Monday, 29 April 2013


“Keep away from the gin mill,
  And save up your rocks,
 And you’ll always have tobacco,
  In your own tobacco box.”
What an incentive to saving in one’s younger days is the thought that when the burden of years comes there will be freedom from worry! It used to be that year s added to the usefulness of the capable and industrious man, and while he might not be able to accomplish as much work in a day at 50 as he did at 30, yet his experience was worth more to his employer. The careful, prudent workman, no matter how small or how big his pay check, is wise in his younger days if he lays by a portion each week for the coming day when, like a bit of old machinery, he is into the scrap heap. There is no pensioning provision for the faithful, worn out workman, who has given the best years of his life to his employers. WE have in mind as we write, a man who has worked for one company 40 years or more, and in that time has held responsible positions and received the average wages. He has been saving his earnings, but the expense of rearing and educating a family and providing for them the comforts of life cut heavily into his weekly pay check. The boys and girls had the example of an industrious father and mother, have grown up fitted to take their places in this workday world, and have never given their parents an hour’s sorrow because of misdoing on their part, and all but two have left the home nest to build one of their own. The old home was lonely for awhile, but father and mother became accustomed to it. They looked back in their own lives to the time when they, too, left father and mother to begin life for themselves. Forty years’ faithful service is something to be reckoned with, and if there such conditions that would put one on a pension list, surely here is a case that might be considered. And there are scores  of such even in a small city like Hamilton. Pensions are only for high up bank officials and for government officers who have held down easy jobs for thirty or forty years. “This world is a muddle.” Our Hamilton boy was born on the mountain top, and came down into this old town to begin the fight for bread and butter at a very early age, and now, having reached the three score and ten mark in the downward journey toward God’s acre, there is nothing but the scrap heap for him. Fortunately, he was fugal in his habits in his younger days, and has a home in which to finish his days and a few thousand dollars to keep the wolf from the door. The tax collector does not forget that the old boy was not a spendthrift in his youth, and he tips the wink to the assessors to dig out every dllar so that it will not escape. The man who not only saves in his youth for old age is not allowed any exemption, because he has passed the earning period, but the man who spends his earnings down to the last dollar is allowed by our laws generous exemption from the burdens of city government. But what is the use of complaining; the laws are not meant to encourage thrift, but rather for the spendthrift.
Not many years ago there was a scholarly bookkeeper and accountant employed by one of the hardware firms in this city to look after the finaces and the credits; and he was a faithful guardian of the business interests of his employers, for if ever a dollar was lost by over-crediting, it was always against his judgment . The old bookkeeper and his good wife lived in comfort, and never was a payday that they did not lay by a few dollars for the future. They were English, and came to Canada in an early day, and they loved their Canadian home and the kind neighbours by whom they were surrounded. One day the old bookkeeper received a formidable-looking letter from a London firm of attorneys, notifying that a relative had lived out her days of usefulness in this world, and, being possessed of more than she needed in her final transit, she had thoughtfully remembered him and his dear old wife in her will, and that an amount far beyond his dream of wealth would be payable on making the necessary proof. It was hard to break away from his old desk in the counting room and from the men employed in the hardware store which he had been so long accustomed to meet daily. The firm had been kind and generous in their dealings with him; and then there were the friends and neighbours with whom they had pleasant intercourse for a long number of years. To leave Hamilton and all the associations that had made life happy was no easy matter; but, in going, there was an independence in the future and a return to the old home across the seas that they had left in their youth.
To shorten up the story, the old bookkeeper and his good wife bade farewell to Hamilton and all its pleasant memories, and entered into possession of the little fortune, which, added to their own savings of years in Hamilton, made a bright future for them. No more toiling over account books, no more worry as to the future! For a few years life was very happy for those old Hamiltonians, but one day the angel of death entered that English home and bereft it of the dear old wife. Misfortunes never come singly. That simple-hearted couple had a friend in whom they placed the greatest confidence, and this friend proved in time to be a snake in the grass, and was the cause of their undoing. He persuaded the old bookkeeper to invest his means in some wildcat scheme that promised large dividends; and for a short time, the dividends were prompt, but one day the newspapers told the story of the crash of the company, and of the hundreds of innocent stockholders who would lose every dollar of their investment. The bubble of wealth had burst, and our confiding Hamiltonian was left stranded, every dollar of the little fortune that had been bequested to him and of his own savings of years going out like a flash.
There were more expert bookkeepers in old London town than there were situations to fill, and as the preference is generally for young men or young women, our Hamiltonian was out of a job. Left alone in the wilderness of a large city, with the wife of his mature years asleep in God’s acre, all ambition in life gone, he must struggle on till the death angel will make a final visit to his humble home to unite him once more with his beloved wife.
There is a lesson in this. Never trust a friend or anybody else to invest your money for you; and never loan a dollar to even your dearest friend. This old muser speaks from personal experience.
          This reminds us of another story that fits in very nicely with the one above. It might be called an ancient story were it not that the principal actor is still living. Let us go back twenty years, for it was about that time that a lady left Hamilton to make her home in a western town this side of the Detroit river. She had means aplenty to provide for her future years, and settled down in a bright little cottage, which she fitted up with all the elegancies in keeping with her refined nature. She was an accomplished scholar, and her fine library was an index to her intellectual character. Her early life had been spent among the most refined people, who made Hamilton their home a half century ago, and the future promised equal pleasure and happiness in the western town she had selected to end her days.
          That western town got up a boom, and a few sharpers took advantage of it to transfer the wealth of their friends to their own pockets. A man who had a pious reputation, and was looked upon as the very soul of honor, started a private bank, and with the promise of paying large dividends, had but little difficulty in persuading the people into purchasing stock. Even the newspaper of the town gave the enterprising banker liberal puffs for what was being done in a financial way to build up the town. Newspapers sometimes do great harm in a community by advertising wildcat speculations. The bank prospered for a season, and then there was a collapse. Nearly everybody living in that town who had a little money were stockholders, and when the crash came, it submerged the town in financial ruin. The lady of whom we are telling this story had such such confidence in the banker that she trusted to the full extent of her wealth, and even the charming little cottage with all of its luxuries, was swept into the melting pot and she was left stranded without a dollar. The banker was arrested and sent to the penitentiary for a term of years; but what satisfaction was there in his imprisonment, for on his release he had a few thousand that he had carefully stored away when the crash came, while the robbed stockholders were left with the empty bag to hold.
          The dear lady, now advanced in years came back to Hamilton to spend the closing years of her life, and with a few hundred dollars which she had saved from the wreck, secured a residence in the old ladies’ home, and is enjoying the comforts of that elegant retreat.


          It is doubtful if one-fourth of the present population of Hamilton ever heard that there was such a household necessity as a sewing machine manufactured in this town; and it will be a greater surprise when we tell them that there were no less than seven factories, turning out hundreds of the best machines every week, and a large regiment of men and women employed at good wages. And all that happened less than half a century ago, and today there are but few to hark back to the old Wanzer machine that sold for $35, when American- made machines were selling up about the century mark, and not worth a penny more than the Wanzer machine in intrinsic value. Canadians had not got educated up to the idea of encouraging home industry, and would rather patronize the Singers, the Wheeler and Wilsons, the Elias Howes, and the other American machines that flooded the Canadian market. By the way, it may be an item of interest to the women folks to know that the first perfect machine made was through the ingenuity of a woman. The Howe was the invention of Elias Howe, but he got stuck on one point, and unless he could overcome that his machine could not be made workable. He succeeded in everything except in the adjustment of the needle, and there he was at his wit’s end. The story is told that Elias went from home on a short vacation to rest his fevered brain, and during he absence his good wife concluded to try her mechanical skill in the adjustment of the needle, and by the greatest good fortune she hit the adjustment and the machine was a success. Like a sensible woman she kept the secret from her husband till his return from his vacation, so that he might get the much-needed rest , and she triumphantly led him to the workshop and began running the completed machine. That was said to be the first perfect sewing machine ever manufactured. Elias Howe immediately took out patents to protect his invention, and it was but a few years till he became a millionaire, and all the result of having a bright wife. When the American civil war broke out, Elias Howe, like a true patriot, enlisted as a private soldier, although he was tendered a commission by the governor of his state. There were times when Uncle Sam’s bank account got pretty low, and as a consequence the paymaster was not able to pay his regiment. The wives and children were feeling the pressure as much and the men themselves were without a dollar for the necessities of camp. The regiment to which he belonged was several months in arrears in arrears. One day Private Howe suggested to the colonel that he would be able to help Uncle Sam bear his burden, and that it the colonel would tell him the amount necessary to pay off the regiment, he would advance that sum. The result was that Private Howe drew a check upon his personal account, handed it over to the colonel, and in a few days that regiment was revealing in greenbacks. Now the story as it was told more than half a century ago. What a difference between the old-time patriots and the fellows who are today making their millions out of the government by supplying the fighting troops from Canada with bacon!


          Well, where has this sewing machine story to do with the old-time Hamilton girl? Just wait patiently. It will come out. About the time that Private Elias Howe was drawing his check for the money to pay off the regiment to which he belonged, R. M. Wanzer had hiked from Buffalo to open a little shop on the corner of James and Vine streets in which to begin the manufacture of the first sewing machines made in Canada.  It is a fact that Mr. Wanzer was a schoolmaster by profession, but somewhat of a genius in mechanics, and to help in his new industry, he brought a half dozen or so expert machinist machinists with him. He was not bothered about patents, for by that time there was a number of different machines on the American market, and all he had to do was to combine the best in one machine, and add a few screws here and there to the Wanzer, and there you are. Mr. Wanzer’s idea was to make a strong machine and put it on the market at a small profit, and trust to his business energy to make it go. Not having an Elias Howe bank account to back him up, the new factory adopted the plan of manufacturing a dozen or two swing machines at a time, and then Mr. Wanzer and his agents travelled the country till the stock was disposed of. Then he would discount his notes with his banker and start out on a new stock. That sewing machine business grew and grew till the Vine street shop got to be too small, and then came the big factory on the lot now occupied by the Terminal station. A Yankee machinist became a member of the firm, and every boy in Hamilton that wanted work got a job. Some of those boys became preachers in course of time, and others went out into the workaday world as finished mechanics. The Yankee machinist had the euphonious name of Tarbox, and while he was head of the mechanical department business prospered. Some five or six other companies began the making of sewing machines in Hamilton, and all prospered for a time till they began to sell out to each other, and finally Mr. Wanzer had the bag to hold. Tarbox finally sold out his stock in the Wanzer factory, receiving $75,000 or more, and in those days was counted as a man of wealth.
          And here is where the old-time Hamilton girl comes in. Mr. Tarbox was the father of a family of four children. He was an indulgent father, and nothing was too rich or too good for his wife and children. When he retired from business, he bought an elegant home on King street east, said to be the present Proctor home, and furnished it with all the luxurious appointments that wealth could purchase. His daughters were specially bright girls and were educated in the public and private schools of Hamilton. It is of Jessie Tarbox, one of those accomplished daughters that we started this story with. When a young girl and a student in the Hamilton art school, Jessie first developed that talent for sketching that has made for her a name and fortune in New York city. Through unfortunate speculations, the fortune her father had accumulated in the Wanzer factory melted away so rapidly that one day the family found themselves digging down for the bottom dollars, and the family went back to their native home across the Niagara river to begin life anew. And it was then that Jessie Tarbox found that her talents and education were a mine of wealth in helping support the family. Today her skill as a sketch artist, as a photographist, and as a descriptive writer have placed her among the highbrows of culture in New York, with a bank account that is pleasant to cast her bright eyes over once a month. She is happily married, so that her name is now Jessie Tarbox Seals.

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