But must these workers remain always slaves of machine? Is there no escape for them? Is there no “underground railroad” by which they may win their way to freedom?
Here is what Al Priddy has to say about it:
“The most convincing way in which man may master the machine is when he invents a new and better one, or improves an old one. This is the real triumph of mind over matter, of skill over machinery.
“With all its arrogance among us, machinery is always final in itself; incapable of change; incapable of progression or retrogression. Till the clouds fade from the sky, or the earth cracks, a machine will remain the same from the day of its creation until the day of its last whirl—unless man says the word to change it. Once started on its mission, there is nothing in the world can change the motion and purpose of a machine save man’s mind. So, then, whatever relation man might have toward a machine, this stands sure: he will ever be able to stand before it and say: ’I am thy master. I can change thee, make thee better or worse. I made thee. I can unmake thee. If thou dost accomplish such mighty works, more honor to the mind which conceived thee!”
“But it is suddenly discovered by an industrial diagnosis that the machine has never been properly operated, even by the most skilled operators. It has been proved that ’there is more science in the most “unskilled” task than the man who performs it is capable of understanding.’ This dictum of Mr. Taylor, a practical experimenter, has been dramatically proved in many directions. In the task of the sand shoveler, or the iron lifter, for instance, it was proved that by scientifically undertaking such work, fifty selected men, properly drilled, scientifically rested, intelligently manoeuvred, could accomplish a third more than one hundred ill selected and improperly managed men, in less time and under a larger salary. It is suddenly found that, contrary to theory, a machine, to be economically operated, leaves open man’s chance for skill and does not rob him of it.”
Perhaps a few cases taken from our records will indicate how men of this kind are able to come up from slavery and take successful places in their true vocations.
FROM BOILER-ROOM TO CHIEF ENGINEER’S OFFICE
G—— manifested very early indications of the lure of machinery for him. While yet in his cradle, he would play contentedly for hours with a little pulley or other mechanical trifle. Before he was able to walk, he could drive nails with a hammer sturdily and with more precision than many adults. This also was one of his favorite amusements, and it was necessary to keep him provided with lumber, lest he fill the furniture with nails. As he grew older he became more and more interested in machinery and mechanical things. He took to pieces the family clock and put it together again. He nearly