Every Day Book
Sorry for missing the last two days…Tuesday was crazy busy due to the combination of schools being closed and people still having no power. Wednesday was better as the schools were back in secession and power had been restored to all but a few thousand residents. Also, Wednesday I was at Haverhill Elementary talking to the entire second grade about the history of Portage. Boy do I love doing my school presentations! It is always amazing to me the questions that the children think of.
Anyways, I have spent some of my “down” time going through the two locked bookshelves in the Heritage Room reviewing the various books stored within (these cases hold the rarest and most fragile books within the collection). In doing this I stumbled across a fantastic volume titled “The Every Day Book” published in Boston in 1839. It contains a series of short stories, observations and misc. information. While looking through the book the following story caught my eye and I thought all of you might enjoy reading it…now remember, this book was published in 1839, over one-hundred and seventy years ago.
This text is copied verbatim…any misspellings or grammar errors are a result of the original author. It should also be noted that the term “cars” refers to railway cars not automobiles.
SCENE IN NEW ORLEANS, IN 1934
(The writer of the following article seems disposed to ridicule the fashionable rage for rapid travelling. We are quite willing he should be heard.)
Yankee – Good morning.
Louisianan – Good morning to you…how are you?
Y – Very well, I thank you, only a little inconvenienced by your New Orleans air.
L – Just now arrived, then?
Y – Just this minute-right from Bangor (Maine).
L – And what news?
Y – Nothing stirring, when we left.
L – Of course, there would be nobody stirring at this hour; but what said the evening papers?
Y – Not a word of any importance, nor the morning papers either.
L – You don’t say you got the morning papers before you started!
Y – Certainly; why not? What time do you think we set out?
L – Oh, a little after sunrise, I suppose.
Y – But the sun is rising here, and do you think we moved no faster than the sun?
L – To be sure I do; but we, in New Orleans, don’t get our morning papers till the sun is an hour or two high.
Y – Nor we. But the sun was almost an hour and a half, when we started. Have you never been in Bangor (Maine)?
L – Yes, often; but I forget, just now, the difference of time between the two places.
Y – Why it is almost an hour and a half. Or it is 21 degrees of longitude, and 22 1/2 would make an hour and a half of difference, you know. We started when the sun was an hour and twenty minutes high, and should have arrived before the sun rose here, had not the friction of the machinery delayed us a little in our progress over the mountains. We seemed to be several minutes on the road.
L – Several minutes! Horrible! What a slow passage!
Y – True; but our business was not very pressing. And even this is a very good rate of traveling, compared with 100 years ago.
L – I know it is. I was just now looking over Silliman’s History of the progress of the Arts and Sciences in the United States; and was not a little surprised to find that in 1834, they were just beginning to travel on railroads in this country, by steam.
Y – Yes, yes; ignorant fellows that we were. And what a nose the papers then made about travelling twenty or thirty miles and hour! Balloons, too, only went at about the same rate. Who would now have patience to drag along in that way? Nobody, surely, but a sick person, or an idiot.
L – It is certainly curious to look back and see how very ignorant our forefathers were. It is scarcely 100 years since electricity was first used in the arts. What an excitement it produced when it was first used to split rocks with!
Y – Is it possible that this was only 100 years ago? – Well, I believe you are right.
L – I certainly am. And I have no doubt that our grandfathers would have laughed outright at a person who should then have predicted that in 1934 cards would come from Bangor (Maine) to New Orleans, by means of electricity.
Y – It is very likely. Well, there seems to be no standing still in these matters. The progress of improvement is rapid. May there not be as great progress made 100 years to come, as 100 years past?
L – Oh, I doubt that.
Y – I cannot say that I do. Just think, for a moment, how much remains to be done. The best electrical cars are several seconds in going 2000 miles. Now when we can get rid of the zigzag motion which the electric fluid sometimes gives, and the friction, what an immense difference will be made! Above all, when we learn the art of propelling balloons by electricity – a thing not to be despaired of – then there will be no friction, of course; or next to none. then, who can say that we shall not perform a journey through the United States, in a single breath? Nor will improvement be likely to end here. Perhaps we may travel, by electricity or something else to other worlds. More than this; – how do we know but light may yet be made to propel travelling cars? Then we might make a visit to the sun and come back again to breakfast. The whole journey would, perhaps, require but sixteen minutes. Who has not read of the angel Uriel’s descending on a sunbeam, with an errand, to Paradise?