The Philadelphia Gripmen Grow Askew.
A Brilliant San Francisco Invention. - an 1892 Newspaper Article
Collected by Joe Thompson

This article, from The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, 23-November-1892, satirically describes how the gripmen on Philadelphia Traction Company cable cars only used one arm and one leg, causing the right sides of Philadelphia gripman to become grotesquely over-developed. On the other hand, San Francisco control methods, encouraged symmetrical development.

The greatness of San Francisco as the author and finisher of the cable-car method of urban transit had not until yesterday been fully measured.

Philadelphia gripman

The first cable-car In the world climbed the Clay-street hill as though the law of gravity had been found unconstitutional ; a flood of San Francisco inventions buried every obstacle to the success of the wire rope, and cable roads have multiplied until Bret Harte's warder of two continents became as famous for cable roads as for millionaires and pretty girls.

Eastern cities became imitators and began to take pride in their cable roads, too.

The City of Brotherly Love adopted cable roads not so very long ago, and it was reports from there, where they are yet novelties, that brought out one of the brightest glories of the San Francisco cable-car.

The Philadelphia newspapers have discovered that its cars are developing a strange class of people. The gripmen there are becoming lop-sided. One half of a Philadelphia gripman weighs about twice as much as the other half.

This sad information is illustrated in the accompanying cuts. It appears that in the Quaker City a gripman grips and grips all day long with bis right hand, while his left earns but a small portion of his wages.

There the scion of an Illustrious family who goes broke while drifting about the world and luckily gets a gripman's job -- as many a high-born scion does -- tackles the iron lever with arms like those of a twittering grammar-school girl. If the new gripman is an ex-dry-goods clerk the illustration is just as good.

He loosens and tightens the big lever at every block ns his car and the hours roll on, and when he brings it back he gives two or three hard extra tugs to grasp more firmly the speeding rope.

The band brake is not worked by a lever, and the foot brake is mainly used anyway.

So when the soreness works out of his neat right arm it begins to grow. It grows until it looks like a blacksmith's. The grip exercise, with its alternating rest and motion is tbe ideal muscle developer, and the arm grows until the physical possibilities of growth are exhausted.

The foot-brake puts more meat on his right leg, and his right side generally grows away from his spinal column, which ought to be in the middle. His left side remains practically as it was.

Philadelphia before?

Some gripmen there have gone in trepidation to physicians to be treated for some sort of elephantiasis. The doctors there recognize the "gripman's arm" as they do the "writer's cramp."

It has been discovered that the center of gravity in a Philadelphia gripman Is in the upper right-hand corner of his liver, and as a consequence an insidious billiousness is slowly undermining their constitutions, the Philadelphia cable-cars are distorting and killing scores of the strong, industrious young men that are the hope and pride of any land.

But San Francisco cable-cars are built with special reference to the symmetrical development of gripmen. A San Francisco cable-car dummy is the best gymnasium on the Pacific Coast; and the cable-car companies are constantly turning out into the world a class of brawny men which, taken up one side and down the other, are as fine specimens of physical manhood as can be found anywhere.

The beneficent arrangement by which this is accomplished consists in having a lever for each arm. Here the brake lever must be worked as often and as hard as the grip lever.

The San Francisco gripman as a whole does about twice the work that a Philadelphia gripman does, but he uses only one-half of himself for half the work.

One triumph of San Francisco cable-car invention is thus seen to be two-sided, like the gripmen.

Not only Is the divine symmetry of its gripmen preserved, but it utilizes each half of a gripman and so gets more labor out of one man. This principle of the fractional use of labor is easily seen to be economical and capable of wide development and application.

No. San Francisco gripnien grow strong and brawny, the seams in the shoulders of their uniforms have to be let out after six weeks of service; but they are not narrow and one-sided, and when they strike they can do it to the right or the left.

The article goes on to talk about people being right-eyed or left-eyed in using microscopes and telescopes.

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Last updated 01-August-2010