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From the Clyde to California
Chapter IX.—Cotton Manufacture in America—New York—Rochester


COTTON MANUFACTURE IN AMERICA—FROM A MANUFACTURER'S VIEW—FROM AN OPERATIVE'S VIEW— COLORADO BEETLE—SEA BATHING AND ITS ATTRACTIONS—SURF BATHING, ETC.—A LAND LEAGUE MEETING —NEW YORK—ELEVATED RAILWAYS—NEW YORK WHARVES—BIG FERRY BOATS—THE GREAT BRIDGE— ROCHESTER.

HAVING exhausted the time allotted for our stay in Boston, we proceed by rail to Fall River, which is 48 miles south, and is the point where passengers ship on board the steamer for New York. Viewing the city from either the boat or rail, it has a dull, monotonous appearance, the houses being all detached, with a considerable extent of ground to each, which is used either for ornamental gardens or for orchards, but principally for orchards, on which there was an abundant crop of various kinds of fruit Many of the footpaths were strewn with cherries, which were over-ripe and had fallen from the trees. It is the custom there to employ boys to climb the trees and pull the cherries. The boys get as the reward for their labour the half of all they pull, and the owner of the orchard claims the other half as his share.

Entering the city, we soon discover that it is not the dull place we had anticipated. There is activity and bustle at every turn. It is only the wide streets and the great extent of ground on which the city stands that give it the quiet appearance. It is one of the great centres of American cotton manufacture. There is no other work carried on within the city unless what is requisite to supply the immediate wants of the inhabitants. This place has been judiciously selected for such an industry on account of a succession of natural ponds, about two miles distant, and covering an area of about 3500 acres on the high land. The water-shed to these ponds is but trifling; the supply is chiefly derived from springs that furnish sufficient water to give a constant supply to a very rapid stream from which the city takes its name, and which furnishes a constant flow of 7300 cubic feet per minute, or about three times the quantity of the Greenock Shaws water supply for driving purposes. The increase of the cotton manufacture in this locality has fairly outgrown the water-power of the district. Some of the mills lately erected have had to adopt steam power, the falls on the stream being all taken up. In 1870 the population was 27,000, with thirteen mills in operation. It is now about 55,000, with forty-five mills running, and four at present in course of erection, all of which are owned by joint-stock companies.

In our travels here we made the acquaintance of a quiet old gentleman who had been long extensively engaged in cotton manufacturing. in course, our conversation turned on the cotton trade. He claimed great credit for the Americans in respect of their enterprise in that trade, and their now being able to manufacture the best cotton goods that the world can produce, and at no more expense than in England, notwithstanding having to pay higher wages. On asking if they had much of an export trade, he replied they had practically none. Up to the present time they had not been able to produce as much as would supply their home market, but if they continued to increase their manufacturing power during the next ten years at the same rate as they had done in the past ten, they would not only supply their home market, but would have a large surplus to export, and he was confident they would outstrip England in the markets of the world when the time came that they had to come into competition. Continuing, he said England had long had it all her own way, and what was to hinder her? She had the advantage of having good machinery, with cheap coal and iron, at the time America was, as it were, in her infancy, and did not know that she had stores of the latter at her own door. Now that they had discovered the advantages they had, they were gradually turning them to account, and could now manufacture all kinds of machinery equal, if not superior, to what was produced in England. So in that respect the two countries were nearly on a par. But we have one advantage you will never enjoy in England. We get the cotton brought by rail from the south and laid down at our vorks; whereas to England it has to be shipped there, then the time and interest of your money, the freight to and fro, and the double insurance—all this gives us a profit on our manufacture. Being strangers to both the trade and our informant, we were not in a position to question any of his statements, which were very plainly made.

In the course of our rambles we got into conversation with an intelligent cotton operative from the old country, who had been twelve years resident in America, and got his opinion of the trade from a workman's point of view. He said there were perhaps some changes at home since he left, but in several instances, he thought, the Americans were much ahead of the old country. In his department each man had to attend to six looms, being double of what he did at home; but, again, he said the webs were narrower, being only twenty-eight inches broad, and the yarn was a little coarser and not so closely driven home, but there were some of the factories that produced a finer cloth than the one in which he was employed.

The conversation we had with the old cotton manufacturer brought to our recollection that when on our way from Boston to Wells River, we passed through the city of Manchester, which is situated on the river Merrimac, about sixty miles north of Boston. There, for over two miles along the side of the railway, is a succession of large cotton factories, built of brick, and all apparently new. With such facts before us, we had not the least doubt that America was making rapid progress in the manufacture of cotton goods. For the satisfactory survey we had of this city, we were indebted to two friends who had placed much of their valuable time at our disposal, and who said they would not allow us to return to Scotland until we had seen one of the summer resorts or coast residences of the American gentry. Next morning, before breakfast was over, they were at our residence with a carriage. They preferred driving to travelling by rail, so as to give us a better idea of the district through which we were passing. The destination, fixed on was Newport, situated on Rhode Island, fully twenty miles distant from Fall River. Rhode Island is the smallest of the American States. The trip was most enjoyable, as it was through a well-cultivated district, the farms being much like the better class of farms we had been accustomed to in Renfrewshire; but in almost every instance there were attached to each farm an old orchard, with a young one coming on to take the place of the old one.

The windmill seemed to have been of late an indispensable part of the machinery of an American farmer, many of them being prominent objects in the district— some of them in ruinous condition. We halted several times by the way and spent a little time in gathering bramble-berries and huckle-berries, which were very plentiful, and growing to great perfection. The brambleberry is just the same as our bramble-berry or "blackbyde," growing along dyke-sides and hedge-rows, but is not so prominent as ours, as the bushes are not so high, but spread more like runners along the ground, and are pretty much concealed among the long grass, but easily detected by the berries when fully ripe. The huckleberry is in every respect the same as our blae-berry, with the exception that the shrub on which it grows is much stronger than with us, it being from twelve to eighteen inches high. In several districts, these berries are a very important item in the revenue of the farmer, who gathers them and sends large quantities into the market in boxes or baskets. In all hotels and restaurants they are usually set down to meals.

We stopped at a potato field to examine the ravages of the Colorado beetle. Here we saw them in great force. They were to be seen crawling along the road and on to the dykes enclosing the field. The beetle is in form and size very much like a common coffee bean, and is covered with a hard brown and yellow striped Crust, like our black beetle. Under this Crust there are a pair of slender wings, by which it can fly from one place to another. The beetle at first sight reminded us very much of a fancy shirt stud. The farmers were doing everything in their power to destroy the pest, by going over the field with dusters full of flour and Paris green, and wherever the eggs were visible a little of the dust was applied to the leaves, and it seemed to have the desired effect.

Arriving at Newport, and getting clear of our horse we walked a short distance to the shore, which looks right out into the Atlantic. Here our attention was arrested by a scene that was entirely new to us. Within a bay on a sandy beach, surf bathing was going on in grand style.. Stretching along the bay is a village of small bathing-houses, constructed of wood like sentry- boxes, and set closely together, with several streets running back, lined on both sides with these houses. Between the sea and the bathing-houses, there was a long line of carriages belonging to the gentry who had come, some of them with their families, to bathe, others to enjoy the sport in looking on at those who were bathing. Here were hundreds, composed of both sexes, all classes, and various ages, from the child of four years old to the gray-headed sire of four-score, all seemingly much pleased with the amusement. On resolving to have a bath, you go to one of the offices, where you pay your money and get the key of one of the bathing-houses, where you get your bathing-dress. Having donned it, you are ready to take your place amongst the crowd and share in the excitement, which is very invigorating and amusing.

Looking out on the Atlantic, the water is apparently quite smooth, .except near to the shore, where there were always three waves following each other, with a considerable distance between each, one making its appearance in the distance as the nearest spends its force on the beach. At a considerable distance from the shore, the bathers could be seen standing in the space between the waves, little more than knee-deep. When the wave approaches them, if they did not leap up on the crest of it, it would wash clean over them. They could be seen, after the wave had passed, "sprachling" and trying to regain their feet. Surf bathing is not swimming, but tumbling and dancing amongst the waves. When you return to your house, there is a tub of clean water standing opposite your door, into which you step to clean the sand from your feet, and from this tub you go into your house, where you have towels and all toilet requisites for dressing. When bathing operations begin, a flag is hoisted, and as long as the flag is up, all bathers must be •dressed. When bathing is to cease, the flag is taken down, and, half-an-hour after, bathers may go in undress if they choose.

During bathing hours there is a line of omnibuses plying between the city and the bay. There are also refreshment rooms and stands fitted up, covered with awnings to protect visitors from either sun or rain, the advantage of which we experienced in one of those sudden changes of weather, a thunder-storm and very heavy rain unexpectedly breaking out all at once, turning the roads into a sea of mud, whereby we were very much crestfallen, thinking our day's pleasure was at an end, while we had before us a twenty miles' drive through mud and rain.

Our friends had more hope of the day, and proposed we should take the 'bus to a hotel and have dinner. By the time we had this done, we were surprised to find the storm over, and the roads almost as dry and more pleasant than before the storm. We again set out to the shore. This time we walked several miles along the Cliffs, with the Atlantic beneath us on our left, while on our right was a succession of palatial residences at a considerable distance back, with a large space of pleasure ground intervening between these mansions and the cliffs. After several miles' travel, we began our return journey, and got to the street on the other side of these mansions, where we found the fronts to the street even superior to those facing the Atlantic. It being now the afternoon, there appeared to be no end to the fine equipages that were rolling along. It seemed to us as if all the citizens were in carriages. Setting out on our return journey, we passed through the city cemeteries, which were of such extent as to impress us with the idea that we had formed but a poor conception of the extent of the city and the number of its inhabitants. We reached home at a late hour, much gratified with our day's excursion.

The following day being a holiday at Taunton, it was very prominently announced by placards that an excursion party from that place would visit Fall River, and hold a Land League meeting in the New Public Park, where a number of influential gentlemen would address the meeting and give a full exposition of the wrongs of Ireland. Being curious to learn how the Americans viewed this question, we made a point to attend to hear the discussion. The meeting, which was largely attended, was held in a large hall within the park. But the speeches were not up to the mark. We were informed that some of the best speakers did not put in an appearance. However, we much admired the mild way in which all, with one exception, referred to the question. At the same time, all were agreed that Ireland's grievances were the result of the oppression and misrule of the British Government.

We had in the course of our journey endeavoured as much as possible to learn what assistance, if any, the American Government rendered to the Irish Land League. The invariable reply was that neither the people nor the Government took any interest in the question, although it was admitted that considerable sums of money had been collected and sent home to support the League, not from the American people, but from a class who had been starved out of Ireland, and after a short residence in America had entered business on their own account, and carried on successfully, some of them amassing large sums of money.

In visiting some of the larger cities, particularly San Francisco, we were very much surprised when our friend, in passing along, pointed out some of the finest buildings in the city, followed frequently by the remark that they were the property of some Irishman who had started a few years ago with little or no capital. One very plain- looking gentleman was pointed out as being an Irish millionaire, who had lately retired from a very lucrative business. Our friend remarked that these were the people who sent home the money to keep up the agitation in Ireland—with some of them the feeling being so strong that a hundred or even a thousand pounds would be given with as little hesitation as a shilling would be given to a Presbyterian Church in Scotland. However, the people composing this large meeting did not seem to be of the class who had much money to spare. They were altogether belonging to the working-class, the greater number taking little interest in the question of Ireland and its wrongs—their object simply seeming to be one of enjoyment.

Well satisfied with our visit to Fall River, we now bade adieu to our friends, and left the same evening by steamer for New York, where we arrived next morning. This was the only place where we had been unfortunate in the selection of our hotel, it being one that is much frequented by American merchants, and where the whole establishment is managed in a rough-and-ready manner, with very little ceremony, so that we lacked many of the comforts that we so much enjoyed in other places. However, our stay in the city was but short, so that we felt the inconvenience less. As a result of our short visit, we have but little to notice, but were very much disappointed with the city in its general appearance. In the neighbourhood of merchants' warehouses, though the streets were wide, the footpaths were continually blocked up with goods, compelling passengers to walk on to the carriageway. In some parts the traffic on the streets is very much relieved by the elevated railroads, which are constructed of iron columns and beams; across these are wood sleepers, on the top of which the rails are fixed. A line of rails runs along each side of the street, near to the sideway, the height being such that the passengers in the cars look right into the houses of those who inhabit the second and third flats. These lines on each side of the street are joined near to the stations by a platform extending between the two lines, and it is only in the neighbourhood of these stations that the sleepers are covered with flooring. The trains are in general very short, consisting of from three to four well-finished carriages, and a rather light steam-engine, the whole at certain points taking very sudden turns, when requiring to turn from the main line into a street crossing at right angles. There is a uniform fare of ten cents to whatever place or distance you go. These elevated railroads, as observed from the Central Park, run a considerable distance into the country, probably in the expectation that the city will shortly extend in that direction.

The New York wharves are constructed so as to give much accommodation, with a small water frontage; and to concentrate the traffic as much as possible to the central district, jetties are run out into the river, alongside of which the vessels lie with their bows towards the mainland. While admiring the great extent of shipping and the excellent accommodation provided for it, there was yet a temporary appearance about the whole system which was almost offensive. This is perhaps owing to the whole being constructed of timber, some of which was showing signs of decay, and in some cases repairs had been done so clumsily as to give a ricketty appearance to the whole affair. However, this state of matters will probably disappear by-and-bye, as timber gets scarcer and dearer, and stone comes into more general use.

Between New York and Brooklyn the river is more than half a mile wide. All along the frontage on both sides there are several ferry stations, and large steam ferry-boats, with their hundreds of passengers, plying every few minutes between the two cities. In crossing, it is no unusual thing to have within view at one time from ten to a dozen of the steamers crossing at various angles to either side. These, with the usual traffic up and down the river, present a very animated scene, in which there must be great risk and danger from collision. The platform of the wharves is so formed as to receive the platform on the bow of the boat, which, when run into its position in the dock, is almost as neatly fitted as could be done by the plane of a carpenter.

The boats are constructed so as to carry in the centre all kinds of waggons, carriages and cattle, while cabins are fitted along the sides for the comfort of passengers. They remain only a few minutes at the piers, when they return with their hundreds of passengers. These boats are fitted up with gas, which we were informed was for use in the night traffic, the steamers continuing to ply every half hour during the night.

An attempt is being made to construct a bridge across the river between New York and Brooklyn. It has been in course of construction over ten years, and is now three years past the time in which the work was to have been finished. At the present time there is more than one- third of the work still to do. The towers of the bridge on both sides of the river are finished, and, being about 270 feet high, are objects that attract much attention. The main cables that are attached to the tops of them are stretched across the river, hanging in the air like an inverted arch, about one-third from each side of the river. The cross beams are placed in their position, suspended from the cable. It is when passing under that you can form an idea of the magnitude of the undertaking. The height from the surface of the water to the floor of the bridge is about one hundred and forty feet, so as to be out of the reach of the topmasts of vessels passing under. The incline from the towers on to the New York side is already formed, and comes in at the level of the street at the City Hall Square, near to the new Post Office, which will be about half a mile distant from the tower. At that point it will be about eighty feet wide, and ascends by a very easy incline. It is said that besides a promenade for foot passengers, there will be four or five lines of carriage ways, which, from the width of the span, will produce so much vibration that it may have the effect of deterring many from using the bridge.

Having made the best of the time at our disposal here, it was agreed that I should proceed alone to Rochester, about four hundred miles distant from New York, and situated on the Genesee River, some eight miles up from Lake Ontario. On entering Rochester one would conclude that there were not more than from five to six thousand inhabitants in the city, while there are actually eighty-five thousand, there being only a small portion of it that is closely built, and that in the neighbourhood of the Post Office and other public buildings.


 

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