Home & Shop Companion #0092
The Age of Steam & Electricity
William Castle is taking a break this week. In the meantime I wanted to share a short article that appeared in The Farm Implement News in January of 1889. What grabbed my attention is the twenty-first century hubris in the phrase, “The clumsy and picturesque old mills have generally been superseded by modern appliances, as being too slow and uncertain for this age of steam and electricity.”
That could have been written today, about last week’s new smartphone, except instead of steam they might have cited “silicon.” How many times through history has this sentiment been paraphrased, substituting wood, coal, oil, or gas? The newest future is hydrogen combustion engines and solid state batteries. How long until we are again boasting about The Age of Steam & Electricity?
Just a reminder that The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same isn’t just a cliché, it is a fact of human history.
An Old Mill at Wainscotte, Long Island
Mr. Colman’s excellent plate pictures a relic of the early Dutch settlers in the vicinity of New York. The clumsy and picturesque old mills have generally been superseded by modern appliances, as being too slow and uncertain for this age of steam and electricity.
There are still to be found, however, many of these old mills, some of them in a good state of preservation and still used by the descendants of those who in the long, long ago came from the land of dykes and windmills to try their fortunes in the New World; but most of them have fallen into a mossy and picturesque condition of decay, and are objects of rare interest to the artist or tourist who is so fortunate as to discover them.
They may be seen in the retired Dutch valleys, found here and there in the vicinity of New York, “where population, manners, and customs remain unchanged while migration and improvement, which are making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweep by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still water which border a rapid stream, where we may see straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor undisturbed by the rush of the passing current.”
The mills built in this country were poor and small in comparison with the giants of the “polder land,” by the use of which large areas were made and kept inhabitable, some of which carry wheels one hundred feet in diameter, and the mighty force gathered from the unseen air by the frail-looking frames that carry the sails seems almost incredible.