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Machine-Made Men
by [?]

Among the commonplace white and yellow envelopes that compose the bulk of one’s correspondence, appear from time to time dainty epistles on tinted paper, adorned with crests or monograms. “Ha! ha!” I think when one of these appears, “here is something worth opening!” For between ourselves, reader mine, old bachelors love to receive notes from women. It’s so flattering to be remembered by the dear creatures, and recalls the time when life was beginning, and poulets in feminine writing suggested such delightful possibilities.

Only this morning an envelope of delicate Nile green caused me a distinct thrill of anticipation. To judge by appearances it could contain nothing less attractive than a declaration, so, tearing it hurriedly open, I read: “Messrs. Sparks & Splithers take pleasure in calling attention to their patent suspenders and newest designs in reversible paper collars!”

Now, if that’s not enough to put any man in a bad humor for twenty-four hours, I should like to know what is? Moreover, I have “patents” in horror, experience having long ago revealed the fact that a patent is pretty sure to be only a new way of doing fast and cheaply something that formerly was accomplished slowly and well.

Few people stop to think how quickly this land of ours is degenerating into a paradise of the cheap and nasty, but allow themselves to be heated and cooled and whirled about the streets to the detriment of their nerves and digestions, under the impression that they are enjoying the benefits of modern progress.

So complex has life become in these later days that the very beds we lie on and the meals we eat are controlled by patents. Every garment and piece of furniture now pays a “royalty” to some inventor, from the hats on our heads to the carpets under foot, which latter are not only manufactured, but cleaned and shaken by machinery, and (be it remarked en passant) lose their nap prematurely in the process. To satisfy our national love of the new, an endless and nameless variety of trifles appears each season, so-called labor and time-saving combinations, that enjoy a brief hour of vogue, only to make way for a newer series of inventions.

As long as our geniuses confined themselves to making life one long and breathless scramble, it was bad enough, but a line should have been drawn where meddling with the sanctity of the toilet began. This, alas! was not done. Nothing has remained sacred to the inventor. In consequence, the average up-to-date American is a walking collection of Yankee notions, an ingenious illusion, made up of patents, requiring as nice adjustment to put together and undo as a thirteenth-century warrior, and carrying hardly less metal about his person than a Crusader of old.

There are a number of haberdashery shops on Broadway that have caused me to waste many precious minutes gazing into their windows and wondering what the strange instruments of steel and elastic could be, that were exhibited alongside of the socks and ties. The uses of these would, in all probability, have remained wrapped in mystery but for the experience of one fateful morning (after a night in a sleeping-car), when countless hidden things were made clear, as I sat, an awestruck witness to my fellow-passengers’-toilets?-No! Getting their machinery into running order for the day, would be a more correct expression.

Originally, “tags” were the backbone of the toilet, different garments being held together by their aid. Later, buttons and attendant button-holes were evolved, now replaced by the devices used in composing the machine-made man. As far as I could see (I have overcome a natural delicacy in making my discoveries public, because it seems unfair to keep all this information to myself), nothing so archaic as a button-hole is employed at the present time by our patent-ridden compatriots. The shirt, for instance, which was formerly such a simple-minded and straightforward garment, knowing no guile, has become, in the hands of the inventors, a mere pretence, a frail scaffold, on which an elaborate superstructure of shams is erected.