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Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.

THIS institution is probably well known to many of our readers, as one distinguished for its beneficence, as well as its standing and re spectability. In addition to its other objects, its influence has been recently extended to the diffusion of scientific knowledge among its members, by the establishment of lectures, resembling those usually given at the mechanics' institutes abroad, and in our own country. The peculiar facilities which this society can command for carrying such objects into effect, it is unnecessary to enumerate to those of our readers who are acquainted with its character. To others, the information may be sufficient that it embodies, perhaps, the largest number of well informed mechanics, that have yet been associated in this country, for the promotion of objects of benevolence or of science; and has, from its commencement, ranked among its members, individuals whose names are extensively known in connexion with the best interests of the community.

The measures adopted by this association, for the purpose of furnish ing scientific instruction, have identified its objects with the great interests of education. In this view, it becomes a source of intelligence on the subject to which our journal is devoted; and a brief account of its origin and design would seem likely to form an article of instructive and interesting information to our readers.

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The Association was instituted in the year 1795, for mutual aid in the advancement of the mechanic arts, by promoting mutual good offices and fellowship, assisting the necessitous, encouraging the ingenious, and rewarding fidelity.' The institution is styled the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.' It is restricted, in the admission of members, to persons who are mechanics and manufacturers, with the exception of individuals admitted as honorary members. The government of the association superintend its general interests, and, in particular, its prudential concerns: they are empowered to correspond, when it is deemed expedient, with similar associations in other places: they have power to grant such sums to indigent members, their widows or orphans, as they shall think proper, not exceeding twenty dollars in any one instance.' A 'committee of relief' is chosen by nomination, annually, whose duty it is to seek out and relieve such indigent members of the association or their families, as may be proper objects of charity,'-for which purposes a liberal sum is annually entrusted to the committee of relief. Beneficence is a primary and conspicuous object of the association: its funds are considered as chiefly devoted to the relief of the distressed. On the death of a member, the committee of finance shall immediately order the sum of forty dollars to be presented to his widow, family, or legal representative; but when there is no widow, family, or legal representative, the money shall be appropriated to defray the funeral expenses.'

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"As it is compatible with the act of incorporation and the good of society, the association may, from time to time, when the state of its VOL. IV.-NO. I.


finances will warrant, grant such premiums for superior workmanship in the respective arts it embraces, as the government shall deem most expedient.'*

The fee for ordinary membership is ten dollars, the quarter-yearly assessment on each member is fifty cents.'

Among the general regulations is the following, the influence of which is felt to be excellent on the character and habits of youth.

'To reward industry, sober habits, and fidelity, the association decrees, that when an apprentice, on arriving at twenty one years of age, shall produce a certificate from the person with whom he hath served his apprenticeship, that he has behaved with fidelity and attention, and has not violated any agreement made by him, it shall be the duty of the government to direct, that he be furnished with a certificate, sealed with the seal of the association, signed by the president and vice president, and attested by the secretary.'

From the date of its institution this association has continued a distinguished organ of beneficence; and through its influence on those for whose benefit it is designed, has contributed, in no slight degree, to the general good of the community. The impulse given, of late years, to the mental advancement of the industrious classes, by the establishment of practical lectures and other means of instruction, has been extensively felt in the United States, as well as in Europe. The objects of the Massachusetts Mechanic Association were very justly deemed by its members to be such as accorded with the general efforts of the day, for the wide diffusion of scientific knowledge. An act of the legislature, (February, 1826,) was accordingly obtained, by which the association is empowered to hold 'personal and real estate, to the amount of one hundred thousand dollars,' and to establish schools and libraries for the use of apprentices and the improvement of the arts.' In the present condition of the association there are three prominent objects of general interest. These are its library, the evening school for apprentices, and the public lectures.

The library owned by the association contains from twelve to fifteen hundred miscellaneous volumes. It owes its origin to a number of liberal individuals, who presented it to the institution for the use of mechanic apprentices in the city generally.' In 1826, a donation to the library by Sir Isaac Coffin, was received through the mayor, Mr. Quincy. It is a circumstance not unworthy of notice, that the library has been for some time entrusted to the keeping of the apprentices themselves, who manage it by a committee elected for the purpose, and responsible to a superintending committee of the association. The library is open to all apprentices in the city and vicinity, without charge, and without any other restriction than those usually found necessary for similar purposes among adults.

The school for apprentices is an important and comparatively a recent addition to the society's means of usefulness. In some instances, the opportunity thus afforded to the young is invaluable. The public schools of the city provide adequate elementary instruction for the children of its inhabitants. But not a few of the youth who are employed as ap

*It is perhaps to be regretted that, of late years, this laudable object has failed to attract the attention of the association, in a definite way.

The present amount of the funds, is upwards of $14,000.

prentices in the city, are natives of other places; and of these some have received but little advantages of tuition. To lads in this situation, the evening school opens every prospect which can be offered as an inducement to industry in the acquisition of intelligence as well as of manual skill. To this school every member of the association may introduce his apprentices, if over seventeen years of age. The branches taught are such as seem likely to be most useful to persons engaged in active business. The number of pupils is at present upwards of fifty; the attendance, however, is necessarily more liable to interruptions than is the case in regular day schools. It is interesting to contemplate these exertions for cultivating the minds and elevating the character of those, who, it is natural to expect, may, in due season, become themselves members of the Association, and dispensers of its benefits in their turn.

About the commencement of last year, arrangements were made for establishing a course of lectures, to be delivered weekly, at the expense of the association; each member to be entitled to two tickets of admission. The plan of the lectures for the present season was extended, so as to admit of a part of the lectures being delivered by members of the association. The introductory lectures of the course for this winter, were on subjects connected with chemistry, and were delivered by Dr. Gay.* The first lecture by a member of the association, was given by Mr. William Jackson, on the subject of rail roads, and subsequently repeated before the members of the legislature. It has since been published. In addition to these, two lectures have been delivered by Dr. Bradford on physiological subjects.

The lectures have, thus far, proved highly interesting and instructive; and should they be rendered accessible to apprentices of a proper age, (perhaps in the form of a reward for punctuality and diligence at the evening school,) the sphere of their usefulness would be beneficially extended.

A triennial festival is held by the Association in the month of October, at which a public address on topics connected with the objects of the institution is delivered by one of the members. These discourses have all been successively printed for the use of the Association; and most of them present very interesting views of the progress of the useful


The officers of the Association are chosen annually in January. The following list was compiled from the last election.

President, Samuel T. Armstrong; Vice President, George W. Otis; Treasurer, John Cotton; Secretary, Joseph Lewis; Trustees, Seth Thaxter, Ezra Dyer, J. T. Buckingham, Abraham Call, Jacob Todd, Benjamin Loring, James Mc Allister, Edward D. Clark, John Khun, George W. Otis, Daniel Messinger, Isaac Harris, Simon Wilkinson Committee of Relief, Frederick Lane, Charles Wells, James Brown, David Francis, John Wells.

We are happy to understand that since the arrangement for the establishment of lectures was carried into effect, there has been a large accession to the list of members. This circumstance is an additional proof of the great extent to which a desire for scientific information prevails in the community. It is a favourable indication, also, of the con

* Of these, one is contained in our present No.-Ed.


tinued prosperity and usefulness of the Association. We cannot doubt, however, that there are still very many of the mechanics of Boston and its vicinity, who have not yet availed themselves of the privilege of joining this institution, as members, and affording their apprentices the advantages of the library and the school. If the imperfect sketch now given of the design and character of the Association, should attract the attention of any to its excellent objects, it will have accomplished a valuable purpose.

Those of our readers to whom this article may have been less interesting, will not be dissatisfied with the length to which it has been extended, when they advert to the fact, that hitherto there has been no full account of its subject, before the community.


[To render the Journal useful to Lyceums, it is intended that each number should contain one or more treatises or discourses, on subjects intelligible and interesting to all classes of readers, and at the same time adapted to the objects of the lectures and conversation, which form a part of the exercises usually adopted at the meetings of a Lyceum. In addition to the discourse of Mr. Johnson, the subject now introduced will, we hope, be found generally instructive, as well as directly applicable to practical purposes. The article which follows, formed the substance of one of the lectures delivered, this season, by Dr Gay, to the Massachusetts Mechanic Association. Our readers will of course receive it, not as a full, systematic treatise on its subject, but as a familiar discourse, presenting useful information in a popular form. With this view of its character the author has, at our request, obligingly yielded it for publication in our pages.]

CARBON is one of the simple or elementary substances. Where this substance is not combined with any other, it exists in a solid state. It is a principal ingredient in all vegetable matter; and it is familiar to us as coal or charcoal. If we set fire to a piece of wood, it burns for some time with a flame. After a time, however, the flame disappears, and there remains nothing but a black substance, which we call coal : this coal is carbon, almost in a state of purity. The explanation of this phenomenon is this: a piece of wood is composed of carbon, or charcoal, and several other ingredients; and when we set fire to it, the heat of the wood, while burning, converts these other solid substances of which the wood is composed, to a gaseous or aeriform state; these pass off in this form, in the same way as when we heat a quantity of water so as to make it boil, it will pass off in the form of steam. All the parts of the wood, then, that can be made to assume the gaseous or aeriform state, by means of heat alone, are driven off in this form; while the coal which cannot be made to assume the gaseous state by the heat alone, remains solid. I shall explain to you presently

the manner in which the coal itself may be made to assume the form of a gas.

The common charcoal that we use for fuel, is prepared by piling together a quantity of wood in the form of a pyramid, and covering it with turf, clay, or earth, leaving a few air holes; the wood is then set on fire; and as soon as the whole of it is kindled, the air holes are stopped up. In this process the covering of clay or turf prevents the combustion of the coal, while the other parts of the wood are burnt or driven off in a gaseous state.

Charcoal obtained in this manner is not perfectly pure carbon: it contains a very small quantity of earthly or alkaline substances, and an exceedingly small quantity of hydrogen. Almost the whole of the coal, therefore, is carbon.

Another form of carbon, in common use, is lamp black. The principal difference between this substance and charcoal is, that the lamp black is in the form of an impalpable powder, and some kinds of it contain a less proportion of impurities than charcoal: a lamp black prepared carefully from turpentine may be burnt without leaving any ashes, which form the principal part of the impurities of coal. There is one other substance which, from the most accurate experiments, is found to be pure carbon; this substance is the diamond; and I shall presently mention to you the experiment by which this fact is proved.

Charcoal is a very bad conductor of heat. One end of a piece of it, an inch long, may be held between the fingers, while the other end is burning. It may, therefore, be advantageously used for several purposes connected with household economy. A double box, for instance, may be constructed that would preserve ice for a long time in our common cellars, in the summer. This may be done by taking too boxes, one much larger than the other in every direction; the smaller one is to be filled with ice, and is to be placed inside of the larger one; the vacant space between the two boxes, is then to be filled with powdered charcoal. The charcoal is so bad a conductor of heat, that only small quantity of heat will pass through it to the ice in the smaller box.

Charcoal possesses the property of depriving bodies of their odour, taste, and colour. This property, in some cases, is a valuable one. The vinegar that is used in medical preparations, is purified by putting into it a quantity of newly burnt charcoal, and heating it. When water has become putrid by long standing in casks, it may be deprived of its putridity, by being filtered through charcoal powder. In long voyages, the water will often become putrid. In these cases, it is sometimes made good by putting a quantity of charcoal in the cask of water, and agitating it. The method, however, that is usually practised, is a better one; the inside of the cask is burnt to a coal, by which the putridity of the water is prevented. Even meat which has become somewhat putrid may be deprived, in a great measure of its bad odour and taste, by rubbing it with charcoal powder, and imbedding it in the powder.

Charcoal possesses the power of absorbing a certain quantity of the different kinds of gas: a piece of charcoal made from boxwood and newly burnt, will absorb and condense into its own substance, nearly twice its bulk of hydrogen gas, about nine times its bulk of oxygen gas, and about twenty times its bulk of gaseous ammonia. These gases may be driven off from the charcoal, by heating it. Charcoal,

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