The first of the drawings related to this article takes us back to the entrance of class 40, an entrance decorated with the admirable ornamental cast iron of the Sommevoire factory.
This factory is one of the glories of the Haute-Marne, a metallurgical department par excellence, and predestined from the start for this beautiful speciality.
What does the geological study of this department teach? It teaches that it is for the most part situated on secondary soils, that is to say, on soils rich in clays producing excellent refractory earth, in sands suitable for moulding and for the construction of blast furnaces and above all in iron ore, particularly in so-called oolitic ore, so abundant and so easy to exploit that it is frequently collected with a shovel. Now, what does the surface of the ground show us? One of the best watered regions of France and one of the best wooded. That said, the rest is self-evident. It is clear that where ore is abundantly available, where fuel is accumulated in immense forests, where motive power is available in the form of numerous watercourses; the production of iron and shearing must be a very old and very important industry; and in fact, from the Gallo-Roman period, the area we are dealing with manufactured in iron most of the utensils, tools and weapons that the masters of the world still made in copper and bronze; a count of Champagne, in 1157, gave the forges of Wassy to the monastery of Cîteaux. High furnaces, similar to those of today, existed in 1500, and from 1485 cutlery had a regular organisation in Langres. It is no less obvious, in fact, that alongside the factories producing iron and cast iron, the industries, for which these materials form the raw material and which shape them into works of all kinds, must have come together. And the statistics which give us the exact number of blast furnaces, freight furnaces, Wilkinzons, rolling mills, hammers, wire-drawing mills, punching mills, chain factories, ironmongery, ironmongery, locksmith's shop, iron furniture and cutlery factories which exist in the Haute-Marne, cannot cause us any surprise. We could even push the forecast further. As if iron, the noblest of metals, since it is the most useful, communicated its virtue to those who work it, excellent observers have noticed that among all the workers these are distinguished by their virile qualities. The inductions favourable to the Haute-Marne which we would be tempted to draw from this general observation, would not be invalidated by the facts: this department is one of those where primary education is the most flourishing, and where attacks against persons and property are the least frequent.
The showcase in the middle of the drawing contains the products of some of our mines; we have already said a word about them. Let us stop, since the occasion arises, at the coals of the Lower Loire.
A fuel with the greatest calorific value in the smallest possible volume, giving little odour and smoke, containing little or no sulphur, and finally hard enough to resist the action of heat, cold and humidity, and to withstand numerous handlings; such a fuel would come very close to perfection. Now the Basse-Loire mines and lime kilns company has succeeded in imparting these qualities to a coal that was previously used exclusively for burning lime and was not suitable for anything else. We have before us a sample of this coal as extracted by the above-mentioned company from its mines. Other specimens show us what a clever preparation has done with this bad coal.
Under No. 2 is a product of superior quality; an impalpable powdered hard coal whose new destination is to be mixed with sands and to sprinkle the moulds in foundries before casting. No. 3 shows us the sifted and washed coal which is now good for the grate and the forge. Finally, under No. 4 is the same coal agglomerated with dry pitch by means of a Detombay machine. According to the company's statements, this fuel vaporises more than eight kilograms of water per kilogram of coal; its density is 1.23, its cohesion 55; it is free of sulphur and consequently does not attack either grates or boilers, valuable properties which have led to its being admitted into the supply of the State Navy. This being the case, no one will disagree with the judgment that the Montjean company itself makes in these terms about its own work: "From an almost worthless coal we have made a fuel equivalent to the best that nature has formed, and the industrial merit lies, without doubt, much more in the intelligent transformation of a bad coal than in the pure and simple extraction of a perfect coal with which certain privileged mines are endowed. "
Tin-lined paper against moisture.
The same room contains the exhibition of Mr. Massiere, manufacturer of tin foil, already mentioned in one of our previous issues. Against humidity, saltpetre, and the deleterious emanations that deteriorate and make so many homes unhealthy, Mr. Massiere has created a very light, very solid, very economical metallic paper, applied to the surface of walls and composed of a sheet of lead placed between two sheets of tin. This tin lining, which required the invention of very ingenious manufacturing processes, has all the qualities of each of the two metals of which it is composed, without having the disadvantages of either of them. To the one it owes its effectiveness against exhalations, to the other its resistance to the combined actions of saltpetre and humidity; and while lead obviates the porosity of tin, tin protects lead which, isolated, tears very easily.
That such a combination should have happy results is what seems obvious before any experiment; but experience has spoken and the testimonies are numerous and decisive. Thus, M. Chevallier reports that the application of this water-repellent paper was made in Bondy on the wall of a low room, a wall that was very damp, to the point that the paper that was glued to it soon fell into shreds. I have noted," says the above-mentioned chemist, "the success of the application made three years ago. The wallpaper is in very good condition. The moisture has disappeared. "
It is understood that the tin lining is placed between the wall and the hanging paper. Let us add that it lends itself to receive the most delicate paintings; as such, it will find a precious use in public monuments as a preserver of the fresco painting. Applied to the reverse side of oil paintings, it also ensures their preservation.
The bridges of Kehl and Argenteuil.
To get to the gallery in the middle of which our second drawing takes us, we have to pass by the monument erected by the Marquise factories, a monument composed, as we have said, of those enormous cast-iron columns which were used to form the piers of the Kehl bridge over the Rhine and the Argenteuil bridge over the Seine.
To form these piers and put them in place, a very solid floor is built just where they are to be placed. On this floor a first tube is placed, sharp by its lower edge; on this one a second and so on until the trunk of hollow column thus formed is high enough so that it can penetrate deeply into the bed of the river while exceeding the level of water by its higher end.
This being done, on a cast iron frame bolted firmly to the inside and top of the lower tube, a conical and circular vault is built with a hole at the top, then around this hole a wooden chimney is placed as high as the whole cast iron column, and finally the space between this wooden chimney, the vault and the metal column is filled with concrete.
By these first operations, the lower chamber in which the workers will have to work when the pile is lowered to the bottom of the water, and the passage necessary for the pulleys to lead to this chamber, are made. At the same time, the piles that have been started have acquired enough weight to sink on their own. Then, they are lifted on iron chains; the floor on which they rested is removed and they are lowered vertically to the bottom of the river.
It remains to guide and facilitate their sinking by digging suitably underneath them, until suitable soil is found.
For this purpose, each column is capped with a sheet metal device, called an air chamber; the base is bolted perfectly to the upper tube, and in the vast plunger bell thus formed there is only need to force air at a sufficient pressure to expel the water from the interior of the pile and to allow the men to live in the working chamber.
Since the Rhine has a speed of four to five metres per second and scouring sometimes reaches fifteen and seventeen metres below the bed, the construction of the Kebl bridge presented great difficulties. The foundations of the piers had to be lowered twenty metres below the bed. Remarkably, no accidents occurred. It was found that men between the ages of 18 and 35 are the most suitable for this type of work, and that lymphatic temperaments are the ones that best adapt to being in compressed air. This question has been the subject of a fine study by Dr. Foley, who was attached as a physician to the construction of the Argenteuil bridge.
The tubes of this kind, executed by the factories of Marquise, both for bridges and for pits, have to date weighed 12,000 tons. The pits are those of Flechinelle and Hardinghem; the bridges : Culoz, Bayonne and Argenteuil, in France, and five Russian bridges, several of which are equipped with icebreakers. These tubes have the following diameters: 2m,50; 2m,75; 3m,20, 3", 50; 3", 60; and 5m,50. The same factory supplied 10,000 tons of pipes to bring the Dhuys to Paris, forming a length of 18 kilometres.
We encounter art at the entrance to the third gallery (unretouched castings by M. Zegut), and we encounter it again at the back of this one, as our drawing shows. But this drawing shows that the art is not there alone.
It would be easy for a household utensil dealer to find supplies of tinware here. This modest article deserves our attention not only because of its usefulness, but also because of the improvements that have been made to the tools used in its manufacture. From being manual only a few years ago, it has become entirely mechanical. For each of the many operations required for the smallest part, from the processing of the raw material to the finishing, there is now a machine: a stamping machine, a flanging machine, a cutting machine, a bending machine, an embossing machine, etc. Of these manipulations, each worker trained after a week's apprenticeship knows and practices only the machine that accomplishes the one for which he is responsible. Thus, the cutter does nothing more than present the tin plates to the mechanical shears, which are infallible once they have been adjusted. The cut piece passes successively through the hands of the planer, the stamper, the edger, the regrinder, the bender, or rather, it passes through as many machines served by as many special workers who have no other function than to feed these machines. As for the small objects which form what are called trimmings, hinges, gussets, etc. (for the detail would be endless), the work is done by the bender. As for the small objects that form what are called trimmings, hinges, gussets, etc. (for the detail would be interminable), they are cut by punches generally driven by women, and it is similar machines that cut out the open galleries, pierce the skimmers and graters, and pierce them all at once, regardless of the number of holes. In a word, the work of the hammer is more or less eliminated.
Thus prepared, the pieces are handed over to the welder whose work is singularly shortened and facilitated by the precision of these pieces which fit together without trial and error, without retouching and which, moreover, in many cases, are mounted on gauges intended to receive them; it is understandable that, thus prepared, thus fixed, any object can be welded by labourers and that welding does not require any longer study than the other branches of manufacture.
Having said this, let us return to the artistic part of the room we are visiting.
The drawing shows us, in the middle, the objects exhibited by the Société des revêtements métalliques and, on the right, the electroplated products of the Christofle factory. We took care of both. On the left we have in a circular shelf the exhibition of the Société française d'orfèvrerie et d'objets d'art.
Plated or lined with copper.
To the colour and brilliance which give them the first rank in decoration and adornment; to the complete absence of odour and flavour; to the inalterability by air and by vegetable acids; to this unique privilege of an equal pre-eminence of beauty and purity, gold and silver add this advantage that neither their extraction, nor their treatment, nor their working* offer difficulties which a nascent civilisation is not in a position to overcome. Thus, gold and silver smithy seems to be as old as the Society itself. Abraham," says Genesis, "was very rich in cattle, silver and gold. "Vases, ornaments, and statues were already being made of precious metals, and the art of working them soon acquired such perfection that the ancient processes have only been surpassed since the creation of modern chemistry.
But these metals were not sufficiently abundant to satisfy the needs for which they were used, if the ingenious art of increasing the amount of utility that can be obtained from a given quantity of gold and silver had not been found. Massive goldsmithing is necessarily the privilege of great fortunes. It would not be the same for works which, made of vulgar metals or alloys, would borrow from rare metals a garment of beauty and inalterability. Thanks to this adornment and protection, a body that is humble in appearance and quick to contract toxic properties on contact with the air would become admissible in decoration and domestic use. The enjoyment of the properties of gold and silver would thus be brought within the reach of a greater number of people, and a first step would be taken in that work of spreading the beautiful and the good, so actively pursued by modern civilisation.
The physical properties and chemical affinities of gold and silver made this first step easy, and imitation goldsmithing goes back to very ancient times.
The display of the French Goldsmiths' and Craftsmen's Society shows us the core or inner metal of pieces intended to be covered with silver. This is the only part of the silversmith's work that could be included in the products of class 40. The processes employed by the above-mentioned Company to give the required elm to the pieces it manufactures are most ingenious. Thus, to keep to this fact alone, the vase seen at the top of the shelf was obtained without a die or solder by the pressure of water alone.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée