Housekeeping Hereafter

IT is the province of science to observe facts and phenomena, current or precedent, to generalize from these, and from the vantage-ground thus gained to look forward toward the future. Science reflects the light of experience on the pathway before us. Social science has not attained to the last and highest of this trinity of uses. We are gathering facts industriously, and some broad generalizations have been made, but predictions as to the future of society are as yet mostly empirical. Many Utopias have been constructed, but not on scientific foundations. Philosophers and poets, from Plato to Tennyson, have been fertile in suggestions of ultimate perfection in human institutions, but the road to reach this millennial state has not been surveyed. It has remained for the modern investigations of comparative sociology to advance science toward a position where such a survey may be attempted. These investigations already extend to some of the most interesting departments of human affairs, showing the origin of existing customs and institutions, and their relations to each other and to the race, in the several phases of progress from savagery to civilization. The rights of private property, education and the diffusion of knowledge, rites and ceremonies, religions, the wearing of clothing, and many kindred subjects have been studied, and the distinctive phases of progress from age to age successfully delineated in each instance. Progress in each coincides with progress in all, and every advance toward civilization from the rudest state may be distinguished by the prevailing habits of men in any department investigated.

The history of the use of cereals as food affords an illustration of this position. Each stage of society’s advance, from lowest to highest, may be broadly characterized by the prevailing manner of handling the staff of life; that is, by the methods pursued in making bread. Whether prehistoric races made bread or not is more than can be certainly determined, but we know that existing tribes of cave-dwellers and burrowers make no bread. They are differentiated from the brutes by ability to light a fire, by the practice of cooking, and by that of wearing clothing, but their diet consists for the most part of reptiles and roots. A striking advance occurs when the seeds of the field come into use as food. Grain bruised on a flat stone with a billet of wood is wet into dough and cast on the embers; bread makes its appearance in the world, and progress begins. Several tribes of the Shoshone family of Indians make bread in this way. The mortar and pestle succeed the billet and stone, and a baking plate of clay or stone is added to the household outfit. The mortar and pestle are the utensils of the earlier nomadic period, and most tribes of American Indians use them until contact with the whites modifies their habits. The handmill, probably the first and certainly the most important machine used in the peaceful arts, marks the transition from the barbarous to the patriarchal state. This admirable contrivance, with which two women ground corn in the early dawn of history, and with which two women still grind corn wherever patriarchal institutions prevail, has rendered more service to man, it may almost be said, than all other machines together. It is the type of the patriarchal state, but its use was not abandoned until the advent of the existing form of society. The use of leaven probably originated in the patriarchal period, while the oven, that is, what is now known as the baker’s oven, belongs to the era of village communities. The grist-mill is the type of existing civilization ; being the first experiment in removing domestic industries from the household, the first attempt to set up machinery for doing the work of several households at once.

With these premises to stand on, with some knowledge of the influences which wrought the changes noted from age to age, and with a still better knowledge of the influences at work in the same field to-day, it ought to be possible to foresee what further changes are to come in the immediate future. Mr. Carlyle said, “Only he who understands what has been can know what should and will be.” We begin to have some understanding of what has been, we ought to know something of what will be. Society obeys the law of careers, and as other social states have had their rise, progress, and transition, so the state which we know as civilization will pass through several phases and finally give place to a more advanced order. We do not yet understand either the past or the present clearly enough to determine what the career of civilization is to be, but we do understand enough to determine that new phases of development are approaching, and, at this moment, with rapid steps. The existing phase, which may be typified as above noted by the grist-mill, is passing away. It is not necessary to demonstrate this proposition. Those who are accustomed to regard the significance of current events do not require other demonstration than that afforded by observation.

It is safe enough, then, for prophets to put science to the final test, and predict that the day of the grist-mill is going by, and that the coming generation will abandon its use. Flour will be made hereafter by devices as much better than the stones and bolt as these are better than the mortar and pestle. What these devices are to be is not so plainly perceptible, but the agency used will almost certainly be the explosive force of electricity. Our children will make bread from grain struck by lightning. Invention already apprehends this impending evolution. Ingenious students, unknown to each other, and unconscious that they are forwarding any general purpose, are working out the different parts of the mechanism which will be brought together to accomplish this result.

If so much can be ventured respecting bread, the main-stay of the household, what can be said respecting the household itself ? With the change from the hand-mill to the grist-mill came important changes in the life of the family ; what changes in the home are to follow the bringing in of electricity to do the work of the grist-mill ? In answering this inquiry no course of reasoning can be laid down within the limits of this article. The illustration as to the history of bread-making, hasty sketch as it is, must suffice to indicate the line of investigation leading to the conclusions here given.

One of the most potent and far-reaching influences now at work in society, modifying agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and indeed all great public interests, is the centripetal force which draws men together in united action. The economies and advantages of centralization are such as to overcome all obstacles and all objections. To many people the word “ centralization ” is offensive. Business men especially are afraid of the tendency of the time, and look with distrust on its monopolizing manifestations ; but they yield to it, all the same, its workings being too gainful to be resisted. Accordingly, we see the larger commercial bodies irresistibly attracting the smaller, the great corporations absorbing the minor companies, the big stores buying out the little ones, and all business undertakings tending more and more certainly toward centralization.

In the house and the home, on the contrary, the tendency of the time is as decidedly the other way, the disposition of society being to separate families more and more distinctly, and to erect more impenetrable safeguards about the household. The communists make the mistake of being out of date. The unit of the existing social order is the family, and the animating spirit of this order demands that the family circle shall be more, rather than less, exclusively maintained, and the privacy of the home more fully recognized. The sentiment of familism, as it has been called, is stronger in its own sphere than the centripetal force above noted, and will have as much effect in shaping affairs hereafter. Familism has been hostile to centralization thus far, and although many theories have been advanced and not a few experiments attempted looking to the union of family interests, none have succeeded. Religious associations have, it is true, established community households, as the Shakers, for example, but they have done this only by abolishing the family, — an effective but desperate resort.

The centralizing movement, therefore, has not been allowed to affect the household, except indirectly and to an unimportant extent. The necessity for economizing ground room in large cities brings several families together under one roof; but even in this case the apartment house giving the most complete seclusion to each tenant is the most successful. The care with which the privacy of the home is maintained waxes more jealous as neighbors come closer together. The great cost of keeping up separate household establishments where one central organization would do the work of fifty, and do it far better, the embarrassments and discomforts occasioned by the chronic failure of domestic service, the weariness of flesh and of spirit induced by housekeeping cares, and the waste of energy and capacity in petty toils that might be successfully devoted to high and noble aims, all are ungrudgingly borne that the sacred retirement of the home may be held inviolate. It is plain that all innovation will be forbidden in the conduct of household affairs until the time when this conservative sentiment of familism becomes convinced that changes can be made to promote rather than to detract from the sanctity of the home, to protect the family still more efficiently rather than to invite entangling alliances or to threaten invasions. This time is now approaching. The family sentiment is coming again into harmonious relations with the centripetal force of civilization, and the world is about to witness the evolution of a new domestic economy as the result. M. de Tocqueville said, “ Il faut une science politique nouvelle à un monde tout nouveau.” This is true also of social science, and accordingly it is to America that we may properly look for this new evolution.

All the arts contributing to the sustentation of life and the well-being of the family have grown up around the hearth-stone. The aggressive and tedious partisan assertions of woman’s ability to do this, that, or the other work in the world are superfluous, or would be so but for modern myopia. As a counter-statement it may be said that woman has done nearly everything that has been done in the peaceful arts from the dawn of history up to the present era. In all the earlier ages women established the home, built the house, reared the family, provided food, except the spoils of the chase and of war, tilled the ground, garnered the crops, provided materials for raiment, spun thread and wove cloth, designed and manufactured clothing, cared for the sick, and educated the children. Modern civilization, developing commerce and manufactures and improving agriculture, has diverted the attention of men from fighting and hunting, and given into their hands the tasks of providing food, raiment, and luxuries for the family. Indeed, the history of civilization may be regarded as a history of the transfer of these tasks from the hands of women in the household to the hands of men in the factory, the mill, and the shop ; this transfer being one manifestation of the centralizing force above noted. The grinding of corn in a grist-mill instead of in hand-mills was the first instance of such transfer; the invention of the grist-mill enabling man to take what was a family chore, done by two women, and make a leading business of it, centralizing the chores of fifty families in one mill. The substitution of cotton for linen and the invention of the power-loom removed the round of industries connected with the preparation of flax and wool, and with spinning and weaving, from the fireside to the factory, where, by aid of machinery and organization, the work could be better done at less cost. Commerce aud manufactures have thus been developed from germs transplanted from the household and cultivated in the wide field of the world’s business.

This process of transplanting went on very rapidly after the application of steam to machinery, but of late years it has been checked by the hostility of the family sentiment above noted. It has not ceased, as witness the recent establishment of creameries and cheese-factories in place of private dairies, and tho immense development of the canning of meats, vegetables, and fruits, a business originating in the family preserving-kettle ; but it has slackened decidedly, for the reason that it has gone nearly as far as it can go without trenching on matters that involve a risk of “ mixing up family affairs ” in a manner wholly intolerable. This difficulty has now been fully met, and science can foresee that the removal of the objection permits another step to be taken in the centralization of family industries. Invention has again come forward, and opened the way for the transfer of other chores from the household to the realm of business, where organization and machinery can be brought to bear upon them.

The new gifts of invention to society which are destined to work as great revolutions in domestic affairs as the grist-mill, the cotton-gin, and the powerloom did in their several days are the telephone and the perfected pneumatic dispatch. By aid of these marvelously fitting devices, the severe labors, the drudgeries, and the dirt-making toils of housekeeping will be taken from the home and consigned to an organized establishment, and there brought under subjection to steam and electricity, to combined effort and discipline. ith these magic appliances in use, the jealous family sentiment will not antagonize the innovation, but will favor it, since the first step will be to erect a screen between the household and the world, directly promoting the domestic seclusion which has been sought and preserved at such cost. The telephone wire and the pneumatic tube will preserve a secrecy as to family affairs that the best servants cannot emulate, and the centralized establishment will defend the home from endless intrusions now constituting one of the gravest annoyances that mistress and maid have to encounter. It is fast becoming evident that a change of some sort is an inevitable necessity. Housekeeping, as now conducted, is too big a job for those who undertake to do it, — a fact practically realized in all households. Not even the most favored are free from danger of periodic break-down in the overtaxed machinery of domestic administration, and the common experience is that the gearing runs anything but smoothly at best. The one matter of trouble with servants is becoming such a crying evil that it is the first topic talked of whenever housekeepers meet, and the public prints are burdened with discussions of remedies and plans for obtaining better “ help.” This agitation will presently make it plain that the servant trouble lies too deep to be reached by changes in the personnel of the service. It is not that cooks and chamber-maids are so greatly at fault as that too much is demanded from them. The work to be done requires greater intelligence and ability than can be induced to enter domestic service at present.

Necessity commanding and opportunity inviting, an attempt to institute better methods of housekeeping cannot long be delayed. The centripetal force of society, potent in commerce and the arts, will be permitted again to modify the conduct of household affairs ; acting, as heretofore, by removing certain kinds of work from the home, and making them the basis of a new business. The kinds of work to be transplanted are those which bring dirt and litter into the house, those which require or which produce heat, and those which demand a man’s strength or an expert’s skill. In plain words, the household is to be relieved of the heavy and gross labors, and also the difficult and trying operations connected with cooking, washing, ironing, heating, and cleaning.

The centralized establishment for the carrying on of these labors will be neither a factory nor a machine-shop, though having some of the characteristics of both. For present convenience, it may be called a domestic depot. It will need to be so located as to facilitate communication with say fifty households, in order that its province may be wide enough to give the dignity of respectable business to its transactions. It will be so connected with each house that talk and work may pass to and fro as readily and rapidly as now between kitchen and dining-room. It will be so organized as to receive materials and supplies, whether from the house or from the merchant and the market; to deal with these as directed; and to return results to the housekeeper in the best and promptest manner. It will furnish heat throughout each house, for all purposes and at all temperatures, from mild warmth to hot-blast for cooking ; dispensing with use of fuel, except, perhaps a cheery wood-fire in the sitting-room or library. It will give light, probably electric, to each house and to the neighborhood, effecting a summary settlement of all questions relating to gas and gas monopolies. It will supply power not only for driving the machinery required in its own work, but for certain lighter purposes in the several homes, — running sewing-machines, for example ; electricity being the agent likely to be used in this latter case also. It will put each member of the little community it serves into instant communication with all the world. And, finally, it will reduce the cost of living twenty-five or thirty per cent.

These hints as to the functions of the domestic depot are not based on dreams of what progress and invention may accomplish in the future, everything here suggested as possible having been actually done already in commerce and the arts. The mechanical appliances requisite for equipment to do the work are already in operation in one industrial field or another, and to organize the establishment it only remains to bring these together and set them in motion. That such an organization will presently be attempted is another prediction that may be ventured with little risk.

The first essay is likely to be made in some of the rapidly growing summer colonies by the sea. The material conditions are favorable in such situations, and the temporary, picnic-like character of these settlements imparts a degree of freedom to the social order less hostile to experiment than the fixed conservatism of old, deeply-rooted communities. But a full illustration of economies and advantages will not be had until the centralized system is applied to permanent homes ; and after an experiment has been successfully tried as a device for summer holidays it will soon be adopted in some progressive Western city. A square or block in such a city, bounded by four streets, will accommodate say fifty families. On one of the side-streets the domestic depot will be established, extending, if the situation favors, to the centre of the square, the greater part of the room required being found below the surface. The main features above-ground will be the offices and a high chimney, which latter may be made an ornament to the neighborhood, and may be crowned with electric light, illuminating the interior of the square and the rear rooms of the houses. The working appliances will be a steamgenerator of ample capacity ; a steamengine ; a blowing-engine, furnishing compressed air for the pneumatic dispatch and for ventilation ; an electriclight apparatus and batteries for the wares ; a hotel range for roasting, boiling, and other heavy cooking ; a good old-fashioned brick oven; and a laundry with modern machinery, where washing and ironing can be done at any and all times, without regard to weather.

So far as these appliances are concerned, the domestic depot might have been established before now. It is true, the electric light has not been perfected, but it has not been necessary to wait for that, as gas might have been used with economy. The missing link has been in the line of communication between the home and the central offices. Such communication has only been practicable heretofore by running to and fro, fetching and carrying and repeating messages by servants, — resorts that no family would descend to. The telegraph and other contrivances might have been used, but housekeepers are not mechanical experts, and anything requiring skilled handling is but slowly adopted. No means of communication that housekeepers could and would use have been available until the invention of the telephone and the perfecting of the pneumatic dispatch. These devices, hardly known in the household at present, are to be the most important agents used in housekeeping hereafter. Pneumatic tubes and telephone wires will extend from the central depot to every house in the square. The wires will also connect the depot with the telephone and telegraph system of the city and the world. The dispatch will also reach out, eventually, to convenient points in the city, but not until the pneumatic - express business has been generally established. The tubes communicating with the houses will be large enough to convey most articles that usually go into the kitchen, and will be fitted with carrying-cylinders of various sizes and descriptions, suited to the wants of the family. With these trusty, reticent, obedient servants always at command, the housekeeper can carry on the business of the home in businesslike fashion, with less exposure to curious eyes and ears in the neighborhood than at present, and with incalculably greater facility. Beside the tubes and wires, it may be found desirable to lay pipes for gas or for hot blast, for cooking, lighting, heating, or ventilating purposes. Power will also doubtless be conveyed to the homes, and other connections will be effected as found needful. Details will be settled by experience, and only leading suggestions can here be attempted.

Household supplies of all kinds wall be delivered at the depot. The invasion of the home by the employés of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker, with baskets, bundles, and boxes, will become absolutely intolerable. The marketing, for instance, instead of being dragged through the main entrance of the house, will be received at the depot, and will there be prepared in accordance with directions given. The orders may be to have the meats and vegetables cleansed and dressed for cooking at home, or may be to have dinner cooked, ready to serve on the table at a certain hour. The transaction will be constantly under control of the housekeeper, in her own rooms, the telephone keeping up confidential communication ; and when the dinner, or whatever the orders call for, has been made ready by skilled hands, it can be dispatched to the pantry in the house by the pneumatic tubes more easily than from one floor to another by dumb-waiter. For further illustration of practical workings, the significant matter of bread-making may be considered. This will probably be subject, for a time at least, to a sort of compromise treatment. Economy will lead to the buying of flour in large lots from first hands, and the supply will be kept at the depot. It will be distributed as wanted, and the bread will be made at home. When the loaves are ready, however, they will be returned to the depot to be baked in the brick oven. This secures the perfection of baking, reduces the cost to a comparative trifle, and relieves the home of the heat, dirt, and trouble of a baking-fire.

The question of costs can be definitely settled only by experiment, but, as compared with present methods, it is reasonable to estimate that the centralized system will effect a saving of one quarter to one third, while incidentally improving the style of living. The plant above sketched looks formidable, but it will not require so large an investment as the fifty ranges and other appliances which it will replace. The rent or interest will therefore be no more, while the insurance, depreciation, and repairs will be much less. The principal saving in current expense will be in the item of fuel. Each of the fifty households here cited requires from two to five fires. It is fair to take three as an average, making one hundred and fifty fires to the block or square. These fires consume say twenty-five tons of coal in each household annually, or twelve hundred and fifty tons for the square. Twelve hundred and fifty tons of dirty coal handled into the houses, and say three hundred tons of dirty ashes handled out again! To carry the fuel and ashes, and tend the fires requires say one third of a servant’s time in each house through half the year, or say three thousand days’ labor per annum for all the houses. The domestic depot will furnish heat for cooking, for warming, for ventilating, for generating power, for supplying electric currents, and for illuminating purposes to the fifty households with a consumption of not more than four hundred tons of coal per annum. One man wall do all the work, and not an ounce of dirt will be carried into any dwelling. This does not represent the whole saving, either, as the domestic depot will contract for coal at the mines, paying no intermediate tax except the cost of transportation.

The distribution of milk may be mentioned as showing another form of economy. In the four streets bounding a city block, there are usually not fewer than forty milk-wagons rattling to and fro from daylight until noon. With the establishment of the centralized system, it will be found that one wagon can do the business, and thirty-nine will be dispensed with. The producer receives from two to three cents per quart for milk, while the consumer pays from six to nine cents; the difference going, for the most part, to the support of the thirty-nine superfluous wagons. The domestic depot will buy directly from the dairy, paying two to three cents ; and, furthermore, will have oversight of the dairy and of the cattle, securing the best quality of milk, produced under the best conditions.

The saving in wages paid for housework will be another important item. In a home relieved from heavy labor and from dirty drudgery, one girl will easily do the work that now taxes the energies of three. With no dirt coming into the house ; with no fires to tend ; with none of the incessant calls to the door to meet tradesfolk and to receive supplies; with cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning, sweeping, scrubbing, and dusting reduced to an unimagined minimum, domestic service will be shorn of half its terrors, and more than half its cost.

Illustrations may be multiplied showing how economy wall be promoted in every branch of home affairs, but space forbids, here, and those interested can institute comparisons for themselves. Furthermore, the savings to be effected by the establishment of the domestic depot cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It will save the household. The oft-repeated cry of distress, “ Something must be done ! ” is a warning to be heeded forthwith. Something will be done, either constructively or destructively, and that soon. We must enfranchise our homes, or run the risk of seeing home life degenerate into hotel life, or into other transitory forms even more inimical to the integrity of the family. Society now imposes burdens upon and exacts duties from the household that cannot be borne and performed without the aid of the best devices civilization has at command for carrying and doing in other departments of human affairs. The services of steam and electricity, of machinery and organizar tion, are as much needed in the home as in the market. We must find means for adapting these potent helps to domestic uses, neglecting to do so at our peril. This is the next problem to engage the attention of intelligent minds. Do not the suggestions herein offered point to the right solution ?

J. V. Sears.