This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The public are by degrees waking up from the lethargy into which they have sunk, regarding the uses and necessity of a supply of pure air to breathe. The following true and straight forward article from the Tri dune, is well worthy of perusal and reperusal. Pale faces and 'nervous complaints," more common among our countrymen, and especially countrywomen, than among any civilized people on the globe, are the effects of a total ignorance of all the laws of respiration, and a blind passion for close stoves and furnaces. There is not a railroad car in the country, heated by its red hot stove, which is not an enemy to health, more to be dreaded than the cholera - and yet our people sit still and drink in the iwison of air, expelled again and again from the lungs of those crowded around them, as if the thing were either delightful or irremediable. En.
The fundamental truth that air inhaled by breathing is essential to the preservation of animal, including human life, we may fairly presume to be generally understood. If any one could be found to doubt it, he might easily be convinced by trying the experiment of not breathing for two or three minutes. But the intimately related and equally important truths that every human being has lungs, or air chum, bers, wherein the inhaled air or breath is consumed or worked over by a process akin to combustion - that the oxygen which forms one-fifth of the air is thereby extracted from the residuum, or nitrogen, and employed to clarify the blood of its constantly accumulating impurities - that the blood which, thus freshly renovated with oxygen, has been ejected into the arteries of a bright red color, and in a thoroughly liquid state, is relumed thorough the veins saturated with carbon and other impurities, and thence dark, sluggish and clotted - that it must now be renovated by fresh air, containing a large proportion of oxygen, for which purpose the air already in the lungs or once inhaled and respired therefrom is no titter than the ashes of yesterday's fuel would be to make a new fire for to-day - that for this purpose every adult, healthy human being needs to inhale about eighteen breaths per minute of about one pint of fresh, pure air each, making over two gallons of air per minute - and that the inhalation instead of air already deprived of oxygen and loaded with impurities by respiration is a process alike baneful to health, strength and life - these truths are not generally understood, or their importance could not fail to be realized and respected.
It is not possible that men and women would consent to be shut up in a close, crowded, low-roofed car, having possibly one or two small, utterly inadequate apertures for the escape of vitiated air, but none at all fur the ingress of that which is pure, and that, while thus poisoning themselves, they would raise a row against any one who should kindly and slightly raise the window by his side, if they only knew what they were doing. Nor would they build costly churches and commodious balls for public meetings, and there huddle for hours, enduring discomfort and imbibing the seeds of fatal disease, if they only knew that copious ventilation was the very first requirement for such halls, and that they might far better, even during a tempest, sit there without any roof at all over their heads than with a roof which imprisons and returns upon their lungs the poisonous, corrupting exhalations from their own chests and bodies.
So with private dwellings. A man has toiled hard and long for a competence, and, having finally attained it, resolves to build a house after his own heart, He grudges no expense to secure an agreeable location and prospect, pure water, spacious rooms, tasteful draperies, ample bedding, elegant furniture. etc., etc, providing carefully and bouutifully for every want but the first and greatest of all - pure fresh air. He might have secured this in every room of his mansion for some paltry twenty or thirty dollars; yet he neglects it and leaves his children to fester in their own corruption night after night until they finally sicken and die, for want of that element which God abundantly and freely supplied for their sustenance, but which he in his dense ignorance has perversely shut out and rejected.
Our architects, so called, are shamefully in fault in the premises. They have no right to be ignoreut of the necessity for ample ventilation; and if not ignorant, they have no right to construct slaughter-pens and coffins where they are paid for erecting proper dwellings. They have no business to plead, "My employer did not want ventilation;" for if they know their own business they know full well that he vitally needed it, though the density of his ignorance prevented his desiring it. They are paid to know what he does not; and they should never draw the plan of an edifice of any kind without providing for its thorough ventilation as a matter of course. Should the employer interpose objections, (which he rarely will,) it is their duty to enlighten and convert him. If he should insist on exalting his obstinate stupidity above the architect's scientific knowledge and practiced skill, (which not one in a hundred will do,) the latter should quietly say, " Sir, I have studied faithfully and labored hard to acquire the requisite knowledge of architecture: if you think 1 have not succeeded, please employ some one else ; but if I direct the construction of this house, it must be thoroughly ventilated; I cannot in good conscience be responsible for any other".
"Why," says Thickskull, "whence comes all this clamor about ventilation? If it is so vital a matter, why did not our wise ancestors know something about it? Why didn't the want of it kill them, I'd like to know? I mistrust it's one of the new-fangled 'Isms and closely related to socialism and infidelity!"
Most conservative Thickskull, your fore-fathers did not thrive in the absence of ventilation, but because they had it. It is precisely because we have all departed, necessarily and irrevoca-bly, from their habits that special attention to ventilation has become so necessary. They lived far more in the open air and less in crowd, ed assemblages than the present generation does; they sat around huge firesides which voraciously sucked all the vitiated air up chimney. They slept oftenest in spacious unpartitioned chambers and garrets,whence the stars were visible through the crevices in the sides or roof. Such bed-rooms needed no ventilators - need none now. The mischief is that you cannot have them or will not sleep in them. The hospitable old fire place has been narrowed and lowered, or has given place to a stove or furnace ; the bed-room is ceiled and papered; the doors are listed, the floors caulked, and the modern house, though in some respects more commodious and comfortable, is far less healthful and invigorating than those which it has supplanted. Hence the necessity for special regard to ventilation.
There were hovels and dens of old, mainly in cities, where the poor herded in atmosphere fouler if possible than that of our modern churches during service, and of our mansions on soiree nights; and from these Spotted Fever, Black Death, Plague, and other pestilences went forth to devastate the world. If you want these results of the wisdom of our ancestors back again, just blunder on in defiance of the monitions of science respecting respiration and air, and you will very probably be accommodated.