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Of Copying By Casting
105. The art of casting, by pouring substances in a fluid st...

Printing From Surface
91. This second department of printing is of more frequent a...

On The Causes And Consequences Of Large Factories
263. On examining the analysis which has been given in chapt...

On The Position Of Large Factories
277. It is found in every country, that the situation of lar...

On The Division Of Labour
217. Perhaps the most important principle on which the econo...

On The Method Of Observing Manufacturies
160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which reg...

Distinction Between Making And Manufacturing
163. The economical principles which regulate the application...

Of Copying With Altered Dimensions
147. Of the pentagraph. This mode of copying is chiefly used ...

On Over Manufacturing
284. One of the natural and almost inevitable consequences of...

On Combinations Amongst Masters Or Workmen Against Each Other
353. There exist amongst the workmen of almost all classes, ...

Registering Operations
65. One great advantage which we may derive from machinery is...

On The Effect Of Machinery In Reducing The Demand For Labour
404. One of the objections most frequently urged against mac...

On The Division Of Labour
241. We have already mentioned what may, perhaps, appear par...

Extending The Time Of Action Of Forces
45. This is one of the most common and most useful of the em...

Of Printing From Cavities
83. The art of printing, in all its numerous departments, is ...

On The Cost Of Each Separate Process In A Manufacture
253. The great competition introduced by machinery, and the ...

On The Exportation Of Machinery
437. A few years only have elapsed, since our workmen were n...

On A New System Of Manufacturing
305. A most erroneous and unfortunate opinion prevails among...

Of Money As A Medium Of Exchange
166. In the earlier stages of societies the interchange of t...

Of The Identity Of The Work When It Is Of The Same Kind And Its Accuracy When Of Different Kinds
79. Nothing is more remarkable, and yet less unexpected, than...

On The Duration Of Machinery

Category: On the domestic and political economy of manufactures

340. The time during which a machine will continue to perform
its work effectually, will depend chiefly upon the perfection
with which it was originally constructed upon the care taken to
keep it in proper repair, particularly to correct every shake or
looseness in the axes--and upon the smallness of the mass and of
the velocity of its moving parts. Everything approaching to a
blow, all sudden change of direction, is injurious. Engines for
producing power, such as windmills, water-mills, and
steam-engines, usually last a long time.(1*)

341. Many of the improvements which have taken place in
steamengines, have arisen from an improved construction of the
boiler or the fireplace. The following table of the work done by
steam-engines in Cornwall, whilst it proves the importance of
constantly measuring the effects of machinery, shows also the
gradual advance which has been made in the art of constructing
and managing those engines.

A table of the duty performed by steam-engines in Cornwall,
shewing the average of the whole for each year, and also the
average duty of the best engine in each monthly report

Years; Approximate number of engines reported; Average duty of
the whole; Average duty of the best engines

1813; 24; 19,456,000; 26,400,000
1814; 29; 20.534,232; 32,000,000
1815; 35; 20.526,160; 28,700,000
1816; 32; 22,907,110; 32,400,000
1817; 31; 26,502,259; 41,600,000
1818; 32; 25,433,783; 39,300,000
1819; 37; 26,252,620; 40,000,000
1820; 37; 28,736,398; 41,300,000
1821; 39; 28,223,382; 42,800,000
1822; 45; 28,887,216; 42,500.000
1823; 45; 28,156,162; 42,122,000
1824; 45; 28,326,140; 43,500,000
1825; 50; 32,000,741; 45,400,000
1826; 48; 30,486,630; 45,200,000
1827; 47; 32,100,000; 59,700,000
1828; 54; 37,100,000; 76,763,000
1829; 52; 41,220,000; 76,234,307
1830; 55; 43,350,000; 75,885,519
1831; 55(2*); 44,700,000; 74,911,365
1832; 60; 44,400,000; 79,294,114
1833; 58; 46,000,000; 83,306,092

342. The advantage arising from registering the duty done by
steamengines in Cornwall has been so great that the proprietors
of one of the largest mines, on which there are several engines,
find it good economy to employ a man to measure the duty they
perform every day. This daily report is fixed up at a particular
hour, and the enginemen are always in waiting, anxious to know
the state of their engines. As the general reports are made
monthly, if accident should cause a partial stoppage in the flue
of any of the boilers, it might without this daily check continue
two or three weeks before it could be discovered by a falling off
of the duty of the engine. In several of the mines a certain
amount of duty is assigned to each engine; and if it does more,
the proprietors give a premium to the engineers according to its
amount. This is called million money, and is a great stimulus to
economy in working the engine.

343. Machinery for producing any commodity in great demand,
seldom actually wears out; new improvements, by which the same
operations can be executed either more quickly or better,
generally superseding it long before that period arrives: indeed,
to make such an improved machine profitable, it is usually
reckoned that in five years it ought to have paid itself, and in
ten to be superseded by a better.

'A cotton manufacturer,' says one of the witnesses before a
Committee of the House of Commons, 'who left Manchester seven
years ago, would be driven out of the market by the men who are
now living in it, provided his knowledge had not kept pace with
those who have been, during that time, constantly profiting by
the progressive improvements that have taken place in that

344. The effect of improvements in machinery, seems
incidentally to increase production, through a cause which may be
thus explained. A manufacturer making the usual profit upon his
capital, invested in looms or other machines in perfect
condition, the market price of making each of which is a hundred
pounds, invents some improvement. But this is of such a nature,
that it cannot be adapted to his present engines. He finds upon
calculation, that at the rate at which he can dispose of his
manufactured produce, each new engine would repay the cost of its
making, together with the ordinary profit of capital, in three
years: he also concludes from his experience of the trade, that
the improvement he is about to make, will not be generally
adopted by other manufacturers before that time. On these
considerations, it is clearly his interest to sell his present
engines, even at half-price, and construct new ones on the
improved principle. But the purchaser who gives only fifty pounds
for the old engines, has not so large a fixed capital invested in
his factory, as the person from whom he purchased them; and as he
produces the same quantity of the manufactured article, his
profits will be larger. Hence, the price of the commodity will
fall, not only in consequence of the cheaper production by the
new machines, but also by the more profitable working of the old,
thus purchased at a reduced price. This change, however, can be
only transient; for a time will arrive when the old machinery,
although in good repair, must become worthless. The improvement
which took place not long ago in frames for making patent-net was
so great, that a machine, in good repair, which had cost L1200,
sold a few years after for L60. During the great speculations in
that trade, the improvements succeeded each other so rapidly,
that machines which had never been finished were abandoned in the
hands of their makers, because new improvements had superseded
their utility.

345. The durability of watches, when well made, is very
remarkable. One was produced, in going order, before a committee
of the House of Commons to enquire into the watch trade, which
was made in the year 1660; and there are many of ancient date, in
the possession of the Clockmaker's Company, which are still
actually kept going. The number of watches manufactured for home
consumption was, in the year 1798, about 50,000 annually. If this
supply was for Great Britain only, it was consumed by about ten
and a half millions of persons.

346. Machines are, in some trades, let out to hire, and a
certain sum is paid for their use; in the manner of rent. This is
the case amongst the framework knitters: and Mr Henson, in
speaking of the rate of payment for the use of their frames,
states, that the proprietor receives such a rent that, besides
paying the full interest for his capital, he clears the value of
his frame in nine years. When the rapidity with which
improvements succeed each other is considered, this rent does not
appear exorbitant. Some of these frames have been worked for
thirteen years with little or no repair. But circumstances
occasionally arise which throw them out of employment, either
temporarily or permanently. Some years since, an article was
introduced called cut-up work, by which the price of
stocking-frames was greatly deteriorated. From the evidence of Mr
J. Rawson, it appears that, in consequence of this change in the
nature of the work, each frame could do the work of two, and many
stocking frames were thrown out of employment, and their value
reduced full threefourths.(3*)

This information is of great importance, if the numbers here
given are nearly correct, and if no other causes intervened to
diminish the price of frames; for it shews the numerical
connection between the increased production of those machines and
their diminished value.

347. The great importance of simplifying all transactions
between masters and workmen, and of dispassionately discussing
with the latter the influence of any proposed regulations
connected with their trade, is well examplified by a mistake into
which both parties unintentionally fell, and which was productive
of very great misery in the lace trade. Its history is so well
told by William Allen, a framework knitter, who was a party to
it, that an extract from his evidence, as given before the
Framework Knitters' Committee of 1812, will best explain it.

I beg to say a few words respecting the frame rent; the rent
paid for lace frames, until the year 1805, was 1s. 6d. a frame
per week; there then was not any very great inducement for
persons to buy frames and let them out by the hire, who did not
belong to the trade; at that time an attempt was made, by one or
two houses, to reduce the prices paid to the workmen, in
consequence of a dispute between these two houses and another
great house: some little difference being paid in the price
amongst the respective houses, I was one chosen by the workmen to
try if we could not remedy the impending evil: we consulted the
respective parties, and found them inflexible; these two houses
that were about to reduce the prices, said that they would either
immediately reduce the price of making net, or they would
increase the frame rent: the difference to the workmen was
considerable, between the one and the other; they would suffer
less, in the immediate operation of the thing, by having the rent
advanced, than the price of making net reduced. They chose at
that time, as they thought, the lesser evil, but it has turned
out to be otherwise; for, immediately as the rent was raised upon
the percentage laid out in frames, it induced almost every
person, who had got a little money, to lay it out in the purchase
of frames; these frames were placed in the hands of men who could
get work for them at the warehouses; they were generally
constrained to pay an enormous rent, and then they were
compelled, most likely, to buy of the persons that let them the
frames, their butcher's meat, their grocery, or their clothing:
the encumbrance of these frames became entailed upon them: if any
deadness took place in the work they must take it at a very
reduced price, for fear of the consequences that would fall upon
them from the person who bought the frame: thus the evil has been
daily increasing, till, in conjunction with the other evils crept
into the trade, they have almost crushed it to atoms.

348. The evil of not assigning fairly to each tool, or each
article produced, its proportionate value, or even of not having
a perfectly distinct, simple, and definite agreement between a
master and his workmen, is very considerable. Workmen find it
difficult in such cases to know the probable produce of their
labour; and both parties are often led to adopt arrangements,
which, had they been well examined, would have been rejected as
equally at variance in the results with the true interests of

349. At Birmingham, stamps and dies, and presses for a great
variety of articles, are let out: they are generally made by men
possessing small capital, and are rented by workmen. Power also
is rented at the same place. Steam-engines are erected in large
buildings containing a variety of rooms, in which each person may
hire one, two, or any other amount of horsepower, as his
occupation may require. If any mode could be discovered of
transmitting power, without much loss from friction, to
considerable distances, and at the same time of registering the
quantity made use of at any particular point, a considerable
change would probably take place in many departments of the
present system of manufacturing. A few central engines to produce
power, might then be erected in our great towns, and each
workman, hiring a quantity of power sufficient for his purpose,
might have it conveyed into his own house; and thus a transition
might in some instances be effected, if it should be found more
profitable, back again from the system of great factories to that
of domestic manufacture.

350. The transmission of water through a series of pipes,
might be employed for the distribution of power, but the friction
would consume a considerable portion. Another method has been
employed in some instances, and is practised at the Mint. It
consists in exhausting the air from a large vessel by means of a
steam-engine. This vessel is connected by pipes, with a small
piston which drives each coining press; and, on opening a valve,
the pressure of the external air forces in the piston. This air
is then admitted to the general reservoir, and pumped out by the
engine. The condensation of air might be employed for the same
purpose; but there are some unexplained facts relating to elastic
fluids, which require further observations and experiment before
they can be used for the conveyance of power to any considerable
distance. It has been found, for instance, in attempting to blow
a furnace by means of a powerful water-wheel driving air through
a cast-iron pipe of above a mile in length, that scarcely any
sensible effect was produced at the opposite extremity. In one
instance, some accidental obstruction being suspected, a cat put
in at one end found its way out without injury at the other, thus
proving that the phenomenon did not depend on interruption within
the pipe.

351. The most portable form in which power can be condensed
is, perhaps, by the liquefaction of the gases. It is known that,
under considerable pressure, several of these become liquid at
ordinary temperatures; carbonic acid, for example, is reduced to
a liquid state by a pressure of sixty atmospheres. One of the
advantages attending the use of these fluids, would be that the
pressure exerted by them would remain constant until the last
drop of liquid had assumed the form of gas. If either of the
elements of common air should be found to be capable of reduction
to a liquid state before it unites into a corrosive fluid with
the other ingredient, then we shall possess a ready means of
conveying power in any quantity and to any distance. Hydrogen
probably will require the strongest compressing force to render
it liquid, and may, therefore, possibly be applied where still
greater condensation of power is wanted. In all these cases the
condensed gases may be looked upon as springs of enormous force,
which have been wound up by the exertion of power, and which will
deliver the whole of it back again when required. These springs
of nature differ in some respects from the steel springs formed
by our art; for in the compression of the natural springs a vast
quantity of latent heat is forced out, and in their return to the
state of gas an equal quantity is absorbed. May not this very
property be employed with advantage in their application?

Part of the mechanical difficulty to be overcome in
constructing apparatus connected with liquefied gases, will
consist in the structure of the valves and packing necessary to
retain the fluids under the great pressure to which they must be
submitted. The effect of heat on these gases has not yet been
sufficiently tried, to lead us to any very precise notions of the
additional power which its application to them will supply.

The elasticity of air is sometimes employed as a spring,
instead of steel: in one of the large printing-machines in London
the momentum of a considerable mass of matter is destroyed by
making it condense the air included in a cylinder, by means of a
piston against which it impinges.

352. The effect of competition in cheapening articles of
manufacture sometimes operates in rendering them less durable.
When such articles are conveyed to a distance for consumption, if
they are broken, it often happens, from the price of labour being
higher where they are used than where they were made, that it is
more expensive to mend the old article, than to purchase a new.
Such is usually the case, in great cities, with some of the
commoner locks, with hinges, and with a variety of articles of


1. The amount of obstructions arising from the casual fixing of
trees in the bottom of the river, may be estimated from the
proportion of steamboats destroyed by running upon them, The
subjoined statement is taken from the American Almanack for 1832:

'Between the years 1811 and 1831, three hundred and
forty-eight steamboats were built on the Mississippi and its
tributary streams During that period a hundred and fifty were
lost or worn out,
'Of this hundred and fifty:
worn out 63
lost by snags 36
burnt 14
lost by collision 3
by accidents
not ascertained 34
Thirty-six, or nearly one fourth, being destroyed by accidental

Snag is the name given in America to trees which stand nearly
upright in the stream, with their roots fixed at the bottom.

It is usual to divide off at the bow of the steamboats a
watertight chamber, in order that when a hole is made in it by
running against the snags, the water may not enter the rest of
the vessel and sink it instantly.

2. This passage is not printed in italics in the original, but it
has been thus marked in the above extract, from its importance,
and from the conviction that the most extended discussion will
afford additional evidence of its truth.

3. Report from the Committee of the House of Commons on the
Framework Knitter's Petition, April, 1819.

Next: On Combinations Amongst Masters Or Workmen Against Each Other

Previous: Proper Circumstances For The Application Of Machinery

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