Dr Cortlandt's History Continued

: A Journey In Other Worlds

"In marine transportation we have two methods, one for freight

and another for passengers. The old-fashioned deeply immersed

ship has not changed radically from the steam and sailing vessels

of the last century, except that electricity has superseded all

other motive powers. Steamers gradually passed through the five

hundred-, six hundred-, and seven hundred-foot-long class, with

other dimensions in proportion, till
heir length exceeded one

thousand feet. These were very fast ships, crossing the Atlantic

in four and a half days, and were almost as steady as houses, in

even the roughest weather.

"Ships at this period of their development had also passed

through the twin and triple screw stage to the quadruple, all

four together developing one hundred and forty thousand indicated

horse-power, and being driven by steam. This, of course,

involved sacrificing the best part of the ship to her engines,

and a very heavy idle investment while in port. Storage

batteries, with plates composed of lead or iron, constantly

increasing in size, had reached a fair state of development by

the close of the nineteenth century.

"During the second decade of the twentieth century the engineers

decided to try the plan of running half of a transatlantic

liner's screws by electricity generated by the engines for

driving the others while the ship was in port, this having been a

success already on a smaller scale. For a time this plan gave

great satisfaction, since it diminished the amount of coal to be

carried and the consequent change of displacement at sea, and

enabled the ship to be worked with a smaller number of men. The

batteries could also, of course, be distributed along the entire

length, and placed where space was least valuable.

"The construction of such huge vessels called for much

governmental river and harbour dredging, and a ship drawing

thirty-five feet can now enter New York at any state of the tide.

For ocean bars, the old system of taking the material out to sea

and discharging it still survives, though a jet of water from

force-pumps directed against the obstruction is also often

employed with quick results. For river work we have discovered a

better method. All the mud is run back, sometimes over a mile

from the river bank, where it is used as a fertilizer, by means

of wire railways strung from poles. These wire cables combine in

themselves the functions of trolley wire and steel rail, and

carry the suspended cars, which empty themselves and return

around the loop for another load. Often the removed material

entirely fills small, saucer-shaped valleys or low places, in

which case it cannot wash back. This improvement has ended the

necessity of building jetties.

"The next improvement in sea travelling was the 'marine spider.'

As the name shows, this is built on the principle of an insect.

It is well known that a body can be carried over the water much

faster than through it. With this in mind, builders at first

constructed light framework decks on large water-tight wheels or

drums, having paddles on their circumferences to provide a hold

on the water. These they caused to revolve by means of machinery

on the deck, but soon found that the resistance offered to the

barrel wheels themselves was too great. They therefore made them

more like centipeds with large, bell-shaped feet, connected with

a superstructural deck by ankle-jointed pipes, through which,

when necessary, a pressure of air can be forced down upon the

enclosed surface of water. Ordinarily, however, they go at great

speed without this, the weight of the water displaced by the bell

feet being as great as that resting upon them. Thus they swing

along like a pacing horse, except that there are four rows of

feet instead of two, each foot being taken out of the water as it

is swung forward, the first and fourth and second and third rows

being worked together. Although, on account of their size, which

covers several acres, they can go in any water, they give the

best results on Mediterraneans and lakes that are free from ocean

rollers, and, under favourable conditions, make better speed than

the nineteenth-century express trains, and, of course, going

straight as the crow flies, and without stopping, they reach a

destination in considerably shorter time.

Some passengers and express packages still cross the Atlantic on

'spiders,' but most of these light cargoes go in a far pleasanter

and more rapid way. The deep-displacement vessels, for heavy

freight, make little better speed than was made by the same class

a hundred years ago. But they are also run entirely by

electricity, largely supplied by wind, and by the tide turning

their motors, which become dynamos while at anchor in any stream.

They therefore need no bulky boilers, engines, sails, or

coal-bunkers, and consequently can carry unprecedentedly large

cargoes with comparatively small crews. The officers on the

bridge and the men in the crow's nest--the way to which is by a

ladder INSIDE the mast, to protect the climber from the

weather--are about all that is needed; while disablement is made

practically impossible, by having four screws, each with its own

set of automatically lubricating motors.

"This change, like other labour-saving appliances, at first

resulted in laying off a good many men, the least satisfactory

being the first to go; but the increase in business was so great

that the intelligent men were soon reemployed as officers at

higher rates of pay and more interesting work than before, while

they as consumers were benefited as much as any one else by the

decreased cost of production and transportation.

"With a view to facilitating interchange still further, our

Government has gradually completed the double coast-line that

Nature gave us in part. This was done by connecting islands

separated from shore by navigable water, and leaving openings for

ingress and exit but a few hundred yards wide. The breakwaters

required to do this were built with cribbing of incorrodible

metal, affixed to deeply driven metallic piles, and filled with

stones along coasts where they were found in abundance or excess.

This, while clearing many fields and improving them for

cultivation, provided just the needed material; since irregular

stones bind together firmly, and, while also insoluble, combine

considerable bulk with weight. South of Hatteras, where stones

are scarce, the sand dredged from parts of the channel was filled

into the crib, the surface of which has a concave metallic cover,

a trough of still water being often the best barrier against the

passage of waves. This double coast-line has been a great

benefit, and propelled vessels of moderate draught can range in

smooth water, carrying very full loads, from Labrador to the

Orinoco. The exits are, of course, protected by a line of

cribbing a few hundred feet to seaward.

"The rocks have been removed from all channels about New York and

other commercial centres, while the shallow places have been

dredged to a uniform depth. This diminishes the dangers of

navigation and considerably decreases the speed with which the

tides rush through. Where the obstructions consisted of reefs

surrounded by deep water, their removal with explosives was easy,

the shattered fragments being allowed to sink to the bottom and

remain there beneath the danger line.

"Many other great works have also been completed. The canals at

Nicaragua have been in operation many years, it having been found

best to have several sizes of locks, and to use the large ones

only for the passage of large vessels. The improved Erie and

Champlain Canals also enable ships four hundred feet long to

reach New York from the Great Lakes via the Hudson River.

"For flying, we have an aeroplane that came in when we devised a

suitable motor power. This is obtained from very light

paper-cell batteries that combine some qualities of the primary

and secondary type, since they must first be charged from a

dynamo, after which they can supply full currents for one hundred

hours--enough to take them around the globe--while partly

consuming the elements in the cells. The power is applied

through turbine screws, half of which are capable of propelling

the flat deck in its inclined position at sufficient speed to

prevent its falling. The moving parts have ball bearings and

friction rollers, lubrication being secured automatically, when

required, by a supply of vaseline that melts if any part becomes

hot. All the framing is of thin but very durable galvanized

aluminum, which has superseded steel for every purpose in which

weight is not an advantage, as in the permanent way on railways.

The air ships, whose length varies from fifty to five hundred

feet, have rudders for giving a vertical or a horizontal motion,

and several strengthening keels that prevent leeway when turning.

They are entirely on the principle of birds, maintaining

themselves mechanically, and differing thus from the unwieldy

balloon. Starting as if on a circular railway, against the wind,

they rise to a considerable height, and then, shutting off the

batteries, coast down the aerial slope at a rate that sometimes

touches five hundred miles an hour. When near the ground the

helmsman directs the prow upward, and, again turning on full

current, rushes up the slope at a speed that far exceeds the

eagle's, each drop of two miles serving to take the machine

twenty or thirty; though, if the pilot does not wish to soar, or

if there is a fair wind at a given height, he can remain in that

stratum of the atmosphere by moving horizontally. He can also

maintain his elevation when moving very slowly, and though the

headway be entirely stopped, the descent is gradual on account of

the aeroplane's great spread, the batteries and motors being

secured to the under side of the deck.

"The motors are so light that they develop two horse power for

every pound of their weight; while, to keep the frames thin, the

necessary power is obtained by terrific speed of the moving

parts, as though a steam engine, to avoid great pressure in its

cylinders, had a long stroke and ran at great piston speed,

which, however, is no disadvantage to the rotary motion of the

electric motor, there being no reciprocating cranks, etc., that

must be started and stopped at each revolution.

"To obviate the necessity of gearing to reduce the number of

revolutions to those possible for a large screw, this member is

made very small, and allowed to revolve three thousand times a

minute, so that the requisite power is obtained with great

simplicity of mechanism, which further decreases friction. The

shafts, and even the wires connecting the batteries with the

motors, are made large and hollow. Though the primary battery

pure and simple, as the result of great recent advances in

chemistry, seems to be again coming up, the best aeroplane

batteries are still of the combination- storage type. These have

been so perfected that eight ounces of battery yield one horse

power for six hours, so that two pounds of battery will supply a

horse power for twenty-four hours; a small fifty-horse-power

aeroplane being therefore able to fly four days with a battery

weight of but four hundred pounds.

"Limestone and clarified acid are the principal parts of these

batteries. It was known long ago that there was about as much

imprisoned solar energy in limestone as in coal, but it was only

recently that we discovered this way of releasing and using it.

"Common salt plays an important part in many of our chemical

reactions. By combining it with limestone, and treating this

with acid jelly, we also get good results on raising to the


"However enjoyable the manly sport of yachting is on water, how

vastly more interesting and fascinating it is for a man to have a

yacht in which he can fly to Europe in one day, and with which

the exploration of tropical Africa or the regions about the poles

is mere child's play, while giving him so magnificent a

bird's-eye view! Many seemingly insoluble problems are solved by

the advent of these birds. Having as their halo the enforcement

of peace, they have in truth taken us a long step towards heaven,

and to the co-operation and higher civilization that followed we

shall owe much of the success of the great experiment on Mother

Earth now about to be tried.

"Another change that came in with a rush upon the discovery of a

battery with insignificant weight, compact form, and great

capacity, was the substitution of electricity for animal power

for the movement of all vehicles. This, of necessity brought in

good roads, the results obtainable on such being so much greater

than on bad ones that a universal demand for them arose. This

was in a sense cumulative, since the better the streets and roads

became, the greater the inducement to have an electric carriage.

The work of opening up the country far and near, by straightening

and improving existing roads, and laying out new ones that

combine the solidity of the Appian Way with the smoothness of

modern asphalt, was largely done by convicts, working under the

direction of State and Government engineers. Every State

contained a horde of these unprofitable boarders, who, as they

formerly worked, interfered with honest labour, and when idle got

into trouble. City streets had been paved by the municipality;

country roads attended to by the farmers, usually very

unscientifically. Here was a field in which convict labour would

not compete, and an important work could be done. When once this

was made the law, every year showed improvement, while the

convicts had useful and healthful occupation.

"The electric phaetons, as those for high speed are called, have

three and four wheels, and weigh, including battery and motor,

five hundred to four thousand pounds. With hollow but immensely

strong galvanically treated aluminum frames and pneumatic or

cushion tires, they run at thirty-five and forty miles an hour on

country roads, and attain a speed over forty on city streets, and

can maintain this rate without recharging for several days. They

can therefore roam over the roads of the entire hemisphere, from

the fertile valley of the Peace and grey shores of Hudson Bay, to

beautiful Lake Nicaragua, the River Plate, and Patagonia,

improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine

the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the

country well.

"To recharge the batteries, which can be done in almost every

town and village, two copper pins attached to insulated copper

wires are shoved into smooth-bored holes. These drop out of

themselves by fusing a small lead ribbon, owing to the increased

resistance, when the acid in the batteries begins to 'boil,'

though there is, of course, but little heat in this, the function

of charging being merely to bring about the condition in which

part of the limestone can be consumed, the batteries themselves,

when in constant use, requiring to be renewed about once a month.

A handle at the box seat turns on any part of the attainable

current, for either going ahead or reversing, there being six or

eight degrees of speed for both directions, while the steering is

done with a small wheel.

"Light but powerful batteries and motors have also been fitted on

bicycles, which can act either as auxiliaries for hill-climbing

or in case of head wind, or they can propel the machine


"Gradually the width of the streets became insufficient for the

traffic, although the elimination of horses and the consequent

increase in speed greatly augmented their carrying capacity,

until recently a new system came in. The whole width of the

avenues and streets in the business parts of the city, including

the former sidewalks, is given up to wheel traffic, an iron ridge

extending along the exact centre to compel vehicles to keep to

the right. Strips of nickel painted white, and showing a bright

phosphorescence at night, are let into the metal pavement flush

with the surface, and run parallel to this ridge at distances of

ten to fifteen feet, dividing each half of the avenue into four

or five sections, their width increasing as they approach the

middle. All trucks or drays moving at less than seven miles an

hour are obliged to keep in the section nearest the building

line, those running between seven and fifteen in the next,

fifteen to twenty-five in the third, twenty-five to thirty-five

in the fourth, and everything faster than that in the section

next the ridge, unless the avenue or street is wide enough for

further subdivisions. If it is wide enough for only four or

less, the fastest vehicles must keep next the middle, and limit

their speed to the rate allowed in that section, which is marked

at every crossing in white letters sufficiently large for him

that runs to read. It is therefore only in the wide

thoroughfares that very high speed can be attained. In addition

to the crank that corresponds to a throttle, there is a gauge on

every vehicle, which shows its exact speed in miles per hour, by

gearing operated by the revolutions of the wheels.

"The policemen on duty also have instantaneous kodaks mounted on

tripods, which show the position of any carriage at half- and

quarter-second intervals, by which it is easy to ascertain the

exact speed, should the officers be unable to judge it by the

eye; so there is no danger of a vehicle's speed exceeding that

allowed in the section in which it happens to be; neither can a

slow one remain on the fast lines.

"Of course, to make such high speed for ordinary carriages

possible, a perfect pavement became a sine qua non. We have

secured this by the half-inch sheet of steel spread over a

carefully laid surface of asphalt, with but little bevel; and

though this might be slippery for horses' feet, it never

seriously affects our wheels. There being nothing harder than

the rubber ties of comparatively light drays upon it--for the

heavy traffic is carried by electric railways under ground--it

will practically never wear out.

"With the application of steel to the entire surface, car-tracks

became unnecessary, ordinary wheels answering as well as those

with flanges, so that no new tracks were laid, and finally the

car companies tore up the existing ones, selling them in many

instances to the municipalities as old iron. Our streets also

need but little cleaning; neither is the surface continually

indented, as the old cobble-stones and Belgian blocks were, by

the pounding of the horses' feet, so that the substitution of

electricity for animal power has done much to solve the problem

of attractive streets.

"Scarcely a ton of coal comes to Manhattan Island or its vicinity

in a year. Very little of it leaves the mines, at the mouths of

which it is converted into electricity and sent to the points of

consumption by wire, where it is employed for all uses to which

fuel was put, and many others. Consequently there is no smoke,

and the streets are not encumbered with coal-carts; the entire

width being given up to carriages, etc. The ground floors in the

business parts are used for large warehouses, trucks running in

to load and unload. Pedestrians therefore have sidewalks level

with the second story, consisting of glass floors let into

aluminum frames, while all street crossings are made on bridges.

Private houses have a front door opening on the sidewalk, and

another on the ground level, so that ladies paying visits or

leaving cards can do so in carriages. In business streets the

second story is used for shops. In place of steel covering,

country roads have a thick coating of cement and asphalt over a

foundation of crushed stone, giving a capital surface, and have a

width of thirty-three feet (two rods) in thinly settled

districts, to sixty-six feet (four rods) where the population is

greater. All are planted with shade and fruit trees, while the

wide driveways have one or two broad sidewalks. The same rule of

making the slow-moving vehicles keep near the outside prevails,

though the rate of increase in speed on approaching the middle is

more rapid than in cities, and there is usually no dividing

ridge. On reaching the top of a long and steep hill, if we do

not wish to coast, we convert the motors into dynamos, while

running at full speed, and so change the kinetic energy of the

descent into potential in our batteries. This twentieth-century

stage-coaching is one of the delights to which we are heirs,

though horses are still used by those that prefer them.

We have been much aided in our material progress by the facility

with which we obtain the metals. It was observed, some time ago,

that when artesian and oil wells had reached a considerable

depth, what appeared to be drops of lead and antimony came up

with the stream. It finally occurred to a well-borer that if he

could make his drill hard enough and get it down far enough,

keeping it cool by solidified carbonic acid during the

proceeding, he would reach a point at which most of the metals

would be viscous, if not actually molten, and on being freed from

the pressure of the crust they would expand, and reach the

surface in a stream. This experiment he performed near the hot

geysers in Yellowstone Park, and what was his delight, on

reaching a depth scarcely half a mile beyond his usual stopping-

place, to be rewarded by a stream of metal that heralded its

approach by a loud explosion and a great rush of superheated

steam! It ran for a month, completely filling the bed of a

small, dried-up river, and when it did stop there were ten

million tons in sight. This proved the feasibility of the

scheme, and, though many subsequent attempts were less

successful, we have learned by experience where it is best to

drill, and can now obtain almost any metal we wish.

"'Magnetic eyes' are of great use to miners and Civil engineers.

These instruments are something like the mariner's compass, with

the sensitiveness enormously increased by galvanic currents. The

'eye,' as it were, sees what substances are underground, and at

what distances. It also shows how many people are in an

adjoining room--through the magnetic properties of the iron in

their blood--whether they are moving, and in what directions and

at what speed they go. In connection with the phonograph and

concealed by draperies, it is useful to detectives, who, through

a registering attachment, can obtain a record of everything said

and done.

"Our political system remains with but little change. Each State

has still two United States Senators, though the population

represented by each representative has been greatly increased, so

that the Senate has grown numerically much more than the House.

It is the duty of each member of Congress to understand the

conditions existing in every other member's State or district,

and the country's interest always precedes that of party. We

have a comprehensive examination system in the civil service, and

every officeholder, except members of the Cabinet, retains his

office while efficiently performing his duty, without regard to

politics. The President can also be re-elected any number of

times. The Cabinet members, as formerly, usually remain in

office while he does, and appear regularly in Congress to defend

their measures.

"The really rapid transit lines in New York are underground, and

have six tracks, two being used for freight. At all stations the

local tracks rise several feet towards the street and slope off

in both directions, while the express tracks do this only at

stations at which the faster trains stop. This gives the

passengers a shorter distance to descend or rise in the

elevators, and the ascent before the stations aids the brakes in

stopping, while the drop helps the motors to start the trains

quickly in getting away.

"Photography has also made great strides, and there is now no

difficulty in reproducing exactly the colours of the object


"Telephones have been so improved that one person can speak in

his natural voice with another in any part of the globe, the wire

that enables him to hear also showing him the face of the speaker

though he be at the antipodes. All telephone wires being

underground and kept by themselves, they are not interfered with

by any high-tension electric-light or power wires, thunderstorms,

or anything else.

"Rain-making is another subject removed from the uncertainties,

and has become an absolute science. We produce clouds by

explosions in the atmosphere's heights and by surface air forced

by blowers through large pipes up the side of a mountain or

natural elevation and there discharged through an opening in the

top of a tower built on the highest part. The aeriduct is

incased in a poor heat-conductor, so that the air retains its

warmth until discharged, when it is cooled by expansion and the

surrounding cold air. Condensation takes place and soon serves

to start a rain.

"Yet, until the earth's axis is straightened, we must be more or

less dependent on the eccentricities of the weather, with

extremes of heat and cold, droughts and floods, which last are of

course largely the result of several months' moisture held on the

ground in the form of snow, the congestion being relieved

suddenly by the warm spring rains.

"Medicine and surgery have kept pace with other

improvements--inoculation and antiseptics, as already seen,

rendering most of the germ diseases and formerly dreaded

epidemics impotent; while through the potency of electrical

affinity we form wholesome food-products rapidly, instead of

having to wait for their production by Nature's slow processes.

"The metric system, now universal, superseded the old-fashioned

arbitrary standards, so prolific of mistakes and confusion, about

a century ago.

"English, as we have seen, is already the language of 600,000,000

people, and the number is constantly increasing through its

adoption by the numerous races of India, where, even before the

close of the last century, it was about as important as Latin

during the greatness of Rome, and by the fact that the Spanish

and Portuguese elements in Mexico and Central and South America

show a constant tendency to die out, much as the population of

Spain fell from 30,000,000 to 17,000,000 during the nineteenth

century. As this goes on, in the Western hemisphere, the places

left vacant are gradually filled by the more progressive

Anglo-Saxons, so that it looks as if the study of ethnology in

the future would be very simple.

"The people with cultivation and leisure, whose number is

increasing relatively to the population at each generation, spend

much more of their year in the country than formerly, where they

have large and well-cultivated country seats, parts of which are

also preserved for game. This growing custom on the part of

society, in addition to being of great advantage to the

out-of-town districts, has done much to save the forests and

preserve some forms of game that would otherwise, like the

buffalo, have become extinct.

"In astronomy we have also made tremendous strides. The

old-fashioned double-convex lens used in telescopes became so

heavy as its size grew, that it bent perceptibly from its own

weight, when pointed at the zenith, distorting the vision; while

when it was used upon a star near the horizon, though the glass

on edge kept its shape, there was too much atmosphere between it

and the observed object for successful study. Our recent

telescopes have, therefore, concave plate-glass mirrors, twenty

metres in diameter, like those used for converging the sun's rays

in solar engines, but with curves more mathematically exact,

which collect an immense amount of light and focus it on a

sensitive plate or on the eye of the observer, whose back is

turned to the object he is studying. An electrical field also

plays an important part, the electricity being as great an aid to

light as in the telephone it is to sound. With these placed

generally on high mountain peaks, beyond the reach of clouds, we

have enormously increased the number of visible stars, though

there are still probably boundless regions that we cannot see.

These telescopes have several hundred times the power of the

largest lenses of the nineteenth century, and apparently bring

Mars and Jupiter, when in opposition, within one thousand and ten

thousand miles, respectively, so that we study their physical

geography and topography; and we have good maps of Jupiter, and

even of Saturn, notwithstanding their distance and atmospheric

envelopes, and we are able to see the disks of third-magnitude


"It seems as if, when we wish any particular discovery or

invention, in whatever field, we had but to turn our efforts in

its direction to obtain our desire. We seem, in fact, to have

awakened in the scenes of the Arabian Nights; yet the mysterious

genius which we control, and which dims Aladdin's lamp, is the

gift of no fairy godmother sustained by the haze of dreams, but

shines as the child of science with fadeless and growing

splendour, and may yet bring us and our little planet much closer

to God.

"We should indeed be happy, living as we do at this apex of

attained civilization, with the boundless possibilities of the

future unfolding before us, on the horizon of which we may fairly

be said to stand.

"We are freed from the rattling granite pavement of only a

century ago, which made the occupant of an omnibus feel like a

fly inside of a drum; from the domination of our local politics

by ignorant foreigners; and from country roads that either filled

the eyes, lungs, and hair of the unfortunates travelling upon

them with dust, or, resembling ploughed and fertilized fields,

saturated and plastered them with mud. These miseries, together

with sea-sickness in ocean travelling, are forever passed, and we

feel that 'Excelsior!' is indeed our motto. Our new and

increasing sources of power have so stimulated production and

manufacturing that poverty or want is scarcely known; while the

development of the popular demand, as a result of the supplied

need, is so great that there is no visible limit to the

diversification of industry or the possibilities of the arts.

"It may seem strange to some that apparently so disproportionate

a number of inventions have been made in the last century. There

are several reasons. Since every discovery or advance in

knowledge increases our chance of obtaining more, it becomes

cumulative, and our progress is in geometric instead of

arithmetical ratio. Public interest and general appreciation of

the value of time have also effectively assisted progress. At

the beginning of each year the President, the Governors of the

States, and the Mayors of cities publish a prospectus of the

great improvements needed, contemplated, and under way within

their jurisdiction--it may be planning a new boulevard, a new

park, or an improved system of sewers; and at the year's end they

issue a resume of everything completed, and the progress in

everything else; and though there is usually a great difference

between the results hoped for and those attained, the effect is

good. The newspapers publish at length the recommendations of

the Executives, and also the results obtained, and keep up public

interest in all important matters.

"Free to delve in the allurement and fascination of science,

emancipated man goes on subduing Nature, as his Maker said he

should, and turning her giant forces to his service in his

constant struggle to rise and become more like Him who gave the

commandments and showed him how he should go.

"Notwithstanding our strides in material progress, we are not

entirely content. As the requirements of the animal become fully

supplied, we feel a need for something else. Some say this is

like a child that cries for the moon, but others believe it the

awakening and craving of our souls. The historian narrates but

the signs of the times, and strives to efface himself; yet there

is clearly a void, becoming yearly more apparent, which

materialism cannot fill. Is it some new subtle force for which

we sigh, or would we commune with spirits? There is, so far as

we can see, no limit to our journey, and I will add, in closing,

that, with the exception of religion, we have most to hope from