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Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money - Marquis Of Worcester

1. Preface

2. David Maydole

3. Ichabod Washburn

4. Elihu Burritt

5. Michael Reynolds

6. Major Robert Pike

7. George Graham

8. John Harrison

9. Peter Faneuil

10. Chauncey Jerome

11. Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

12. Israel Putnam

13. George Flower

14. Edward Coles

15. Peter H. Burnett

16. Gerrit Smith

17. Peter Force

18. John Bromfield

19. Frederick Tudor

20. Myron Holley

21. The Founders Of Lowell

23. John Smedley

24. Richard Cobden

25. Henry Bessemer

26. John Bright

27. Thomas Edward

28. Robert Dick

29. John Duncan

30. James Lackington

31. Horace Greeley's Start

32. James Gordon Bennett

33. Three John Walters

34. George Hope

35. Sir Henry Cole

36. Charles Summers

37. William B. Astor

38. Peter Cooper

39. Paris Duverney

40. Sir Rowland Hill

41. Marie-Antoine Careme

42. Wonderful Walker

43. Sir Christopher Wren

44. Sir John Rennie

45. Sir Moses Montefiore

46. Marquis Of Worcester

47. An Old Dry-goods Merchant's Recollections



In the English county of Monmouthshire, near Wales, a region of coal
mines and iron works, there are the ruins of Raglan Castle, about a mile
from a village of the same name. To these ruins let pilgrims repair who
delight to visit places where great things began; for here once dwelt
the Marquis of Worcester, who first made steam work for men. The same
family still owns the site; as indeed it does the greater part of the
county; the head of the family being now styled the Duke of Beaufort.
The late Lord Raglan, commander of the English forces in the Crimea,
belonged to this house, and showed excellent taste in selecting for his
title a name so interesting. Perhaps, however, he never thought of the
old tower of Raglan Castle, which is still marked and indented where the
second Marquis of Worcester set up his steam-engine two hundred and
twenty years ago. Very likely he had in mind the time when the first
marquis held the castle for Charles I. against the Roundheads, and
baffled them for two months, though he was then eighty-five years of
age. It was the son of that valiant and tough old warrior who put steam
into harness, and defaced his ancestral tower with a ponderous and
imperfect engine.

For many centuries before his time something had been known of the power
of steam; and the Egyptians, a century or more before Christ, had even
made certain steam toys, which we find described in a manuscript written
about 120 B. C., at Alexandria, by a learned compiler and inventor named
Hero. One of these was in the form of a man pouring from a cup a
libation to the gods. The figure stood upon an altar, and it was
connected by a pipe with a kettle of water underneath. On lighting a
fire under the kettle, the water was forced up through the figure, and
flowed out of the cup upon the altar. Another toy was a revolving copper
globe, which was kept in motion by _the escape_ of steam from two little
pipes bent in the same direction. Of this contrivance the French
Professor Arago once wrote:--

"This was, beyond doubt, a machine in which steam engendered motion, and
could produce mechanical effects. It was _a veritable steam-engine_! Let
us hasten, however, to add that it bears no resemblance, either by its
form or in mode of action, to steam-engines now in use."

Other steam devices are described by Hero. By one a horn was blown, and
by another figures were made to dance upon an altar. But there is no
trace in the ancient world of the application of steam to an important
useful purpose. Professor Thurston of Hoboken, in his excellent work
upon the "History of the Steam-Engine," has gleaned from the literature
of the last seven hundred years several interesting allusions to the
nature and power of steam. In 1125 there was, it appears, at Rheims in
France, some sort of contrivance for blowing a church organ by the aid
of steam. There is an allusion, also, in a French sermon of 1571, to the
awful power in volcanic eruptions of a small quantity of confined steam.
There are traces of steam being made to turn a spit upon which meat was
roasted. An early French writer mentions the experiment of exploding a
bomb-shell nearly filled with water by putting it into a fire. In 1630
King Charles the First of England granted to David Ramseye a patent for
nine different contrivances, among which were the following:--

"To raise water from low pits by fire. To make any sort of mills to go
on standing waters by continual motion without help of wind, water, or
horse. To make boats, ships, and barges to go against strong wind and
tide. To raise water from mines and coal pits by a way never yet in

This was in 1630, which was about the date of the Marquis of Worcester's
engine. It is possible, however, that these devices existed only in the
imagination of the inventor. The marquis was then twenty-nine years of
age, and as he was curious in matters of science, it is highly probable
that he was acquainted with this patent, and may have conversed with the

It is strange how little we know of a man so important as the Marquis of
Worcester in our modern industrial development. I believe that not one
of the histories of England mentions him, and scarcely anything is known
of the circumstances that led to his experimenting with steam. Living in
a county of coal and iron mines, and his own property consisting very
much in coal lands, his attention must of necessity have been called to
the difficulties experienced by the miners in pumping the water from the
deep mines. There were mines which employed as many as five hundred
horses in pumping out the water, and it was a thing of frequent
occurrence for a productive mine to be abandoned because the whole
revenue was absorbed in clearing it of water. This inventor was perhaps
the man in England who had the greatest interest in the contrivance to
which in early life he turned his mind.

He was born in the year 1601, and sprung from a family whose title of
nobility dated back to the fourteenth century. He is described by his
English biographer as a learned, thoughtful, and studious Roman
Catholic; as public-spirited and humane; as a mechanic, patient,
skillful, full of resources, and quick to comprehend. He inherited a
great estate, not perhaps so very productive in money, but of enormous
intrinsic value. There is reason to believe that he began to experiment
with steam soon after he came of age. He describes one of his
experiments, probably of early date:--

"I have taken a piece of a whole cannon, whereof the end was burst, and
filled it with water three quarters full, stopping and screwing up the
broken end, as also the touch-hole, and making a constant fire under it.
Within twenty-four hours it burst, and made a great crack."

That the engine which he constructed was designed to pump water is shown
by the very name which he gave it,--"the water-commanding engine,"--and,
indeed, it was never used for any other purpose. The plan of it was very
simple, and, without improvements, it could have answered its purposes
but imperfectly. It consisted of two vessels from which the air was
driven alternately by the condensation of steam within them, and into
the vacuum thus created the water rushed from the bottom of the mine. He
probably had his first machine erected before 1630, when he was still a
young man, and he spent his life in endeavors to bring his invention
into use. In doing this he expended so large a portion of his fortune,
and excited so much ridicule, that he died comparatively poor and
friendless. I think it probable, however, that his poverty was due
rather to the civil wars, in which his heroic old father and himself
were so unfortunate as to be on the losing side. He attempted to form a
company for the introduction of his machine, and when he died without
having succeeded in this, his widow still persisted in the same object,
though without success. He did, however, make several steam-engines
besides the one at Raglan Castle; engines which did actually answer the
purpose of raising water from considerable depths in a continuous
stream. He also erected near London a steam fountain, which he

During the next century several important improvements were made in the
steam-engine, but without rendering it anything like the useful agent
which we now possess. When James Watt began to experiment, about the
year 1760, in his little shop near the Glasgow University, the
steam-engine was still used only for pumping water, and he soon
discovered that it wasted three fourths of the steam. He once related to
a friend how the idea of his great improvement, that of saving the waste
by a condenser, occurred to his mind. He was then a poor mechanic living
upon fourteen shillings a week.

"I had gone to take a walk," he said, "on a fine Sabbath afternoon. I
had entered the Green by the gate at the foot of Charlotte Street, and
had passed the old washing-house. I was thinking upon the engine at the
time, and had gone as far as the herd's house, when the idea came into
my mind that, as steam was an elastic body, it would rush into a vacuum,
and, if a communication were made between the cylinder and an exhausted
vessel, it would rush into it, and might be there condensed without
cooling the cylinder."

He had found it! Before he had crossed the Green, he added, "the whole
thing was arranged in my mind." Since that memorable day the invention
has been ever growing; for, as Professor Thurston well remarks: "Great
inventions are never the work of any one mind." From Hero to Corliss is
a stretch of nearly twenty centuries; during which, probably, a thousand
inventive minds have contributed to make the steam-engine the exquisite
thing it is to-day.

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