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The Age of Invention : a chronicle of mechanical conquest   By: (1873-1940)

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THE AGE OF INVENTION,

A CHRONICLE OF MECHANICAL CONQUEST

By Holland Thompson

PREFATORY NOTE

This volume is not intended to be a complete record of inventive genius and mechanical progress in the United States. A bare catalogue of notable American inventions in the nineteenth century alone could not be compressed into these pages. Nor is it any part of the purpose of this book to trespass on the ground of the many mechanical works and encyclopedias which give technical descriptions and explain in detail the principle of every invention. All this book seeks to do is to outline the personalities of some of the outstanding American inventors and indicate the significance of their achievements.

Acknowledgments are due the Editor of the Series and to members of the staff of the Yale University Press particularly, Miss Constance Lindsay Skinner, Mr. Arthur Edwin Krows, and Miss Frances Hart without whose intelligent assistance the book could not have been completed in time to take its place in the Series.

H. T.

COLLEGE OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK,

May 10, 1921.

CONTENTS

I. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES

II. ELI WHITNEY AND THE COTTON GIN

III. STEAM IN CAPTIVITY

IV. SPINDLE, LOOM, AND NEEDLE IN NEW ENGLAND

V. THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION

VI. AGENTS OF COMMUNICATION

VII. THE STORY OF RUBBER

VIII. PIONEERS OF THE MACHINE SHOP

IX. THE FATHERS OF ELECTRICITY

X. THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

THE AGE OF INVENTION

CHAPTER I. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND HIS TIMES

On Milk Street, in Boston, opposite the Old South Church, lived Josiah Franklin, a maker of soap and candles. He had come to Boston with his wife about the year 1682 from the parish of Ecton, Northamptonshire, England, where his family had lived on a small freehold for about three hundred years. His English wife had died, leaving him seven children, and he had married a colonial girl, Abiah Folger, whose father, Peter Folger, was a man of some note in early Massachusetts.

Josiah Franklin was fifty one and his wife Abiah thirty nine, when the first illustrious American inventor was born in their house on Milk Street, January 17, 1706. He was their eighth child and Josiah's tenth son and was baptized Benjamin. What little we know of Benjamin's childhood is contained in his "Autobiography", which the world has accepted as one of its best books and which was the first American book to be so accepted. In the crowded household, where thirteen children grew to manhood and womanhood, there were no luxuries. Benjamin's period of formal schooling was less than two years, though he could never remember the time when he could not read, and at the age of ten he was put to work in his father's shop.

Benjamin was restless and unhappy in the shop. He appeared to have no aptitude at all for the business of soap making. His parents debated whether they might not educate him for the ministry, and his father took him into various shops in Boston, where he might see artisans at work, in the hope that he would be attracted to some trade. But Benjamin saw nothing there that he wished to engage in. He was inclined to follow the sea, as one of his older brothers had done.

His fondness for books finally determined his career. His older brother James was a printer, and in those days a printer was a literary man as well as a mechanic. The editor of a newspaper was always a printer and often composed his articles as he set them in type; so "composing" came to mean typesetting, and one who sets type is a compositor. Now James needed an apprentice. It happened then that young Benjamin, at the age of thirteen, was bound over by law to serve his brother.

James Franklin printed the "New England Courant", the fourth newspaper to be established in the colonies. Benjamin soon began to write articles for this newspaper... Continue reading book >>




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