thin loops of aluminum. The wing-like projections at the
sides add greatly to the stability and dirigibility of the balloon.
The problem of housing has been met by erecting a structure over the
water. It is planned to have a balloon house that will revolve and thus
facilitate the introduction of the balloon whatever the direction of
the wind. With the above stationary house this is a difficult manœuvre
if the wind chances to blow laterally.]

But while Count Zeppelin was experimenting with his ponderous leviathan
air-ship, a kindred spirit, the young Brazilian, M. Santos-Dumont,
was making experiments along similar lines, but with balloons that
were mere cockle-shells as compared with the German monster. The
young inventor had come to Paris from his home in South America
backed by an immense fortune, and by a fund of enthusiasm, courage,
and determination unsurpassed by any aerial experimenter in any age.
He began at once experimenting with balloons of different shapes,
with screws and paddles, and, perhaps most important of all, with
the new, light petroleum-motors just then being introduced for use
on automobiles, electricity not having proved a success in aerial

His first balloon, _No. 1_, built in 1898, was devoid of any
particularly novel features. His _No. 2_ showed some advancement,
and his _No. 3_, while a decided improvement, still came far short
of answering the requirements of a dirigible balloon. But the young
experimenter was learning and profiting by his failures--and,
incidentally, was having hairbreadth escapes from death, meeting with
many accidents, and being severely injured on occasion.

About this time a prize of one hundred thousand francs was offered
by M. Deutsch to the aeronaut who should ascend from a specified
place in a park in Paris, make the circuit of the Eiffel Tower, and
return to the starting-point within half an hour. With the honor of
capturing this prize as an additional incentive, Santos-Dumont began
the construction of his fourth balloon, the _Santos-Dumont No. 4_.
In this balloon everything but bare essentials was sacrificed to
lightness, even the car being done away with, the aeronaut controlling
the machinery and directing the movements of the balloon from a bamboo
saddle. But an accident soon destroyed this balloon, and a fifth was
hastily constructed. With this the enthusiastic aeronaut showed that
he was almost within grasping distance of the prize in a series of
sensational flights between the first part of July and the first week
in August. The tower was actually rounded, but on the return trip
the balloon collided with a high building in the Rue Alboni and was
wrecked, the escape of the aeronaut without a scratch being little
short of miraculous.

Nothing daunted, the inventor began the construction of _Santos-Dumont
No. 6_ immediately, finishing it just twenty-eight days after the
construction of _No. 5_. A peculiarity of this balloon was that it
was barely self-sustaining except when forced through the air by the
propeller. The long cigar-shaped gas-bag was relatively small, and was
filled to its limit of capacity with gas, while the lifting power was
counterbalanced by the operator, car, engine, and ballast, so that the
entire structure weighed practically the same as the air it displaced.
At the stern was a powerful propeller. Obviously, then, if the long
spindle-shaped machine was tilted upward at the forward end, and the
propeller started, it would be driven upward; while if the forward end
was lowered the propeller would drive it downward. If it was balanced
so as to be perfectly horizontal, it would be forced forward in a
horizontal direction. Deflections to right and to left were obtained by
the ordinary type of vertical rudder; and thus any direction could be


The photograph here reproduced gives a very vivid impression of the
cumbersome nature of balloons of this modern type, and suggests the
difficulties to be met in housing them safely when not in use.]

To obtain the desired angle of inclination, Santos-Dumont made
use of a sliding weight, and with this he guided his balloon upward
and downward by shifting its position. Thus, although this balloon
was a veritable balloon rather than a "flying-machine" proper, it
really lacked the one essential common to balloons: it would not rise
until propelled by mechanical means. It lacked the requisite of the
flying-machine, however, in that it was not "many times heavier than
the air." After giving this new balloon several preliminary trials,
which included such exciting incidents as collisions with a tree
in the Bois du Boulogne, an official attempt was made on October
29th, 1800. Above the heads of the gaping thousands, who, to a man,
wished the daring navigator success, the balloon rounded the tower,
and in twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds from the moment of
starting--thirty seconds less than the prescribed time-limit--the trip
was successfully terminated.

This voyage must be considered as marking an epoch in aerial
navigation. The dirigible balloon was accomplished. A decided step
forward in the conquest of the air had been made, although from a
practical standpoint this step was confessedly a short one. For while
_No. 6_ could be propelled in any direction under ordinary conditions,
carrying a single passenger, it was on the whole more of a toy
ship than a practical sailing-craft. Nevertheless, its performance
was a decided victory for the balloon over the flying-machine.
No flying-machine of whatever type had ever even approached the
performance of _Santos-Dumont No. 6_, which had carried a man on a
voyage in the air, traveling with the wind, against it, and with the
wind on either quarter at every possible angle at various times during
the journey. And yet there were few scientists, indeed, if any, who
considered that the problem of aerial navigation was solved; and to
a large number Santos-Dumont's performance seemed little more than
an extension of Giffard's idea, made possible by improved machinery
not available half a century ago. To them it was the triumph of the
energy, skill, and courage of an individual, not the triumph of a
principle--which, after all, is the absolute essential.



The above figures are introduced on one page for the purpose of
comparison and contrast. The American balloon is the Baldwin airship.
The essential clumsiness of a lighter-than-air craft, as contrasted
with the relative gracefulness and manageableness of the aeroplane, is
strikingly suggested by this illustration.]

Since the successful performance of Santos-Dumont in rounding the
Eiffel Tower many other dirigible balloons have been constructed,
not only in America and in Europe by various inventors, but by the
Brazilian aeronaut himself. The most remarkable of these is the
_Zeppelin II_, the fifth creation of the indomitable Count Zeppelin.
In principle and general lines of construction this balloon closely
resembles the one described a few pages back. Its best performance,
however, is more remarkable. Starting from Lake Constance on the night
of May 29th, 1909, and sailing almost directly northward regardless
of air currents, the balloon reached Bitterfield, a few miles beyond
Leipzig, four hundred and sixty-five miles from the starting-point,
the following evening. Turning back at this point, without alighting,
it had almost completed its return trip, when on coming to the ground
for a supply of fuel it was injured by collision with the branches of a
tree. The injury sustained, while delaying and marring the voyage, did
not prevent the balloon from completing its eight-hundred-and-fifty
mile voyage, and establishing a new record for dirigibles.

This and sundry other flights amply demonstrated the dirigibility and
relative safety of the balloon under varying atmospheric conditions.
But the difficulties that attend the management of such a craft when
not high in air were again vividly illustrated when, in April, 1910,
the Zeppelin II., was totally wrecked while at anchor by the force of a
gale which it might easily have outridden had it been beyond the reach
of terrestrial obstacles.



Although the dirigible balloon in the hands of Santos-Dumont gained
a decisive victory over all mechanical methods of flight theretofore
discovered, even the inventor himself considered it rather as a means
to an end, than the end itself. That end, it would seem, must be a
flying-machine, many times heavier than the atmosphere, but able by
mechanical means to lift and propel itself through the air. The natural
representative of this kind of flying-machine, the bird, is something
like a thousand times as heavy as the air which its bulk displaces.
The balloon, on the other hand, with its equipments and occupants,
must necessarily be lighter than air; and as the ordinary gas used for
inflating is only about seven times lighter than the atmosphere, it can
be readily understood that for a balloon to acquire any great amount
of lifting power it must be of enormous proportions. To attempt to
force this great, fragile bulk of light material through the atmosphere
at any great rate of speed is obviously impossible on account of
the resistance offered by its surfaces. On the other hand, any such
structure strong enough to resist the enormous pressure at high speed
would be too heavy to float.


M. Santos Dumont's chief fame as an aviator is based on his flights
with a dirigible balloon. He has experimented extensively, however,
with the heavier-than-air type of machine, though none of his flights
with this apparatus has been record-breaking.]

These facts are so patent that it is but natural to inquire how
the balloonists could ever have expected to accomplish flight at
more than a nominal rate of speed; and, on the other hand, it might
be asked, naturally enough, how the aviators expected to fly with
aeroplane machines at least a thousand times heavier than the air.
In reply, the aviators could point to birds and bats as examples of
how the apparently impossible is easily accomplished in nature; while
the balloonists could simply point to their accomplished flights as
practical demonstrations. The aviators could point to no past records
of accomplishments, but nevertheless they had good ground for the faith
that was in them, and as we shall see were later to justify their
theories by practical demonstrations.

Everybody is aware that there is an enormous difference in the
lifting power of still air and air in motion, and that this power is
dependent upon velocity. The difference between the puff of wind that
barely lifts a thin sheet of paper from the table, and the tornado
that uproots trees and wrecks stone buildings, is one of velocity.
Obviously, then, moving air is quite a different substance from still
air when it comes to dealing with aeronautics.

One of the most familiar examples of the lifting power of moving air
is that of the kite. An ordinary kite is many times heavier than the
air and has no more tendency to rise in the air than a corresponding
weight of lead under ordinary conditions. Yet this same kite, if held
by a string with its surfaces inclined to the wind at a certain angle,
will be lifted with a force proportionate to the velocity of the wind
and the size of the surfaces. On a windy day the kite-flyer holding
the string and standing still will have his kite pushed upward into
the air by the current rushing beneath its surface. On a still day he
may accomplish the same thing by running forward with the kite-string,
thus causing the surface of the kite to "slide over" the opposing
atmosphere. In short, it makes no difference whether the air or kite is
moving, so long as the effect of the current rushing against the lower
surface is produced. Obviously, then, if in place of the kite-flyer
holding the string and running at a certain speed, some kind of a motor
could be attached to the kite that would push it forward at a rate of
speed corresponding to the speed of the runner, the kite would rise--in
short, would be converted into a flying-machine.

Looked at in another way, the action of the air in sustaining a body
in motion in the air has been compared by Professor Langley to the
sustaining power of thin ice, which does not break under the weight
of a swiftly gliding skater, although it would sustain only a small
fraction of his weight if he were stationary. Supposing, for example,
the skater were to stand upon a cake of ice a foot square for a single
second; he would sink, let us say, to his waist in the water. On a cake
having twice the surface area, or two square feet, he would sink only
to his knees; while if the area of the cake is multiplied ten times
the original size, he would scarcely wet his feet in the period of a
second. Now supposing the cake to be cut into ten cakes of one square
foot each, placed together in a line so that the skater could glide
over the entire ten feet in length in one second. It is evident that
he would thus distribute his weight over the same amount of ice as if
the cakes were fastened together in a solid piece.

"So it is with the air," says Professor Langley. "Even the viewless air
possesses inertia; it cannot be pushed aside without some effort; and
while the portion which is directly under the air-ship would not keep
it from falling several yards in the first second, if the ship goes
forward so that it runs or treads on thousands of such portions in that
time, it will sink in proportionately less degree; sink, perhaps only
through a fraction of an inch."

It is evident, therefore, that if, at a given speed, the horizontal
wings of an air-ship would keep it from falling more than a fraction of
an inch in a second, by increasing the speed sufficiently and giving
the wings an upward inclination, the air-ship instead of falling might
actually rise. And this, as we shall see presently, is just what the
flying-machines of Sir Hiram Maxim and Professor Langley and of the
Wright brothers and their imitators did do.


It was while making an important series of experiments with aeroplanes
that Professor Langley made the discovery which has since been known
as "Langley's Law." In effect this law is that while it takes a
certain strain to sustain a properly disposed weight while stationary
in the air, to advance the weight rapidly takes _even less strain_
than when the weight is stationary. Thus, contrary to opinions held
until recently, and contrary to the rules for land vehicles and ships,
the strain of resistance of an aeroplane will diminish instead of
increasing with the increase of speed. Professor Langley proved this
remarkable fact with a most simple but ingenious device. It consisted
of an immense "whirling table," driven by an engine, so arranged that
the end of a revolving arm could be made to travel at any speed up
to seventy miles an hour. At the end of this arm, surfaces disposed
like wings were placed, and whirled through the two hundred feet
circumference, until they were supported like kites by the resistance
of the air.

A certain strain was, of course, necessary to support one of these
winglike structures when stationary in the air, but, curiously enough,
less strain was required when it was advanced rapidly. Thus a brass
plate of proper shape weighing one pound was suspended from a pull-out
spring scale, the arm of which was drawn out until it reached the
one-pound mark. When the whirling table was rotated with increasing
velocity the arm indicated less and less strain, finally indicating
only an ounce when the speed of a flying bird was reached. "The brass
plate seemed to float on the air," says Professor Langley, "and not
only this, but taking into consideration both the strain and the
velocity, it was found that absolutely less power was spent to make the
plate move fast than slow, a result which seemed very extraordinary,
since in all methods of land and water transport a high speed costs
much more power than a slow one for the same distance."

These experiments, which destroyed the calculations of Newton, long
held to be correct, showed that mechanical flight was at least
theoretically possible, indicating as it did that a weight of two
hundred pounds could be moved through the air at express-train
speed with the expenditure of only one horse-power of energy. Since
engines could be constructed weighing less than twenty pounds to the
horse-power, theoretically such an engine should support ten times its
own weight in horizontal flight in an absolute calm. As a matter of
fact there is no such thing as an absolute calm in nature, air-currents
being constantly stirring even on the calmest day, and this introduces
another element in attaining aerial flight that is an all-important
one. Indeed it has long been recognized that the mechanical power for
flight is not the only requisite for flying--there is, besides, the art
of handling that power.


Those who have watched soaring birds sail for hours on rigidly extended
wings will remember that while there is no flying movement, there are
certain shifts of the rigid body, either to offset some unexpected
gust of wind, or to produce movement in a desired direction. There
is an art of balancing here that has become instinctive in the bird
by long practice which could not be hoped for in the same degree in
a mechanical device, and which man could hope to acquire only by
practice. But in the nature of the case man has little chance to learn
this art of balancing in the air, and it is for this reason that the
many members of the balloonist school advocate the inflated bag in
place of the aeroplane. The argument advanced by them is that since
man has no chance naturally to acquire familiarity with balancing in
the air, the simplest and best way for him to acquire it is by making
balloon ascensions. When he has acquired sufficient skill he can
gradually reduce the lifting part of his flying-machine, or gas-bag,
gradually increasing the aeroplane or other means of propulsion and
lifting, until the balloon part of his device can be dispensed with

In short, this argument of the balloon advocates is comparable to
two schools of swimming-teachers, one of whom advocates the use of
sustaining floats until the knack of swimming is acquired, the other
depending upon the use only of muscular movements and quickly acquired
skill. In this comparison the aviators have all the best of the
argument; for it is a common observation that persons who attempt to
learn to swim by the use of floats of any kind acquire that art slowly
if at all; while those who plunge in boldly, although they run more
risks, quickly learn the art that seems ridiculously easy when once

[Illustration: LEARNING HOW TO FLY.

This gliding apparatus is not unlike that with which M. Chanute and
other early experimenters tested the qualities of air currents. The
apparatus here shown is being drawn by an automobile, so that its
action is virtually that of a kite. This picture was taken at Morris
Park, New York, in 1909. The descent was made too abruptly and the
aviator was seriously injured.]

The great German scientist, Helmholtz, after years of careful study,
finally reached the conclusion that man would never be able to fly
by his own power alone. But, as we have seen, Professor Langley had
shown that in these mysterious questions pertaining to flight even a
Newton could be wrong; and why not Helmholtz? Otto Lilienthal, also a
German, thought that his fellow-countryman _was_ wrong. For years
he had made a study of the flight of birds, and his studies had led
him to the same conclusions that have usually been reached by every
student of the subject, both before and since--that soaring flight,
without any flapping movement, is possible under certain conditions;
that curved surfaces can acquire a horizontal motion by the action of
the wind alone, "when their curvature bears a certain relation to their
superficies"--in short, a relation represented exactly by the wings of

It was not supposed by Lilienthal, or by any of the members of the
school of aviators, that simply by making a device that reproduced the
proportions and shape of a bird any person might mount and fly. But it
was believed that, given such a device, a man might learn to fly with
practice. Lilienthal, therefore, constructed a flying-machine with
correctly curved surfaces made of linen stretched over a light wooden
frame, the total area being about fourteen square yards, and the whole
machine weighing only about forty pounds. In the center was an aperture
where the operator was stationed, holding the frame in position by
his arms. Obviously, as no flapping motion in imitation of a bird's
wings was possible, some other means of giving the necessary impetus
for horizontal flight was necessary, and here again the study of birds
suggested a method.

It is a well-known fact that certain soaring birds cannot leave
the ground when once they have alighted, except by an initial run
to acquire the necessary speed; and every goose hunter is familiar
with the manner in which these birds run along the surface of water,
flapping their wings and skimming along some distance before they
acquire sufficient velocity to mount into the air. A description of a
similar action of an eagle in leaving the earth, written by a careful
observer a few years ago, has become classic. This huntsman had come
upon an eagle which had alighted upon the sandy banks of the Nile, and
had fired at it, thus stimulating the bird to its utmost energy in
getting into flight. Yet on examining the foot-marks made in the sand
it was found that, even under these circumstances, the bird had been
obliged to run "full twenty yards before he could raise himself from
the earth. The marks of his claws were traceable on the sandy soil,"
says the writer, "as, at first with firm and decided digs, he found his
way, but as he lightened his body and increased his speed with the aid
of his wings, the imprints of his talons gradually merged into long

It is evident that if such a master of the art of flying as an eagle
must thus acquire initial velocity before flight is possible, a human
novice must do considerably more. The method that would naturally
suggest itself would be that of running down the slope of a hillside,
and Lilienthal adopted this method, beginning his flights by running
down the gentle slope of a hill against the wind, until the requisite
momentum was acquired. This was, indeed, a reversion to some of the
oldest types of flying-machines, but with this difference--that it was
the result of scientific study. The results attained proved that the
theory was not visionary--that scientists had not dreamed and studied
in vain. For, as little by little the experimenter gained experience,
he was able to soar farther and farther in his birdlike machine, in
one flight sailing a distance of twelve hundred feet. Under certain
favorable wind conditions he could sail from a hilltop without the
initial run, and at times he actually rose in the air to a point higher
than that from which he started.

As was to be expected in the very nature of the case, Lilienthal found
that part of the secret of success lay in maintaining his equilibrium
and in acquiring the faculty of doing this instinctively, as a bird
does. But he found, like the person learning to ride a bicycle, that
this was developed by repeated efforts. The action of the machine
itself was carefully studied, and various changes were made in his
apparatus from time to time as experience suggested them. Among other
things, feather-like sails, worked by a small motor, were attached to
the edge of the wings; and two smaller frames placed one above the
other were tried in place of one large frame. And still the operator
continued to make successful flights in all kinds of winds, sometimes
narrowly escaping disaster, but for three years always coming to
the ground safely. His confidence increased day by day, and as his
remarkable performances multiplied it seemed as if it would only be a
matter of time until he would be able to imitate the soaring bird and
sail almost as he pleased.

In writing of his experiences when, as it sometimes happened, he found
himself practically motionless in the air at a point higher than that
from which he started, he says: "I feel very certain that if I leaned a
little to one side, and so described a circle, and further partook of
the motion of the lifting air around me, I should sustain my position.
The wind itself tends to direct this motion; but then it must be
remembered that my chief object in the air is to overcome the tendency
of turning to the right or left, because I know that behind or under
me lies the hill from which I started, and with which I would come in
rough contact if I allowed myself to attempt this circle-sailing. I
have, however, made up my mind, by means of either stronger wind or by
flapping the wings, to get higher up and farther away from the hills,
so that sailing round in circles, I can follow the strong, uplifting
current, and have sufficient air-space under and around me to complete
with safety a circle, and lastly to come up against the wind again to

Before he was ready to make this attempt, however, Lilienthal was
killed by a fall caused by a treacherous gust of wind which tilted his
machine beyond his control and hurled him to the ground.

Again the expectant world of aerial navigators was thrown into
despondency by the happening of the long expected--expected, and yet
not expected; for Lilienthal had made so many daring flights under
so many trying conditions, always managing to alight safely, that a
feeling of confidence had succeeded that of distrust. It was almost
like a bolt from a clear sky, therefore, when the news was flashed
around the world that Lilienthal was no more. But science has never yet
been daunted by the fear of death. Like a well-formed battle-line in
which the place of the fallen is always quickly filled, there is always
a warrior-scientist ready to sacrifice anything for the cause. And so,
although Lilienthal was gone, the work he had carried so far toward
success was continued by others, Chanute and Hering, the American
"soaring men," and later eclipsed by the Wright brothers, who were
finally to solve the problem.


At the same time that Lilienthal was making his initial experiments,
another champion of the same school of aviators was achieving equally
successful results along somewhat different, and yet on the whole,
similar lines. Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of so many destructive
types of guns, was devoting much time and energy to the construction
of a flying-machine. His apparatus was of the aeroplane type, but
unlike that of Lilienthal, Chanute, or Hering, was to be propelled by
steam-driven screw-propellers. Nor was the apparatus he proposed to
make a diminutive affair weighing a few pounds and capable of lifting
only the weight of a man. His huge machine weighed in the neighborhood
of four tons and carried a steam-engine that developed some three
hundred and sixty horse-power in the screws. It was two hundred feet
in width, and mounted on a car track, along which it was to be run to
acquire the necessary initial velocity before mounting into the air.

On July 31, 1894, this huge machine started on a trial spin, carrying
a crew of three persons, besides fuel and water for the boilers. When
a speed of thirty-six miles an hour on the track had been acquired,
the apparatus lifted itself in the air, and sailed for some distance,
a maximum flight of over three hundred feet finally being made. This
experiment demonstrated several important things--in fact, solved
"three out of five divisions of the problem of flight," as Lord Kelvin
declared. It demonstrated that a flying-machine carrying its own
propelling power could be made powerful and light enough to lift itself
in the air; that an aeroplane will lift much more than a balloon of
equal weight; and that a well-made screw-propeller will grip the air
sufficiently to propel a machine at a high rate of speed.

Since the two remaining divisions of the five concerned in the problem
of flight had been already solved by Lilienthal, it seemed that it only
remained for some scientist to combine this complete knowledge in the
proper way to produce a practical flying-machine--one that would fly
through the air, and continue to fly until the power was exhausted. It
was not a startling announcement to the scientific world, therefore,
when about three years later the news was flashed that Prof. S. P.
Langley had produced such an apparatus.


Upper figure, the aeroplane of M. Robert Esnault-Pelterie. Middle
figure, the aeroplane of M. Blériot. Lower figure, the Vuia aeroplane,
a bat-like machine of freakish structure which had no large measure of
success. A modification of the boat-like machine shown in the upper
figure gained celebrity through its use by M. Latham in the first
attempt (in July, 1909) to fly across the English Channel. M. Blériot's
aeroplane as finally developed became a very successful flying machine.
With its aid M. Blériot was first to accomplish the feat of flying
across the English Channel (from Calais to Dover in about 23 minutes)
on the morning of July 25th, 1909. These pictures are reproduced from
the London Graphic of January 25th, 1908.]

Professor Langley described this really wonderful machine, which he
called the "aerodrome," as follows:

"In the completed form there are two pairs of wings, each slightly
curved, each attached to a long steel rod which supports them both, and
from which depends the body of the machine, in which are the boilers,
the engines, the machinery, and the propeller wheels, these latter
being not in the position of an ocean steamer, but more nearly
amidships. They are made sometimes of wood, sometimes of steel and
canvas, and are between three and four feet in diameter.

"The hull itself is formed of steel tubing; the front portion is closed
by a sheathing of metal which hides from view the fire-grate and
apparatus for heating, but allows us to see a little of the coils of
the boiler and all of the relatively large smokestack in which it ends.
There is a conical vessel in front which is simply an empty float,
whose use is to keep the whole from sinking if it should fall in the

"This boiler supplies steam for an engine of between one and one-half
horse-power, and, with its fire-grate, weighs a little over five
pounds. This weight is exclusive of that of the engine, which weighs,
with all its moving parts, but twenty-six ounces. Its duty is to drive
the propeller wheels, which it does at rates varying from 800 to 1,200,
or even more, turns a minute, the highest number being reached when the
whole is speeding freely ahead.

"The rudder is of a shape very unlike that of a ship, for it is adapted
both for vertical and horizontal steering. The width of the wings from
tip to tip is between twelve and thirteen feet, and the length of the
whole about sixteen feet. The weight is nearly thirty pounds, of which
about one-fourth is contained in the machinery. The engine and boilers
are constructed with an almost single eye to economy of weight, not
of force, and are very wasteful of steam, of which they spend their
own weight in five minutes. This steam might all be recondensed and
the water re-used by proper condensing apparatus, but this cannot be
easily introduced in so small a scale of construction. With it the time
of flight might be hours instead of minutes, but without it the flight
(of the present aerodrome) is limited to about five minutes, though in
that time, as will be seen presently, it can go some miles; but owing
to the danger of its leaving the surface of the water for that of the
land, and wrecking itself on shore, the time of flight is limited
designedly to less than two minutes."

When this flying-machine was put to the actual test its performance
justified the most sanguine expectations; it actually flew as no other
machine had ever flown before. A number of men of science watched
this remarkable performance, among others Alexander Graham Bell,
the inventor of the telephone, who reported it to the Institute of
France. "Through the courtesy of Mr. S. P. Langley, Secretary of the
Smithsonian Institution, I have had on various occasions the pleasure
of witnessing his experiments with aerodromes," wrote Dr. Bell, "and
especially the remarkable success attained by him in his experiments
made on the Potomac River on Wednesday, May 6th [which led me to urge
him to make public some of these results].

"On the occasion referred to, the aerodrome, at a given signal, started
from a platform about twenty feet above the water, and rose at first
directly in the face of the wind, moving at all times with remarkable
steadiness, and subsequently swinging around in large curves of,
perhaps, a hundred yards in diameter, and continually ascending until
its steam was exhausted, when at a lapse of about a minute and a half,
and at a height which I judged to be between eighty and one hundred
feet in the air, the wheels ceased turning, and the machine, deprived
of the aid of propellers, to my surprise did not fall, but settled down
so softly and gently that it touched the water without the least shock,
and was in fact immediately ready for another trial."

To most persons, even to the cautious and scientific inventor himself,
the performance of this, and a second aerodrome which flew about
three-quarters of a mile, seemed to show that the secret of aerial
navigation was all but fathomed. "The world, indeed, will be supine,"
Langley wrote a short time after the success of his flying-machine, "if
it does not realize that a new possibility has come to it, and that
the great universal highway overhead is soon to be opened." What could
be plainer? A machine of a certain construction, weighing some thirty
pounds, and carrying at that some excess of weight, had been able to
fly a relatively long distance. What easier than to construct a machine
on precisely similar lines only ten, a hundred, a thousand times
larger, until it would carry persons and cargo, and fly across an ocean
or a continent?

Professor Langley himself, as was most fitting, undertook the
construction of such a man-carrying air-ship. And it was during this
undertaking that he made the momentous discovery that seemed to
oppose a question mark to the possibility of flight by the aeroplane
principle. This discovery was an "unyielding mathematical law that
the weight of such a machine increases as the cube of its dimensions,
whereas the wing surface increases as the square." In other words, as
the machine is made larger, the size of the wings must be increased
in an alarmingly disproportionate ratio. And the best that Professor
Langley's man-carrying flying-machine could do, after the inventor had
expended the limit of his ingenuity, was to dive into the waters of
Chesapeake Bay, instead of soaring through the air as its prototype,
the aerodrome, had done.


The plunge of Langley's aerodrome downward into the water instead of
upward through space as had been confidently expected, carried with
it the hopes of a great number of hitherto enthusiasts, who were now
inclined to believe that the practical conquest of the air was almost
as far beyond our reach as it had been beyond that of all preceding
generations. Learned scientists were able to prove to their own
satisfaction, by long columns of figures and elaborate mathematical
calculations, that the air is unconquerable.


The aeroplane is here shown at rest, facing the right. This is the
original type of bi-plane flying machines, of which all the others are
only modifications. The starting-rail along which the machine glides
while acquiring momentum is seen at the right; the rope connecting
it with the starting derrick, at the left. The sledge-like runners,
intended to break the shock of alighting, are plainly shown. The
parallel planes of canvas at the right are horizontal rudders to direct
the machine upward or downward. The vertical planes at the left are
active rudders to direct the machine laterally. The two paddle-like
structures at the back of the machine are the wooden propellers,
actuated (at a rate of from 1000 to 1400 revolutions per minute) by
an oil motor. With a machine of this type the Wright brothers, of
Dayton, Ohio, were the first to demonstrate the feasibility of aerial
navigation with a heavier-than-air machine; and world-famous flights
were made by Mr. Orville Wright at Washington and by Mr. Wilbur Wright
in France in the summer of 1908.]

But even as they labored and promulgated these conclusions, two
unknown men in a little Ohio town, discarding all accepted theoretical
calculations, and combining with their newly created tables of figures
a rare quality of practical application and unswerving courage, had
accomplished the impossible. Wilbur and Orville Wright--two names
that must always be linked with those of Fulton and Stephenson, only
possibly on a higher plane as conquerors of a more subtle element--were
at that very time making flights in all directions at will through the
air in their practical flying-machine. While others caviled and
doubted, these two modest inventors worked and accomplished; until
presently they were able to put in evidence a mechanism that may
perhaps without exaggeration be regarded as the harbinger of a new era
of civilization.

The interest of these two brothers in the fascinating field of air
navigation was first excited when, as boys, their father, a clergyman,
brought home for their amusement the little toy known to scientists
as a "hélicoptère," which, actuated by twisted rubbers that drive
tiny paper screws in opposite directions, actually rises and flutters
through the air. "A toy so delicate lasted only a short time in
the hands of small boys, but its memory was abiding" the inventors
themselves have tersely said. So abiding, indeed, that a few years
later they began making similar "bats," as they had dubbed the machines.

Soon they discovered that the larger the machine they made the less it
flew, and in pondering this fact they gradually evolved for themselves
the theory which is now known as Langley's unyielding mathematical
law, referred to a few pages back. The problem of human flight had not
been considered by them at this time, and it was not until the news of
Lilienthal's death startled the world that they entered the field of
invention in earnest. Then they began constructing gliding machines,
modifications of those of Lilienthal and Chanute, and began making long
flights, studying defects and overcoming adverse conditions as they
presented themselves.

By 1901, they had surpassed the performances of all predecessors,
yet, as they tell us, "we saw that the calculations upon which all
flying-machines had been based were unreliable, and that all were
simply groping in the dark. Having set out with absolute faith in the
existing scientific data, we were driven to doubt one thing after
another, till finally, after two years of experiment, we cast it all
aside, and decided to rely entirely upon our own investigations.
Truth and error were everywhere so intimately mixed as to be
indistinguishable. Nevertheless, the time expended in preliminary
study of books was not misspent, for they gave us a good general
understanding of the subject, and enabled us at the outset to avoid
effort in many directions in which results would have been hopeless."

From mere gliding machines without self-contained power the brothers
progressed through the various stages of achievement until in the
fall of 1903 they had created the type of flying-machine now made so
familiar to everyone through the pictorial publications. Incidentally
they had invented and constructed their own gasoline motor for
furnishing the power--an accomplishment of no mean importance in
itself. On December 17th, 1903, in the presence of a small company of
witnesses who had braved the cold, the Wright machine, carrying one
of the brothers, made a short but successful flight--the first ever
accomplished in which a machine carrying a passenger had raised itself
by its own power, sailed a certain distance in free flight, yet subject
to guidance, and landed itself and its passenger safely. Mr. Hiram
Maxim's machine had, indeed, lifted itself and its passengers, but it
sailed unguided through the air, and it could in no sense be said to
have made a flight comparable to that of a bird or a bat. The Wright
machine, on the other hand, progressed through the air under guidance
of its passenger, rising or settling, or turning to right or left as he
wished. Its progress constituted, in other words, a veritable flight.

Yet the problem of perfectly controlled flight under all ordinary
conditions was by no means completely mastered. The principle was
correct, but there were endless details to be worked out. The
embodiment of these is the Wright flying-machine of the present time.

In the Wright aeroplane the lifting power is obtained by two parallel
horizontal planes of canvas stretched over retaining-frames, placed
with their long diameters transversely to the direction of flight, as
in the case of the wings of a bird. At a little distance, in front of
these, are placed two horizontal parallel rudders, and at the back two
parallel vertical rudders. The machine is mounted on huge skids, which
resemble giant sled-runners in shape, but lighter and more flexible,
and is driven by two wooden-bladed propellers not unlike some of the
types of ship-propellers. For stability in flight under all kinds of
atmospheric conditions this machine has shown itself to be a true
flying-machine, capable of navigating the air in any direction at
the will of the operator, and remaining in flight a length of time
dependent entirely upon the amount of fuel carried.

The stability of this machine, particularly in a transverse direction,
has proved far greater than that of any of its predecessors or
contemporaries. The two horizontal rudder-planes mounted in front
maintain the fore-and-aft stability; while keeping the machine on an
even keel is accomplished by varying the angle of incidence by warping
the two main planes,--this being, indeed, a vitally important feature
of the mechanism. In this manner a greater lift on the low side and a
diminished lift on the high side is obtained, this being maintained
manually, as is the fore-and-aft stability. Since the warping of the
wings of the machine would tend to deflect it from its course, the
apparatus is so arranged that a single lever controls the flexible
portion of the wings and the vertical rudder, the motion of the latter
counteracting the disturbing influence that would otherwise result
from the twisting of the wing-tips. The discovery of this combination
gave the finishing touches to the aeroplane, and made it a manageable
mechanism. In other words, it made the flying machine a machine in
which man could fly.


This mechanism was patented in 1906, and the patent office
specifications then became accessible to other experimenters. The
French scientific workers had for some time recognized the success
of the Wright brothers' efforts, even when most Americans were
still skeptical. Now that the manner in which this success had been
obtained was disclosed, numerous experimenters began copying the
Wright brothers' successful machine, making sundry modifications,
while still adhering to the main principles through which success had
been obtained. The first of these experimenters to win conspicuous
success was Mr. Henry Farman, an Englishman residing in Paris, who on
the 13th of January, 1908, aroused the enthusiasm of the entire world,
and won a £2000 prize, by flying in a heavier-than-air machine in a
prescribed circle, covering about sixteen hundred yards, and alighting
at the starting-point.

This was more than four years after the Wright brothers had made far
more remarkable flights, to which few persons had paid any attention,
and of which most people had never heard. But in the autumn of the
same year Orville Wright in America, and Wilbur Wright in France began
a series of public flights which demonstrated for all time that the
air at last had been conquered, and that they were the unquestionable
conquerors. Orville, at Fort Myer, near Washington, on September
12th, electrified the world by flying continuously around a circular
course for an hour and fifteen minutes. This was the most conclusive
performance yet accomplished and set at rest all doubts as to the
possibility of mechanical flight. For no one could doubt that a machine
which could maintain itself in the air by its own power for more than
an hour was truly a flying-machine in the most exacting sense of the

A few days after this performance an accident to the propeller of
this machine wrecked it, the resulting fall breaking the leg of the
inventor, and killing his companion, Lieutenant Selfridge of the United
States Army.

Almost simultaneously Wilbur Wright began a series of flights at
Le Mans, France, which demonstrated still more conclusively that
erstwhile earth-bound man had really learned to fly. His longest flight
lasted for two hours, twenty minutes, and twenty-three seconds; while
by flying over captive balloons at an altitude of three hundred and
sixty feet, he demonstrated that the mere matter of altitude offered no

From this time forward the number of aeronauts increased day by day,
and new records were made in bewildering confusion. Only a few of the
more spectacular of these need be referred to. On July 19, 1909, Hubert
Latham attempted a flight across the English Channel, but his motor
failed him and his machine plunged into the water, from which, however,
he was rescued, having suffered no injury. On July 25th, Louis Blériot
made a similar attempt with better results. Starting from the cliffs
near Calais he made the passage without mishap and landed near Dover.


This is the machine with which Mr. Farman, an Englishman living in
France, won the Deutsch prize in the early spring of 1908. This
performance was notable as being the most important public flight
hitherto made by a heavier-than-air machine. The Wright brothers of
Dayton, Ohio, had made numerous flights of far greater length, but the
general public was not aware of that fact and for a time Mr. Farman was
popularly regarded as the foremost of aviators. His best performances
were, however, eclipsed by the public flights of the Wright brothers a
few months later.]

There was of course no particular difficulty involved in the flight
across the Channel; but its obvious dangers, together with the
suggestion as to the new possibilities of the use of the airship in war
time,--the virtual elimination of that all-important barrier of water
that had proved so effective against England's foes in the past,--gave
to Blériot's flight a popular interest not exceeded by any preceding
achievement even of the Wright brothers. We may add that Blériot's
feat was presently duplicated by another Frenchman, Count Jacques de
Lesseps by name, who crossed the Channel in an aeroplane in May, 1910;
and excelled by the Hon. Charles S. Rolls, an Englishman, who on June
2nd, 1910, made a still more remarkable flight, in which he crossed
the Channel, starting from the cliffs near Dover, and after circling
over French soil without landing, returned to his starting-place. The
aeroplanes used by the two Frenchmen were of the monoplane type; that
used by Mr. Rolls was a Wright bi-plane.

Just at the time when the first successful cross-Channel flight was
made, the attention of aviators was focussed on the flights being made
near Washington by Mr. Orville Wright in the attempt to fulfill the
Government tests which had been so tragically interrupted the year
before. On July 27th, 1909, Mr. Wright successfully met the conditions
of the endurance test, by flying more than an hour carrying as a
passenger Lieutenant Frank P. Lahm. Three days later a more spectacular
flight, to a distance of five miles across country and return, over
tree-tops, hills, and valleys, with a passenger (Lieutenant Foulois),
was accomplished without mishap. This was in many respects the most
important flight, as suggesting the possible practical utility of the
aeroplane, that had hitherto been made.

Later in the same year Mr. Orville Wright went abroad with his
aeroplane and made a large number of flights at Berlin, demonstrating
to the German people the points of superiority of the aeroplane as
against the gigantic dirigible balloons to which that nation had
heretofore paid chief attention. Mr. Wilbur Wright meantime remained in
America to give flights about New York Harbor during the Hudson-Fulton
Centenary Celebration. On October 4th (1909), he made a sensational
flight up the Hudson from Governor's Island, circling about above the
warships anchored in the river in the neighborhood of Grant's Tomb, and
returning to land at his starting-point. What would probably have been
a still more spectacular flight was prevented by an accident to Mr.
Wright's motor just as he was about to start on the afternoon of the
same day.

Another flight that aroused great popular interest and enthusiasm was
made by the Frenchman Louis Paulhan in competition for a prize of
ten thousand pounds offered by the Daily Mail of London for a flight
from London to Manchester. Paulhan left London at 5:20 on the evening
of April 28, 1910. He descended at Litchfield but renewed his flight
early next morning, arriving at Manchester at 8:10. He had covered the
distance of 186 miles with a single stop, his actual flying time being
four hours and eleven minutes, or an average rate of 44.3 miles an
hour. In this flight M. Paulhan had for his only competitor Mr. White,
an Englishman, who made a daring flight but did not cover the entire

Paulhan had previously been known as one of the most daring of
aviators. At Los Angeles, California, on January 13, 1910, he rose to a
height of about 4,163 feet, establishing a record for altitude. He had
also made thrilling cross-country flights on the occasion of the Los
Angeles meet, as well as in France. Paulhan's record flights were made
in a Farman bi-plane.


The upper figure is that of Blériot launched for his flight across the
English Channel, on July 25th, 1909. The lower shows Latham starting in
an attempt to cross the Channel, which barely failed of success through
fault of the motor.]

The spectacular flight from London to Manchester was matched soon
after by Mr. Glenn H. Curtiss' flight from Albany to New York, which
took place May 29, 1910. Mr. Curtiss had already achieved fame as an
aviator, having won the chief speed contest in the International
Aviation Meet held at Rheims in August, 1909. He used a bi-plane of
his own construction, differing but little in design from the Wright
machine, but of very small size, and propelled by an eight-cylinder
motor, also made by Mr. Curtiss himself. The start from Albany was
made at three minutes after seven o'clock and the aviator arrived at
Governor's Island, New York Harbor, at twelve o'clock, having stopped
twice on the way to rest and take on fuel. The first stop was made
near Poughkeepsie, the second on the heights near the Hudson, within
the bounds of New York City. The distance covered 142½ miles; the
actual time of flight, 2 hours and 54 minutes,--an average speed
of about fifty miles an hour. Parts of the flight were made at a
good deal better speed. The first part of the journey from Albany
to Poughkeepsie, a distance of 74¼ miles, was covered in 1 hour 23
minutes, or at a rate of more than 53.68 miles an hour. The minimum
speed at which Mr. Curtiss' bi-plane could be maintained in the
air is about 40 miles an hour, the supporting surface of its main
plane comprising only 236 square feet, and the weight of the machine
complete, including aviator, fuel, and oil, being 950 pounds. The
machine uses a single propeller, 7 feet in diameter, making 1,100
revolutions per minute, and giving a pull, when the machine is held
stationary on the ground, of over 300 lbs. The engine used is an
eight-cylinder motor of 50 horse-power.

A flight in some respects even more interesting than that of Mr.
Curtiss was accomplished in France on the ninth of June, 1910, by
Lieutenant Feguant and Captain Marconnet, officers of the French army,
on a Farman bi-plane. "Starting from Chalons at 4:40 A. M.," says the
_Scientific American_, "the officers flew 176 kilometers (109¼ miles)
across country to the artillery park at Vincennes, which was reached at
7:10. This flight of two and one-half hours' duration was accomplished
at a speed of 43¾ miles per hour. Captain Marconnet was able to take
photographs and make sketches that would have been of great strategic
interest in time of war. This is the first practical demonstration of
the aeroplane for scouting purposes, in addition to its being a new
world's record for cross-country flying with two men in the machine.
Another French aviator, Labouchère, flew for ten minutes with two
passengers at Mourmelon on the same day."


This apparatus was built and is operated by Colonel Cody of the British
Army. It has made flights of a mile or more. With minor modifications
it is, like all bi-plane flying machines hitherto constructed, of the
Wright aeroplane type.]

A record flight of yet another character was accomplished in America
by Charles K. Hamilton, a disciple of Curtiss, who, flying under
the auspices of the New York _Times_ and the Philadelphia _Public
Ledger_, attempted successfully a round-trip flight from New York to
Philadelphia on June 14, 1910. The aviator left Governor's Island at
7:36 A. M. and landed at Philadelphia at 9:26 A. M., having covered the
86 miles at an average speed of 46.92 miles an hour. After delivering
messages from the Governor of New York, and the Mayor of New York City,
Mr. Hamilton took wing at 11:33 for the return voyage. A difficulty
with his motor made it necessary for him to descend at South Amboy,
after covering 68 miles in 1 hour and 21 minutes. An injury to the
propeller necessitated a delay of several hours, but the aviator was
enabled to re-ascend at 6:17 and to land at Governor's Island at 6:40,
the return journey having been accomplished at an average hourly speed
of 51.36 miles.

The machine used by Mr. Hamilton is a Curtiss bi-plane, which in most
respects follows closely the model of the original Wright aeroplane,
but in which the function of the warping wings is fulfilled by two
small wings, or ailerons, adjusted at each side between the larger
planes. These ailerons, being deflected in opposite directions
simultaneously, meet any tendency of the machine to tip unduly.
Whether or not this method of maintaining lateral stability is the
same in principle as the Wright method of warping the large planes
themselves, is a question at issue between the inventors. From the
purely scientific standpoint it would seem that one method is merely a
modification of the other, which, however ingenious in its application,
introduces no new principle.

On the same day on which Mr. Hamilton's inter-urban flight took
place, a new record for altitude was made at Indianapolis by Mr. W.
H. Brookins, a pupil of the Wrights, who rose in the Wright bi-plane
to a height of 4,384 feet. The height was calculated by President
Lambert of the St. Louis Aero Club, with the aid of a sextant. Earlier
in the same day Mr. Brookins had risen about 2,000 feet. It becomes
increasingly difficult for an aeroplane to rise to great heights owing
to rarefaction of the upper atmosphere, but the flights of Paulhan
and Brookins, as well as various unmeasured altitudes attained in
cross-country flights, show that the aeroplane as at present equipped
may be depended upon to rise well toward the mile limit.

These are but a few of the interesting flights made within a brief
period after the Wright brothers' first successful demonstrations.
The number of the aviators who so quickly entered the field, and the
prominence given by the press to such feats as those of Blériot,
Paulhan, and Curtiss, have tended to distract attention from the
original inventors, and to produce some confusion in the popular mind
as to the exact share the various aviators have taken in the conquest
of the air. The facts, however, are quite clear and unequivocal. At
the time when the Wright brothers made their first successful flights,
comparatively few people in the world believed that anyone would ever
be able to propel himself through the air with safety or certainty in a
heavier-than-air apparatus.

The Wright brothers solved the problem after years of patient effort,
and solved it effectively and conclusively. They profited of course by
the efforts of predecessors, but they were the inventors of the airship
in a far fuller sense than, for example, Fulton was the inventor of the
steamboat, or Stephenson of the locomotive, or Morse of the telegraph.
To their success, and to that alone, must be ascribed the fact that
many scores of men in various parts of the world are now able to fly
in aeroplanes. Slight modifications of type mark various of these
aeroplanes, but no radical departure in principle.

[Illustration: Mr. Wilbur Wright flying over New York Harbor, October
4, 1909.]

In time, no doubt, flying-machines of quite different types will be
invented. Quite possibly the machines of the Wright model will
become altogether obsolete. But this can have no possible effect upon
the position that the Wright brothers themselves must always hold in
the history of scientific progress. The men who fly from New York
to San Francisco, or from New York to London, will be carrying out
the work of the Dayton pioneers; and no future accomplishment of the
heavier-than-air machine can possibly rank in historical importance
with that first flight in the presence of witnesses made December 17,
1903. Then and there it was successfully demonstrated that the last
difficulty, so far as joining theory and practice was concerned, had
been mastered. Potentially, from that moment, the conquest of the air
was complete; and the names of the conquerors as all the world knows,
and as throughout the future all must remember, are Wilbur and Orville





(pp. 77-79). The _Great Eastern_. The quotation is from _Ancient and
Modern Ships_, by Sir George C. V. Holmes, K.C.V.O., London, 1906.



(pp. 95, 98). The first submarine. As stated in the text the quotation
is from a letter written to Thomas Jefferson by David Bushnell, and
published in the _Transactions of the American Philosophical Society_
in 1789.

(pp. 104-105). A successful diving boat. The quotation is from _The
Naval History of the Civil War_, by Admiral Porter.



(pp. 127, 128). George Stephenson's locomotive of 1825. The quotation
is from _The History of the First Locomotive in America_, by William H.
Brown, New York 1874.



(pp. 179-181). Early experimental railways. The quotation is from the
article on "Street and Electric Railways," by Thomas Commerford Martin,
in the Special Report of the U. S. Census Office on Street and Electric
Railways, Washington, 1905.



(p. 247). Henson's studies of the flying-machine. The quotation is from
_Travels in Space_, by E. Seton Valentine and F. L. Tomlinson, New
York, 1902.



(p. 275). How the air supports a heavier-than-air mechanism. The
quotation is from an article on "The Flying Machine," by Professor S.
P. Langley, in _McClure's Magazine_ for June, 1897.

(p. 284). Langley's aerodrome. The description is from Professor
Langley's own account in _McClure's Magazine_, above cited.

(pp. 289, 290). Experiments of the Wright brothers. The quotation is
from an article on "The Wright Brothers' Aeroplane," by Orville and
Wilbur Wright, in _The Century Magazine_ for September, 1908.

(p. 298). Cross-country Bight by French officers. The quotation is from
the _Scientific American_ of June 18, 1910. This periodical has shown
great interest in the new science of aeronautics, and was the first to
offer a trophy for long-distance flying--a trophy that was won for the
years 1908 and 1909 by Mr. Glenn H. Curtiss. The Wright brothers have
declined to compete for prizes; otherwise "records" for cross-country
flying and the like would doubtless have advanced even more rapidly
than has been the case.

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Text uses both "aerial" and "aërial".

The references to Figs. 1 and 2 used subscripts. They are represented
here as simple numbers, e.g., R1.

Page 262: "representing six thousand words" should be "representing six
hundred thousand words".

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