Life As We Know It
An MIT-educated chemical engineer who founded the world's first consulting company takes note of the ways technology is transforming the lives of everyday Americans.
Within the last ten years the United States has become the first industrial nation of the world. No one, though he be the seventh son of a seventh son and born with a caul, can hope to foreeast with any degree of definiteness the form which the industrial structure of the country will ultimately assume. Even the general trend of industrial development is the resultant of a bewildering complexity of forces, each of a magnitude largely conjectural. Certain conditions, influences, and tendencies are, nevertheless, recognizable as directive factors in the situation, and from them some conclusions may be drawn legitimately, although without guaranty or recourse, concerning the direction in which our industrial development is likely to proceed.
Since 1870 the curve of population has been rising at a rate which ‑ with some allowance for restricted immigration ‑ indicates a population of 152,000,000 for the country in 1950. We must then prepare to clothe and feed and house some 42,000,000 more people than we do at present. They will, like ourselves, demand much more than food, clothing, and a place to sleep. They will require fuel, though we find it hard enough to get at present; and they will use it in somewhat different and more effective ways. Power must be provided for new industries, new factories, new machines, and for greatly augmented systems of transportation. Many of these new people will travel by the New York subways, and a sagacious management should already be opening boxes of sardines that it may determine how best to insert more sardines. Everywhere room must be found for the automobiles of these new millions, where now there is scant room for our own. Pressure which ‑like that on water ‑ is exerted in all directions will come heavily upon our natural resources, our. agencies for production, and our systems of distribution.
In 1919 there were over a million marriages in the United States, whereas in that year only 70,000 homes were built. We are short at least a million dwellings, and some estimates treble that figure. In most parts of the country practically no houses are being built for workingmen. They still cost more and rent for more than many workingmen can pay. Meanwhile, the population grows, and two or three families live where one lived before. The result is not so commendable as where blades of grass are concerned.
Not more than 40 per cent of our population now own their homes. Many apartments have shrunk to one room and bath. We are living on the diminutive scale. Kitchenettes provide our breakfast, luncheonettes supply icecream soda and a ham sandwich, and now, in Boston, one may assemble the family in a diningette for the serious meal of the day. The census may soon designate as a familyette the maiden lady with two goldfish.
Only the very well‑to‑do can now afford servants, and they can do so only on increasingly burdensome terms. At Christmas, who now has the courage to present the cook with ten yards of gingham for a dress? It is not worn with silk stockings and a fur‑trimmed coat. College‑bred girls now approach matrimony with the expectation of doing their own housework, and five-story houses with basement kitchens are as unsaleable as Shipping Board boats. We must obviously rebuild our houses with due regard to the readjustments which the prosperity of the masses has forced upon us.
We may expect, therefore, a great increase and expansion of all those industries that tend to lessen household labor. Already have most domestic industries disappeared in competition with the factory. Who makes soft soap to‑day, or spins and weaves and dyes butternut‑brown? Where is the little dressmaker who came, with Godey's Lady's Book, to live with the family for a fortnight while she made the season's gowns? She is working for better wages behind the counter of the department store, selling ready‑made dresses cut from piles of fabrics with an electric cutter from patterns that embody the latest hints of fashion. Already our trade in women's apparel amounts to more than a billion dollars a year.
Bread‑making, to the advantage of the product, is becoming more and more the business of great companies operating many bakeries, equipped with every facility for orderly and economical production under scientifically controlled conditions. No youthful Franklin would to‑day suggest to his father that time might be saved by saying grace over the barrel of pork. We buy our bacon sliced, in half‑pound jars. Intimate culinary products, such as baked beans, fish balls, and hash, come to many a table hot from the can.
Under the conditions likely to prevail in American domestic life, we must anticipate a steadily increasing output of package‑goods of every sort. The American housewife no longer buys in bulk. Her disinclination to do so ensures more business to the makers of tin plate, containerboards, and paper, and to the lithographer and the printer.
The same conditions may be expected to augment the already remarkable development of the chain restaurant, which justifies the lure of the pancake in the window by the cleanly brightness of its interior and the excellent quality of its food. They may bring emancipation, but they do not seem to make for domesticity.
The Chinese laundryman was a pioneer. He recognized a demand which has immeasurably outgrown his modest and mysterious facilities. Such proximity to godliness as he conferred upon the few it is now the function of many thousands of machine‑filled laundries to provide for all. The washing of linen has become as democratic as the referendum and vastly more scientific.
In my youth I knew a gentleman of large means and frugal tendencies, who kept upon his mantel a jar of benzine, in which reposed those of his black ties which seemed to require restoration of their sober lustre. Now the dyers and cleansers, like the laundrymen, have their national association. To them now go our garments, that for a brief period we may show ourselves unspotted to the world.
All those things that relieve household labor of its drudgery have their assured place in the future. Nature abhors a vacuum only because she has no carpets and rugs to clean. More and more homes will be equipped with electric appliances: toasters, irons, and washing machines; and the electric refrigerator is almost here. There will be a similar extension in the domestic use of gas. It is easier to turn a gascock than to carry coal upstairs, and the discerning ash‑man will apprentice his son to the pipe‑fitter.
One obvious result of the crowding, to which our urban population will be subjected in constantly increasing measure, will be the gradual elimination from our homes of much that has characterized them in the past. A library is already a luxury beyond the reach of many who grew up surrounded by books. There is little place in our present scheme of living for grand pianos, or large furniture of any sort. We are tending in our homes toward the compact and diminutive. We have neither walls nor floor‑space for the superfluous.
Demand, to be effective, must be backed by purchasing power, and never in the history of the world has the purchasing power of the masses been so great in any large population as in the United States during and since the war. It is not likely to recede permanently from this high level. In the seventy years from 1849 to 1919 the value of our manufactures increased more than sixty-fold. In the same period the number of wage‑earning operatives increased not quite tenfold. The gain in producing capacity per operative is striking and significant. During recent years the number of persons engaged in agriculture has remained practically stationary. We have passed from an agricultural to an industrial economy, though the basis of our prosperity is still deeply rooted in the soil. During the transition period wages in industry have doubled, while hours of labor have notably decreased. We have thus in prospect a large increase in population with greater producing power, more leisure, enhanced ability to purchase. We must, therefore, assume a greatly intensified demand both for the necessities of life and for many things that we still regard as luxuries.
We have seen old‑time necessities as candles and open fires ‑ come to be classed as luxuries. In 1886 there was but one bathtub in a certain Southern city of 6000 inhabitants. At a much later period furs and silk stockings were the insignia of the rich. They are now the attributes of democracy. Where our plutocrats progressed ten miles an hour behind a pair of horses, our workmen now go thirty in a Ford. The melon, too expensive for the woman of means, is purchased by the wife of the plasterer, who inquires how to cook it. Association, fashion, and the ability to spend may be relied on to push the standard of living to still higher planes. When, in a Southern lumber town, the Negroes would work only three days a week, a better display of goods in the company stores held them steadily to their jobs. In a town in central New York, girl operatives receiving war wages found four days' work a week sufficient for their requirements until the company brought in some operatives from New York City, whose Georgette waists and all‑silk hose soon inspired the local girls to work full time. In response to such demands the tendency will be to produce for the masses products resembling as closely as may be those made for the wealthy few. A wrist watch from the jewelry counter of a Woolworth store asks a handicap of only three feet and does not require winding.
One striking feature of our times which is of peculiar significance for the future is the rate at which labor is becoming capitalist. Universal education has always tended to lift labor into higher ranks. The process is now accelerated by restricted immigration. We may not and do not hope to see our Americanized labor descend from its high position, and we have checked the influx of ignorant and low‑priced labor, which alone can bring it down. We must then expect even higher wages in the future, and these will be reflected in a higher cost of living measured in terms of money. The time‑cost of living has been going down consistently over a long period.
In a single recent year the people of the United States have saved more than twelve and a half billion dollars. Since it takes two persons to make a quarrel, we may entertain the hope that the long struggle between capital and labor is in a way to find permanent adjustment, for capital and labor are rapidly becoming one. Possession breeds conservatism, and to have inspires to hold. The surplus of the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Workers is already over $6,000,000. The entire expenses of the organization are met by interest on deposits and investments, and its surplus is growing rapidly. In October of last year the United Mine Workers had on deposit in Indianapolis over $1,100,000, and the dues of the union bring in $250,000 a month. In nine months, recently past, the Amalgamated Bank of New York of the American Clothing Workers showed a tenfold increase in deposits. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is now said to exercise control over $100,000,000 through the nine banks in which the Brotherhood is interested. A few months ago a new labor bank was opened in New York City, and on the first day it took in over $5,000,000 in deposits, while multitudes could not reach the window.
There is a pronounced trend toward corporation ownership of manufacturing enterprises. During the last twenty years the average size of manufacturing establishments, as measured by the number of workers, has greatly increased, although even now less than one per cent of such establishments employ more than five hundred workers. Nevertheless, in 1919 over eighty‑six per cent of our industrial wage‑earners were in corporation‑owned plants. This assumes a broad significance in view of the spreading tendency of corporations to offer their stock, frequently on preferential terms, to their employees and customers. Nearly one half of the 100,000 owners of Armour and Company are employees, and a recent offering of its stock displayed a surprising financial status among day laborers, truck‑drivers, and office workers. Two hundred and fifty electric light companies are now selling stock to consumers and employees, and nearly three and a half million shares were so sold in 1922. The employees of the Philadelphia Rapid. Transit Company now own 120,000 shares of its stock and are expected to buy 60,000 more in 194, which will bring their holdings to thirty per cent of the total issued.
The normal trend of wages in the United States is upward, and this upward movement was, of course, greatly accelerated by the war, but wages are now up to stay. The normal tendency has in the past been obscured and the curve held below its normal course by the great influx of immigrants, which we have permitted and which employers have very generally encouraged. The restriction of immigration must operate to permit the curve to follow its normal tendency more closely than heretofore, with continued improvement in the purchasing power of the masses. With a broader market should come a stabilization of industry through the increasing participation by labor in ownership of the producing agencies.
The restriction of immigration should further prove a powerful stimulus to the development of labor‑saving machines and devices. There is, moreover, evidence of an awakening recognition on the part of labor that the full advantage of high wages can be realized only when these are accompanied by low costs of production and distribution. The two are in no way incompatible, as Mr. Ford and many others have demonstrated. Where benefits are so obvious we may reasonably expect a less restrictive policy on the part of union labor regarding per‑capita production. Increases in purchasing power, now often nominal, will then become real and be reflected in the activity of general business.
The pressure always upon the manufacturer to enlarge production and diminish costs will become increasingly heavy. One striking difference between the old industry and the new is that the large investment now required sets up heavy overhead charges which drive one to production at the highest possible rate. Nothing ‑ except stopping ‑ is so expensive as slowing down. Standardization of machines, processes, and product, and the installation of larger and larger units must then follow as a natural sequence.
One of the most important of the factors affecting the industrial situation of the future, and one whose significance is seldom noted, is the remarkable increase in the per‑capita freight‑ton mileage of our railroads. In 1890 they hauled about 1250 tons of freight a mile for each inhabitant; in 19928 they hauled 4160 tons. Part of this increase is due to the more lavish consumption of goods by our people, part to the growth of population in districts more remote from centres of production, and part to the depletion of reserves of raw material, which compels the manufacturer to go farther afield for his supply. With the per‑capita tonnage steadily rising and a population as steadily increasing, the time is not far distant when no readily conceivable expansion of our transportation system will suffice to handle the traffic. We cannot then continue indefinitely to haul Hood River apples from Oregon to Maine, or transport crude and low‑priced materials thousands of miles by rail only to return them to their point of origin in forms not greatly enhanced in value. We are in consequence about to witness a gradual decentralization of industry. To‑day nearly half the industrial activities of the country are concentrated in a narrow zone extending along the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Washington. That proportion is destined to change.
In a relatively few years Michigan has passed from an agricultural to an industrial status. Prior to 1880 there was practically no cotton industry south of Mason and Dixon's line. Today about one half the active spindles are in the South. Since 1910 the Northern mills have hardly increased their production, whereas the output of Southern mills has become greater by more than fifty per cent. Longer working‑hours, a mild climate, lower living‑costs, and proximity to the raw material give to the South an advantage which is likely to prove commanding so far at least as staple and coarser textiles are concerned, and the mills of the North will perforce turn to the finer goods and to specialties.
Our production of cotton reached its peak in a crop of more than 16,000,000 bales in 1914. It had fallen to half that amount in 19921 and has now risen to about 10,000,000 bales, of which we ourselves consume about sixty percent. The boll weevil, higher labor‑costs, and the advantages of diversified agriculture seem likely to hold our own production to moderate figures and to make in the long run for much higher prices for this essential fibre. In that event it is by no means beyond the range of possibility that an artificial substitute for cotton may appear. Artificial silk, first shown at the Paris Exposition of 1889, is now produced in greater quantity than real silk, and its manufacture is still expanding rapidly. We are not likely to see an artificial wool, because of the structural peculiarities of the fibre and the absence of an appropriate raw material.
The next decade or two will see a great development of paper‑making in the South, where pulpwood‑now, elsewhere, increasingly scarce and costly ‑ is still abundant and relatively cheap. Rosin and turpentine, now derived from standing trees, will be extracted from the stumps of yellow pine remaining on millions of acres of cut‑over lands. Nowhere, in short, is there likely to be a greater extension of industrial activity than in the South, and nowhere in the world is there greater opportunity for the development of chemical industry than in Louisiana, where salt, sulphur, oil, and gas occur in close proximity.
The rate of our economic progress is primarily a function of the abundance and cost of energy. The preparation and use of fuels and the generation and distribution of energy are basic industrial activities, which, in one way or another, vitally concern us all. The remarkable developments now in progress in these fields assume, therefore, a constructive significance and a far‑reaching importance. The smoke nuisance, which is rapidly extending the twilight zone over America, has become well‑nigh intolerable in England. There, as here, it defaces buildings, damages furnishings, increases humidity, and is highly deleterious to health. In Pittsburgh it is held responsible for a very acute arid fatal form of pneumonia. The growing realization that our cities must be provided with smokeless fuel and the excessive cost of anthracite have encouraged the expenditure of much effort and great sums of money on processes for the low temperature distillation of coal. These are designed to secure greater chemical values from the coal and to provide an artificial anthracite. During the past year the Coalite Company in England appears to have measurably solved the problem and to be operating upon a commercial basis.
The use of powdered coal, which is nearly as flexible and convenient as gas, is becoming common in great power‑plants. In one notable installation the coal, in shallow cast‑iron trays, is first floated across a bath of molten lead to obtain, by low‑temperature distillation, motor spirit, oils, tar, ammonia, and gas, while the porous cake remaining is pulverized for use as powdered fuel.
Oil has become as essential as gunpowder to the navies of the world, and almost as dangerous to our politicians. On land the tank‑wagon is already as familiar as the coal‑truck, and the convenience and temporary cheapness of fuel oil have caused it to replace coal in many thousands of plants and dwellings. This tendency will continue for a time until scarcity and science put new values on petroleum. Both factors are beginning to be operative. The production of oil is decreasing daily, and the synthesis of alcohols and whole series of organic compounds is about to become a part of petroleum technology. When petroleum is costly, we shall have a great shale‑oil industry in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Natural gas, which a few years ago constituted three quarters of all the gas sold in the country, is now, after decades of appalling waste, a rapidly waning resource. Its disappearance locally will result in the migration of many gas‑fired industries. Its general decline is, moreover, coincident with the opening of a period of remarkable development in the gas industry. In five recent years the city of Baltimore consumed more gas than during the preceding century. The industrial use of gas has just begun. The average gas company now sells 25 per cent of its output for industrial‑purposes, about 10 per cent for house heating, and the remainder for such domestic purposes as cooking, water‑heating, and a little lighting. It is estimated that gas companies in the future will do at least five times as much business, and that 75 per cent of their sales will be for industrial use and house‑heating and 25 per cent for consumption in gas appliances in the home.
To meet this greatly increased demand radical changes in practice will be required, and many such are now under consideration. They include low temperature carbonization of coal, its complete gasification, the installation of great gas‑works at the mines with high‑pressure distribution‑systems for the gas, new methods of coking, and campaigns for the legalization of gas of lower heating‑power than that now required by law.
Authoritative estimates, based on recent developments, justify the expectation that oxygen, the supporter of combustion, will soon be available at a cost comparable with that of coal and permitting its extensive use in the production of water gas and in many metallurgical operations. A gas‑producer operating with an oxygen‑steam blast would, for example, continuously convert the coke and steam into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Very little carbonic acid would be formed, and practically the entire heat‑value of the coal would be deliverable as gas. Every cubic foot of pure oxygen introduced into a metallurgical furnace would avoid the introduction of four cubic feet of inert nitrogen, now introduced with air.
Practice in large steam‑plants, and especially in those of central stations, is steadily moving toward higher pressures. Steam pressures of 500 pounds to the square inch will soon be common, and already pressures of 1200 and 1500 pounds are cautiously being tried. They present new problems in the behavior of steel at temperatures near its critical point and the effect upon it of flue gases and those dissolved in water. Turbines are being built to operate at these extremely high pressures and to exhaust into headers supplying other turbines with steam at 250 to 350 pounds. The new turbine supercharger for airplanes is rated to feed to the engine, at a height of 35,000 feet, air at sea‑level atmospheric pressure. It has operated at the incredible speed of 41,000 revolutions a minute, or 683 turns a second for the compressor wheel probably the highest speed ever attained in a commercial mechanism.
The combination of the steam turbine with electric drive for marine propulsion is already installed to the extent of 550,000 horsepower in forty-five vessels, from battleships to fruiters.
The gas engine in large units is a cumbersome and complicated mechanism. It is now so nearly equaled in efficiency by the latest steam turbine installations that it does not seem likely to grow in favor. The gas turbine, with its promise of still higher efficiencies, has been just below the horizon for several years. Very recently that daring conception, the mercury turbine, has passed from theory to actuality and, among the milestones of progress, may be set as far in advance of the steam turbine as the latter is beyond the reciprocating engine. It permits the generation of 50 per cent more power from a pound of coal than has been possible heretofore.
The growth of the electrical industries is proceeding at an extraordinary rate, and the developments now under way must profoundly influence industrial and social conditions in the immediate future. It is estimated that the energy generated in central stations will triple in the next ten years, and that in the course of that decade the people of the country will spend twenty billion dollars for electric service in homes, farms, factories, and mines. In the Pacific Coast states, installed primary power increased 540 per cent from 1899 to 1919, and over a million horsepower is now under development in California. The Southern California Edison Company is sending 220,000 volt current over its Big Creek line, and it has become possible to deliver power four hundred miles or more with good efficiency. While the superpower zone on the Atlantic seaboard is still the dream of engineers, plans have been developed for a single electric superpower system to cover the entire country and southern Canada.
Voltages as high as two million above ground are now being dealt with experimentally. In the laboratory, electricians in overalls are usurping the more terrible functions of Jove, and insulation engineers are busy with new means of harnessing the lightning. An X‑ray tube with fifteen times the X‑ray energy of the average tube in use is now available to those who are endeavoring to probe the mystery of the ultimate structure of matter. In the alloy industries the electric furnace is firmly established, while electric steel has proved its superiority for many special uses. Greatly improved electric lamps are stimulating the demand for better illumination in homes, offices, and factories. The actor no longer monopolizes the spotlight. Its protective glare now focuses upon the semaphoric traffic-cop. The flood lighting of railroad yards is becoming common, and there is a distinct trend toward high‑intensity lighting in many cities, there being in some instances a fifteen-fold increase in light‑intensity in business districts.
Whether the moving picture will develop or retrograde is not for one who has never seen Hollywood to say. The moving‑picture van, which, to larboard, starboard, and astern, compels attention to the virtues of toasted chewing‑gum or the lasting flavor of cigarettes, has arrived and is as welcome as a peripatetic billboard. We are soon to become familiar with the pallophotophone. Its symphonic name will from most of the community conceal the poetic fact that it is a moving picture whose characters talk. No longer is it necessary for our statesmen to tour the country. Their fences may be mended in the studio, and their constituents may simultaneously, in thousands of communities, view the candidate in a six‑foot close‑up as his argument is projected in a voice of twenty horsepower. It will handicap the would‑be senator who looks like a third‑class postmaster.
It would be interesting, but quite inconclusive, to allow one's self to speculate upon the reactions which our civilization is ultimately to make to the marvels that are resulting from the discovery of the Herzian waves. The sales of radio equipment reached a total of $150,000,000 last year and are expected to double in 1924. The earth has become a whispering gallery, and the ocean has lost its solitude. The farm is no longer isolated, and the newspapers, the theatres, and the pulpit have a new competitor.
Man is no longer bound to the earth. He has achieved a three-dimensional existence. Since 1920 our transcontinental mail service has covered nearly two million miles a year. It has handled in all nearly a million ton-miles of mail. In England, during the past two and a half years, there was only one accident involving serious injury to a passenger, for 5,000,000 miles flown. In a single month 2,600 passengers have been carried by the London-Paris route. It is now possible to fly from Vienna to Paris in ten hours and from Strasbourg to Constantinople in thirty hours.
But the airplane is available not only for the transport of passengers and mail. Its operating-costs are already low enough to permit its use for carrying costly, perishable, or urgently needed goods, and there is probability of an early development of an aerial express service in this country. Except as a part of the military establishment, the airplane has, in Europe, been regarded chiefly as an instrument of foreign policy and used to tie together far-flung portions of empire and distant but friendly states. French lines trend toward Morocco, and the French aspire to establish regular service between Dakar, in Africa, and Brazil. The British are working toward Egypt, India, Australia. Meanwhile, the general public keeps its feet on the ground and confines its aerial activities to the reading of sky-writing. The confidence of that public in the safety and regularity of aerial transport must be secured before any great commercial development may be expected. The situation is not unlike that which confronted the builders of transcontinental railroads in the United States and Canada. The same faith and vision are required to develop and operate airplane lines on the large scale.
For long-distance travel overseas the airship will doubtless prove more available than the airplane. It is easily capable of carrying a good commercial load three or four thousand miles, at a speed of a mile a minute. Its safety is, of course, immeasurably increased by inflation with non-explosive helium, of which, Dr. Moore claims, there is enough available in the United States to fill and maintain two hundred airships of the size of the Shenandoah. He foresees ships of twice that size, carrying a fuel supply adequate for the trip to Europe and return. The British are turning to airships for the projected London-Australia service, and on overseas journeys generally it seems probable that a passenger rate of twenty dollars a day plus seven-cent mileage can be maintained.
The automobile, which has so profoundly influenced social and economic conditions in this country within twenty years, is approaching standardization, and distinct intimations now appear that the period of great expansion is drawing to a close. With more than 13,000,000 cars and trucks now on our roads, there is, nevertheless, an annual demand for about 3,500,000 more. The replacement demand will soon equal present production. Our investment in motor transportation is approaching that in our railroads, and it is in property subject to peculiarly heavy depreciation. The economists and financiers have looked with apprehension upon these vast expenditures, and the fact that seventy per cent of all cars sold are being bought on the installment plan is not indicative of the highest wisdom in our domestic economy. Nevertheless, we grow richer as a nation, and as we have acquired cars the national income has doubled and savings‑bank deposits have greatly increased.
Rail shipments for less than forty miles are said to be carried at a loss, and within this zone transportation by truck is far more expeditious. An increasing volume of short‑haul business will, therefore, be diverted to trucks. Freight terminals are likely to be removed beyond congested city limits, and delivery of package freight made expeditiously by motor trucks. In Cincinnati motorized‑freight terminals have in one year released 66,000 cars for main‑line service, saved 800,000 switching cuts, and advanced freight movement fifty‑two hours.
Our industries are entering upon a long period of super‑competition, the duration of which will in large measure be determined by conditions in Europe or our own relations to them. As foreign markets are restricted, competition at home will be intensified. As the pressure increases, our manufacturers will be forced to rely more and more generally upon the scientific method for the control of materials and processes and to support intensive research as the basis for industrial development. We may hope to see the stupendous wastes which accompany our present operations minimized, and resources, now neglected, utilized to great advantage. Such abundant metals as beryllium, hafnium, calcium, and magnesium will be utilized. Our wastes in cereal straw will be turned to account. The lumberman will be brought to realize that he is leaving behind or burning up greater values than he markets. Pure iron, bright as silver and little subject to corrosion, will be available for a thousand uses.
Still there remains the problem of distribution, which is perhaps the greatest problem with which our industry is confronted. It seems to be approaching a solution in the activities and success of great corporations that function as distributing agencies. Sales of single mail‑order houses approximate $200,000,000 a year. One grocery company with 8,500 stores had a turnover, in 1922, of $247,000,000. Last year $193,000,000 worth of goods, in five- and ten-cent units, were sold by a single organization, and a survey of its stock is a revelation of the accomplishment of our manufacturers in low‑priced production. Chain drug‑stores are distributing agencies for books, stationery, aluminum ware, confectionery, and dolls ‑ and will fill prescriptions, if you can find the proper counter. For radio equipment you may go to chain cigar‑stores. In short, it is beginning to be recognized that retail distribution is a function of organization rather than of product.
During the last fifty years science and invention have led us further and further from the world that was; deeper and deeper into a new environment. The process of change has been so rapid that readjustment has been difficult. Yet readjust ourselves we must, and prepare for new adjustments. Our dealings with Nature in the past have been by crude and clumsy methods. The chemistry of the laboratory is put to blush by that of the plant cell. We face the problems of the future with a new knowledge of the ultimate structure of matter, derived from radium, atomic spectra, and the X‑rays. What has gone before is mere earnest of the future. We may confidently depend on science to provide the foundation for a better social structure, if we can prevail upon ourselves to build thereon in a different frame of mind.