These articles from Manufacturer and Builder Magazine were published in the 1870s. Photo scans of the articles are available from Making of America at Cornell University. Uncorrected text scans are available from the Library of Congress' American Memory site. I did some cleanup of the text scans. I made a few editorial comments in italics with my initials.
The Horse Disease
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 4, Issue 12, December 1872
The "Great Epizootic", a form of influenza, killed thousands of horses in the eastern United States in 1872. Horse-drawn street railways lost most of their motive power. This great die-off spurred the development of other forms of propulsion for streetcars.
It is curious to observe the different channels into which different minds run as soon as some extraordinary event stimulates the mental powers. So the late diseases among horses induced the different editors and contributors to the dailies, weeklies, etc., to write articles on that subject, in some of which the main point appeared to be, to cover up their ignorance by the invention of names; so it was said that the present equine epidemic was febrequobronchiatis; according to others, it was hippodiptheria, epihippic, or again pakeopneumonia, etc. Others have occupied their minds with devising remedies, either empirical or fanciful, witness the scores of prescriptions for horses published, and the secret nostrums advertised, which meet our eyes everywhere, even as posters on residences. For instance, Mrs. Thompson, female physician, has on her door a bill announcing in large letters that she sells the universal panaceum for horses -- exactly the remedy for the present equine pleurisy; even the horse-shoers have balsams; and if one-tenth part of the remedies recommended were administered to the horses, it would be sufficient to exterminate the race. Others, possessed of a philosophical mind, went into an investigation of the cause of the disease. Of course this was more difficult, and a dangerous field, especially for those who labored under a lack of the knowledge of the philosophical facts, and, as is usual in such cases, make up for their deficiency by foggy conceptions and fanciful notions. So the scientific (?) editor of the New York Herald, who repeatedly makes himself the laughing-stock of all better-informed readers by his theories of the aurora borealis, of the heat of last summer, etc., etc., comes out with an article on the horse disease, and proclaims that it is intimately connected with well-marked meteorological phenomena, namely, the recurrence of the sunspots in sopra-annual cycles, which bring every twelve years the greatest aerial and electrical derangements to our planet ; and seeing that the cause is not terrestrial, but planetary and cosmical, it helps to unravel the mystery, and is a step in the right direction.
Not satisfied with one theory, the editor comes also with another, and says that, according to the high authority of the English physicist, Keith Johnston, the north-east wind is distinctly catarrhal in its influence, the south-west wind singularly malarial, and the dry north-west wind the vitalising current which corrects the evil effects of the others. The Herald editor applies these rules to our continent, but unfortunately forgets that the character of the winds blowing in certain directions is very different in England and in North America, and even differs in various localities of the United States. So the western air currents, which in winter bring us in the Eastern States dry, cold weather, do the reverse in England, as there they blow from the ocean; while the eastern winds, which bring us here moist weather, are dry winds there, blowing from the continent. In California the conditions and relations are again different. Finally the editor expects that solar and meteorological investigations will enable the scientific world to anticipate confidently such eruptions of great adversaries of man and beast, and enable us to chart the limits and zones in which they will move.
It is a singular fact that while the remains of the fossil horse, or Hipparion, are quite abundant on the American continent, the race had entirely died out when Columbus landed here, while the posterity of the same fossil horse had continually flourished on the eastern hemisphere, and by breeding under human supervision and care, had attained great perfection. Some conditions must have prevailed in the western world which made the continued existence of the equine race impossible. If such conditions are less injurious, only the stronger individuals will survive. We find this verified from time to time in all species of animals, including man, and it is perhaps a necessary provision of nature to keep up the perfection of races, by a periodical clearing away of the weaker and imperfect individuals, by so-called epidemics. So we have periodically the cattle disease, the cholera morbus, diptheria, not only among man, but also among dogs, cats, and even among animals in the natural wild state. History tells us that a catarrhal horse disease prevailed in Greece and Italy 412 years before our era, and also over nearly the whole of Europe in 330, 876, 1173, 1259, 1299; 6 times in the 14th century, 39 times in the 15th, twice in the 16th, 15 times in the 18th, and thus far 17 times in our century. As we can only have had 6 years of maximum sunspots thus far during the 19th century, and the other years of this disease do by no means correspond with the periodical 11 or 12 years of solar maximum disturbances, the theory of the Herald scientific (?) editor is at once disposed of.
If our opinion is asked, we must acknowledge that we can do no more than, by want of positive data, give mere suspicions. That it is not only a contagion from animal to animal, but that the cause is also to be sought for in the atmosphere, appears evident, as we know personally of isolated horses, in out-of-the-way places in the country, who became attacked without having been in the vicinity of any other horses. Butchers have observed that for the last few months they had unusual trouble to preserve their meat, and this appears to point to a peculiar condition in the atmosphere, probably caused by organic fungoid germs, which attacked first those animals which were most exposed to the atmosphere and subject to the greatest fatigue under atmospheric influence. As the total sum of the air-cells in the horses lungs expose a surface of more than 1,000 square feet to atmospheric contact, and as those horses exposed to the greatest fatigue were most severely attacked, the probability is most in favor of the theory of a slightly vitiated atmosphere, of which the influence of minute impurities becomes perceptible by the enormous amounts of air inhaled night and day without interruption, accumulating evil influences, till the system suffers. The first symptoms are a kind of diptheria, and when the animal is apparently carried safely through this, a second form of the disease manifests itself as dropsy. If the latter has not been the result of injudicious treatment, is an open question. Recently the chickens have become attacked with similar ailments, to the great alarm of the farmers.
The microscope, which has already done and is doing so much now, in helping us to unravel the cause of many other diseases, will undoubtedly, by further refinement of the methods of research, enable us to discover the nature of these organic germs in the atmosphere, and vindicate its well-deserved reputation against those doubters who for more than a century have persisted in refusing their belief in its great usefulness, for the simple reason of their own awkwardness in manipulating, or of their lack of patience, which prevented them from observing anything where others of superior abilities in this direction. have established incontrovertible proofs.
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Excerpt from New Buildings in New York City
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 4, Issue 12, December 1872
Rufus Gilbert's Gilbert Elevated later became the Metropolitan Elevated Railway. It ran on Sixth Avenue and originally proposed to use compressed air as motive power.
Harlem river and the boats will furnish slow transit, but the Gilbert Elevated Railway is now coming prominently before the people.
This railway was incorporated by George B. Grinnell and others, last January. Gilbert's old plan was an atmospheric tube, but it was amended so as to permit the use of regular cars drawn by dummy engines, and an atmospheric tube between the two tracks, for newspapers and freight. It is elevated on arches like a tipped-over U. They have power to build depots, platforms, &c., and the legislature appointed a commission, composed of Henry G. Stebbins, General Gilmore, and others, with power to definitely establish the line of the road. Those gentlemen have established it, and it is to run nearly as follows: from the Battery to Hudson street, up Hudson street to Eighth avenue, up Eighth avenue to Central Park, thence across to Ninth avenue, and up Ninth avenue to One Hundred and Tenth street, then along the lower side of Morning-side Park to St. Nicholas avenue, up St. Nicholas avenue to One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street, then along Harlem river to Spuyten Duyvil. The same road will run down the East side east of Third avenue.
Colonel Stebbins has examined the London Underground Railroads, and pronounces them failures; and, it is said, that the Harlem Railroad opposes Commodore Vanderbilt, in his projected Underground. In the meantime, in view of some quick transit and the Hallett's Point excavation, property down town is dead, while it is looming up on the West side, above the Park, and on Washington Heights. The Gilbert Elevated may run up West Broadway and South Fifth avenue, and the Committee are thinking of changing their original report so as meet the change.
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Travel Under Ground and in the Air
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 5, Issue 5, May 1873
This article mentions New York's pioneering elevated roads and its first subway.
New York city has reached such a stage of its existence in the concentration of its trade on the lower half of Manhattan Island, that people must not only live and do business on different stories, but that even for travel and transportation the surface of its wide and many thoroughfares has become too small, so that its citizens are driven to provide for means of transit under ground and through the air.
The latter plan is now in quite successful operation by the so-called one-legged railroad through Greenwich street and Ninth avenue, from the Battery to Thirty-second street, a distance of nearly 4 miles, and is hourly made by two or three small trains on this road in 15 minutes. It is practically demonstrating the advantages which we will derive from an elevated railroad through a more central part of the city, such as the Gilbert elevated road over Third avenue promises to be. The charter of this company has been granted, and a contract made with the New England Iron Company to have the road ready from Chambers to Forty-second street by October 15th. However, some English bondholders had the plans and specifications inpected by an expert engineer, Mr. A. P. Boiler, who reported adversely, as he considered the iron-work, as described in the specifications, too light. At the same time some of the most eminent road-builders refused, for the same reason, to have anything to do with it. We presume the plans and specifications will, therefore, have to be modified in order to meet the well-founded objections of the experts.
The commissioners appointed to propose a route, recommend the following as the most desirable: From the south shore of Harlem River at Kingsbridge, along River street to Eighth avenue, 110th street, Ninth avenue, Fifty-third street, Sixth avenue, Fourth street, South Fifth avenue, crossing Canal, West Broadway to Chambers, thence to Broadway, down Broadway to Bowling Green, Beaver street, Pearl street, New Bowery, Division, and Allen street, First avenue, Twenty- third street, Second avenue, Harlem River, River street to Eighth avenue, completing the belt.
At the same time we see with pleasure that the best of all plans, that of Mr. A. E. Beach, for a pneumatic tunnel under Broadway has been approved of by the legislature and Governor of the state, and will soon be commenced, while Mr. George S. Green has been appointed engineer of this road by Mayor Havemeyer. The final success of the projector against a most powerful opposition, proves the value of perseverance when applied in a good cause.
A specimen tunnel has been in operation for two years for the distance of a few blocks in Broadway, and open to public inspection. It persuaded every one of the great advantages of such a road in hot summers and cold winters, stormy weather, etc.; and this, combined with its central location, without possibility of obstruction by any street travel or interference with view from the houses, frightening of stupid horses below or agitation of timid people above, who always fear to be precipitated into the street; these are some of the objections against elevated roads. The only objections against the tunnel, the derangement of gas, water, and sewer pipes, can be easily overcome.
We do not sum up the objections out of opposition to the elevated road. We will delight in a rapid trip up Third avenue, while at every opportunity we prefer to use the elevated railroad in Greenwich street, and we want all the roads we can possibly obtain. They undoubtedly will all turn out very profitable investments when well built and properly managed.
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A Fireless Engine
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 5, Issue 11, November 1873
Cable traction was not the only method tried to replace horse and steam locomotive power.
We copy the following from the Chicago Real Estate and Building Journal: "The last and most remarkable invention in engines, or locomotive power, was tested recently, which astonished a large number of our citizens who witnessed the modus operandi of its workings. Mr. D. Myers has for years been studying over the problem how to dispense with horses in the propulsion of street cars. He expended time and money in inventing and modeling a pneumatic engine that should run with compressed air as a motive power; but, though at one time thought to be a success, the invention failed to satisfy the railroad men, and was set aside as too unreliable to be made useful. Mr. Myers did not despair. His inventive genius did not desert him, and his determination to succeed never flagged. Air having proved a failure, he next resorted to steam, and made an attempt to overcome the objections made to its use in the streets. His success has been complete, and it may be but a short time when horses in front of of street cars will be a thing of the past. The great objection to steam dummies has been the danger and annoyance of falling cinders from the smoke-stack. The invention of Mr. Myers entirely removes this objection, for there will be no fire, and consequently no cinders connected with his dummy. The process is ingenious, yet simple. He charges a boiler with steam enough to last for a trip of 10 or 16 miles, and sends it on its journey without a spark of fire. The invention was tested on the track between Hyde Park station and Thirty-ninth street -- a distance of 3 miles. Among those present were J. E. Young, President of the Chicago, Danville and Vncennes Railroad; George L. Webb, George B. Clark, and others. At the southern terminus of the track is a large stationary boiler, from which the dummies are supplied with steam by means of a 3-inch pipe extending from one to the other. The dummy boiler is two-thirds filled with water, when the steam is turned on. The gauge on the day of trial indicated 1170 pounds. The round trip (6 miles) was made in 20 minutes, and there were 517 pounds of steam left. It was pronounced an unqualified success. A stock company for putting in use the new machine has been organiled with a capital of $500,000, Mr. J. E. Young, President. Mr. Myers offers to run the Hyde Park dummy cars of the South Side Company at two-thirds of the present cost, making five trips an hour, instead of one as at present."
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The Gilbert Elevated Railroad
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 6, Issue 2, February 1874
The final great success of the Greenwich street elevated railroad, has settled the matter in regard to other similar plans. The construction of the Gilbert elevated railroad has been commenced in New York, at least a portion of the same is now being constructed in West Broadway, so as to obtain a practical estimate of the cost, which in that locality will be greatest, for reason of the great depth required for the foundation there, it being made ground, filled in many feet.
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Street Cars as Letter-Carriers
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 6, Issue 3, March 1874
LETTER-BOXES have been placed in the street cars in Chicago, and the plan has thus far met with general approval. They were already in use on some lines of the Philadelphia street cars in the years 1865-67, and found a great public convenience; but it appears that the conductors considered them an annoyance, while the companies did not find any profit in them, so this good institution did not spread. We have no doubt that when the New York post-office is completed, the proper authorities will see the advantage of placing letter-boxes on all the lines which have their terminus at the new post-office. If we take into consideration that about a dozen lines have their terminus there, it is evident that no better means could be devised for a rapid expedition of letters from all parts of the city. The lines terminating at the new post-office are, from the west side, Broadway, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth avenues; at the east side, Third and Fourth avenues, Central Depot, Bleecker street, Dry Dock, Avenue B, etc. Indeed the convenience for the dwellers along these lines would be very great if they could drop their letters into the cars passing there every few minutes.
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Rapid Transit for New York City
From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 6, Issue 7, July 1874
The peculiar situation of New York city on a long narrow island, at one end nearly touching the continent, over which the city tends to extend, makes the question of a rapid transit in a longitudinal direction, of the highest importance to its inhabitants.
There are now four plans deserving special notice, one is Beach Pneumatic Railway. This enterprise had lately its charter modified to give it more space under Broadway. The most important fact demonstrated with the experimental track, for some time in practical operation under a part of Broadway, has been that with an air pressure of only 4 pound to the square inch of transverse car section, thus one-sixtieth of the pressure above, or below that of the normal atmosphere, a train may be pushed or drawn safely at the rate of 60 and even 100 miles per hour.
Another and very excellent plan is provided by the New York Warehouse and Railway Company, if the bill for this enterprise and which is called the Gardner bill, is signed by the Governor, there is little doubt that within a few years, passenger, as well as freight cars, will run all around the water front. The natural result of such facilities would be a virtual reconstruction of the city. The wholesale warehouses would seek the water front, as is the case in most maritime cities, for it would be far cheaper and easier to do business there and transfer freight, than in the interior of the island. Within ten years handsome and durable commercial structures would front the water, instead of the disreputable looking buildings that now are in congenial proximity to tumble-down wharfs and piers. Broadway and the central part of the island would be relieved from congestion, and the expense and annoyances of tens of thousands of carts and trucks would be saved.
In regard to the Gilbert Elevated Railway, since this company has obtained all it asked from the Legislature, it is comforting to hear that something is to be done. It is given out that a contract is to be made for the iron-work. The plans of this company combine more merits than those of any other elevated railway. Instead of being a disfigurement of the streets and avenues through which it is to pass, it will be a positive adornment, and will in no way interfere with the surface traffic. As to the annoyances to residents along the line, these have been greatly exaggerated, and must be endured, at all events, for the interests of the public.
The Greenwich Elevated Railway, which at first was a total failure as long as several stationary engines were used, moving the cars by means of a wire rope, has become a decided success since the employment of small locomotives, each pulling two or three quite long cars. The number of people travelling on it amounts already to 3,000 per day, and is steadily increasing, and it is no wonder, as the daily experience shows the immense advantage of never being delayed by street obstructions, while it is indeed, delightful to move at a rapid pace over wagons, cars, and people, which at certain hours of the day appear in Greenwich street, in an inextricable jam. The horses below are already accustomed to it, while the residents along the line, do not consider it any more with disfavor. It will this year, be extended to the Central Park by a side branch from Twelfth street, and to South Ferry over the Battery from its lower terminus. A second track will also be constructed over the whole route, which will enable the road to carry any number of passengers.
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Selected Articles From Manufacturer and Builder (1870-1879)/Page 2
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