Page images
PDF
EPUB

USEFUL AND ENTERTAINING HINTS.

The real value of a thing,
Is as much money as 'twill bring.

In the possession of the Philadelphia Library Company is a cabinet of fossils,* with several specimens of earth, clay, sand, &c. with some account of each, and where brought from.

I have always considered these kind of researches as productive of many advantages, and in a new country they are particularly so. As subjects for speculation, they afford ent ertainment to the curious; but as objects of utility, they me' it a closer attention. The same materials which delight the, fossilist, enrich the manufacturer and the merchant. Wh'le the one is scientifically examining their structure and composition, the others, by industry and commerce, are transmuting them to gold. Possessed of the power of pleasing, they gratify on both sides; the one contemplates their natural beauties in the cabinet, the other, their recreated ones in the coffer.

It is by the researches of the virtuoso that the hidden parts of the earth are brought to light, and from his discoveries of its qualities, the potter, the glass-maker, and numerous other artists, are enabled to furnish us with their productions. Artists, considered merely as such, would have made but a slender progress, bad they not been led on by the enterprising spirit of the curious. I am unwilling to dismiss this remark without entering my protest against that unkind, ungrateful, and impolitic custom of ridiculing unsuccessful experiments; and informing those unwise or

* In the catalogue it is called a collection of American fossils, &c. but a considerable part of them are foreign ones. I presume that the collector, in order to judge the better of such as he might discover here, made first a collection of such foreign ones whose value were known, in order to compare by; as his design seems rather bent towards discovering the treasures of America, than merely to make a collection,

overwise pasquinades, that half the felicities they enjoy sprung originally from generous curiosity. Were a man to propose, or set out to bore his lands, as a carpenter does a board, he might, probably, bring on himself a shower of witticisms; and though he could not be jested at for building castles in the air, yet many magnanimous laughs might break forth at his expence, and vociferously predict the explosion of a mine in his subterraneous pursuits.

I am led to this reflection by the present domestic state of America, because it will unavoidably happen, that before we can arrive at that perfection of things which other nations have acquired, many hopes will fail, many whimsical attempts will become fortunate, and many reasonable ones end in air and expence. The degree of improvemer which America is already arrived at, is unparalleled and astonishing, but it is miniature to what she will one day boast of, if heaven continue her happiness. We have nearly one whole region yet unexplored; I mean the internal region of the earth. By industry and tillage we have acquired a considerable knowledge of what America will produce, but very little of what it contains. The bowels of the earth have been only slightly inquired into : we seem to content ourselves with such parts of it as are absolutely necessary, and cannot well be imported, as brick, stone, &c. but have gone very little further, except in the article of iron. The glass and the pottery manufactures are yet very imperfect, and will continue so, till some curious researcher finds out the

proper

material. Copper, lead,* and tin articles valuable both in their

* I am quite at a loss to know what is meant by white lead ore mentioned in the catalogue; there being no such thing. White lead does not exist in a mineral state, but is prepared from common lead by the following process :- A large wood trough, thirty or forty feet square, is divided by wood partitions into squares of about one foot each. These squares are filled with vinegar, which is kept moderately hot, by means of large beds of new horse dung under the troughs : common sheet lead is cut into square pieces and put into the vinegar, which acts upon it as a menstruum, and changes it into white lead. When the pieces of lead appear white and flakey, they are taken out and thrown under a stone roller, which goes over them (as a tanner grinds bark) and beats off such parts of the lead as are already changed into white lead, the remainder is again thrown into the vinegar. Fire will restore white lead to common lead again,

simple state, and as being the component parts of other metals, (viz. brass and pewter) are at present but little known throughout the Continent in their mineral form: yet I doubt pot but very valuable mines of them are daily travelled over in the western parts of America. Perhaps a few feet of surface conceal a treasure sufficient to enrich a kingdom.

The value of the interior part of the earth, like ourselves, cannot be judged certainly of by the surface; neither do the corresponding strata lie with the unvariable order of the colours of the rainbow ;* and if they ever did, which I do not believe, age and misfortune have now broken in upon their union; earthquakes, deluges, and volcanoes have so disunited and reunited them, that in their present state they appear like a world in ruins-yet the ruins are beautiful; the caverns, museums of antiquity.

Though Nature is gay, polite, and generous abroad, she is sullen, rude, and niggardly at home. Return the visit, and she admits you with all the suspicion of a miser, and all the reluctance of an antiquated beauty retired to replenish her charms. Bred up in antediluvian notions, she bas not yet acquired the European taste of receiving visitants in her dressing-room: she locks and bolts up her private recesses with extraordinary care, as if not only resolved to preserve her hoards, but to conceal her age, and hide the remains of a face that was young and lovely in the days of Adam. He that would view nature in her undress, and partake of her internal treasures, must proceed with the resolution of a robber, if not a ravisher. She gives no invitation to follow her to the cavern. The external earth makes no proclamation of the interior stores, but leaves to chance and industry the discovery of the whole. In such gifts as nature can annually recreate, she is noble and profuse, and entertains the whole world with the interest of her fortunes; but watches over the capital with the care of a miser. Her gold and jewels lie concealed in the earth, in caves of utter darkness; and boards of wealth, heaps upon heaps, mould in the chests, like the riches of a necromancer's cell. It must be very pleasant to an adventurous speculist to make excursions into these Gothic regions; and in his travels he may possibly come to a cabinet locked up in some rocky vault,

* 1. Red. 2. Orange, 3. Yellow. 4. Green, 5. Blue, 0. Indigo. 7. Violet.

whose treasures shall reward bis toil, and enable him to shine on his return as splendidly as Nature herself. By a small degree of attention to the order and origin of such thiugs, we shall perceive, that though the surface of the earth produce us the necessaries of life, yet it is from the mine we extract the conveniences thereof. Our houses would diminish to wigwams furnished in the Indian style, and ourselves resemble the building, were it not for the ores of the earth. Agriculture and manufactures would wither away for want of tools and implements, and commerce stand still for want of materials. The beasts of the field would elude our power, and the birds of the air get beyond our reach. Our dominion would shrink to a narrow circle; and our mind itself, partaking of the change, would contract its prospects, and lessen into almost animal instinct. Take away but the single article of iron, and half the felicities of life falls with it. Little as we may prize this common ore, the loss of it would cut deeper than the use of it: and by the way of laughing off misfortunes it is easy to prove, by this method of investigation, that an iron age is better than a golden one.

Since so great a portion of our enjoyments is drawn from the mine, it is certainly an evidence of our prudence to inquire and know what our professions are. Every man's landed property extends to the surface of the earth. Why then should he sit down contented with a part, and practise upon his estate those fashionable follies in life which prefer the superfice to the solid ? Curiosity alone, should the thought occur conveniently, would move an active mind to examine, though not to the bottom, at least to a considerable depth.

The propriety and reasonableness of these internal inquiries are continually pointed out to us by numberless occurrences. Accident is almost every day turning out some new secret from the earth. How often has the ploughshare or the spade broken open a treasure, which for ages, perhaps for ever, had lain but just beneath the surface: and though every state have not mines of gold or silver, yet they may contain some strata of valuable earth, proper for manufactures, and if they have not these, there is a great probability of their having chalk, marl, or some rich soil proper for manure, which only requires to be removed to the surface.

I have been informed of some land in England being raised to four times its former value by the discovery of a chalk or marl pit, in digging a hole to fix a post in; and in embanking a meadow in the Jerseys, the labourers threw out with the soil a fine blue powderly earth, resembling indigo, which, when mixed with oil, was used for paint. I imagine the vein is now exhausted.

Those who are inclined to make researches of this kind, will find their evdeavours greatly facilitated by the use of the following instrument.

Description of a set of Borers, used in boring land, in

order to find its internal composition. A set of borers consists of any number of pieces, according to the depth intended to be bored to. Those wbich I saw, and have here described, had twenty pieces of about two feet long each, and about an inch and a half diameter. The first piece has a bite like a wood borer, and grooved like a gimblet, on which is to be fixed an iron cross bar, to turn it by. Wben the first piece has descended to its depth, the cross bar is taken off, and the second piece, grooved like the first, is joined to it, much in the same manner as a soldier's bayonet is Axed to his musket, but so that the groove of the second lie in a line with the first. The eross bar is then put on the top of the second piece; and when that has descended, the third is fixed on in the same manner as the second, with the groove in the same line, and so far for all the rest It is evident that if the whole twenty pieces were to descend, and not be drawn up till the last, that the different soils through which the borer bad passed, would lie in the grooves in the same order, and at the same distance from the surface, and from each other, that they laid in the earth; and that by repeating the operation in different parts of the land, the direction, extent, length, and thickness of any, or all the strata would be known. But as it will require an extraordinary force both to bore it down and draw up the whole number of pieces, it will be necessary to loosen them by frequently drawing them up, and likewise to have an additional fore-piece something bigger than the rest, to enlarge the hole by. A few trials will explain the whole. The two chief things to observe are, not to lay the borers fast, as they cannot be released like a wedge, nor to wrench them the contrary way, lest you separate them by so doing, for the lower parts will be irrecoverably lost.

Experiments of this kind are not attended with any considerable expence, and they give us much knowledge of the

« PreviousContinue »