XV. MATERIAL PROGRESS.
Human labor has been greatly lessened in proportion to the results obtained. Tools are cheaper; and whereas they were formerly made, to a large extent, on the farms themselves, they are now perfected in factories supplied with the most efficient machinery. There were in 1880 two thousand establishments for the manufacture of agricultural implements, with an annual production valued at over $68,000,000. It would take up too much space to give even a list of these implements; suffice it to say that it is calculated that the value of those now in use on American farms is at least $500,000,000. A hundred years ago a man could only manage six bushels of grain a day - cutting, binding and stocking, threshing and cleaning it. Now, with the aid of mechanical appliances, a single man's labor can achieve almost eight times as much.
[Advance of Agricultural Arts]
To machinery must be added the advance in the arts of manuring, draining, irrigation, and of grafting and obtaining greater varieties of fruits and vegetables. The improvement in breeding and raising live-stock must not be omitted. In this product the wealth of the country was at least $2,000,000.000 in 1880.
Great as has been our progress in agriculture, it is scarcely so remarkable as that in manufactures. In 1776 we were mostly a farming community. Now, in New England at least, to a large extent in the Middle States, and to some degree in the West and South, manufactures have outstripped the farming industry. Manufacturing necessarily began, indeed, very early in the settlement of the country; for ships had to be built, and were built, soon after the colonization of Plymouth and Boston. The first saw-mill was erected at Salmon Falls as early as 1635. A printing-press was set up at Cambridge in 1638, and a book-bindery in 1663. The first fulling-mill for making cloth was started at Rowley in 1643. Iron manufacture was regularly established at Lynn in 1645. The first successful cotton-mill in the United States was started by Samuel Slater at Providence in 1793.
[The Cotton Industry.]
The growth of the cotton industry may be appreciated when we state that its extent in 1831 comprised 795 factories and 1,246,500 spindles; while in 1880 there were over ten million spindles, and the value of the products reached nearly two hundred million dollars annually. The progress in woollen manufacture has been equally rapid. Since 1850 the number of factories in this industry has more than doubled, while the value of the products has increased over fourfold. Looking over the whole field of manufacturing industries, it is stated that the estimated capital employed throughout out the country in 1880, namely $2,790,000,000, does not really approximate to the total amount. According to the census of that year, moreover, over two and a half millions of persons were engaged in manufacturing; while about seven and a half millions were employed in agriculture, and nearly two millions in trade and transportation. Only a hint can thus be attempted of our progress in manufactures.
It need scarcely be said that commerce, as the great medium of barter and exchange between States and with foreign nations, has necessarily kept pace with the development of the industries which we have briefly glanced at. The increase of our mercantile marine, up to the unhappy period of the war, when it was almost swept from the ocean, kept pace with the ever-increasing needs of the business of the country. Now it is again slowly reviving from the disasters of the civil conflict. During the past century, our commercial relations have extended to the remotest corners of the earth, whither we send the commodities we have to spare, and whence we derive those which we need for comfort, convenience, luxury, and wealth. The extent to which steam applied to water navigation, and telegraphy laid not only over the continents but under the oceans, have stimulated our commerce in common with that of the world, is more easy to be observed in general than calculated in detail. With many nations we have treaties of commerce, and the time may not be long in coming when such pacts will be reciprocated between all the trading nations of the world.