Popular Science Monthly/Volume 17/June 1880/About Carpenters
|←How Animals Eat|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 17 June 1880 (1880)
By Maurice Mauris
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By MAURICE MAURIS.
IT is characteristic of architecture that the further back we look toward the primitive state of man, the more the use of wood prevails over that of stone, brick, and all other building materials, and the more does the importance of carpentry exceed that of masonry. The condition of this art might well be taken as the basis of division between the various stages of the civilization of a country. During the first stage, wood is everywhere the only material used in construction; the second stage is marked by a mixture of wood and ashlar work; while in the third, or highest stage, carpentry yields constantly to mason-work, until it becomes a mere subordinate agent. We can imagine man in a savage state. "The penalty of Adam's—the seasons' difference"—was full upon him; at first he crept, like the beasts, within groves and hollow trees, or into dark caves and holes dug in the earth; or else he perched himself, like the birds, in nests built with less skill than those of the swallow or the stork. But necessity is the mother of invention; and the gradual sharpening of his obtuse faculties soon taught man how to procure a better shelter. In the dawn of social impulses, noting the fall of the rain and the sweep of the wind, and feeling the necessity of providing for his own security against the wild beasts; next, deriving some rude ideas of stability from the contemplation of the material world and of the structures instinctively erected by animals, he turned his mind to the construction of dwellings which might afford him real protection, and he availed himself of the materials at hand—the trees by which he was surrounded. The art of building, which has invariably been the starting-point of civilization and the precursor of every species of knowledge, was thus originated. The art of the carpenter is thus the earliest of arts; and the glorious monuments of later ages may, in their main outlines, and even in many of their smaller parts, be traced to the rough wood huts which arose in the wild forests and in the midst of lakes during the prehistorical times.
Like Cuvier, who, out of an age-eaten bone, was able to rebuild the skeleton of a whole fish, paleontologists of our day have, from the scanty remains found in the lakes of Europe, deduced almost to a certainty the characteristics of the lacustrine dwellings which formed the abode of man during the neolithic period of the Stone age. The interest awakened by such discoveries has been so great as to render it wholly needless for us to give a description of the house, bridge, and boat building of prehistoric man. The savages of the present age seem to have been providentially left to confirm the truths which paleontology has endeavored to wrench from the bowels of the earth and the depths of the water; they seem to be left as milestones to indicate the road that mankind has passed over, or rather, as Edmond About says, "They are the stragglers in the army of civilization, by the presence of whom we are informed whence the great body started and whither it went." Reliable accounts of travelers bear witness, in fact, to the existence, even at the present day, of certain Asiatic and Polynesian islanders, who still inhabit wood dwellings erected on piles driven into the water, thus perpetuating a custom prevailing in times beyond record. Herodotus has a passage relating to a tribe that dwelt five hundred and twenty years before the Christian era on Lake Prasias, in Thrace, the modern Roumelia, whose modes of life illustrate those of the lake-dwellers. According to this historian, the Pæonians lived upon the lake in dwellings erected on platforms, which were supported by piles and connected with the land by narrow bridges. They were polygamists, and a law directed that, for each wife, three piles should be added to the structure, thus wisely adding to its security. There was a hut for every family, with a trap-door giving access to the lake beneath. The small children were tied by the foot with a string, lest they should fall into the water.
Hassenfratz took some trouble to ascertain the actual form of the huts of savage tribes of our time. In his book on carpentry he gives thirty-three specimens, of which, however, only sixteen or eighteen were copied from existing habitations, the remainder being derived from detailed descriptions of travelers. The pyramidal form, as the simplest, is that generally adopted by the more barbarous tribes, which fact gives good ground for conjecture that this style of building is the oldest of all. Usually the plan is oblong, though sometimes circular, and the roof is either angular or curved, according as stiff or pliant woods were at hand. In the African kraals and similar huts, flexible pieces of wood are bent into a semicircle, and the ends fixed into the ground. Other huts resemble pig-sties, rabbit-bins, and chicken-houses. The Siamese elevate the floor of their cabins some feet above the ground for protection from the damp, and the summer huts of the Kamtchatdales are built on posts and have for an entrance an inclined piece of timber with rough steps, like those in chicken-houses, leading to the roosting-place. This seems to be the primitive idea of building a staircase.
Chinese structures, when compared with those of less advanced nations, are a token of wonderful progress. The Chinese have had regular carpenters from time immemorial, while, among primitive nations, there is no trace of classification of workmen into distinct trades. A species of bamboo is much used by the Chinese; the inner part of this wood being spongy, it is practically a cylinder which does not admit of squaring, but is strong, hard, and durable. The skill of the Chinese carpenters is chiefly demonstrated by their light and elegant bridges, and, if we mistake not, the first idea of suspension-bridges was borrowed from them.
Among no nations of civilized antiquity did carpentry attain so high a development as among the Persians, the Hebrews, and the Phoenicians. With these nations joinery, in the proper acceptation of the word, may be said to have begun, and the progress that this step marked in art is more easily imagined than described. Whatever be the credit accorded to the book of Genesis, it will always remain the most authentic record of the Hebrew nation in Moses's times. The account therein found of the ark is very important in connection with ship-building: if we reflect that the proportions of the ark have been nearly the same as those of modern ship-building, up to the time of the application of iron and steam to navigation, their skill can not but command admiration. From its resemblance to a house, it may also be safely inferred that Hebrew dwellings were divided into stories and rooms and had a sloping roof, which, upon the whole, is essentially the form of modern houses. The knowledge of the Phœnicians concerning geometry and mechanics, as a matter of course, improved their carpentry to such a degree as to make their workmen sought after even by the Hebrews. To Hiram, King of Tyre, both David and Solomon applied not only for materials, but for the greatest number of carpenters he could spare, when proposing to build the Temple of Jerusalem. If we consider what a large share of work carpentry has in establishing a colony and making it prosper, and, again, to what fame the colonies founded by the Phœnicians all along the Mediterranean coast arose, their prominence in this art will be still better proved. A carpenter of Samos, by the name of Mandrocles, perhaps the oldest carpenter whose name has found a place in history, built a bridge on the Bosporus, which, in a few days, afforded passage to Darius and his seven hundred thousand men, when on his expedition against the Scythians.
No documents, to our knowledge, remain that concern the carpentry of the Egyptians. Perhaps, owing to the peculiar conditions of the land, masonry prevailed in Egypt at a very early stage of their civilization; the Pyramids and the temples of Memphis prove, however, better than tongue or pen, what was their knowledge of the art under consideration; those gigantic monuments presuppose the existence of the most powerful machinery. Expressing contempt for any man who by his work contributed, however slightly, to the public welfare, was among the Egyptians, as is known, an infraction of the law, and punishable in consequence. In the case of a young carpenter who had made but a few school implements and had been ill-spoken of, his rights to the public respect were thus solemnly acknowledged by the Magus who sat as judge: "The carpenter who makes school implements accomplishes more toward the improvement of his fellow men than many kings have done."
Vitruvius has speculated at length respecting the form of the early huts in Greece: it appears that they were originally cuneiform; then rectangular, with flat roofs, the boards being well connected and nailed to the posts; later on, the roof became angular, and the hut assumed a shape from which the general outlines of the Doric temple were derived. So enthusiastically was this peculiarly framed roof in former times admired, that even Cicero was betrayed into the unphilosophical remark that, if a temple were to be erected in heaven, where no rain falls, it would be becoming to crown it with a pediment roof. It is hardly needful to explain how the posts were ultimately deprived of their bark, rounded, smoothed, raised on stones and similarly crowned at the summit end, and, to prevent splitting, bound with ligatures at both extremities. "As large trunks," Eny says, "were sometimes difficult to obtain, we note as one of the consequences the petrified bundle-pillar of reeds or sticks tied together at the top and bottom. These most probably suggested the idea of flutes; and the superincumbent pressure, causing a slight swelling in the center, gave rise to the entasis of the column."
"With the Greeks and the Romans, carpentry, as well as its sister arts, made great progress, by being applied to war purposes. Military carpenters became the bulwarks of warfare; they were the strategists and pioneers of the time. Be the siege of Troy either history or fable, Homer's accounts prove beyond doubt that the Greeks possessed war-engines contrived with unusual ingenuity: the wooden horse that caused the fall of Troy, and the Argonauts' ship, taking them even as symbols, bear witness to this fact. To any one who, in his boyhood, has perused Cæsar's "Commentaries," the description of the famous bridge thrown by his legions over the Rhine must be still so familiar as to render it useless for us to dwell any longer on this detail. It is evident, however, that in Greece and Rome carpentry, as applied to building, yielded early to masonry. Wood was too soft a material for those sturdy citizens to struggle against; their pride and wealth were too great, their taste too refined, not to prefer the durable and majestic appearance of stone and marble to the perishable littleness of a vegetable matter. Yet, as an art subservient to masonry, carpentry was always up to the standard of the former. But the existence of a perfect system of levers and pulleys, in a word, of all kinds of machinery, may explain the locomotion of those monoliths which are seen standing to this day, like giants among pygmies, at enormous distances from their place of origin. The English are perplexed as to the best means of transporting Cleopatra's Needle to England: Roman carpenters would have deemed it an every-day job!
Had Cæsar taken the same trouble in describing the dwellings of the Gauls as he has respecting their fortifications, war-engines, and ships, an exact idea of their domestic carpentry, at that distant period, would be easily formed. But this not being the case, we can give but very scanty information on the subject. At any rate, the twenty cities of the Biturians, burned down by order of Vercingetorix—the last of the Gauls—were built of wood. In the remote parts of the country which had scarcely any dealings with the invaders, so much is still left of Gallic traditions that, according to Paul Lacroix, it is more than a simple presumption to state that they resembled in shape the rectangular, straw-roofed huts of the modern peasants of northern France, and of the mountaineers of Auvergne. On the other hand, in the merchant cities of the Mediterranean, carpentry was developed in a manner corresponding to their wealth and extravagance. In the interior, numbers of houses were a mixture of wood and stone work, with colonnades and porticoes, which we would liken somewhat to the cottages so common nowadays in this country. The Gauls, too, excelled in military carpentry. "When Caesar threw his legions on their soil, every serious obstacle which he met was due to carpenters. They directed and executed all defense-works; their cities, like Alise, Bourges, and Namour, had been fortified by carpenters, by means of palisades, and when the Romans attempted to take them by storm, supposing them to be an easy prey, the war-engines of those carpenters hurled them more than once from the top of their ramparts, where they died, at last, like true heroes, for freedom and independence.
The most astonishing progress made by carpentry in ancient times is, in our estimation, that shown by Holland. There man had struggled for ages against the invading waves for the ownership of a land which, in the end, he succeeded in making his own. "Twice a day," the oldest legends tell us, "the ocean extended its empire over the shore with terrible rage, and rose as high as the level of the wooden houses built on immense piles of wood, at considerable distance inland, so that they seemed to float above the water, and their trembling inhabitants could not move around except in boats." This gives an idea how the dwellings of the Hollanders were built, and is an unquestionable token of their skill, as the work of building houses on the sand, supported on piers, and capable of resisting the enormous tides that visit the country, was by no means an easy task; yet they performed still more surprising works: they laid the foundations of those dikes that are reckoned among the greatest works of any description ever accomplished by man.
As has been stated above, in Italy, since the time when Rome was at the height of its glory, masonry, in domestic building, had taken the place of carpentry. But, with the downfall of the empire, when, society being upset, no one could trust in the morrow, and the execution of works which demanded peace and length of time to be accomplished became impossible, carpentry recovered its power; again it controlled architecture and its sister arts, and again it supplied the needs of the barbarians in the savage manner of which it had been formerly divested by civilization. As truly as an epoch of the past can be revived, the primeval ages were called to new life, and with them the primitive systems of construction. Nor could it be otherwise: the savage hordes who now overran Europe felt, thought, acted, and lived as the hordes who had preceded them centuries before. Fortunately, their destructive work did not last long, nor could it extinguish entirely the light that civilization had cast over the land. The conquering races passed away, leaving after them only their good elements—the industrial and agricultural classes—which settled and amalgamated with the indigenes. Carpentry was then called upon to supply new wants. The new religion had grown and spread over the world; it needed oratories and temples; it needed belfries in order that the scattered faithful might hear from afar the consoling sounds which called them to worship. Primitive Christians were neither rich enough, nor sure enough of meeting with tolerance, to undertake the erection of stone buildings. Carpentry supplied their moderate needs. The oldest basilicas were all of wood in the style of that of St. Martin on the ramparts of Rouen, where Meroveus and Brunehilde took refuge to escape the wrath of Queen Fredegonda, and the remains of which were till lately extant. "It was a wooden church," says Augustin Thierry, "the slender frame of which, with its columns formed of several trunks of trees tied together, and its arcades necessarily angular (owing to the difficulty of centering with the materials at hand), that furnished, in all appearance, the type of the ogive or Gothic style which has since played so prominent a part in architecture."
According as the industrial and agricultural colonies led by St. Benedict spread, carpentry enlivened the wilderness of central and northern Europe by constructing those monasteries around which large communities grouped, thus rendering them greater commercial than religious centers. To the carpenters of St. Benedict the establishment of the first manufactories is due as well as the introduction of watermills, which, though known before, were yet so rare in the fifth century as to make one of them, erected on the river Indre, France, by Ursus, Bishop of Cahors, seem the marvel of the time, and so excite the covetousness of Alaric, King of the Visigoths.
History, always ready to register any deed of princes and courtiers, has rarely preserved any record of the martyrs of labor. In documents discovered and examined with much patience and labor by recent historians, mention is, however, made of a carpenter, by the name of Modestus, who in his time exercised great influence upon the course of events. He lived in Soissons, and, though a plain, unlearned man, he appreciated and honored virtue whenever and wherever he found it. "When Gregory, Bishop of Tours, was accused of treason to Queen Fredegonda, by Subdeacon Rikulph, her favorite, and when he was brought to Soissons for trial, Modestus indignantly appealed to the people to defend the saintly bishop, and placed himself at their head. But Rikulph, backed by the Queen's army, caused the poor carpenter to be taken, whipped, tortured, chained, and thrown into a dungeon. Modestus, however, broke his chains and escaped. His escape seemed a miracle, and, as such, it could not fail to affect and embolden the multitude. A conflict was about to ensue, but Modestus deprecated violence and checked the movement. He rushed into the court, by his eloquent pleading persuaded the judges of the bishop's innocence, and exposed Rikulph's iniquity. Gregory was acquitted, but the carpenter, later on, paid with his blood for his love of justice and his opposition to the Queen's favorite.
When cremation of corpses ceased to be a general custom, certain nations intrusted carpenters with the duty of preparing the last dwelling of man. It is not long since quite a number of tombs, perhaps eleven or twelve centuries old, were discovered on the banks of the Danube. They were hollowed out of the trunks of trees, in the form of primeval canoes, to symbolize, perhaps, the last journey of man to unknown regions. We have read somewhere that the tree selected was generally the favorite one of the deceased. How poetical is the destiny of that tree receiving in its bosom the man to whom it had formerly afforded shelter and, perhaps, nourishment!
Between the sixth and the eighth centuries, owing to the increasing activity of the Church in multiplying establishments of all kinds, and to the spreading of agriculture and industry, as well as to the unceasing wars, carpentry had widely enlarged its province. Thus it is not surprising that division of labor was applied to carpentry; and bridge-makers, or "pontiffs," as they were called, after the Latin fashion, builders, joiners, ship-builders and military carpenters were recognized as distinct trades, nor could one division intrude upon the duties of the others.
Though the middle ages are generally estimated as an epoch of retrogression in art, carpentry improved. Its military department was naturally perfected by the unrelenting wars. In these an enormous number of workmen found employment. The battering-rams, the wheeled turrets, and all war-engines received further development. In the ninth century many castles were exclusively made of wood, which proved so strong as to increase the desolation of the invaded countries, for invaders set fire to those they could not take. Such was, in 886, during the siege of Paris by the Normans, the fate of the castle rising on the spot on which the "Châtelet" was afterward built. It was defended by only twelve men; yet the Normans tried again and again in vain to take it, until, tired of their useless assaults, they destroyed it by fire. Byzantine and Gothic architecture, too, becoming bolder, afforded carpentry the opportunity of acquiring an incontestable artistic value; and, if it lost somewhat of its importance in reference to the creation of the great body of a building, it gained ground in the accessories. The interiors of temples and palaces were stocked with furniture; the wooden ceilings were set into compartments of elaborate carvings; the doors divided into panels and ornaments; the cold nakedness of the kalsomined walls was concealed by panels of oak and chestnut, set off in modillions and figures in bas-relief, separated by columns supporting entwined arches. A variety of chests was manufactured; the holy-lofts of churches, as well as the halls of private and public dwellings, were furnished with benches and chairs, previously very rarely seen. All this was, then, the work of carpenters; it was not until later that wood-carvers and cabinet-makers formed a distinct branch of the trade. "Capable, as they were, of accomplishing many more things than the carpenters of our day," Paul Lacroix says, "and being at the same time geometers, constructors, and modelers, the carpenters of the middle ages must be considered rather as artists than as artisans."
About the end of the twelfth century, France having grown tired of war, the throng of pontiffs and carpenters, formerly connected with the armies of the Carlovingian kings, no longer found employment. Hundreds of those craftsmen, forced by want, swelled the companies of marauders known in history as the "Routiers," "Cottereaux," and "Brabancons." Owing to this reënforcement, their plunderings grew to frightful proportions.
Between the years 1180 and 1182, a pious carpenter of Puy, named Durand, in an outburst of honest and patriotic indignation at sight of the disorders committed by his fellow tradesmen, declared that he had been intrusted by the Lord with the mission of restoring peace. Such was the enthusiasm aroused by his preaching a crusade against the Brabançons, the most terrible of those adventurers, that in a short time he gathered around him a powerful army which were called the "Brothers of the Peace." The Brabançons were exterminated, the other companies having disbanded on learning the successes of the "Pacifies." Durand was hailed as a hero, and the savior of his country. But fanaticism and ambition engendered excess; the Brothers of the Peace became a cause of dread to the community; and France, which, during this moral ebullition, had rejected a part of its impure elements, now cast aside the others, by dispersing the chiefs of the Brotherhood of the Pacifies. Durand, as was often the case under similar circumstances, met with death by order of the powerful lords, for the safety of whom he had worked.
With the organization of commons, carpenters organized themselves in various brotherhoods. Every community was independent, had its peculiar privileges, laws, traditions, and usages. An officer called "Master Carpenter of the King" presided over each one of the French brotherhoods. He was as a brake put to the wheels of the organization by the shy despotism of the monarch. The Church, too, of course, interfered and gave them the character of religious associations. According to the statutes of the Paris brotherhood, carpenters were bound not to work from nine o'clock on Saturday night till Monday morning. The brothers were apprentices or masters. The apprenticeship lasted four years, in the first of which the apprentice was forced to pay his master from one to three farthings per diem. A carpenter could not be compelled to work in the night, except for the royal family and the Bishop of Paris. Every corporation had jurors who were selected among masters having at least ten years' experience, and whose business was to settle, as referees, all questions arising in business transactions. As the choice of materials was of paramount importance for the security of the community at large, it was the jurors' duty to examine all wood before it could be used; the use of wood upon which the jurors had not thought fit to put their seal entailed heavy fines and even the suspension of the transgressor. The purchases of wood made in advance did not bind the carpenter, if the jurors failed to find it satisfactory; on the arrival of the merchandise, too, the purchaser could not take possession of the whole cargo, if his brother-tradesmen were not provided with sufficient materials to go on with work in hand. Strange as it may appear, this provision was very wise, as it placed public utility above personal interest and prevented monopoly. They had a chapel of their own, where, besides religious affairs, all the busi- ness concerning the brotherhood was transacted. There the apprentice aspiring to mastership underwent the practical and theoretical exami- nation on which his fate depended; the work executed by him on the occasion was consecrated to the patron saint of the community.
In connection with the bridge-makers there are some details that we can not afford to omit. These carpenters, during the middle ages, were a kind of nomad tribe, who traveled in companies and pitched their tents wherever their work was required; bridges were built at their risk, and they had no claim to payment until their work had with- stood the test of the winter floods. Originally they came from north- ern Italy, but in the twelth century a similar association was formed in Germany, which shortly monopolized the trade in northern Europe.
During the thirteenth century, masonry and blacksmithing con- tinued to invade the sphere that carpentry had previously appropriated to itself; the reign of carpenters was over, yet the share of work re- maining in their hands was sufficient to enable them to keep step with the artistic and industrial movement of the time. Gunpowder being invented, carpentry, for some time, enlarged its province. The first guns were made of wood, strengthened by bands of iron; new engines were also invented; the reader can imagine who were the first gunners, the first pyrotechnists, and the managers of the GriUe, as well as of all similar new contrivances.
People acquainted with history will readily understand that a great change must have been operated in carpentry by the civilization of the fourteenth century. In obedience to the laws of evolution and progress that rule the moral as well as the physical world, some provinces of this art were absorbed by superior arts and sciences: some passed under the control of sister arts, others expanded themselves and gained new ground. The carpenter whose bodily strength was overbalanced by the power of his mind was hailed as an engineer or as an architect; the average carpenter remained workman and carried out the ideas of his su- periors. This was apparently a fall; yet carpenters made another step forward in the path of progress. The frequent festivals afforded them opportunity to display new talents and skill; descriptions of the festi- vals of the time may be found in ar-y historical book, which resemble more the tales of the " Arabian Nights " than accounts of real events. During the reign of Louis XIV., a new building the theatre was erected; it was made almost entirely of wood, and though in a wholly different order of ideas, carpenters seemed to be inspired in working out the new construction, according to the lofty conceptions by which church-building had been formerly distinguished. Stage carpenters too, accomplished wonders; the illusion was so complete as to make some one say that " stage-carpenters lived an ideal life." Undoubtedly, in a time in which plays dealt so much with the supernatural, playwriters would have done nothing, had they not found full support in carpenters of superior capacity. The name of William Van Schep- dael, a carpenter who, assisted by a mason, Henry Vits, covered an arm of the Seine, at Paris, with a vault some thousand yards long, sup- ported by only eighteen hfcndred wooden pillars, in order to have the space utilized for building purposes, is unknown even to the majority of his fellow tradesmen, but his work remains, and is, even at present, one of the industrial glories of Paris.
In order to avoid repetitions, in connection with the history of car- pentry in England, it will be sufficient to state that, begun as anywhere else, it kept step with the development of the country, yet we feel bound particularly to mention English ship-building. The geographi- cal position of the land, which naturally determines its inhabitants' tastes for seafaring, explains the progress of ship-building there. Although the fleets of Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, of Spain and Portugal, had, at different times, won great fame, England eclipsed them all.
It was the privilege of the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries to fix carpentry on a thorough scientific basis. The works of Monge, his lessons of descriptive geometry; the profound works of Prony, on statics, hydrostatics, and hydrodynamics; the researches and discoveries of Lalande, Inghirami, and many others formed a wealth of scientific principles from the application of which carpentry naturally derived unspeakable advantage. Regular schools were founded, among which that of Monge ranks first. Thence have come Krafft, Hassenfratz, Morisot, and scores of carpenters who raised the art to the level of a science.
In several States of the Union the three stages of civilization al- luded to in the beginning of our sketch are shown in a striking man- ner; there, on the same farm, the log-cabin, the frame-building and the brick house are still frequently seen; what has been in Europe the work of centuries, here has been that of a generation, and yet it represents an improvement on former work. It is a peculiarity of American frame-buildings to have all the improvements of the best- built stone houses in Europe. Americans have done with carpentry what was before deemed to be a privilege of masonry and iron exclu- sively. If we dared express our opinion, we would say that, as regards architecture, carpentry is here ahead of masonry. In comparing the pleasant frame-houses of the American farmers with the half-ruined brick dwellings of the French and Italian peasants (who are, however, the most comfortable of European country people), it is to be doubted whether masonry is really indicative of a more advanced civilization. Were we not to make great allowance for the peculiar circumstances in which this country has developed its moral and material faculties, we would solve the question against the generally accepted theory, and proclaim carpentry still the greatest agent of progress. Carpentry in America has not yielded to masonry; even in the erection of brick or stone houses, the former has a greater share of work, the latter doing scarcely anything beyond building the outside walls. In American brick or stone houses, about twenty-five times more wood than in European is used. This may have its evils, wood being subject to ignition and not being naturally so endurable as other materials; but it will not take long for Americans to invent some process by means of which wood may be rendered incombustible, and as solid as stone; something in this direction, we believe, has been done already. The bold centering of domes and the slender elevation of steeples on skeletons of wood, as carried in this country, command the attention of foreigners; there are a dash and lightness in those works that bespeak the skill of American carpenters. The mechanical performances of "Sardanapalus" and other plays can not be overlooked in an article referring to carpentry. Nor can we omit to record that American ship-building compares favorably with that of any nation, the English included. Yet all this becomes a trifle if we consider American wood bridges. The Schuylkill bridge, built by Wernwag at the beginning of this century at Philadelphia—a suspension-bridge, 340 feet long—can not but be considered a marvel of art. This bridge would not yield save under a weight of 1,275 pounds per square inch of the lower chord! During the civil war the constructions of the Federal troops astonished the world; to the rapidity with which new bridges were built in a truly artistic and scientific manner, and to the skill of their architects, engineers, and carpenters is due, in great part, the success of the Northern forces.
Carpenters appear to us as the vanguard of progress, the initiators of all movement toward the supply of mankind's first wants. However incomplete, we trust that our sketch will be deemed suggestive enough to show that their history is worthy of being diffused through the medium of a popular publication.