Finley Peter Dunne: Machinery


I want to offer another bit from Observations By Mr. Dooley, this one a bit about the astounding progress in machinery that the late 19th century had brought, and the basic attitude feels to me pretty evergreen.

Mr. Dooley was reading from a paper.

“‘We live,’ he says, ‘in an age iv wondhers. Niver befure in th’ histhry iv th’ wurruld has such progress been made.’

“Thrue wurruds an’ often spoken. Even in me time things has changed. Whin I was a la-ad Long Jawn Wintworth cud lean his elbows on th’ highest buildin’ in this town. It took two months to come here fr’m Pittsburg on a limited raft an’ a stage coach that run fr’m La Salle to Mrs. Murphy’s hotel. They wasn’t anny tillygraft that I can raymimber an’ th’ sthreet car was pulled be a mule an’ dhruv be an engineer be th’ name iv Mulligan. We thought we was a pro-grissive people. Ye bet we did. But look at us today. I go be Casey’s house tonight an’ there it is a fine storey-an’-a-half frame house with Casey settin’ on th’ dure shtep dhrinkin’ out iv a pail. I go be Casey’s house to-morrah an’ it’s a hole in th’ groun’. I rayturn to Casey’s house on Thursdah an’ it’s a fifty-eight storey buildin’ with a morgedge onto it an’ they’re thinkin’ iv takin’ it down an’ replacin’ it with a modhren sthructure. Th’ shoes that Corrigan th’ cobbler wanst wurruked on f’r a week, hammerin’ away like a woodpecker, is now tossed out be th’ dozens fr’m th’ mouth iv a masheen. A cow goes lowin’ softly in to Armours an’ comes out glue, beef, gelatine, fertylizer, celooloid, joolry, sofy cushions, hair restorer, washin’ sody, soap, lithrachoor an’ hed springs so quick that while aft she’s still cow, for’ard she may be annything fr’m huttons to Pannyma hats. I can go fr’m Chicago to New York in twinty hours, but I don’t have to, thank th’ Lord. Thirty years ago we thought ’twas marvelous to be able to tillygraft a man in Saint Joe an’ get an answer that night. Now, be wireless tillygraft ye can get an answer befure ye sind th’ tillygram if they ain’t careful. Me friend Macroni has done that. Be manes iv his wondher iv science a man on a ship in mid-ocean can sind a tillygram to a man on shore, if he has a confid’rate on board. That’s all he needs. Be mechanical science an’ thrust in th’ op’rator annywan can set on th’ shore iv Noofoundland an’ chat with a frind in th’ County Kerry.

“Yes, sir, mechanical science has made gr-reat sthrides. Whin I was a young man we used to think Hor’ce Greeley was th’ gr-reatest livin’ American. He was a gran’ man, a gran’ man with feathers beneath his chin an’ specs on his nose like th’ windows in a diver’s hemlet. His pollyticks an’ mine cudden’t live in th’ same neighborhood but he was a gran’ man all th’ same. We used to take th’ Cleveland Plain Daler in thim days f’r raycreation an’ th’ New York Thrybune f’r exercise. ‘Twas considhered a test iv a good natured dimmycrat if he cud read an article in th’ Thrybune without havin’ to do th’ stations iv th’ cross aftherward f’r what he said. I almost did wanst but they was a line at th’ end about a frind iv mine be th’ name iv Andhrew Jackson an’ I wint out an’ broke up a Methodist prayer meetin’. He was th’ boy that cud put it to ye so that if ye voted th’ dimmycrat tickit it was jus’ th’ same as demandin’ a place in purgytory. Th’ farmers wud plant annything fr’m a ruty baga to a congressman on his advice. He niver had money enough to buy a hat but he cud go to th’ sicrety iv th’ threasury an’ tell him who’s pitcher to put on th’ useful valentines we thrade f’r groceries. “But if Hor’ce Gr

eeley was alive today where’d he be? Settin’ on three inches iv th’ edge iv a chair in th’ outside office iv me frind Pierpont Morgan waitin’ f’r his turn. In th’ line is th’ Imp’ror iv Germany, th’ new cook, th’ prisidint iv a railroad, th’ cap’n iv th’ yacht, Rimbrandt th’ painther, Jawn W. Grates, an’ Hor’ce. Afther awhile th’ boy at th’ dure says: ‘Ye’re next, ol’ party. Shtep lively f’r th’ boss has had a Weehawken Peerooginy sawed off on him this mornin’ an’ he mustn’t he kep’ waitin’.’ An’ th’ iditor goes in. ‘Who ar-re ye?’ says th’ gr-reat man, givin’ him wan iv thim piercin’ looks that whin a man gets it he has to be sewed up at wanst. ‘I’m ye’er iditor,’ says Hor’ce. ‘What’s ye’er spishilty?’ ‘Tahriff an’ th’ improvemint iv th’ wurruld,’ says Hor’ce. ‘See Perkins,’ says Pierpont, an’ th’ intherview is over. Now what’s made th’ change? Mechanical Science, Hinnissy. Some wan made a masheen that puts steel billets within th’ reach iv all. Hince Charlie Schwab.

“What’s it done f’r th’ wurruld? says ye. It’s done ivrything. It’s give us fast ships an’ an autymatic hist f’r th’ hod, an’ small flats an’ a taste iv solder in th’ peaches. If annybody says th’ wurruld ain’t betther off thin it was, tell him that a masheen has been invinted that makes honey out iv pethrolyum. If he asts ye why they ain’t anny Shakesperes today, say: ‘No, but we no longer make sausages he hand.’

“‘Tis pro-gress. We live in a cinchry iv pro-gress an’ I thank th’ Lord I’ve seen most iv it. Man an’ boy I’ve lived pretty near through this wondherful age. If I was proud I cud say I seen more thin Julyus Caesar iver see or cared to. An’ here I am, I’ll not say how old, still pushin’ th’ malt acrost th’ counther at me thirsty counthrymen. All around me is th’ refinemints iv mechanical janius. Instead iv broachin’ th’ beer kag with a club an’ dhrawin’ th’ beer through a fassit as me Puritan forefathers done, I have that wondher iv invintive science th’ beer pump. I cheat mesilf with a cash raygisther. I cut off th’ end iv me good cigar with an injanyous device an’ pull th’ cork out iv a bottle with a conthrivance that wud’ve made that frind that Hogan boasts about, that ol’ boy Archy Meeds, think they was witchcraft in th’ house. Science has been a gr-reat blessin’ to me. But amidst all these granjoors here am I th’ same ol’ antiquated combination iv bellows an’ pump I always was. Not so good. Time has worn me out. Th’ years like little boys with jackknives has carved their names in me top. Ivry day I have to write off something f’r deprecyation. ‘Tis about time f’r whoiver owns me to wurruk me off on a thrust. Mechanical science has done ivrything f’r me but help me. I suppose I ought to feel supeeryor to me father. He niver see a high buildin’ but he didn’t want to. He cudden’t come here in five days but he was a wise man an’ if he cud’ve come in three he’d have stayed in th’ County Roscommon.

“Th’ pa-apers tells me that midical science has kept pace with th’ hop-skip-an’-a-jump iv mechanical inginooty. Th’ doctors has found th’ mickrobe iv ivrything fr’m lumbago to love an’ fr’m jandice to jealousy, but if a brick bounces on me head I’m crated up th’ same as iv yore an’ put away. Rockyfellar can make a pianny out iv a bar’l iv crude ile, but no wan has been able to make a blade iv hair grow on Rockyfellar. They was a doctor over in France that discovered a kind iv a thing that if ’twas pumped into ye wud make ye live till people got so tired iv seein’ ye around they cud scream. He died th’ nex’ year iv premachure ol’ age. They was another doctor cud insure whether th’ flex’ wan wud be a boy or a girl. All ye had to do was to decide wud it be Arthur or Ethel an’ lave him know. He left a fam’ly iv unmarredgeable daughters.

“I sometimes wondher whether pro-gress is anny more thin a kind iv a shift. It’s like a merry-go-round. We get up on a speckled wooden horse an’ th’ mechanical pianny plays a chune an’ away we go, hollerin’. We think we’re thravellin’ like th’ divvle but th’ man that doesn’t care about merry-go-rounds knows that we will come back where we were. We get out dizzy an’ sick an’ lay on th’ grass an’ gasp: ‘Where am I? Is this th’ meelin-yum?’ An’ he says: ‘No, ’tis Ar-rchey Road.’ Father Kelly says th’ Agyptians done things we cudden’t do an’ th’ Romans put up sky-scrapers an’ aven th’ [Chinese] had tillyphones an’ phony-grafts.

“I’ve been up to th’ top iv th’ very highest buildin’ in town, Hinnissy, an’ I wasn’t anny nearer Hivin thin if I was in th’ sthreet. Th’ stars was as far away as iver. An’ down beneath is a lot iv us runnin’ an’ lapin’ an’ jumpin’ about, pushin’ each other over, haulin’ little sthrips iv ir’n to pile up in little buildin’s that ar-re called sky-scrapers but not be th’ sky; wurrukin’ night an’ day to make a masheen that’ll carry us fr’m wan jack-rabbit colony to another an’ yellin’, ‘Pro-gress! ‘Pro-gress, oho! I can see th’ stars winkin’ at each other an’ sayin’: ‘Ain’t they funny! Don’t they think they’re playin’ hell!’

“No, sir, masheens ain’t done much f’r man. I can’t get up anny kind iv fam’ly inthrest f’r a steam dredge or a hydhraulic hist. I want to see sky-scrapin’ men. But I won’t. We’re about th’ same hight as we always was, th’ same hight an’ build, composed iv th’ same inflammable an’ perishyable mateeryal, an exthra hazardous risk, unimproved an’ li’ble to collapse. We do make pro-gress but it’s th’ same kind Julyus Caesar made an’ ivry wan has made befure or since an’ in this age iv masheenery we’re still burrid be hand.”

“What d’ye think iv th’ man down in Pinnsylvanya who says th’ Lord an’ him is partners in a coal mine?” asked Mr. Hennessy, who wanted to change the subject.

“Has he divided th’ profits?” asked Mr. Dooley.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

Please Write Something Funnier Than I Thought To

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.