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They were opposed by financiers of the British and European oligarchy, who engineered financial collapse and scandals to crush America's state-assisted development. In the 1870's the weakened nationalists launched new technological projects -- the American steel and electrical industries -- and attempted simultaneously to spread American development throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Their opponents eventually seized control of the nationalists' new industries, stopped their further advancement, and broke off the republican, technology-spreading relationship of the United States to the less-developed nations. In recent years the U.S.A. has slid backwards from industrialism towards a New Age utopia of nature-worship. Meanwhile the same international financial faction which aborted U.S. development has imposed misery on the Third World countries, with usurious debts ruling out science and factories.
Knowing precisely how America pulled itself up into great national power in the first place, should assist other nations who wish to do the same or better for themselves today. It will be instructive as well for Americans who are determined to reverse decades of physical and moral decline.
Before proceeding with the story of this industrial explosion of the 1860's to the 1880's, we must "peel the onion" -- go still another step beyond what the anti-republican academics have retailed as American history. We have already described a nationalist commercial faction, operating with the sponsorship of a nationalist government, which deliberately created U.S. industry; no Free Market per se ever built anything. But looking behind our industrialists, the Philadelphia Interests so-called, we find a single organization, at once political, military, commercial-industrial and scientific, waging war for national survival. The pattern we discern here may perhaps be looked for in the history of any nation's development.
Benjamin Franklin had visited the University of the Royal Society of Science at Göttingen in 1766, three years before Humboldt's birth. Franklin, already celebrated globally for his scientific leadership in the rude American colonies, had just bested the British crown in a Parliamentary hearing on the Stamp Tax (both a license and a tax on all American transactions). Under interrogation, the American representative denounced British looting policies and made it clear his country would develop with or without the British:
Q: "What used to be the pride of the Americans?"Threatened with violent colonial protests, the British government repealed the Stamp Act in February-March of 1766. That summer Franklin was telling the Germans all about it, and discussing with his fellow republican scientists the future destiny of America. From Göttingen and Hanover the story of the colonies' fight for liberty spread immediately through German books and newspapers.
A: "To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain."
Q: "What is now their pride?"
A: "To wear their old clothes over again, till they can make new ones. [fn1]"
The American Revolution which began a decade later was championed by republican artists such as Mozart and Beethoven. In his play Cabal und Liebe, Friedrich Schiller showed resentment for the princes' sale of Germans as mercenaries to the British against Washington. Schiller's Weimar circle, including his close friends, the brothers Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, echoed Franklin's nationalist example. They would nurture science to new heights in the first half of the 19th century, while they fought against the oligarchs for an elusive German republic.
In Mexico the previous year Humboldt had reviewed and applauded the work of geologist Andrés Manuel Del Rio (1764-1849), a Spaniard who had become his friend in Germany. Sponsored by the humanist court of Spain's Carlos III, Del Rio had studied in the Freiburg Mining Academy, Humboldt's school, and with chemist Antoine Lavoisier in Paris; he fled the French Terror in disguise after Lavoisier's arrest and murder by Marat and the mob. Del Rio had gone to colonial Mexico in 1794 and organized the teaching of science and engineering in the new School of Mining, creating the basis for a modern mining industry in Mexico. After Mexican independence, Del Rio was to follow Humboldt's path to the American Philosophical Society. He would remain in Philadelphia five years (1829-1834), serving as president of the new Geological Society of Pennsylvania, then return to Mexico to fight for scientific development.
In 1804, Philosophical Society member Charles W. Peale accompanied Humboldt from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., for his visit with Society member, President Thomas Jefferson. Humboldt soon afterward returned to Germany. That same year, 18-year-old Nicholas Biddle, son of a Philadelphia banker, went to Paris as an unpaid secretary to the American legation.
Though his father was a Federalist, and a friend of Aaron Burr, Biddle was becoming an ardent republican, a nationalist. The warring British and French were seizing defenseless American ships at sea; the British kidnapped and impressed into their navy thousands of American merchant seamen. Nicholas Biddle's brother James had been imprisoned by Libyan terrorists (the "Barbary pirates") when his ship the U.S.S. Philadelphia had gone aground off Tripoli.
On a wartime intelligence collecting tour through northern France and Switzerland during the summer of 1805, Biddle was accompanied by George Gibbs (1776-1833) of Newport, Rhode Island. Gibbs also collected rocks; he later sold his a collection of 12,000 specimens to Yale, and Gibbs and his family were to be important intelligence contacts in Connecticut for the Philadelphians.
The young American agents went on through Italy separately, and Biddle then made an extraordinarily bold trip alone to Greece. En route on a Greek ship, Biddle encountered a strange Greek priest who had been smuggled aboard in Naples. He told Biddle that he had lighted a set of lamps in Constantinople by shooting fire from out of his beard. He also possessed a piece of Christ's original cross, and the relic was, fortunately, completely fireproof. When Biddle doubted his story, Biddle and his baggage were thrown off the boat in Sicily. [fn3]
Finally arriving in Greece, with no modern maps or guides, he relied on his previous rich studies in ancient Greek history and literature to find his way among the islands and the towns which had survived the ages. He reported home his fears of Russian penetration into Europe, his disgust with the British for stealing Greek national art, and his lament for the fall of Greek civilization into barbarity.
Nicholas Biddle met with the Marquis de Lafayette in the summer of 1806, and finished his assignment at America's Paris legation in January, 1807. He was asked by James Monroe, then U.S. minister to Great Britain, to serve as his temporary secretary. During the ambassador's tense negotiations for an end to Britain's war on American shipping, young Biddle was virtually adopted into Monroe's family in London. A famous episode, treasured by Monroe, occurred when the 20-year-old Biddle attended a party with some Oxford dons; the "colonial" explained to the outclassed, speechless academics the essential differences between ancient and modern Greek language. On his homeward trip Biddle carried letters from Monroe to President Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison. Biddle thereafter retained the closest ties, as of family, with Monroe.
The U.S. finally declared war against Great Britain in 1812. But the American war effort was hampered by a British fifth column among New England merchants, draining the country of gold, stopping credit, selling British war bonds and preaching Northern secession. Meanwhile the charter of Alexander Hamilton's Bank of the United States had expired in 1811, leaving the economy at the mercy of anti-American financial interests.
Biddle's call for national banking had been sharply republican, and prophetic:
"Without credit or money, while your commerce is stopped and your manufactures languish....[in] the total want of money, the demand for specie will place the poorer classes at the mercy of the rich, and the great money lenders will issue abroad to prey upon their fellow citizens. In the general submersion of small traders, the only beings who will be seen floating on the wreck are those very 'monied aristocrats' whom the [anti-Bank] resolutions denounce with such indignation." [fn2]Britain's 1814 invasion and burning of Washington led to a political uprising by the partisans of all-out war. James Monroe became Secretary of War and virtual commander in chief in September, 1814. A firm advocate of a new Bank, Philadelphian Alexander J. Dallas, was installed as Secretary of the Treasury the following month. Encouraged by Mathew Carey's 1814 Olive Branch, honest Federalists deserted their corrupt party and came out openly for the war effort.
The Gibbs-Wolcott household was one of the centers for the resistance by American patriots to New England treason during the War of 1812. Oliver Wolcott formed a personal alliance with Mathew Carey to break what Wolcott called the "perverted" Federalist Party in New England, and distributed Carey's book, the Olive Branch.
Wolcott prepared the Connecticut militia to deal with the anti-war Hartford Convention, opening Dec. 15, 1814, in case it should attempt an insurrection.
The Hartford Convention was undercut midway through by the ending of the war. The treasonable but harmless anti-Union resolutions which they issued were answered by a Pennsylvania state legislature declaration composed by Nicholas Biddle.
In 1817 Oliver Wolcott was elected governor of Connecticut. He instituted a thorough reform of the state, sweeping out the pro-British aristocrats and presiding over a convention which wrote a new state constitution. Wolcott was elected ten times to one-year terms as governor.
At the commencement of the Wolcott regime, in 1817, his son-in-law Col. George Gibbs proposed to Yale University Professor Benjamin Silliman the establishment of an American nationalist-oriented scientific publication. Gibbs had previously provided the massive mineral collection which formed the material basis for Silliman's successful Yale lectures. Silliman, the son of a Revolutionary War general, had been sent in 1802 to the University of Pennsylvania to pre-train, in chemistry, physics and medical fields, for his Yale teaching duties. He was made a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1805. Like Biddle, Silliman made a European tour in 1805-06, visiting Great Britain and Holland, but was deterred by the war from entering Germany. He first met Gibbs in Newport in 1807. At Gibbs' urging, Silliman founded The American Journal of Science and Arts in 1818.
A Second Bank of the United States was established in 1816, during the Treasury administration of Alexander Dallas. Nicholas Biddle was appointed president of the Bank in 1823 by James Monroe, who was then finishing his second term as U.S. President.
The Presidency of John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and Biddle's Bank, as it then came to be known, combined to give the country a period of free flowing credit and great prosperity. Aside from New York State's Erie Canal, completed in 1825, the greatest energy for national development was in Philadelphia itself.
Nicholas Biddle and Mathew Carey formed the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Internal Improvements in 1824. They immediately sent the gifted architect of the Bank, William Strickland, to England to investigate public works there. Strickland reported that railroads must soon replace canals as the predominant form of transportation. Biddle's Bank then financed the beginning of rail construction in America. Mathew Carey's Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of National Industry meanwhile inundated the entire country with Carey's own pamphlets calling for high tariffs. A national protectionist congress met in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1827, and in 1828 the Congress passed just what Carey had been demanding. The new law was called the Tariff of Abominations by its enemies -- it caused a surge of American factory construction, turning even New England toward manufacturing.
Chaos reigned in 1837, economic and political demoralization. The tariff system was gone with the Bank, and the British merrily dumped goods into the still predominantly agrarian U.S.A.
William J. Duane, lawyer for the immensely wealthy Stephen Girard, won a court battle, after Girard's death in 1831, to control his estate for the benefit of the public. A trust fund for a Girard College was established, with Nicholas Biddle as Chairman of the Board. In 1837, Biddle, using this fund, sent Alexander Dallas Bache to Europe for two years, to study European education, and to orient himself for leadership of the coming generation, for what was to be a long fight.
Alexander Dallas Bache, age 25, and his cousin Franklin Bache were the leading descendants of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, with enormous attendant prestige (see Franklin-Bache Family Tree). Alexander had graduated with highest honors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at the age of 19.
He had served in the Army Corps of Engineers for three years, teaching at West Point and helping construct Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island; he married Nancy Fowler of Newport. From 1828, Bache was professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, until in 1836 Nicholas Biddle made him President of the projected Girard College and sent him to Europe.
While teaching in 1830, Bache had made experiments in the observation of the earth's magnetism, based in a small building attached to his home. This work was carried out as faithfully as possible on the model of two German scientists then working at Göttingen University, mathematician-astronomer Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) and physicist Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804-1891).
On his European trip (1837-38) Bache worked with Gauss, recognized as the founder of modern mathematics, to prepare instruments which Bache would use for further experiments in the United States. Bache also met and lived for some little time with Alexander von Humboldt. In this household he became an expert in the consumption of German wine, from then on exporting it. And he gained from Humboldt, Gauss and Weber a programmatic outlook for scientific work which would have profound consequences for America and the world.
Upon his return Alexander Bache wrote a 666 page report on Education in Europe, published in 1839 and widely celeberated, describing the German, French and British schools of the day. The opening of Girard College being delayed, Bache was hired as Philadelphia's superintendant of public schools. He organized the city system along Prussian lines, and himself became the first principal of the new Central High School, whose format was quickly copied in other American cities. Under Bache's leadership Central High developed a unique national reputation for excellence and involvement in science which carried into the 20th century.
In 1840 Bache established a magnetic observatory station at the new Girard College, which functioned for the next five years, one of about thirty similar institutions throughout the world. From 1840 to 1843, in the summers, Bache did a magnetic survey in the Pennsylvania region. His program was designed by Gauss and Weber through their Magnetischeverein (Magnetic Union), established in 1836.
Under the Germans' guidance, Bache was meanwhile assembling a tiny leadership body of American scientists, jovially called the Lazzaroni -- Italian for beggars. Bache was the "chief" of this science and intelligence grouping, which functioned together, for the single purpose of national development, with the rest of the Philadelphia top command: political economist Henry Carey, and the industrial leaders grouped around the Pennsylvania Railroad.
In 1843, Bache was appointed Superintendant of the United States Coast Survey. Over the next quarter century, with increasing appropriations and political backing, he used the Survey as a cadre training unit and Washington power base. By the time of the Civil War, the Lazzaroni group dominated Harvard and Yale Universities, the U.S. Navy, and all American science. With the fall of the Philadelphians in the 1870's, the universities, the Navy, and American science were to fall with them.
The central figures in Bache's organization were  :
The other Lazzaroni members were:
Benjamin Peirce was the son of Harvard University's librarian and historian. At the time of Peirce's birth, John Quincy Adams was Harvard's most distinguished teacher. Adams was U.S. minister to Prussia from 1797 to 1800; he negotiated a treaty of friendship and commerce with Prussia in 1799. While there Adams avidly studied German culture and mingled with its leaders in the Weimar circle, including the Humboldt brothers.
Back home, John Quincy Adams advised President Thomas Jefferson about the anti-U.S. intrigues of members of Adams' own Federalist Party in New England, the Boston merchants self-proclaimed "Brahmins." This clash with the British agent grouping occured while Adams was United State Senator from Massachusetts (1802-1808), and Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard (1806-1809). As a means of countering the dominant British cultural outlook -- atheism, utilitarianism -- Adams taught his students the sharp contrast between Socratic reason and sophistry, and introduced at Harvard the classical German culture for which he was America's foremost spokesman.
Benjamin Peirce graduated from Harvard in 1829, one year after a republican revolt in Boston forced the resignation of Harvard's cynical Brahmin-backed president, John T. Kirkland. Peirce tutored mathematics from in 1831-32, then was Harvard's professor of astronomy and mathematics from 1833 to 1880, universally recognized as America's best mathematician. From 1829 to 1839 Peirce revised the translation and commentaries on the Celestial Mechanics of P.S. Laplace. In 1842 he was made a member of the Franklin-Bache family's American Philosophical Society. Peirce was in touch with the Germans at Göttingen, whom he, like Dallas Bache, clearly understood to be his scientific mentors.
Peirce's thinking was diametrically opposite to the trancendentalist romantics who dominated Harvard in the 1830's and 1840's. He spoke to a national science meeting [fn5] about the Fibonacci series (the golden section) one could see in the placement of successive leaves on a stem, their angles being in the ratios 1/3, 1/4, 2/7, 3/11, 5/18, 8/29, etc.; and in the ratios of the orbital periods of the planets. Peirce explained that the closely similar, purposive arrangement in botany and astronomy demonstrated that one Mind created the universe, and that our minds should strive to see that purpose.
Charles Henry Davis, had left Harvard in 1823 to join the navy. Returning to Harvard between cruises, he married Benjamin Peirce's sister-in-law in 1841, and was appointed to the Coast Survey in 1842. The following year Dallas Bache became his boss at the Survey, while Benjamin Peirce and his associates founded the Harvard Observatory.
In 1844 Peirce's star pupil, Benjamin Apthorp Gould, graduated from Harvard. His grandfather had fought in the Revolution, at Lexington and Bunker Hill, had seen the British surrender at Saratoga, and was captain of the guard at West Point when British spymaster Major André was captured. His father was a classical scholar and principal of the Boston Public Latin School. Following Gould's graduation from Harvard, he studied for one year in Berlin, and for a year in Göttingen with Gauss and others. Upon his return to America with his doctorate he was, by all accounts, "fired up" with determination to emulate the German scientists.
In 1846 Professor Peirce drew up a faculty reolution calling upon Harvard's new President, Edward Everett, to open a separate school of science. Later that year, Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz arrived in Boston. Agassiz had been a renowned researcher on geology and glaciers and publisher on embryology, paleontology and anatomy, who had been patronized by Alexander von Humboldt since they had met in Paris in the 1820's. His prestige would count heavily at Harvard.
Also in 1846, on the recommendation of Alexander Dallas Bache, Princeton geophysics teacher Joseph Henry was installed as the first director of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The Lazzaroni had to compromise with Smithsonian founder Robert Dale Owen, the cultish British socialist. Owen was allowed to spend potential research money on a garish building of Owen's design, but Bache's man was allowed to run the Institution.
In 1847, during a period of enormously popular public lectures by Agassiz, Alexander Dallas Bache ordered Lieutenant Charles Davis to take Agassiz out on the U.S.S. Bibb to cruise off Cape Cod for research purposes. In 1848, with pressure from Peirce and Bache, Harvard hired Agassiz as professor of zoology. Lt. Davis moved in down the street from Agassiz, and became so much his protector and practical manager, that Mrs. Agassiz called Davis the professor's "prime minister" [fn6].
Peirce, Bache and Agassiz were now pulling together important talent at Harvard. The Lawrence Scientific School, begun in 1847 on the urging of Peirce and Agassiz, hired Eban Horsford, a former student in Germany of Justus Liebig, as the first head of its analytical chemical laboratory. In 1849, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to establish the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac at Harvard. This important naval publication was directed by Charles Henry Davis, with Benjamin Peirce as its mathematical consultant, and Benjamin Apthorp Gould, back from Germany, as its consulting astronomer. Both Peirce and Gould worked on longitudinal determinations in the Coast Survey at Harvard from 1852 onward.
The combination of the Harvard Observatory, the Almanac and the Survey work made Harvard a base for growing scientific influence in the navy, in direct competition with the recently established Naval Observatory and its unwholesome director Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873). Maury was a main enemy to the Lazzaroni, a leader of the oligarchical faction corrupting the antebellum U.S. armed forces. Throughout the 1850's Maury sponsored filibusters -- mercenary attacks on Mexico and other Ibero American republics. In 1861, Maury was to join the Southern rebellion as its top naval "scientist" and a weapons negotiator with Great Britain. After the Civil War, Maury would join the hated Emperor Maximilian in Mexico as commissioner of immigration!
It is noteworthy that while Bache and his circle despised Maury, the Bache family were personally close friends with Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Davis, in the prewar years when Davis was a leading Southerner but not a Rebel.
Led by Albany and New York City banker Thomas Olcott, the trustees denounced Gould's direction of the observatory as undemocratic: its telescope was not to be used for public entertainment, and its results could not be understood by the average man. As Olcott complained to Bache, "we cannot here erect a throne above the majesty of the people." [fn8] Curiously, this same Olcott two decades before had been the main organizer of a national propaganda attack on the Bank of the United States. The cry in 1831 had been that Biddle's Bank was "undemocratic," that it did not allow "private enterprise" and "the little man" room to participate in finance. Olcott was backed by the Brown Brothers and Prime, Ward and King (agents for Britain's Barings). They would force the U.S. Bank to close -- or to be moved to New York to be under their factional control (the latter alternative was accomplished in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve). In 1835 Olcott reportedly lost thousands of dollars selling short on U.S. Bank stock, when Biddle's side outmaneuvered him. [fn9]
The Lazzaroni fought for their project, and in 1859 were reduced to barricading themselves in the observatory building. But the trustees got a court order, battered down the door, and threw Dr. Gould out in the snow. Under new management, the observatory fell to mediocrity and obscurity.
But Benjamin Apthorp Gould's great life work was still far in the future. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (1811-1888) known as the Schoolteacher President of Argentina, was a friend of the United States and preferred to think of himself as an Abraham Lincoln. President Sarmiento invited Gould to Argentina in 1870, along with other foreign science personnel. Beginning immediately, Gould built the national observatory at Cordoba, a great interior city to which Sarmiento had completed a railroad only in 1869. Gould, and the staff he trained, mapped, for the first time ever, the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, charting over 70,000 stars during fifteen years of labor.
As the Civil War approached in 1860, the Lazzaroni were able to place one of their own members, Cornelius C. Felton, as President of Harvard itself. Felton, a translator of Grotius, Homer and Aeschylus, and a popularizer of Greek history, backed Peirce and Agassiz to the hilt and opened the way for real scientific achievement by Harvard teachers. The Boston Anglophile faction was, for the moment, completely displaced at the school. Unfortunately, Felton suffered a presumed heart attack on the way to Washington in February, 1862. He died in the Philadelphia home of his brother, whose central role with the Philadelphia industrialists will be discussed below.
Beyond advising the president and his administration, the Lazzaroni contributed significantly to victory through the use of their research, and the deeds of their students.
Charles Henry Davis's place as commander of the Mississippi Squadron was taken by David Dixon Porter. The new commander and his step-brother David Farragut were to be the leading architects of naval success for the Union.
The father of David Dixon Porter (and stepfather of Farragut), Boston-born David Porter, had been captured and imprisoned in Libya along with Nicholas Biddle's brother in the grounding of the Philadelphia. He was released with Biddle, and settled and married in Philadelphia. He became a prime mover there in the inter-American republican group including Manuel Torres and William Duane. He smashed up Britain's Pacific whaling fleet during the War of 1812, and was captured in desperate battle with the British navy off the coast of Chile. In 1826 he moved to Mexico and became Commander in Chief of the Mexican Navy. He developed and disciplined the Mexican forces for battle with Spain, and escaped several assassination attempts. David Porter was later U.S. minister to Turkey for many years, fighting the British head-to-head for the predominance of republican institutions in the Middle East.
The son David Dixon Porter was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1813. He passed three years with his father in Mexico, then as a Mexican naval officer (age 15) he fought gallantly and was captured by the Spanish in a battle off Cuba, finally returning home in 1829. Over the next three decades Porter worked alternatively with the Coast Survey, both with Bache and his predecessor, and on other naval duties. With the work of Peirce, Gould and others in the 1850's, the hydrography of the Survey became a potent weapon. This was, after all, the heart of Bache's tradition. The Pacific current which flows off the west coast of South America bears the name of Alexander von Humboldt, who first measured its temperature. But Bache's great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin, had years before then precisely mapped the Atlantic's Gulf Stream. The American Revolutionaries, sailing across the ocean with knowledge of this strong current, were thus enabled to outrun the uninformed British by a matter of weeks.
Bache's Coast Survey, by mapping the entire national shoreline, and by teaching higher mathematics to naval personnel, gave the Navy the ability to amaze, surprise and depress the enemy. David Dixon Porter, for example, learned to do calculus in his head. He could thus know where a sand bar ought to have been deposited by river and ocean currents, by looking at even an outdated Coast Survey chart. (One of his more famous, outrageous stunts, was the sailing of an entire fleet of river warboats many dozens of miles through a forest -- which had been flooded with rain.)
The confident scientific outlook of Admirals David Dixon Porter and Charles Henry Davis led them to give crucial backing to inventor John Ericsson's armored turret ship, the Monitor. Porter and his friends noted with particular emphasis that with the deployment of this new ship in 1862, the wooden British navy, in particular, had become obsolete.
Benjamin Peirce wondered whether Gibbs's appointment was "worthwhile...when we see that the whole thing must [eventually] fall into the hands of imbeciles" -- as Harvard did, in the end. But during his tenure, Oliver Wolcott Gibbs was perhaps the most effective and beloved science teacher in American history. His portrait in bas-relief is wrought upon the doors of the west entrance to the Capitol in Washington.
After graduating from Columbia College in New York, Gibbs had worked briefly at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1841 or 1842, and returned to New York for a medical degree. From 1845 to 1848 he studied chemistry in Berlin, Giessen and Paris. He became an exponent of the research and instructional methods of his teacher at Giessen, Justus Liebig, who had also taught Gibbs's predecessor boss at the Lawrence School, Eban Horsford. Liebig himself had been sponsored and placed at Giessen by Alexander von Humboldt, who shifted the young chemist out of Paris in the 1820's when the École Polytechnique was no longer viable as the center of republican science. At Giessen, Liebig founded agricultural chemistry and the science of artificial fertilizers. What Gibbs brought to Harvard was the Liebig system of hands-on research for students, in resposible, sophisticated original research by the side of master chemists.
From 1849 to 1863, Wolcott Gibbs taught at the new City College of New York. Throughout the 1850's, Gibbs was associate editor and foreign correspondent for the American Journal of Science and Arts, founded in 1818 at the suggestion of Gibbs's father. Through this medium communication was maintained with European science. Gibbs and his fellow editor Benjamin Silliman, Jr., helped bring German-trained teachers into Yale in the heyday of the Lazzaroni, the 1850's and 1860's. When Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School opened in 1847, Lazzaroni pressure began operating for a similar school at Yale. What became the Sheffield Scientific school was thus born in the 1850's.
The first dean of the Sheffield School was Justus Liebig's student John A. Porter, who developed the courses in agriculture and nutrition. During the Civil War, under Lincoln's Land Grant College Act, both the Harvard and Yale institutions got federal government funding as state colleges. Another pupil of Liebig's, William H. Brewer, was the professor of agriculture at Sheffield from 1864 to 1903. His colleague S.W. Johnson returned in 1856 from his studies with Liebig, began teaching at Sheffield and translating the latest European works on chemical analysis for American scientists. Johnson later led in the development of the U.S. government's experimental research stations.
Coal had preceded oil as the fuel for Pennsylvania's growth. During the last year of the Civil War, 1865, total U.S. coal production was 23.8 million tons. By 1880, this figure had tripled to 71.5 million. Pennsylvania produced 47.1 million tons, or about two thirds of the national total in 1880.
That America's coal industry, and its iron and steel industry, were born and grew up in Pennsylvania, was no accident of geography or "free enterprise." It was rather a result of precise, scientific calculation and government policy.
The Philadelphia-based scientists, in Ben Franklin's tradition, had not neglected to develop highly skilled technical manpower for the use of their home region. The University of Pennsylvania (founded by Franklin), the Franklin Institute, the American Philosophical Society (primarily as an intelligence gathering agency, since its membership per se had become largely honorary by the mid 19th century), and the Bache-organized Philadelphia school system were all put to the task of industrial mobilization. Pro-growth lobbying organizations, particularly the Iron and Steel Association under the control of Henry Carey, completely overlapped and interlocked with the educational process. The industrial owners, in turn, paid for and were themselves a product of the educational system.
The scientists, the industrialists and the literati of the city, taken together as an informal command group, most often met in the dinners of the "Wistar Party." The head of this group, during the entire period of our concern, was Isaac Lea (1792-1886!). He had become the publishing partner of his father-in-law, Mathew Carey, back in 1821. He had two sons named Mathew Carey Lea and Henry Carey Lea. Isaac Lea, whose interests ranged from conchology, to the defeat of British free trade subversion, went to Europe in 1851 and held a several day strategy discussion with the scientific elite of Germany.
The Lazzaroni themselves met mostly in the home of John Fries Frazer, the practical manager of the group. His grandfather, ironmaster Persifor Frazer, served on Philadelphia's Committee of Safety at the outbreak of the Revolution. As a Lieutenant Colonel of Pennsylvania's troops, grandfather Frazer was on Long Island in 1776 arresting New York Tories and suppressing their activities -- something his descendants may have often wished they could do. He fought the British in Canada, he was captured in the Battle of Brandywine, but he escaped to fight at the battle of Monmouth.
Grandson John Fries Frazer graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1830. He was Prof. Alexander Dallas Bache's lab assistant in 1833, assistant to the state geological survey in 1836, and taught in the Philadelphia school system from 1837 until 1844. When Bache went to Washington, Frazer succeeded him as Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania; he held this position until 1872. He edited the Journal of the Franklin Insitute from 1850 to 1866.
Frazer's son Persifor (1844-1909) was in Bache's Coast Survey during the Civil War, 1862-1863. He came home to join the Philadelphia city cavalry for the Gettysburg campaign in 1863, and then finished the war as an ensign in the Mississippi Squadron of David Dixon Porter. After the War young Frazer studied for three years at the mining school in Freiburg, Germany.
With this training Frazer returned in 1869, to serve as mineralogist and metallurgist in the United States Geological Survey under Ferdinand V. Hayden. Frazer wrote "Mines and Minerals of Colorado," published in the 1869 Annual Report of the Survey. This was the scientific encouragement needed by the Philadelphia Interests to back William J. Palmer, several years later, when Palmer began settling Colorado and developing its mining industry. Hayden, a University of Pennsylvania professor of geology from 1865 to 1872, won worldwide acclaim for his exploration and mapping of the mountain west. But his work was opposed by the British faction in Washington, led by Henry Adams. The West was said to be one vast uninhabitable desert, and they sponsored their own surveys under John Wesley Powell to prove it.
At his father's death in 1872, the younger Frazer replaced him for one year as chemistry professor in the University of Pennsylvania. He then spent the rest of the 1870's as assistant to J. Peter Lesley, director of the Pennsylvania's Second Geological Survey. Persifor Frazer was replaced at the University of Pennsylvania by Professor George F. Barker, whose very important career, closely associated with that of Thomas Edison, will be considered below.
Frederick Augustus Genth was another chemistry teacher on the University staff beginning in 1872. Born near Hanau in Hesse-Cassel, Germany, he studied under Justus Liebig and others, and emigrated to Philadelphia in 1848. He operated an analytical chemistry laboratory for nearly half a century. Genth was the official chemist for the Pennsylvania Board of Agriculture, specializing in fertilizer analysis and development, and he wrote more than 70 papers on mineral researches, in American and German journals, from 1842 to 1893. The work recognized as Genth's greatest contribution to science was done jointly with Oliver Wolcott Gibbs in the 1850's, a study of ammonia-cobalt bases.
Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1838, Lesley worked for three years in the state government's geological survey. In 1845-46 he studied theology in Halle, Germany, and travelled. After other jobs in geological surveying for public and private interests, Lesley served from 1856 to 1864 as the secretary of the Henry Carey/Joseph Wharton organization, the American Iron and Steel Association. He was also professor of mining at the University of Pennsylvania from 1859 to 1883, and dean of the science department after 1872. At the same time, from 1859 to 1885, J. Peter Lesley was both Librarian and Secretary of the American Philosophical Society.
Benjamin Smith Lyman became Leslie's assistant in the geological survey of Pensyvlania in 1856, a year after his graduation from Harvard. In 1857 Lyman did research throughout the country for the Iron and Steel Association. J. Peter Lesley sent him to Europe in 1859. Lyman studied two years at the École des Mines in Paris, and one year at the Freiburg school of mining. After his return he worked in Pennsylvania, in many other states, in Canada, and in India. Lyman was hired in 1872 by the Meiji government of Japan. He worked for eight years in geological and topological surveys of the Japanese islands, mapping deposits of iron, coal, silver, copper, gold and oil, and the projected routes of railways.
We may now once again take up the Philadelphia industrialists, being better situated to understand the context of their achievements.
In 1852 the management of the Pennsylvania Railroad, with a charter from the legislature to serve the state, was not moving its construction forward sufficiently rapidly to suit the Whig members of its trustees. The management was replaced by the team of J. Edgar Thomson, formerly chief engineer, and Herman Haupt, formerly general superintendant, who now became respectively president and chief engineer.
Thomson's national leadership, as president of the Pennsylvania Railroad until his death in 1874, was presented in Part I of this series. His early factional supporter and co-executive, Herman Haupt, completed the construction of the railroad through the mountains west to Pittsburgh. Haupt's "General Theory of Bridge Construction" (1852) was widely adopted in American engineering and technical schools.
In 1862 and 1863 Herman Haupt was chief of construction and operation of the military railroads. President Lincoln described a bridge that Haupt built with unskilled soldiers in 1862:
"I have witnessed the most remarkable structure that human eyes ever rested upon. That man, Haupt, has built a bridge across Potomac creek in nine days with common soldiers, and, upon my soul, gentlemen, there is nothing in it but bean poles and corn stalks." [fn10]
The engineering corps organized by Haupt marched through Georgia with General Sherman, allowing the supply of Sherman's forces despite his destruction of every bridge and rail line he came to. They built a celebrated bridge across the Chattahoochee River, 750 feet long and 90 feet high, in four and a half days, using forest timber.
Herman Haupt was hired in 1881 by the new owners of the Northern Pacific Railroad franchise. As general manager, Haupt completed to the Pacific coast the line that had been stopped since Drexel and Morgan bankrupted Jay Cooke in 1873.
Centered around the Pennsylvania Railroad, the "Philadelphia Interests" were, chiefly, corporate owners J. Edgar Thomson, Thomas A. Scott, Andréw Carnegie, William J. Palmer, all of whom were encountered in Part I, and Matthew Baird, William Sellers and Samuel M. Felton. Aside from the PRR, the enterprises they controlled jointly included coal mines, iron foundries and land companies. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (managed by Palmer), the National Land Company, the Pennsylvania Steel Company, the Kansas Pacific Railway, the Mexican National Railways (in the years of construction), the Automatic Telegraph Company (later sold off to Jay Gould), and the Westmoreland and the Alleghany Coal companies, can all be fairly considered as simply a single enterprise, with different names for different divisions, or "entitities."
Matthew Baird, a large investor and director in this industrial combination, was a partner, and from 1866 the sole owner, of the Baldwin locomotive works. His firm got the contract for the locomotives for Palmer's lines in Colorado and Mexico, after furiously building engines for the Union forces in the Civil War.
William Sellers, born in 1824, was owner of Sellers and Co. Machine Tools. Since the founding of the American Philosophical Society by Franklin, there had always been a member of the Society in the Sellers family; his great-great-grandfather had observed the transit of Venus for the Society in 1769. In 1864 William Sellers became president of the Franklin Institute, and presented there, his formula for screw and nut threads which was adopted as the standard by the United States government. In 1868 Sellers set up the Edge Moor Iron Company, which made the iron structures for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, and for the Brooklyn Bridge. He was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. His relative and junior partner Colman Sellers, who was president of the Franklin Institute from 1870 to 1875, was chief engineer and dynamo designer in the construction of the Niagara Falls power station in the 1890's.
Samuel Felton, brother of Harvard president and Lazzaroni Cornelius C. Felton, had moved to Philadelphia in 1851 from Boston. He was president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. When PRR vice president Thomas A. Scott advised president-elect Lincoln not to go to Washington by the advertised route, to avoid assassination, Felton put Lincoln aboard his line and got him into the capital for his inauguration. A Baltimore mob sacked the train they had thought Lincoln was aboard. Felton devoted his lines during the war years entirely to troop and supply transport.
After the Civil War, Samuel Felton became president of the Pennsylvania Steel Company, an "entity" of the joint Philadelphia Interests. In 1868 he hired, as chief chemist and then manager, the extraordinary John B.S. Pearse. Born in 1842, Pearse headed the chemical division of the U.S. Army laboratory in Philadelphia the last two years of the war, producing medicines. He studied at the Freiburg school in Germany for a year, and in Styria in Austria, and observed European steelmaking.
The Pennsylvania Steel Company employed Alexander L. Holley in 1867 to construct the Harrisburg plant which was then operated by Pearse. Holley, who had designed naval ordinance during the war, had negotiated with Bessemer in England for his patent rights, and had combined them with the patents of American William Kelley -- whose steelmaking process actually predated Bessemer's. The Harrisburg plant began turning out the first steel rails made in America. Manager John Pearse translated from German the standard work by Peter Tunner, "A Treatise on Roll Turning for the Manufacture of Iron" (1869), and "A Conscise History of the Iron Manufacture of the American Colonies up to the Revolution and of Pennsylvania until the Present Time" (1876). Pearse also became an expert in the playing, construction, woods, varnishes and acoustics of the violin, translating hundreds of documents from French, German, Dutch, Danish, Latin, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
Alexander Holley was hired by Andréw Carnegie for the construction, in the midst of the Panic of 1873, of the world's greatest and most modern plant, the J. Edgar Thomson steel works. The brains, the capital and the experience of the Philadelphia Interests, and the protective tariff which Carey and associates had enacted during the Lincoln presidency, allowed Carnegie to overcome the bear raid on the nation's credit by the European financiers. This was the heart of the great American steel industry, built up by Carnegie over the next decade or so, to the point where the United States emerged as the undisputed leader of world industry.
Barker was hired as professor of chemistry and physics by the University of Pennsylvania in 1873. He was immediately made editor of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, and from 1877 until 1897, Secretary of the American Philosophical Society, mostly under J. Peter Lesley. He was a close companion and dear friend of Professor Frederick Genth until Genth's death in 1893. He was a dinner companion of Joseph Wharton and his "social science" friends (i.e. Henry Carey), according to Barker's correspondence in the University of Pennsylvania archives.
The following letter, copied from the archives, was addressed to Prof. Barker at the Hall of Exhibition, dated October 5, 1874:
"I am informed that you have invited Mr. Thomas A. Edison to appear before your convention with his electro motograph -- I am acting for Mr. Edison & on his behalf thank you cordially for the invitation & if I may have 2 minutes audience with you, will arrange to have Edison meet you at your option as to time & place.Edward H. Johnson was the assistant to General William J. Palmer who was sent, on behalf of the Philadelphia Interests, to manage the Automatic Telegraph Company. When Johnson hired Edison, the contracted employee quickly outshone the particular company. The Philadelphians then backed Edison's evolution into a fulltime inventor, established in his "invention factory" in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
"A reply left at the Telegraph Stand will quickly reach me.
With respect, I am yours,
E.H. Johnson Gen'l Manager Automatic Telegraph Co."
Professor Barker became Edison's overall science advisor and angel in academic circles. After Edison completed Bell's telephone by inventing the microphone, Barker encouraged Edison in the development of the phonograph. When that was completed early in 1878, Barker arranged for Edison to be invited to the April 18 meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, and Barker and his friends made sure the hall was packed by a warmed-up audience. The first words of the device to the public were, "The Speaking Phonograph has the honor of presenting itself to the Academy of Sciences."
That night a demonstration was held for the press in the Washington bureau of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The next day a demonstration was held for congressmen in the home of James Blaine's neice. The publicity generated within this 24 hour period, all of it organized and managed by the Philadelphians and their republican political allies, made Edison world-famous.
That July (1878), Prof. Barker invited Edison to relax with him on a trip to Wyoming to view a solar eclipse. Edison was to try out against the sun's corona a tasimeter he had invented, a device for measuring minute changes in temperature. During the two months train ride, relaxing and hunting, Barker described to Edison the progress to date on the production of artificial light from electricity. Barker had himself demonstrated for lecture audiences in Philadelphia, on and off campus, the latest lighting devices, batteries and crude dynamos. He was probably uniquely familiar with the problem as it had been dealt with so far by man's technology, and he proposed that Edison tackle and solve the problem.
Back east, Barker took Edison up to Ansonia, Connecticut to visit the factory of William Wallace on September 8. Wallace had invented a powerful dynamo, had coupled it to a water-powered turbine, and had led the generated electric current a quarter mile to the factory's arc lights. Edison inspected the setup and forsaw the great potential power in a proper organization of steam-generated electricity and a closed, incandescent light. When he left with Barker, Edison was determined to light up the world.
The announcements were soon made to the press, that Edison would produce light and power for the cities. To some, this was a very dangerous situation:
"[J.P.] Morgan himself was interested in acquiring British and continental European rights. Since Edison continued to claim to be too busy to go into the city, Morgan caught the train out from New York, and his partner, Anthony Drexel, came from Philadelphia. Early in December, in a clapboard building rising from a muddy field, the elegant, reserved Drexel and the balding, moustachioed, bulbous-nosed Morgan negotiated an agreement for the lighting of Europe.
"In the meantime, Baron S.M. Rothschild of Vienna wrote his New York representative, August Belmont, 'It would greatly interest me to learn whether really there is something serious and practical in the new idea of Mr. Edison, whose last inventions, the microphone, phonograph, etc., however interesting, have finally proven to be only trifles.' [Morgan lawyer Grosvenor] Lowry brought Belmont to Menlo Park the first Saturday in December -- a whistle-stop on the Pennsylvania Railroad had turned into a center of international finance." [fn11]
But the European feudalist financiers, whether Europeans of the New York or the Vienna address, did not actually wish to develop the Edison light and electric companies, of which they were board members. They bought into his enterprises for the power to close them down or contain them. Though Edison, over the next couple of years, invented the myriad of devices needed to generate and distribute electricity from central station to homes and businesses, and set up the first such station at Pearl Street in New York. But the financiers and the lawyers absolutely blocked Edison's power company from expanding across the country. Their money, though, was available by the limitless milllions, for the purchase and combination of existing property such as railroads.
In the autumn of 1884, Edison and his friends staged a "stockholders' revolt" against the Morgan forces. Ed Johnson was put in actual charge of the Edison Company as executive vice president. Production of dynamos and their installation grew rapidly. Large city central power stations rose to 12, in 1884, and to 58 in 1886. They were being installed in Europe, South America and Japan.
Ed Johnson had earlier promoted the light and power system in Europe. At the International Electrical Exhibition in Paris in 1881, Professor Barker, who had been widely demonstrating Edison's work in America, was on hand as a commissioner. A working model of the Pearl Street Station was shown. The budding German industrialist, Emil Rathenau, purchased the Edison patents and set up the Edison General Electric Company of Germany, by which the cities were lit and powered.
In later years, Morgan and his allies came to own the entire electrical industry, and bought up all the new steel industry, preventing any further fundamental progress in those areas. But Edison encouraged an ambitious employee of Detroit Edison Company, Henry Ford, to complete the gasoline-powered automobile Ford was working on. With Edison as a kind of stepfather, Ford made great advances in the organization of labor through his factory innovations. A few years after the development of the American mass-produced automobile, gas engines allowed the Wright brothers to succeed in bringing about manned flight.
But most of the world never received the new technology developed in the United states and Europe. The faction and the philosophy which prevented further basic advances in most lines of work during this century, also stopped would-be prometheans at the borders of the Third World countries.
Membership roster taken from Miller, Lillian B., et al, The Lazzaroni: Science and Scientists in Mid-Nineteenth Century America, National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1972. I have dropped James Dwight Dana, who may have been a plant by their opponents -- he "encouraged" a revolt by Harvard students against Professor Agassiz.
Speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1849, described in Daniels, George H., American Science in the Age of Jackson, Columbia University Press, New York, 1968. From 1848 to 1855 each of the presidents of the AAAS were Lazzaroni.
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EIR issue January 3, 1992, 200 Years Since Hamilton's 'Report on Manufactures' -- 88 pp, $10.00