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Four years passed, and with a wife and three children to support in a great city on a salary of nine dollars a week, the lighthearted boy had become a thoughtful, plodding man. The thought of the sewing-machine haunted him night and day, and he finally resolved to produce one.

After months wasted in the effort to work a needle pointed at both ends, with the eye in the middle, that should pass up and down through the cloth, suddenly the thought flashed through his mind that another stitch must be possible, and with almost insane devotion he worked night and day, until he had made a rough model of wood and wire that convinced him of ultimate success. In his mind's eye he saw his idea, but his own funds and those of his father, who had aided him more or less, were insufficient to embody it in a working machine. But help came from an old schoolmate, George Fisher, a coal and wood merchant of Cambridge. He agreed to board Elias and his family and furnish five hundred dollars, for which he was to have one-half of the patent, if the machine proved to be worth patenting. In May, 1845, the machine was completed, and in July Elias Howe sewed all the seams of two suits of woolen clothes, one for Mr. Fisher and the other for himself. The sewing outlasted the cloth.

This machine, which is still preserved, will sew three hundred stitches a minute, and is considered more nearly perfect than any other prominent invention at its first trial. There is not one of the millions of sewing-machines now in use that does not contain some of the essential principles of this first attempt.

When it was decided to try and elevate Chicago out of the mud by raising its immense blocks up to grade, the young son of a poor mechanic, named George M. Pullman, appeared on the scene, and put in a bid for the great undertaking, and the contract was awarded to him.

He not only raised the blocks, but did it in such a way that business within them was scarcely interrupted. All this time he was revolving in his mind his pet project of building a "sleeping car" which would be adopted on all railroads. He fitted up two old cars on the Chicago and Alton road with berths, and soon found they would be in demand. He then went to work on the principle that the more luxurious his cars were, the greater would be the demand for them. After spending three years in Colorado gold mines, he returned and built two cars which cost $18,ooo each. Everybody laughed at " Pullman's folly." But Pullman believed that whatever relieved the tediousness of long trips would meet with speedy approval, and he had faith enough in his idea to risk his all in it.

Pullman was a great believer in the commercial value of beauty. The wonderful town which he built and which bears his name, as well as his magnificent cars, is an example of his belief in this principle. He counts it a good investment to surround his employees with comforts and beauty and good sanitary conditions, and so the town of Pullman is a model of cleanliness, order, and comfort.

It has ever been the man with an idea, which he puts into practical effect, who has changed the face of Christendom. The germ idea of the steam engine can be seen in the writings of the Greek philosophers, but it was not developed until more than two thousand years later.

It was an English blacksmith, Newcomen, with no opportunities, who in the seventeenth century conceived the idea of moving a piston by the elastic force of steam; but his engine consumed thirty pounds of coal in producing one horse power. The perfection of the modern engine is largely due to James Watt, a poor, uneducated Scotch boy, who at fifteen walked the streets of London in a vain search for work.

A professor in the Glasgow University gave him the use of a room to work in, and while waiting for jobs he experimented with old vials for steam reservoirs and hollow canes for pipes, for he could not bear to waste a moment. He improved Newcomen's engine by cutting off the steam after the piston had completed a quarter or a third of its stroke, and letting the steam already in the chamber expand and drive the piston the remaining distance. This saved nearly three-fourths of the steam. Watt suffered from pinching poverty and hardships which would have disheartened ordinary men; but he was terribly in earnest, and his brave wife Margaret begged him not to mind her inconvenience, nor be discouraged. - " If the engine will not work," she wrote him while struggling in London, " something else will. Never despair."

" I had gone to take a walk," said Watt, " on a fine Sabbath afternoon, and had passed the old washing house, thinking upon the engine at the time, when the idea came into my head that, as steam is an elastic body, it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication were made between the cylinder and an exhausted vessel, it would rush into it, and might be there condensed without cooling the cylinder." The idea was simple, but in it lay the germ of the first steam engine of much practical value. Sir James Mackintosh places this poor Scotch boy who began with only an idea " at the head of all inventors in all ages and all nations."

See George Stephenson, working in the coal pits for sixpence a day, patching the clothes and mending the boots of his fellow-workmen at night, to earn a little money to attend a night school, giving the first money he ever earned, $150, to his blind father to pay his debts. People say he is crazy; his " roaring steam engine will set the house on fire with its sparks "; " smoke will pollute the air carriage makers and coachmen will starve for want of work."

For three days the committee of the House of Commons plies questions to him. This was one of them: " If a cow get on the track of the engine traveling ten miles an hour, will it not be an awkward situation?" "Yes, very awkward, indeed, for the cow," replied Stephenson. A government inspector said that if a locomotive ever went ten miles an hour, he would undertake to eat a stewed engine for breakfast.

" What can be more palpably absurd and ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as horses? " asked a writer in the English " Quarterly Review " for March, 1825. " We should as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off upon one of Congreve's rockets as to trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine, going at such a rate. We trust that Parliament will, in all the railways it may grant, limit the speed to eight or nine miles an hour, which we entirely agree with Mr. Sylvester is as great as can be ventured upon." This article referred to Stephenson's proposition to use his newly invented locomotive instead of horses on the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad, then in process of construction.

The company decided to lay the matter before two leading English engineers, who reported that steam would be desirable only when used in stationary engines one and a half miles apart, drawing the cars by means of ropes and pulleys. But Stephenson persuaded them to test his idea by offering a prize of about twenty-five hundred dollars for the best locomotive produced at a trial to take place October 6, 1829.

On the eventful day, thousands of spectators assembled to watch the competition of four engines, the " Novelty," the " Rocket," the " Perseverance," and the " Sanspareil."

The " Perseverance " could make but six miles an hour, and so was ruled out, as the conditions called for at least ten. The " Sanspareil " made an average of fourteen miles an hour, but as it burst a water-pipe it lost its chance. The " Novelty " did splendidly, but also burst a pipe, and was crowded out, leaving the " Rocket " to carry off the honors with an average speed of fifteen miles an hour, the highest rate attained being twenty-nine. This was Stephenson's locomotive, and so fully vindicated his theory that the idea of stationary engines on a railroad was completely exploded. He had picked up the fixed engines which the genius of Watt had devised, and set them on wheels to draw men and merchandise, against the most direful predictions of the foremost engineers of his day.

In all the records of invention there is no more sad or affecting story than that of John Fitch. Poor he was in many senses, poor in appearance, poor in spirit. He was born poor, lived poor, and died poor. If there ever was a true inventor, this man was one. He was one of those eager souls that would coin their own flesh to carry their point. He only uttered the obvious truth when he said one day, in a crisis of his invention, that if he could get one hundred pounds by cutting off one of his legs he would gladly give it to the knife.

He tried in vain both in this country and in France to get money to build his steamboat. He would say: " You and I will not live to see the day, but the time will come when the steamboat will be preferred to all other modes of conveyance, when steamboats will ascend the Western rivers from New Orleans to Wheeling, and when steamboats will cross the ocean. Johnny Fitch will be forgotten, but other men will carry out his ideas and grow rich and great upon them."

Poor, ragged, forlorn, jeered at, pitied as a madman, discouraged by the great, refused by the rich, he kept on till, in 1790, he had the first vessel on the Delaware that ever answered the purpose of a steamboat. It ran six miles an hour against the tide, and eight miles with it.

At noon, on Friday, August 4, 1807, a crowd of curious people might have been seen along the wharves of the Hudson River. They had gathered to witness what they considered a ridiculous failure of a " crank " who proposed to take a party of people up the Hudson River to Albany in what he called a steam vessel named the Clermont.

Did anybody ever hear of such a ridiculous idea as navigating against the current up the Hudson in a vessel without sails? "The thing will `bust,' " says one; " it will burn up," says another, and " they will all be drowned," exclaims a third, as he sees vast columns of black smoke shoot up with showers of brilliant sparks. Nobody present, in all probability, ever heard of a boat going by steam. It was the opinion of everybody that the man who had fooled away his money and his time on the Clermont was little better than an idiot, and ought to be in an insane asylum. But the passengers go on board, the plank is pulled in, and the steam is turned on. The walking beam moves slowly up and down, and the Clermont floats out into the river. " It can never go up stream," the spectators persist. But it did go up stream, and the boy, who in his youth said there is nothing impossible, had scored a great triumph, and had given to the world the first steamboat that had any practical value.

Notwithstanding that Fulton had rendered such great service to humanity, a service which has revolutionized the commerce of the world, he was looked upon by many as a public enemy. Critics and cynics turned up their noses when Fulton was mentioned.

The severity of the world's censure, ridicule, and detraction has usually been in proportion to the benefit the victim has conferred upon mankind.

As the Clermont burned pine wood, dense columns of fire and smoke belched forth from her smoke-stack while she glided triumphantly up the river, and the inhabitants along the banks were utterly unable to account for the spectacle. They rushed to the shore amazed to see a boat " on fire " go against the stream so rapidly with neither oars nor sails. The noise of her great paddle-wheels increased the wonder. Sailors forsook their vessels, and fishermen rowed home as fast as possible to get out of the way of the fire monster. The Indians were as much frightened as their predecessors were when the first ship approached their hunting-ground on Manhattan Island. The owners of sailing vessels were jealous of the Clermont, and tried to run her down. Others whose interests were affected denied Fulton's claim to the invention and brought suits against him.

But the success of the Clermont soon led to the construction of other steam ships all over the country. The government employed Fulton to aid in building a powerful steam frigate, which was called Fulton the First. He also built a diving boat for the government for the discharge of torpedoes. By this time his fame had spread all over the civilized world, and when he died, in 1815, newspapers were marked with black lines; the legislature of New York wore badges of mourning; and minute guns were fired as the long funeral procession passed to old Trinity churchyard. Very few private persons were ever honored with such a burial.

True, Dr. Lardner had " proved " to scientific men that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, but in 1819 the Savannah from New York' appeared off the coast of Ireland under sail and steam, having made this " impossible " passage.

Those on shore thought that a fire had broken out below the decks, and a king's cutter was sent to her relief. Although the voyage was made without accident, it was nearly twenty years before it was admitted that steam navigation could be made a commercial success in ocean traffic.

As Junius Smith impatiently paced the deck of a vessel sailing from an English port to New York, on a rough and tedious voyage in 1832, he said to himself, "Why not cross the ocean regularly in steamships? " In New York and in London a deaf ear was turned to any such nonsense. Smith's first encouragement came from George Grote, the historian and banker, who said the idea was practicable; but it was the same old story, -he would risk no money in it. At length Isaac Selby, a prominent business man of London, agreed to build a steamship of two thousand tons, the British Queen. An unexpected delay in fitting the engines led the projectors to charter the Sirius, a river steamer of seven hundred tons, and send her to New York. Learning of this, other parties started from Bristol four days later in the Great Western, and both vessels arrived at New York the same day. Soon after Smith made the round trip between London and New York in thirty-two days.

What a sublime picture of determination and patience was that of Charles Goodyear, of New Haven, buried in poverty and struggling with hardships for eleven long years, to make India rubber of practical use! See him in prison for debt; pawning his clothes and his wife's jewelry to get a little money to keep his children (who were obliged to gather sticks in the field for fire) from starving. Watch his sublime courage and devotion to his idea, when he had no money to bury a dead child and when his other five were near starvation; when his neighbors were harshly criticizing him for his neglect of his family and calling him insane.

But, behold his vulcanized rubber; the result of that heroic struggle, applied to over five hundred uses by 1oo,ooo employees.

What a pathetic picture was that of Palissy, plodding on through want and woe to rediscover the lost art of enameling pottery; building his furnaces with bricks carried on his back, seeing his six children die of neglect, probably of starvation, his wife in rags and despair over her husband's " folly "; despised by his neighbors for neglecting his family, worn to a skeleton himself, giving his clothes to his hired man because he could not pay him in money, hoping always, failing steadily, until at last his great work was accomplished, and he reaped his reward.

German unity was the idea engraven upon Bismarck's heart. What cared this herculean despot for the Diet chosen year after year simply to vote down every measure he proposed? He was indifferent to all opposition. He simply defied and sent home every Diet which opposed him. He could play the game alone. To make Germany the greatest power in Europe, to make William of Prussia a greater potentate than Napoleon or Alexander, was his all-absorbing purpose. It mattered not what stood in his way, whether people, Diet, or nation; all must bend to his mighty will. Germany must hold the deciding voice in the Areopagus of the world. He rode roughshod over everybody and everything that stood in his way, defiant of opposition, imperious, irrepressible!

See the great Dante in exile, condemned to be burnt alive on false charges of embezzlement. Look at his starved features, gaunt form, melancholy, a poor wanderer; but he never gave up his idea; he poured out his very soul into his immortal poem, ever believing that right would at last triumph.

Columbus was exposed to continual scoffs and indignities, being ridiculed as a mere dreamer and stigmatized as an adventurer.

The very children, it is said, pointed to their foreheads as he passed, being taught to regard him as a kind of madman.

An American was once invited to dine with Oken, the famous German naturalist. To his surprise, they had neither meats nor dessert, but only baked potatoes. Oken was too great a man to apologize for their simple fare. His wife explained, however, that her husband's income was very small, and that they preferred to live simply in order that he might obtain books and instruments for his scientific researches.

Before the discovery of ether it often took a week, in some cases a month, to recover from the enormous dose, sometimes five hundred drops of laudanum, given to a patient to deaden the pain during a surgical operation. Young Dr. Morton believed that there must be some means provided by Nature to relieve human suffering during these terrible operations; but what could he do? He was not a chemist; he did not know the properties of chemical substances; he was not liberally educated.

Dr. Morton did not resort to books, however, nor did he go to scientific men for advice, but immediately began to experiment with well-known substances. He tried intoxicants even to the point of intoxication, but as soon as the instruments were applied the patient would revive. He kept on experimenting with narcotics in this manner until at last he found what he sought in ether.

What a grand idea Bishop Vincent worked out for the young world in the Chautauqua Circle, Dr. Clark in his world-wide Christian Endeavor movement, the Methodist Church in the Epworth League, Edward Everett Hale in his little bands of King's Daughters and Ten Times One is Ten! Here is Clara Barton who has created the Red Cross Society, which is loved by all nations. She noticed in our Civil War that the Confederates were shelling the hospital.

She thought it the last touch of cruelty to fight what couldn't fight back, and she determined to have the barbarous custom stopped. Of course the world laughed at this poor unaided woman. But her idea has been adopted by all nations; and the enemy that aims a shot at the tent or building over which flies the white flag with the red cross has lost his last claim to human consideration.

In all ages those who have advanced the cause of humanity have been men and women " possessed," in the opinion of their neighbors. Noah in building the ark, Moses in espousing the cause of the Israelites, or Christ in living and dying to save a fallen race, incurred the pity and scorn of the rich and highly educated, in common with all great benefactors. Yet in every age and in every clime men and women have been willing to incur poverty, hardship, toil, ridicule, persecution, or even death, if thereby they might shed light or comfort upon the path which all must walk from the cradle to the grave. In fact it is doubtful whether a man can perform very great service to mankind who is not permeated with a great purpose-with an overmastering idea.

Beecher had to fight every step of the way to his triumph through obstacles which would have appalled all but the greatest characters. Oftentimes in these great battles for principle and struggles for truth, he stood almost alone fighting popular prejudice, narrowness, and bigotry, uncharitableness and envy even in his own church. But he never hesitated nor wavered when he once saw his duty. There was no shillyshallying, no hunting for a middle ground between right and wrong, no compromise on principles. He hewed close to the chalk line and held his line plumb to truth. He never pandered for public favor nor sought applause. Duty and truth were his goal, and he went straight to his mark.

Other churches did not agree with him nor his, but he was too broad for hatred, too charitable for revenge, and too magnanimous for envy.

What tale of the " Arabian Nights " equals in fascination the story of such lives as those of Franklin, of Morse, Goodyear, Howe, Edison, Bell, Beecher, Gough, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Amos Lawrence, George Peabody, McCormick, Hoe, and scores of others, each representing some great idea embodied in earnest action, and resulting in an improvement of the physical, mental, and moral condition of those around them?

There are plenty of ideas left in the world yet. Everything has not been invented. All good things have not been done. There are thousands of abuses to rectify, and each one challenges the independent soul, armed with a new idea.

"But how shall I get ideas?" Keep your wits open! Observe! Study! But above all, Think! and when a noble image is indelibly impressed upon the mind - Act!


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