Read CHAPTER III - A MANUFACTORY OF RIFLES of The Boy With the U.S. Census, free online book, by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, on ReadCentral.com.

Settling himself comfortably in the train for his long journey to the capital, one of the first things that Hamilton did was to take from his pocket the little carving that had been given him by the mountain lad and put it away carefully in his grip. Examining it closely as he did so, the boy was astonished to note the fineness of the work, and he realized that it must have taken Bill Wilsh all the spare moments of a long winter to finish it. The work was all the more surprising, Hamilton thought, since it had been done just with a single tool, a common pocketknife, and was yet as fine and delicate as though carved with a set of costly tools. He made up his mind to buy a set and send them to Bill Wilsh with the first pay that he got from his Census Bureau work.

Seated across the aisle from him was another lad about his own age, with whom Hamilton rather wanted to make acquaintance, but the opportunity did not arrive until the first meal, when, by chance, they found themselves on opposite sides of one of the small tables in the dining car. The usual courtesies of the table led to conversation, in the course of which Hamilton’s companion dropped the word “census” in a manner which showed his familiarity with the progress of the work of preparation.

“Are you interested in the census?” asked Hamilton promptly.

“Rather,” the other replied. “I’m going to work in the Bureau. As a matter of fact, I’m just going to Washington to get my appointment now.”

“You are!” exclaimed Hamilton. “Why, that’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s queer we should meet this way.”

“Are you going as an assistant special agent, too?” his new friend asked.

“I’m going to start in that way,” the boy replied

“How do you mean ’start’?” the other queried. “I understand that work on the manufactures will last three or four months, and by that time all the other census-taking will be over.”

“I’m going to try to get some of the population work as well,” Hamilton explained. “I think it will be even more fun than the manufactures end, and I heard that they’re going to put on a few population enumerators from those who have been on the manufactures work, admitting them without an exam. I think the population census gathering will be fine.”

The other boy shook his head.

“I don’t think I’d want it,” he said, “at least not in a city, and I’m going to do the manufacturing work, of course, in a city.”

“Where are you going to be?” asked Hamilton.

“I took the exam in ’Frisco,” the older boy replied; “that’s my home town, and I expect to work out there.”

“That’s quite a walk from here!” exclaimed Hamilton.

“I had to come to Washington,” the boy answered “and so my people wanted me to go and see my sister down in Florida. She married a fellow who’s busy reclaiming some swamp land down there, and he promised me a try at alligator hunting.”

“That sounds prime,” suggested Hamilton, “and I should think that in that reclamation work there would be lots of chance for it. It would be worth watching, too, just to see how they got at that work. I should think they would find themselves up against a pretty stiff job, engineering down in those swamps. And then there must be barrels of snakes, too?”

“Water moccasins and copper-heads mostly,” said his friend cheerfully, “but you soon get so used to them that you don’t mind them. It’s very seldom that you ever hear of any one being bitten by a snake. They all seem more anxious to get out of your way than you out of theirs.”

“And you’re anxious enough, too!” remarked Hamilton.

“That’s pretty good security, don’t you think?” queried the older boy with a laugh. “When both sides want to get away, there’s not much chance of a meeting.”

“But how about the alligators?”

“That was real good sport,” the other rejoined. “But I kept down to the smaller chaps most of the time. I don’t suppose there’s really very much danger, even in the big fellows, as long as you know just how to handle them.”

“I don’t think I’m particularly keen about handling them,” answered Hamilton. “I shouldn’t think the big ones would want more than about one bite to put you out of business.”

“That’s all right,” the older boy admitted, “but what’s the use of giving one that chance? Anyway, so I learned down there, it’s not so much the bite that the hunters are afraid of as the stroke of the tail. It doesn’t take such a big alligator to break your leg like a pipestem with a sweep of that long, scaly tail of his.”

“But how do they catch them?”

“With a noose, when they’re sunning themselves. An alligator lies on a bank, half in and half out of the water, most of the time, with his eyes shut. Sometimes he really is asleep, and sometimes he isn’t. That’s where the fun comes in. Of course, if you can get the boat right up to where he is, close enough to slip the noose over his jaws, you’ve got him all right. There’s a knob on the snout that keeps the noose from slipping off, and he sort of strangles when you tow him through the water. But if you can’t get there with the boat you have to go it on foot.”

“You mean you have to get out of the boat and walk right up to his jaws?”

“Yes, just that.”

“It doesn’t sound particularly good to me,” Hamilton remarked.

“It isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds,” the other replied. “As long as you don’t make too much noise, and keep out of reach of his tail, you’re all right. If you slip up, you want to jump out of the way about as lively as you know how. But he’ll never come after you, or mighty seldom. If you get a slip-knot over his snout, and can throw a half-hitch over his tail, why, the biggest of them is easy enough to handle.”

“But what are they caught for?”

“There’s quite a steady sale. The big fellows are sometimes sold alive to parks and aquariums and circuses, but most of them are killed and the whole skins dressed and used for hanging on the walls of dens, like trophies. The real market is for the skins of the little fellows, which are made up into all sorts of alligator leather bags. Most of that stuff is imitation, but still quite a lot of it is real. It’s plenty of fun catching the little ’gators, because even the smallest of them can give you quite a nip and a reptile three feet long is a handful. I did well enough out of it, because in addition to the sport I had, my brother-in-law let me have the skins of all those I caught myself. Some people, too, want to have baby ones as pets, but I don’t think I’d want to have them around, myself, after they grew to any size,” he added, as the boys rose and went back to the Pullman.

By the time the train had reached Washington the two had become thoroughly friendly, and Hamilton liked his new acquaintance so much that he would gladly have seen more of him than merely as a traveling companion. But as the other lad was going out to San Francisco, there was no likelihood of their being thrown together at all. Indeed, on his arrival, Hamilton found that he had been assigned to an Eastern city, so he had to bid his new-made friend “Good-by.”

The exterior of the Census Bureau building was a disappointment to Hamilton, by reason of its unimposing appearance. Indeed, it was altogether too small for the purposes of the census, and during the rush of the decennial work, there were departments of the census scattered through various other buildings, adding no little inconvenience to the work. Accustomed to the New York structures, towering tens of stories into the air, the two-story red brick building of the census looked small to Hamilton, though comfortable and pleasant to work in. It was deceiving in its size, however, for the floor space was big and not much broken, and there seemed to be plenty of room. But it was not until the boy returned after his population work some months later, that he saw this building as the center of unparalleled activity.

“I understand,” said the chief of the manufacturing division to him, “that you are desirous of coming to the Census Bureau as one of the permanent force, not just for the decennial period only?”

“Yes, Mr. Clan,” was the boy’s reply, “that is, if the Bureau is willing.”

“That will depend entirely on the work you do. I didn’t see your papers personally, but I understand you received a high rating, and that you have had a good deal to do with figures. That is, for a youngster,” he added, noting the youthfulness of the lad standing before him.

“Yes, sir, I have,” answered Hamilton.

“What made you think of taking this work up?” was the next question.

“Because I like it, sir.”

The divisional chief leaned back in his chair, put his fingers together in characteristic attitude, and smiled.

“Eh,” he said, “you are sure you will like the work?”

“Quite, sir,” said Hamilton in his decided way. “I looked it all over, and I know.”

“You will be less sure of the future when you are older,” the Scotchman said, “but if you ‘know,’ there’s nothing more to be said. I’m going to put you under the care of Mr. Burns, and he will instruct you further in the work.”

“But, Mr. Clan ” began the boy.

“Well?”

“Where am I going, sir?”

“New Haven, Connecticut a good town, and one that will give you plenty of work. You’d better start for there to-night. I hope you will like it as much as you expect.”

“Thank you, sir,” Hamilton replied, seeing that his superior deemed the interview at an end. “I’ll do the very best I can.”

On arriving in New Haven the following day, Hamilton made his way to the local Census Office opened by his new leader. He found Mr. Burns to be a typical statistician, to whom figures had a meaning beyond themselves, but to whom little was of value unless it could be expressed in figures. Hamilton introduced himself briefly.

“You’re Noble,” the other said abruptly. “When will you be ready to begin?”

“Any time,” answered Hamilton. “Right after lunch, sir, if you want me to make a start.”

“There’s a portfolio,” the census agent answered, “take it along and you can begin just as soon as you’re ready.”

“What instructions have you to give me, sir?” asked Hamilton.

“I save eleven and a half per cent of the time given to instructions by writing them. You’ll find a copy in there,” he said, pointing to the portfolio.

“Very well, sir,” the boy replied, “I’ll go ahead, and if I find anything I don’t understand, shall I come and ask you?”

“Telephone!” the census agent said. “Quicker to ’phone even if only in the next room. Average conversation, six minutes; average telephone conversation, two minutes; average value of my time for six minutes, eighteen cents; average cost of ’phone for two minutes, one cent; direct saving to me seventeen cents, not counting time of your traveling to come and talk. No! Telephone!”

“All right, sir,” Hamilton answered, “I’ll ’phone,” and realizing that his new chief had the question of the valuation of time down to a fine point, he hurried away.

On reaching the hotel he examined his portfolio with a great deal of curiosity. The schedules were familiar, for one of the features of the examination he had taken had been the filling out of such a census schedule from financial statements of a group of factories. The written instructions, however, were thoroughly characteristic of the man, and percentage figures were scattered around like punctuation marks. But the explanations were clear as crystal, none the less, and gave no opportunity even for telephoning.

An old New England center, and a college town, New Haven proved a most interesting field in which to work. By far the larger number of people with whom the boy came in contact were of old American stock and gave him every assistance possible.

“The census-taker?” one old man said, when Hamilton called. “Come right in the office and sit down. Now tell me what I can do for you,” and when the boy mentioned the principal items of the schedule, the manufacturer spent a good hour working over the books with his office force to get out the figures desired. When Hamilton thanked him, he replied:

“I’m an American, Mr. Noble, and one of the stones they moved from the old churchyard of the Old Center Church and that bore the date 1681 was the tombstone of my direct ancestor. I think you’ll find most of the New England stock proud of the United States and only too glad to do anything they can to help the government in its census or anything else for the good of the country.”

“I’m sure of it,” the boy said heartily, “but there’s mighty few of that old type left. There’s not ten per cent of the people in the country now that are real bred-in-the-bone Americans.”

“It is a pity,” the old man said, shaking his head, “and the worst of it is that even that ten per cent lives principally in the country. It’s the cities that influence the progress of the nation. We talk about making these foreigners over into our idea of what Americans should be, and we forget that all the time they are influencing us to become the kind of Americans they think we ought to be.”

“I guess that’s true,” the boy said, “because in New York, where my folks live, the old New Yorkers seem entirely strange and out-of-place in the dash and glitter.”

“Of course,” the New Englander replied. “The real Americans are plain, solid people; it’s the Jewish strain in New York that has brought about the display of wealth, and to the large number of Southern Europeans are due the colors, the lights, the music, the public dining, and all the rest of it. It may be the American of to-day, but it isn’t what Americanism meant a few years ago.”

“A good deal of New York life does seem foreign in a kind of way,” said Hamilton, “and I’m glad,” he added, as he closed his portfolio, “that the Census Bureau put me at work in one of the old-fashioned towns first.”

As the boy went on in his work he came to find how thoroughly the spirit of Yale was felt in the town. Almost all the leading business men were Yale graduates, and instead of displaying the “town and gown” hostility of some university places, New Haven was inordinately proud of its college. Of course, even in such a town, there was quite a proportion of foreign-born manufacturers but the boy found that the Jewish establishments were even easier to tabulate than those owned by Americans, the Hebrew understanding of the details of business being so thorough.

“That’s not so very detailed!” one of these remarked to Hamilton when the boy had come to the end of his list of questions.

“It’s a relief to hear somebody say that,” answered the young census-taker with a laugh, “because I hear a dozen times a day the complaint that no one could be expected to know as much about a business as these schedules require.”

It was not to be expected that the work would proceed without an occasional hitch, and Hamilton had one such with a firm of Italian marble-cutters in which the bookkeeping had been of so curious a character that it was next to impossible to get out the kind of figures the government wanted. Another was in a small Chinese place, where they made little trinkets to sell to tourists in the “Chinatown” districts of the larger cities, representing them to be imported articles of value. Another was with a small place run by two brothers, Persians, making fringes and tassels for fraternal order badges and matters of that kind. It was interesting to the lad, for he had the chance to see the works in a number of cases, and he learned a lot about the way many queer things were made.

But Hamilton’s hopes were set on visiting one especial manufacturing plant in New Haven, and he had determined to ask that he be allowed to go over it before he left the town. This was the great sporting gun works. Hamilton was passionately fond of sport, and had owned a Winchester ever since he was twelve years old. Indeed, he had read up on guns a good deal, and it was one of his hobbies.

His delight was great, therefore, when at the end of a long day, after he had turned in his schedule to his chief, the latter said:

“Noble, your work is good. Johnson is faster. Up to last night he had turned in one, decimal five-two per cent more establishments than you, but your proportion of capital invested is larger, showing that the works you went to took more time. Your schedules are better. This takes a little over one-fifth more of my own time than I had figured at first. I was going to do the Winchester works myself. I think you can do it. You had better go ahead. It’s complicated, but they’ll help you all they can. There’s not much time left.”

“Very well, Mr. Burns,” said Hamilton decisively with the characteristic raising and lowering of his eyebrows, “I’ll get all there is, all right.”

The next morning, about ten o’clock, Hamilton presented himself at the general offices of the company on the outskirts of the town, about a mile from the college. He asked to see the business manager, and was granted an interview.

“Mr. Arverne,” said the boy, “I called with regard to securing the figures for the census of nineteen hundred and ten.”

“But you are not the special agent surely?” said the manager, looking at him sharply.

“No, sir,” the boy answered, “Mr. Burns is the special agent, and I am one of his assistants.”

“I should have thought Mr. Burns would have come himself,” the man said; “you are young for this work, aren’t you?”

Hamilton flushed at this reference to his boyish appearance, but he answered steadily: “Yes, sir, I believe I am younger than most of the assistant special agents, but I have had a good deal to do with figures.”

“Burns is a good man,” the manager continued. “If the government has men of that stamp all over the country, the statistics will be invaluable. You know Mr. Burns?” he added suddenly.

“Only just since this work began, Mr. Arverne,” the boy replied.

“Queer chap. I don’t believe he eats a bit of food or drinks a glass of water without mentally figuring the nutritious percentage in the food, and the effect of his drink upon the water supply of the world.”

Hamilton laughed.

“He is a little that way, sir,” he said.

“A little!” the manager exclaimed. “But to return to the point. You didn’t tell me why Mr. Burns didn’t come himself.”

“He said that the office work was piling up, sir,” answered the boy, “and if you don’t mind my saying so, Mr. Arverne he spoke of it as an opportunity for me, since it was the largest plant in the city and my schedules had been the most complete of those turned in to him.”

The manager eyed the boy keenly.

“Mr. Burns doesn’t make many mistakes,” he said, after a moment, “and if he has confidence in you, he knows what he is talking about. This is a country of young men anyway, and it seems to be getting younger all the time. Where is the schedule?”

Hamilton handed him the paper and sat back, waiting. Several minutes passed, while the manager went over the questions item by item.

“Yes,” he said at last, “I think our books can answer every question there without difficulty. We keep very complete books. I am not so sure, Mr. Noble,” he continued, “that I can give you those figures immediately in just exactly that form.”

“In what points do your books differ?” asked Hamilton quietly.

“Not in any essentials, but in a few minor points,” the manager replied. “For example, you want to know here the exact number of employees on our pay roll on December 15th. Now I could have the pay roll department we keep it as an entirely separate department here turn up instantly the payments for the week in which that date occurs, but in order to separate that one day from the week, reference will have to be made to the Employment Bureau to find out what workers left, and how many were added, and the day of the week on which each of these left or began work in that week, and to add or to deduct such sums from the weekly pay roll.”

“That difficulty has come up several times,” said Hamilton, “because not many people pay their employees by the day. But in nine cases out of ten, an average for that week is usually struck, figuring in some cases by the days and in others by the hours. I suppose you noticed that the schedule itself states that what is sought is ’a normal day’?”

“I saw that,” was the reply, “but it seems to me that when possible it is better to have all the details carried out to the full. However, even that is not the most serious difficulty of these questions.”

“No,” said Hamilton, “that one hasn’t given much trouble. The hitch usually comes just at the point you’re looking at now the cost of materials.”

“That’s just exactly it. Our non-productive departments consume a great deal of material, mill-supplies and fuels, but if we include those with all the rest of it, our figures will not show a right proportion.”

“What do you mean by your non-productive departments?” asked the boy. “That seems rather a curious phrase.”

“Those in which the work done is not directly a part of the making of guns or ammunition. For example, we have a large force of draughtsmen working on new models of rifles and mechanisms and on machinery to enable us to make the new types. We make all the machinery that we use, right here in the plant. We make our own tools, too, so that there is a great deal of designing.”

“Those are not non-productive,” commented Hamilton.

“We call them so,” was the reply.

“I don’t think the Census Bureau considers them as such,” said Hamilton, feeling rather proud of this opportunity to explain some of the workings of the Bureau; “it seems to me more satisfactory to consider that these works not only manufacture guns, rifles, and ammunition, but also machinery and tools.”

“But those are for our own use!” objected the manager.

“Yes, of course, I see that,” said the boy. “But even if you do use them yourselves, you make them yourselves. If you leave them out in the schedule it would make the figures all wrong.”

“How would it?”

“Well, the schedule wouldn’t show anything paid out for machinery, and you’ve got to have machinery, and you’d seem to be paying wages, without getting anything for it. It seems to me that even if you do use the machinery yourselves you really sell it to yourselves, only at cost price or at whatever figure you name.”

“I suppose in a sense we do,” said the business manager, “but that seems a very roundabout way of getting at it.”

“I don’t think it is,” Hamilton replied. “If you bought the machinery you would have to pay the manufacturer his profit. Instead of that you make the profit yourselves. The value, of course, should also be carried to the capital account.”

“Well,” the older man said, “I’m willing to put it down either way, and in that light these departments might be called productive, although not directly productive. You seem to have figured this sort of business out pretty well for a youngster,” he added.

“I suppose that’s natural,” Hamilton answered, “because I’ve been doing nothing else for the past two weeks.”

“Then how about advertising,” the manager suggested; “perhaps you can tell me where that is usually listed? As part of the sales force?”

“No, sir,” was the prompt reply; “it is reported as a miscellaneous expense.”

“Very well,” the official said, “if you come back at four o’clock this afternoon I will have the schedule ready for you.” Then, seeing that the boy hesitated, he said, “Did you want it before then?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Arverne, thank you,” the boy answered “that wasn’t what I had in mind at all. I was wondering whether, if I came back at three o’clock, I would be allowed to see something of the works. In quite a number of places I have been shown through the plant, sometimes because I had to get figures from managers of different departments, sometimes because I had a few minutes to spare while a clerk was filling up the schedule. But I’ve always been so interested in guns, and especially in Winchesters, that I really should like to find out how they’re made.”

The business manager shook his head dubiously.

“We very rarely show any one over the plant,” he said, “because there is very little to be gained by it. And in any case, there are some portions of the works where visitors are never allowed, such as ammunition rooms where there are quantities of powder about, and similar places.”

“I’d like to be able to say that there was a desire on the part of the Census Bureau for a report,” said Hamilton, “but honestly I haven’t the right to say so. I’m only asking as a favor. At the same time I have seen special reports on selected industries issued by the Bureau, and possibly my information might chance to be of value to the special agent who was getting it up.”

“Come back at two o’clock, then,” said the manager. “One of the members of the Board, Mr. Nebett, is here to-day, and if he has no objection I’ll try to find some one to show you round.”

Promptly at the appointed hour, Hamilton handed his card to the doorman, who showed him into a waiting-room. In a few minutes the door opened, and a keen-looking, well-set-up man appeared who came forward and held out his hand.

“I’ve been hearing about you from Mr. Arverne,” he said, “and he tells me that you want to look over the works.”

“Mr. Nebett?” queried the boy, and in response to an affirmative nod, he continued, “Yes, sir, I’m very anxious to see part of it at any rate. I can see that it’s a huge place, but gun-making must be so interesting that I’d like to see how it’s done.”

“I think Mr. Arverne said something to me about your writing up a special report, a summary or something of that kind.”

“That was just a suggestion, Mr. Nebett,” the boy replied. “I told Mr. Arverne that the Census Bureau did issue special bulletins on selected industries, and that perhaps I might have an opportunity to make use of some information. But that’s a personal idea of mine only, because most of those bulletins are written by experts in the Bureau.”

“Well,” was the reply, “I don’t see that it can do us any harm, anyway, and if you are so interested you can come along with me. I like to go through the works every once in so often, and perhaps I can tell you more about these things than any other man in the place, because I get a chance to see it as a whole.”

“If you would,” began the boy.

“Come along, then,” said the official, without further parley, and he led the way out of the general offices and across the street to the first of a huge group of buildings. Walking through the yard the two came presently to a long structure running alongside the railroad sidings. “This,” Hamilton was informed, “is just the storeroom for raw material as it comes off the cars.”

He turned half round as though to leave the building, but Hamilton stopped him with a question.

“Steel, principally?” he asked.

“Steel.”

“What kind of steel?” persisted Hamilton.

“Oh, different kinds.”

“Why different kinds?” continued the boy, working his eyebrows, as was his habit when in earnest. “For different kinds of guns?”

“Yes,” answered the older man, evidently deciding that he would have to go into the matter thoroughly with Hamilton, and passing on into the storehouse. “We get mostly three kinds of steel, nickel steel, carbon steel, and soft steel, with a small proportion of other forms. We do that for the very reason you mentioned, that they are used for different kinds of work. Nickel steel we do not use for the cheaper grades of guns, because it is so much harder, and costs so much more to work. Indeed, very few gun-makers use nickel steel for barrels at all, but we do on all our high-grade work.”

“I notice,” Hamilton said, “that all the steel here is stored in bars and rods. Do you buy it that way, or have you a rolling mill in connection with the plant?”

“Buy it,” the other said immediately. “You can’t run a rolling mill at a profit except on a large scale, and, anyway, this is too far from the source of supply. We get our copper in ingots, but not our steel.”

“I notice,” the boy continued, fingering a long ticket attached to a bundle of steel rods by a wire, “that you say here, ’Do not disturb until report from laboratory is received.’”

“Certainly,” said the other, “every order as it comes in is tested. We have two laboratories, a physical and a chemical, and not a scrap of material is used until it is found to be fully up to the specifications. There’s no guesswork there, but the most rigid scientific tests. That keeps any poor material from slipping through.

“Now,” he continued, “I’ll show you what happens to those bars.”

He led the way to a small building where the bars were cut into certain recognized lengths for the men at the drop forges to handle.

“This forging shop,” the manufacturer said, entering it as he spoke, “is where most of the metal parts of the gun are first roughly shaped, and this man is working on part of a cartridge ejector. Watch him now,” he went on, following the action of the workman; “he takes a piece of steel out of the furnace behind him, lays it on the die, touches a lever, and the big drop-hammer comes down, once, twice. He turns it over, brings the drop-hammer down again, once, twice, and the piece is shaped. It has rough edges all round, of course, and so he takes it, while it is still glowing red, to a more exact die, and brings the drop-hammer down once, and turns it over, then brings down the hammer again once. Now the shape is almost perfect but for that fringe of metal all round. He picks it up, puts it on that die on this next machine close by his hand, touches a lever, and a knife, exactly the shape of the die comes down, crunch! shaving off the iron clean all round, and there is your forging done, and all with the one heating. Of course it isn’t finished off, but you can see for yourself that the rough work is done, and all in the space of a few moments.”

Hamilton found it hard to tear himself away, for while the principle was the same, all the different forges were turning out different parts, and it was a fascination to the boy to see those glowing lumps of steel come out of the furnace and with the few strokes of the drop-hammer, fall a few seconds later, the shaped part of a rifle. Some of the machines were making receivers for the stock, the largest piece of metal, and other small parts like the trigger or the hammer, while still others were preparing the barrels of the gun for drilling.

“It is not likely to occur to you,” said his guide, “that it would not do to let all those various parts cool off by chance. For example, in winter they would cool more rapidly than in summer, and those near the door more quickly than those in the inner part of the forging house. That would make them of varying hardness. So, in order to make sure that they shall be the same, all those pieces you have seen being made are annealed.”

“How is the annealing done?” asked Hamilton.

“That is simple enough,” was the reply. “All that has to be done is to heat them again all to the same degree of heat, then let the oven cool at a certain rate. Here are the annealing ovens.”

“This is certainly a hot place,” said the boy, as he stepped into the next building. “Whew! I wonder any one stays in here.”

“No one does,” his conductor answered. “We have this arranged so that all the furnaces are filled in the morning, when they are cold, and there are pyrometers to tell when the right heat is reached. All the ovens, you see, are managed by these switches near the door. Look here ”

He slipped one of the switches into place, and the pyrometer needle swung around and pointed to the degree of heat in the oven which it was supposed to register.

“What are those little clocks for?”

“One for each oven,” Mr. Nebett answered; “the keeper of the furnaces sets them when an oven is up to the required heat. Then, you see, it is easy to tell when they have been cooling long enough.”

“I should think,” said Hamilton, “that making the barrel was the most important part of a gun, because, after all, that is the only part a bullet touches, and it must have to be exact. I’ve often thought of that, how the tiniest difference at the mouth of the barrel would at a thousand yards range cause it to be away off the mark.”

“It does have to be exact,” his guide answered, “but that is a matter of care rather than of difficulty. In this next building we bore the rifle-barrels, just a simple boring process, as you see, but there are all sorts of precautions taken to insure absolute steadiness. As soon as a barrel is taken from the boring machine it is put through a test, to determine whether it is correct in size to the one-half of one-thousandth of an inch in diameter. If it is not as exact as that, it is set aside. That is only the first of a long series of tests, too. You would be surprised at the number of barrels that are rejected from the time of the first selection until the gun is completed. Here, for example, is perhaps the most sensational one.”

He led the boy to a small building, standing by itself in the middle of the yard, heavily built, and looking almost like a log cabin of the old type, made of great timbers. It was just a bit of a place, divided into two parts by a heavy timber wall.

“What in the wide world is this for?” asked the boy.

“I’ll show you in a minute, I think we’re just in time,” the official said, as he led the way in. Hamilton followed him into the inner chamber. A long row of gun barrels was the first thing the boy noticed, the barrels all lying in slots. A gray-haired man was filling a heavy charge of powder behind each one. The guns were pointing into a bank of sand.

“If you notice,” said his guide, “you’ll see that a little device, like the old percussion cap is right by each of those charges of powder. Are you all ready, Jim?” he queried, as the old man straightened up.

“Yes, Mr. Nebett,” was the reply.

“All right,” the other said, “we’ll go into the room.” He pointed out to Hamilton, as they passed from one part of this little building to the other, that each of these percussion caps was attached to a wire which ran through the wall to the little room into which they were going.

“Look out, Mr. Nebett,” said the old man, after he had closed and fastened the heavy door, “and you, young sir, don’t be frightened,” and he pulled the wire hanging overhead.

There was a terrific explosion and a roar, and though Hamilton had been half expecting it, he jumped. Then he laughed.

“I guess I did jump, after all,” he said. “What was that for?”

“To test the strength of the barrels,” said his friend, as the old workman slid back the heavy door. “There, you see,” he added, “one of them did burst.” He pointed to one of the gun barrels rent at the side. “Once in a while,” he continued, “they just go up in pieces, and if you look at the walls and the ceiling you’ll see any number of bits of metal driven in deeply.”

“But he seemed to be putting in an awfully heavy charge,” said the boy.

“We do that in order to be sure that we shall not expend a great deal of labor on a barrel which in the end would fail to pass inspection, and also to safeguard against accident,” the other explained. “We do use a very heavy charge because our guns sell all over the world, and in some countries England, for instance the test is extremely severe. It’s a costly process, as it spoils a lot of barrels, but it is better to lose material than to put out a piece of work which might not be trustworthy.”

Hamilton looked around the proof-room carefully. Certainly it seemed to have gone through the wars. From the thick wood huge gashes had been rent, and the entire interior was jagged and splintered.

“How much of a charge do you put to each barrel?” he asked; and when the formula was given him for each of the different styles of rifle, the boy whistled in amazement.

“I should think that any barrels that stood that test could stand anything afterwards,” he said admiringly.

“Well, they do,” the other said. “It’s very seldom that you hear of a first-class gun exploding. I don’t recall a case of one of ours for years and years. And even if by some chance flaw they did, the good ones, being nickel steel, would just make a hole in the barrel, not fly to pieces. But, as a matter of fact, any barrel that has been through that ‘proof-room’ will have been subjected to the greatest strain it will ever have to undergo, for there is no cartridge made that would have one-half the power in proportion to the size of the barrel.”

From the proof-room Hamilton’s guide led him through different parts of the works, where various machines were employed in preparing and finishing the rough forgings he had seen made and annealed. Thus, for example, in a receiver for a gun stock, one machine worked a bevel edge on it, another bored it to the size of the gun barrel, accurate to the thousandth part of an inch, another pierced the tiny screw holes, and yet other machines made even the minute screw, done, as was explained to Hamilton, so that the threads in each should fit with absolute exactness.

“But do you really mean to say,” queried Hamilton in surprise, “that every one of these fifty or more parts of each gun is inspected and tested?”

The official led him to a number of long rows of tables.

“Here,” he said, “are girls doing nothing else all day long. Here is a testing die for a part of the ejector of one of our 1911 models. You see that there are two spaces for all of them. It must fit into this one, it must not fit into that, which is a thousandth of an inch smaller. If too big, you see it won’t fit into either, if too small, it would fit into the one where it ought not. Every tiny piece is gauged on all its sides and in every hole and at all points with this double gauge system.”

“That doesn’t leave much for guesswork,” said Hamilton. “But there is something that’s been puzzling me.”

“What is that?” asked his guide.

“I’ve always heard a lot about gun-metal,” Hamilton answered, “and yet all the way through, these parts have been nothing but steel. And all the guns I ever saw had that bluish look, as gun-metal has. For example, my watch is what they call gun-metal,” and he took it from his pocket and showed the back of it.

“Gun-metal,” said the other, “is an alloy of copper and tin and once was used almost exclusively for cannon and big guns generally. But you’re right about all guns having a bluish tinge. That is all steel, but it is treated by a process called coloring or bluing. I’ll show you both the old way and the new.”

Going down the stairs and crossing the yard, he took Hamilton into a small building where there were a couple of open charcoal furnaces, in which the charcoal was intensely hot, but not hot enough to catch fire. The pieces of finished steel were buried in this charcoal, and every few minutes the men in charge would draw them out, wipe them over with a bunch of oiled waste, and thrust them back into the fire. It was about the dirtiest, blackest, grimiest work the boy had ever seen.

“That is the old way,” Hamilton was told, “and although it is handwork instead of machine work it is not a bit better in its results than the new way. The modern system, besides, is much simpler and cleaner.”

In the next building was a row of charcoal ovens, revolving in such a way that the parts to be blued were alternately covered and released from the superheated charcoal, the effect of the greasing also being done at every automatic revolution Each furnace door bore an asbestos clock.

“What are those clocks for?” asked Hamilton. “The same as those others, I suppose, so that the man in charge can put in a number of certain parts of a gun and leave them in for a regular length of time at a certain heat, and pull them out all done?”

“Just that,” was the reply. “The only gain in the old style is that each part being handled separately, if there is ever so little difference in the metal, the bluer can give it a shorter or a longer time, whereas the machine treats all alike.”

“Then when the gun is assembled, all the work is done?” queried Hamilton, who was becoming a little tired from his long tramp through the works and among the furnace-heated shops.

“No,” said the other. “That wouldn’t do at all. A gun has not only got to shoot, but it has got to shoot straight.”

“But how in the world,” said Hamilton, “can you tell whether a gun will shoot straight or not?”

“One of the most important ways,” said his informant, “is to let an expert look through the barrel. One of our best men, for example, has done nothing else all his life; his father before him was a barrel-sighter and his son has just entered the works. He does it this way here, you try,” and he handed a barrel to Hamilton. “Rest the barrel in this crotch,” he continued, “and look at the window. You see there is a piece of ground glass with a thin black line running across it. Point the barrel so that it is aimed just below that line, and if you get it right, you will see a reflection of that line running lengthways up the barrel.”

Hamilton put the barrel up and looked and looked, but for a minute or two he could not get the direction, then he caught the line. But the reflection in the barrel was confusing, and it seemed to him that he saw several lines.

“It’s awfully hard just to get that straight,” the boy said, “and it’s dazzling, too.”

“That man you saw there,” answered his guide, as they moved away, “can tell almost to the width of a thread of a spider’s web if a barrel is straight. Here, too, is another barrel test going on. You see this man is pushing a soft lead slug which fits the barrel snugly through the barrel by means of a brass rod. It takes a certain amount of pressure to push the lead slug through the barrel. Such slight variations in diameter of the bore as one-tenth of a thousandth can be readily detected, for if the barrel is smaller at any point than where it entered, the slug will stick, and if it is the least bit larger at any point, the slug will slide through too easily. Men accustomed to this class of work can readily detect an increase or decrease in diameter of one ten-thousandth part of an inch.”

“You certainly have it down fine, Mr. Nebett,” Hamilton commented.

“We try to,” responded his guide. “Then when the barrel experts have had their turn, the gun is assembled and goes to the action men.”

“Who are they?” asked the boy.

“They test the trigger pull, the cartridge ejection, the fall of the hammer, the filling of the magazine, and all such points. They have two sets of dummies, such as were used for testing the parts. One must fit, the other not, and so any fault in the mechanism is detected. The same with ejection, we must be sure that a cartridge will not stick. Then after that ”

“Still more tests!”

“Didn’t I tell you that we had to be sure that a gun could be made not only to shoot but to shoot straight? Our crack shots get the guns next.”

“What do they do?” asked the boy, “fire at targets?”

“Yes. But first a man, incased in an armored barricade, shoots a few extra heavy cartridges in each rifle, in order to make sure that no weakness has been caused by the various processes through which all the parts have passed. Then he turns it over to the crack shots. They fire half a dozen shots at a target, then look at the target through a telescope. Those men know that they can hit the bull’s eye every time, so that if the shots are wide of the mark, either there is a defect in the gun or the sights are not true. In nine cases out of ten it is the fault of the sights, and they file them true.”

“Then really every gun has been fired before being sold?”

“We turn out about sixteen hundred guns a day, and each one has been fired several times.”

“Shotguns, too?”

“The same standard of accuracy is needed in those. It is just as important that a shotgun should throw a certain percentage of its shot within a certain radius as it is that a rifle bullet should go straight. Down in this little room,” he continued, “a man stands all day shooting down this gallery, forty yards range, and each target is brought back and measured. In a circle with a fifteen-inch radius a boy counts the numbers of holes made in the paper by the tiny shot. There should be 300. If there are 290 the gun is passed, but if less it is rejected. Sometimes you get very queer shot patterns without knowing why.”

“Do all shotguns throw as evenly as that?”

“All good ones should. It is astonishing to see how regularly the ‘scatter’ of a barrel will work out. Every barrel, of course, is stamped with the number of shots it has put into the fifteen-inch circle.”

“And you make cartridges, too, don’t you?” Hamilton asked.

“That’s one of the largest branches of our business,” his guide replied, “but there’s not very much in that to show you, except of course the making of the metal caps, and this is simply the punching of circular pieces of copper or brass, turning up the edges, or ‘cupping’ them, as it is called, drawing them to length, inserting the primer pocket and heading the filling is done in a building perpetually closed to visitors. We think too much of our visitors,” he added with a smile, “to risk blowing them up. I don’t suppose really, that there would be any danger, we have not had an accident for years, but it’s a business in which accident is only prevented by extreme care, and we believe in being thorough.”

Chatting pleasantly, Mr. Nebett showed Hamilton through the various general offices, the payroll department, and the draughting and designing room, and finally returned to the business manager’s office, where they found the schedule awaiting him, filled out in almost every detail. A few spaces had been left blank until the boy’s return, some trifling explanation being readily answered by him.

“I must thank you ever so much,” said the boy, turning to the director of the company who had taken so much trouble in showing him around, “it has been one of the most interesting afternoons I have had in all my life. I feel quite as though I had been witnessing the equipping of the world’s armies on the eve of a great war.”

“That would be all right,” said the business manager, “if we were making military rifles, but ninety-five per cent of our work is for sporting purposes.”

“But how about your cartridges?”

“There, perhaps,” Mr. Nebett said, “The Hague tribunal would look askance at us.”

Hamilton had his portfolio under his arm, but at the door he turned.

“How many cartridges do you put out?” he asked.

“Six million a day,” was the reply.