Tools Of The Early Mechanic

The early mechanic had few tools and appliances wherewith to perform his work; and these were crude and primitive, consisting principally of a limited number of hand-tools brought from the Old Country, and occasionally a hand-lathe of modern dimensions and operated by foot-power. But with their few tools and meager facilities, and animated by the condition that "necessity is the mother of invention," these old-time mechanics proceeded with practical common sense and ingenuity to design and construct better tools and machines - which have continually developed, until we have the splendid array of manufacturing machinery seen on every hand to-day. As machinery developed, larger and larger amounts of money had to be expended; and the banker had to be called upon to provide it. Thus the capitalist became the partner of the manufacturer, the one furnishing the mechanical ability and inventive genius for the actual designing and building of machinery and manufactured goods, while the other contributed the money to carry on the work, and the business ability necessary to market the product.

Relations Of Capital And Labor

In brief, this is the condition to-day. But, says the carping critic, "there are often hundreds of struggling and hard-working employees where there is one rich manufacturer." This may be partly true, although it is a fact beyond dispute that the American mechanic is the best paid workman in the world. It is true that there are hundreds of workmen to one capitalist. Why? The Creator has so ordained that there shall be many of moderate ability, and but few possessing the unusual ability and talent to lead them. So it has ever been since the days of Moses, and so it probably will ever continue to be. Doestick's regiment composed entirely of colonels was a manifest absurdity, and so intended as an illustration of a well-known and natural condition that should be realized by every reasonable and thoughtful man who considers these questions.

Considering carefully the great scheme of manufacturing, and the immense industrial problem of supplying the wants of the people of this great country and providing for the vast volume of trade that goes abroad, by the modern manufacturing plants equipped with all that is latest and best in machinery for every conceivable purpose, it should not be forgotten that, as the very basis and foundation of the whole, stands the modern machine tool, and that it is principally to the great and important development of this that we owe primarily our industrial growth and prosperity as a manufacturing nation To the machine tool may easily be traced the gradual but continued upward tendency of the mechanic and his methods, from the hard physical toil and small pay of the early days, to the immeasurably lighter exertion and increased compensation made possible by the highly developed condition of the automatic machines of the present day. It has been an oft-repeated victory of "mind over matter," wherein brains have won where hands made but little advance; ideas have developed wonderful mechanisms that have revolutionized the earlier methods of manufacturing and raised the standard of mechanical excellence beyond what was thought possible years ago, and at the same time reduced the cost to a fraction of its former amount.

Here, again, the capitalist furnished the means whereby the practical realization of the ingenious designs of the mechanic's fertile brain became possible, and the successful combination of capital and labor brought success to both.

Combinations Of Capital

But here comes our critical labor agitator again with the comment: "It is all very well to talk about the amicable relations of capital and labor, and how each ought to help the other, but how about the great combinations of capital that we ordinarily call "trusts"? To give a correct and intelligent, as well as a fair and truthful answer to this question, we must know the conditions under which the combination is formed, the plan upon which it is organized, and the object of its formation. As these are not given, we must assume the conditions of some well-known combination. Let it be the United States Steel Corporation. One of the foremost men in this combination has defined his position on the subject, and in so doing has outlined the policy of the corporation, by saying:

"Any combination of capital which operates, first, to prevent competition; second, to increase the price of the product; and third, to reduce the wages of the workmen, is working under a trio of wrong principles that sooner or later will bring about disaster".

Let us see how the actual operation of this combination of capital really works out in practice.

First

The Steel Corporation has never sought to prevent competition. Steel mills, large and small, have operated when, where, and how they pleased, with no interference from the Steel Corporation.

Second

The price of steel has not been increased; on the contrary, it has been greatly reduced under its management. Thirty years ago a very indifferent quality of machine steel cost from 8 to 12 cents per pound. To-day ordinary machine steel of a much better quality than that mentioned above can be had for 2 cents a pound or less.

Third

The wages of workmen have not only not been reduced, but have actually been doubled since the labor troubles in the steel mills known as the "Homestead Strike" (1892). The Steel Corporation has gone much further than to double the wages of the steel workers. They have made it possible for the workmen to become partners in the great work of the corporation, by obligating themselves to sell to their workmen a certain amount each year of stock in the corporation, so that the men who labor in the mills may also become part owners and participate in the dividends resulting from their work on exactly the same percentage as the capitalist himself does.