King Champ Gillette

Gillette, The Human Drift. (Boston: New Era Publishing Co., 1894. Reprint: Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, Inc., 1976):88-112.

Before perfecting his invention of the safety razor and founding what became a major American industrial and sales enterprise, King Camp Gillette (1855-1932) authored several books and pamphlets calling for radical changes in the country's economic and social system. The first of these polemical tracts, The Human Drift, called for the establishment of an ideal society to be created by The United Company "Organized for the purpose of Producing, Manufacturing, and Distributing the Necessities of Life." Except for agricultural and other rural pursuits, all activities and all the population would be concentrated in one gigantic urban complex that Gillette called "Metropolis."

Although Gillette's book has been regarded as part of the tradition of utopian romances like the better-known Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy, it can also be looked on as a serious, if misguided, proposal for organizing the urban world. Gillette was a tinkerer and inventor, and "Metropolis" represents his verbal working model of a new kind of city. One wonders how many later planners or urban theorists knew of his book and how he thought a modern city should be ordered. He anticipates by many years Le Corbusier's concept of widely-separated, lofty skyscrapers, although it seems unlikely this Swiss-French designer would have seen The Human Drift. Much closer in time and space is the proposed hexagonal city plan by Charles Rollinson Lamb in 1904. Lamb might have found inspiration for his own less drastic vision of the city of tomorrow in Gillette's writings. Or, perhaps Walter Burley Griffin, deeply interested in city planning and seeking whatever writing existed on this subject, came across Gillette's hexagonal system. This may either have confirmed his own ideas about the use of geometric forms or set him to considering how this might be done. Griffin's design incorporating hexagons and octagons that won first prize in the competition for the plan of Canberra, Australia in 1912 may thus have had partial origins in Lamb's or Gillette's hexagonal city designs.

Under a perfect economical system of production and distribution, and a system combining the greatest elements of progress, there can be only one city on a continent, and possibly only one in the world. There would be outlying groups of buildings in different sections of the country for the accommodation of those who were, for limited periods, in the field of labor, and also others that would be occupied as resorts of pleasure in season; but the great and only "Metropolis" would be the home of the people. Having this idea in view, the location of the great city requires thoughtful and careful consideration, it being, in fact, the heart of a vast machine, to which over the thousands of miles of arteries of steel the raw material of production would find its way, there to be transformed in the mammoth mills and workshops into the life­giving elements that would sustain and electrify the mighty brain of the whole, which would be the combined intelligence of the entire population working in unison, but each and every individual working in his own channel of inclination.

For many reasons I have come to the conclusion that there is no spot on the American continent, or possibly in the world. that combines so many natural advantages as that section of our country lying in the vicinity of the Niagara Falls, extending east into New York State and west into Ontario. The possibility of utilizing the enormous natural power resulting from the fall, from the level of Lake Erie to the level of Lake Ontario, some 330 feet is no longer the dream of enthusiasts, but is a demonstrated fact. Here is a power, which, if brought under control, is capable of keeping in continuous operation even manufacturing industry for centuries to come, and, in addition supply all the lighting;, facilities, run all the elevators, and furnish the power necessary for the transportation system of the great central city....

The manufacturing industries of "Metropolis" would be located east and west of Niagara River in Ontario and New York. The residence portion of the city would commence about ten miles east of Niagara River and Buffalo; and from this point to its eastern extremity, which would include the present city of Rochester in its eastern border, the city would be sixty miles long east and west, and thirty miles in width north and south, lying parallel with Lake Ontario, and about five miles from it.

Water for the purposes of the city could be taken from the elevation of Lake Erie, and discharged as waste into Lake Ontario. As the fall is 330 feet between these two lakes, it is reasonable to suppose that some system might be devised whereby the water required for domestic and city purposes could be made to flow naturally through the city, from one lake to the other, with very little necessity of pumping, and that a large portion of it could be utilized at its outlet­to generate power.

Another natural advantage of the section for a great city is the conformation of the land, which is comparatively level through this part of New York State, and well adapted for a city such as described.

For the purpose of more clearly locating "Metropolis" in the minds of my readers, I accompany this description with a map of that portion of New York State and country lying in the vicinity of the falls.

The residence portion of the city is given in dotted outline, and lies south and parallel with Lake Ontario, and takes in, in part the counties of Niagara, Erie, Orleans, Wyoming, Livingston Monroe, and Ontario. That section lying between the western boundary of the city and Niagara River and the section immediately west of Niagara River would be utilized for the manufacturing industries of the people. The dotted lines connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario, a distance of from twenty­five to thirty miles, shows the proposed section wherein pipe lines could be laid for the purpose of generating power in the fall of water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

No matter what problems or difficulties confront engineers in thus connecting these two lakes by direct pipe lines, it should be done: for the power thus secured and brought under control for public use would, in the long run, result in an enormous saving of labor over any other possible means of obtaining like power. Converted into the electric current, it would drive all the machinery of production, and in the form of light convert "Metropolis" into a fairyland.

Here should be located the great central city, which would be the home of all; and to the artistic beauty, grandeur, and magnificence of this wonderful production of the combined intelligence of a united people, the whole world would contribute its wealth and treasures.

In the building of this great central city, it must be considered in the light of a machine, or rather a part of the machine of production and distribution; and, as such, the objects to be attained must be known and understood. It must have no unnecessary parts to cause friction or demand unnecessary labor, and yet it must combine within itself all the necessary parts which will contribute to the happiness and comfort of all. Under such a system, the people would live in mammoth apartment houses or hotels, and be free from all the annoyances of housekeeping These apartment buildings would be conducted upon a scale of magnificence such as no civilization has ever known, and would be distributed on a determined plan that would give an average equal population to the square mile throughout the city. The labor incident to the managing and conducting of these apartment buildings on a most liberal basis, as well as labor incident to keeping the city in a condition of cleanliness and beauty, would all be furnished by the Bureau of Labor, the same as other labor would be furnished for the departments of public service. The most magnificent modern hotel in New York could not compare in beauty of its rooms and liberality of its service with any one of these thousands of buildings of "Metropolis." Built in circular form, each would stand a perfect work of art, separate and apart from all surrounding buildings, a distance sufficient to give ample perspective to bring out its beauty as a whole.

In the description here given of "Metropolis," these buildings are separated twelve hundred feet from centre to centre, and the buildings themselves are about six hundred feet in diameter. Thus the nearest point of contact between any two buildings is not less than six hundred feet. This arrangement of equal distances from centres, allowing ample space between buildings, which would be laid out in avenues, walks, and gardens, results in a city that is a beautiful park; throughout its whole extent. It is calculated that with our present population of seventy millon there would be at least sixty million who would occupy this city, while of the balance, ten million, some would be in the field of production and others travelling for pleasure or occupying;, apartment houses in the country and along our coast. To accommodate these sixty million people, would require twenty­four thousand apartment buildings, capable of accommodating, on an average, two thousand five hundred persons each which, distributed on the plan proposed, would result in a city that would cover the distance shown in the dotted outline on the map.

In the building of "Metropolis," the usual plan of construction is departed from. It is laid out, upon a determined plan of equal distribution of population, and the equal distribution of all the requirements of the people: and it would make no difference if the population were one million or one hundred million. the plan of distribution would remain the same, and the city's accommodations would be increased from year to year to meet the requirements of increase of population.

In the construction of this city, durability of structure in every part is of first importance; and to this end steel has been used throughout its entire framework, and brick or terra­cotta is used as the material of greatest safety and durability, in all walls, ceilings, and floors, both the steel framework and the brick being afterward protected and covered from view by a facing of glazed tile or glass in every part of the structure, both inside and outside. These four great materials, structural steel, fire-brick, glass, and tiling, would constitute the most important industries on which the building of "Metropolis" would depend.

As, in this description of "Metropolis," I shall advocate the use of porcelain­faced brick or art tile, as the most desirable of all materials as a facing for both interior and exterior finish of all buildings, as well as for pavements, except where glass is used, it may be well to enumerate some of its many advantages.

If properly manufactured and applied (which must be conceded), there can be no question as to the durability of glazed tile: for it is practically indestructible. and there is no material in the world for building purposes that can compare with tiling in its possible range of treatment, both in artistic design and coloring, as well as adaptability to assume any desired form in course of manufacture for panels and mouldings, and for covering pillars, girders, etc.; and for pavements, where traffic vehicles were unknown it would be clean and durable. Further, it would be one of the cheapest of all known materials from a labor point of view: for, if carried forward on the extensive scale necessary in building such a city, automatic machinery would be quickly adapted to its manufacture, and it would not be long before it would be cheaper than the common plaster on our walls. In "Metropolis" there would be upward of a hundred million rooms; and of these rooms, hundred of thousands would be exactly the same in dimensions. Therefore, the same sizes and shapes of tile would be adapted to all these rooms of like dimensions; but in artistic design and coloring there could be an almost endless variety. The possibilities of the development of this are limitless. The plaster material which is its base can be fashioned into limitless forms, and made to perfectly imitate nature, and combines within its sphere the art of the sculptor, the painter, and the architect. Another and most pertinent reason why glazed tile should excel all other known material, is its absolute cleanliness and non-absorbent qualities, and its power to resist all taint from a diseased and poisoned atmosphere. For these reasons alone, it has already received the indorsement of eminent physicians, and been adopted for the wards in modern hospitals and in some of our public buildings. Only one thing has mitigated against its more general adoption,and this has been its cost; for, as an industry, it is in its infancy, and in each instance of use it has to be adapted to single rooms or single buildings, and made to order. But where it was carried forward on a large scale, and adapted to like conditions in thousands of instances, it would be the cheapest building material in the world, when its beauty and durability were considered.

The architectural plan of "Metropolis" must be carefully considered, and in arriving at the best plan of construction the requirements must be taken in detail.

First.--The city must have a perfect system of sewage of sufficient capacity to carry off all drainage and refuse that must necessarily be a part of such a vast population. This system must be practically indestructible.

Second.--The city must have a perfect system of water distribution. The water must be pure and unlimited in quantity; and the system of pipes must also be indestructible, and be either lined or made of material that will not affect the purity of the water.

Third.--There must be a cold-air distributing system, which is used for cold storage in the food department buildings and for reducing the temperature of dining halls, educational halls, and lecture-rooms wherever aggregations of people make such reduction of temperature desirable during warm weather.

Fourth.--There must be a perfect heat-distributing system, by which every apartment and every public building can be maintained at an equable temperature. This might possibly be electrical, if the progress of this science should demonstrate its economy.

Fifth.--There must be a perfect system of transportation, by which each building where food is prepared is supplied with its proportion of all food products.

Sixth.--There must be a perfect system of electric telephonic communication between every apartment in this vast city, so that it will be possible for any two apartments to instantly come into communication with each other, or with any of the public buildings of the city, or with any of its manufacturing establishments, or with any place or individual within the environment of North America.

In the building of "Metropolis" there would be no excavating for sewage, heating, cold air, and electric systems. Each would be above ground and in plain sight, where every defect could be noted and repairs made without unnecessary labor. To accomplish this, a chamber is formed above ground by the erection of steel pillars and the building of a platform throughout the length and breadth of the city. The pillars used are of such different height as to overcome the inequalities of land surface, and make it possible to lay a perfectly level platform at the top of the pillars, it being calculated to be elevated at least twenty­five feet from the ground. This platform is composed of frameworks of steel inlaid with glass, similar to the numerous vault lights of our cities, which admit light to cellars and basements. We now have a perfectly level floor of glass and steel throughout the city, and the chamber beneath that platform is as light as day.

After further consideration it was thought that a similar chamber constructed in same manner above this first chamber would be the easiest and most effective manner of providing for the transportation system. So, again, the steel pillars come into play, and a second platform is constructed twenty­five feet above the first platform. It was now determined that the easiest way to provide the people with shelter in passing from one building to another or about the city in inclement weather, could be secured by the formation of a third chamber. This was determined on, and again the steel pillars rise, this time to a height of fifty feet above the second platform, and at the top of these pillars the third and last platform is built. All of these three platforms extend throughout the length and breadth of the city like level floors, a large portion of each surface being of glass.

The buildings of the city have their foundation in the ground, but the buildings proper rise above the upper platform. The people do not feel conscious of the elevation above the surrounding country; for the platforms, in anticipation of the city's growth, extend out beyond the city proper beyond the range of vision. There is absolutely no way by which dirt or dust can find its way into the city in any appreciable amount. There are no traffic vehicles of any kind in the city except the electric transportation system of the middle chamber and rubber­tired electrical carriages and bicycles.

In the construction of "Metropolis," the walls of all buildings could be of one thickness, from the bottom to the top. This would be made possible by supporting the weight of each story on independent girders, that would be securely fastened to the upright pillars which would have their foundation in the ground.

The design and specifications of every building would be made the subject of competition between the architects of the country, the same being submitted to the Bureau of Architecture, who would pass upon their labor, and award the credit. The incentive given to this branch of public welfare would make architecture, in all its details, one of the most fascinating scientific studies, and would result in an endless variety of beautiful designs, both in exterior and interior finish of buildings. This would give perpetual beauty and variety to the city as a whole.

Each apartment of all buildings would be supplied with every convenience of modern science, art, and invention.--heated and cooled by automatic mechanism, lighted by electricity, and electrically connected with the whole outside world; and supplied with an unfailing supply of pure water.

The ground, or lower chamber of the city, which contained the various pipe and wire systems, would be treated in white only, the ground being first covered with a cement or asphalt composition, and then a layer of white glazed tiling. The girders and pillars of this chamber would also be covered with white tile designed expressly for this purpose.

The second, or middle, chamber would contain the transportation facilities of the city, which would connect with every building, both for the convenience of the people and for the purpose of delivering food products to the culinary departments. This chamber would also be treated in white tiling, relieved by colored borders.

The upper chamber, fifty feet in height, would be a bewildering scene of beauty in its artistic treatment. The floors, ceiling, and pillars of porcelain tile, with their ever-changing variety in colors and designs, the artificial parks topped above the upper platform with domes of colored glass in beautiful designs, its urns of flowers, and beautiful works of art and statuary, would make it an endless gallery of loveliness. Here would be found a panorama of beauty that would throw into shadow the fables of wonderful palaces and cities told of in the "Arabian Nights"; yet the genii of all this would be naught but the intelligence of man working in unison. What would be seen here is within our knowledge to do, and with less expenditure of labor than is now required to maintain our present cities.

The upper, or outdoor, pavement would be tile and glass throughout its length and breadth. Here the pavement would be subdued in coloring and in dead finish, ;but would be practically without limit in its variety of color and designs. This upper pavement and the upper chamber would both offer an endless vista of beauty for the pedestrian, the bicyclist, and those who use electric carriages. At night the upper chamber, the upper pavement, and the interior courts and domes would be brilliant with a flood of electric light which would throw into soft relief the beauties of environment, and make of the whole, a fairyland.

That my readers may better understand the general plan of "Metropolis," I have prepared a series of plates and appended descriptions, which will enable them to forma mental picture of the city as a whole.

The map, showing location of city, has already been referred to, and a general ideal of location is understood.


Plate I. is a small section of the plan of the great central city "Metropolis," and shows the means whereby the population and the necessary adjuncts of civilization would be equally distributed.

This small section shown in the plate contains thirty­three apartment buildings, five educational buildings, marked A, five amusement buildings, marked B, and five buildings where food is stored and prepared, marked C.

It will be noticed by reference to plan of distribution of buildings, that each A, B, and C building is the centre of six surrounding apartment buildings, and therefore contributes to the requirements of the population of these six buildings.

It will be further noticed that each apartment building is central in its relation to each necessary building A, B, and C.

The section shown is a little more than two square miles in area, and shows the arrangement of buildings, their relation to each other, and the plan of division of the outdoor space into lawns, avenues, walks, etc. Each building is six hundred feet distant at nearest point of contact with those surrounding it. This allows for an artificial lawn of one hundred and fifty feet in width around each building, with a glass and porcelain walk of one hundred and fifty feet between. These walks, being straight, would leave a triangular space between the junctions of any three roads. This triangle of about three hundred feet would be covered, in part, with glass, in dome shape, to give light to the walks and chamber below the upper pavement. These walks below would correspond with the walks above, while the triangular space below the glass dome in the upper chamber would be a park or conservatory of flowers

Of these conservatories there would be thirty­six thousand in a city of sixty million population. Here flowers would bloom at every season of the year. There would also be trees and urns of flowers distributed at regular intervals along both sides and through the centre of every walk of the city, both on the upper platform and in the chamber below.

As the population increased, there would be a proportionate increase and extension of the city's accommodations; and these accommodations would always keep a little in advance of actual requirements. Thus, if they kept five or ten per cent. in advance of population in buildings, there would always be a large surplus of unoccupied apartments distributed throughout the city in the different buildings. This would always give the individual a wide range of choice of location o~ apartments and opportunities to change, if desired.

The apartment building shown in Plate II. is designed to be six hundred feet in diameter, twenty­five stories in height, and consists of eighteen tiers of apartments, so arranged and connected at the back that it makes a single building in circular form, with an interior court four hundred and fifty feet in diameter, the central portion of which is occupied by a dining­room that is two hundred and fifty feet in diameter.

The triangular spaces shown at the intersection of avenues, six of which surround each building, are domes of glass surrounded by a lawn.

The lawns surrounding each building are in hexagonal shape on their outer circumference, average about one hundred and fifty feet in width, and, following line of avenues, are about one­half mile in circumference.

These lawns would be laid out in shrubbery, beds of flowers interspersed with statues, fountains, and beautiful works of art. Can you imagine the endless beauty of a conception like this,--a city with its thirty­six thousand buildings each a perfectly distinct and complete design, with a continuous and perfectly finished facade from every point of view, each building and avenue surrounded and bordered by an ever­changing beauty in flowers and foliage? There would be in this city of sixty million souls fifteen thousand miles of main avenues, every foot of which would be a continuous change of beauty.


Plate III. gives a general idea of the floor plan of an apartment building. Being circular in outline and distant from other buildings it has every facility for light and ventilation, and every apartment is made equally desirable.

In effect, apartment buildings built on this plan consist of a series of tall buildings joined together at the back, and forming, as a whole, a mammoth circular building, with an interior court several hundred feet in diameter, surmounted by a dome.

In my plate and description I have adhered to a single plan; but the reader will readily understand, that, while retaining outline, size, and contour of building in general, there will be limitless possibilities in designs of buildings and arrangement of interiors.


Plate IV. represents the floor plan of a family apartment designed to accommodate from four to eight persons.

Across the front the apartment is taken up with parlor, library, and music­room. Back of this are four complete suites of rooms, consisting of sitting­room, bedroom, and bath, all on a liberal scale as to size.

The windows of these rooms are so arranged that look out and away from the building, which makes it impossible to look from one apartment into an opposite one.

The space between apartments has been calculated on such a liberal scale that each apartment is practically the same as a detached dwelling.

It is of course understood that there would be a large variety in size and variation of these floor plans, to accommodate any number of persons, from a single individual up to the largest family, each flat or apartment being complete in number of suites of rooms to meet requirements.


Plate V. gives a perspective view of a complete building and its imaginary surroundings. Here we see the tiers of apartments arranged in a circle and joined at the back, and the interior court thus formed is surmounted by a dome of metal and glass.

The windows on the sides of apartments are so constructed that they will look out and away from the building.

The space between tiers of apartments on outer face is about forty­five feet. At the back the space is about eighteen feet. The connecting walls at back of tiers of apartments are of metal and ground or colored glass, which will admit sufficient light to the interior court without admitting the glare and heat of the sun. In this space in the back the elevators of the building are seen.

If you can take a building such as described, twenty­five stories in height, and spread it in imagination over a ground space twenty­five times as great, you can get some idea of the ground space saved in building up instead of spreading out.

With the modern convenience of express elevators that are absolutely safe, and rise almost as swift as an arrow, there would be little choice between the lower and upper apartments of a twenty­five story building.


Plate VI. gives a sectional interior view of this same building. This view is not intended to convey any idea of artistic finish but merely to give a general idea of construction. In this view, also, the three underlying chambers of the city are shown. A, being the lower or ground chamber, is utilized for sewage, water, hot and cold air, and electric systems; B, the middle chamber, is utilized for the transportation system; and C, the upper chamber, fifty feet in height, is for the purpose of giving additional room and facilities for the people in moving about, and would be especially desirable in inclement weather.

In the plate the location of dining­room in central part of court is shown. Food would find its way to these dining­rooms from the building where it was prepared, by an electric transfer system, something on the same principle as now employed in the transfer of money in our large emporiums. This system need take up but little room, and could be laid close to the ceiling of middle chamber. The time of transit of food­carrier from the building where food would be prepared to the dining­rooms, a distance of about one thousand feet, would probably be less than ten seconds.

Galleries ten feet wide surround the court at each story, from which access is had to the different apartments.

Imagine for a moment the possibilities in light and color when these immense courts were brilliant with thousands of electric lights and the interior of the large domes decorated with exquisite paintings that would be the result of inspiration.

Of all the thirty to forty thousand buildings in the city, no two need be alike in artistic treatment.


Plate VII. shows a single tier of apartments in process of construction, with the different platforms that extend throughout the length and breadth of the city, broken away in part, so as to show the extension and construction of the supporting columns of the building.

These buildings are constructed upon the general plan of modern office buildings, such as are seen in cities like Chicago, New York, etc. It consists of a steel framework that is filled in between its network of beams and girders with fire brick, which constitutes floors and walls. These floors and walls are then covered by a facing of porcelain tile in every part of the building, both inside and out.

The weight of successive stories does not come upon the stories below, but are each separately supported upon independent steel beams or girders, that are fastened to the uprights of the building; and there each independently contributes its weight, these uprights being calculated in strength to support the weight of the building. By this plan the thickness of the walls of the lower story are exactly the thickness of the walls of the upper story, and this thickness is only sufficient to meet the requirements of insulation under varying degrees of temperature.

The building, though apparently rising from the upper platform, in reality rises from the ground one hundred feet below, where it gets its foundation and support.

A building built as described would be practically indestructible, and I doubt if one thousand years would impair its usefulness or beauty. If this be true, and the cost were divided among the successive generations who would live in a single apartment, how little would be the proportionate labor of each in contributing to the construction of such a home!

A city on this plan could be forwarded very rapidly, for the duplication of framework would make it possible to utilize special machinery in the steel mills for turning out special parts. It is only necessary to calculate the amount of labor required to erect a single tier of apartments, to soon know the labor and time required to erect thousands of buildings of like or nearly like construction.

The same sewage system which would apply to one group of buildings would only need to be multiplied to apply it to all similar groups. This applies also to the water, telegraph, telephone, general electric, cold air, heat-distributing and transportation systems.

Here we have a city every building of which is a perfect work of art, and whose setting is nature's loveliest handiwork, made perfect by the intelligence of man.

How can we believe for a moment that we are now securing the best results of our highest intelligence, when we have it in our power to live in places such as described, and are yet content to crowd ourselves in cities where the streets are narrow, filthy, and ill-paved, where not a blade of grass or a single flower is seen except in isolated parks and a few florists' windows, and where millions live who never inhale the fragrance of nature's purest loveliness?

It does not follow that if a city were laid out regularly, it would necessarily become monotonous from sameness. Although the buildings and population would be equally distributed, and each building designed to accommodate about the same number, here all similarity would end; for the beauty of environment would change with almost every move of the beholder. The eye could not rest on any two buildings that were alike in architecture, in design or in coloring. Each and every building of "Metropolis" would be a complete and distinct world of art in itself. Every color and every shade of color would be found in their ceramic treatment. In some instances, there would be a gradual dissolving from a dark shade of color at the base to an almost white at the top of the buildings. In others, the general dissolving of one tint into another would give an effect that would combine all the prismatic tints of the rainbow. In others, a single delicate tint would be the predominating feature. Here, one would look as though chiselled from a block of emerald, another from jet, another from turquoise, and another from amethyst. One would have metallic lustre tints, while others would combine kaleidoscopic effects in colors and designs. Some would vie with nature in their beautiful designs in flowers; and, again. the most beautiful results could be produced in the opalescent effect, that would result from the application of combinations of colors in fine grooves, which could only be seen at the proper angle of observation. With every move of the individual, a transformation would take place. One tint would gradually dissolve through many shades into a different color. Pink would fade into green, green into gold; red, through every shade of purple, to blue, and so on through endless combinations; and with every change of reflected light, there would be a dissolving and gradual change in the beauties around us. We can never obtain grand effects in architecture except by ample space and complete conceptions in buildings.

Perspective is as necessary to artistic expression of architecture as proportion and design. A building that is high and broad should have an open space around it, sufficient to allow of its beauty being grasped as a whole; and a building should be built in such outline. and so removed from other buildings, that it has a continuous and harmonious facade from every point of view. This is not possible in the construction of buildings in our present cities. Our modern office buildings are the result of necessity; and the architect, instead of being allowed the free play of his imagination in the development of an artistic conception, is obliged to make his ideas conform to a contracted and narrow strip of land on which to build, not a building, but a tower.

Imagine for a moment these thirty odd thousand buildings of "Metropolis," each standing alone, a majestic world of art--a city which with our present population, would be from sixty to seventy-five miles in length, and twenty to thirty in width--a never-ending city of beauty and cleanliness, and then compare it with our cities of filth, crime, and misery, with their ill-paved and dirty thoroughfares, crowded with the struggling masses of humanity and the system of necessary traffic. And then compare the machinery of both systems, and take your choice; for I believe the only obstacle that lies in the way of the building of this great city is man. For if he chooses to build it, he has the necessary intelligence, and can complete it within twenty-five years. The same endless variety in colors and designs would be found in the treatment of interiors, but in the ceramic decoration of upward of one hundred million rooms it would be possible to use the same designs in different colors and combinations of borders and panels in hundreds of thousands of rooms, and yet no two rooms would be treated exactly alike. It would be only natural that there would be hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of rooms of exactly the same dimensions: and thus machinery would economically come into play where such a wide field of duplication was possible. This is why I assert that tiling, though expensive now as a decorative feature of buildings, would, under these conditions of production, be actually cheaper than the common plaster on our walls. My idea is that the city should be actually a city of porcelain, as far as outside appearance was concerned, except where glass was used, and where wood or metal was used for window frames and doors.

I wish to speak here of another advantage which would result from there being millions of rooms of the same dimensions. In the manufacturing department of "Metropolis" rugs and carpets would be one of the large industries; and, where there where millions of rooms of like dimensions, it would be possible to make special machinery to weave carpets or rugs to the exact dimensions of rooms. In cases where millions were to be made to the same dimensions there could be thousands of different designs and combinations and shades of coloring.

It is now my purpose to describe in outline that portion of "Metropolis" where the manufacturing industries of the people would be carried forward. This portion of the city would lie east of the Niagara River, but might be extended west of the river, should Canada and the United States join hands in the common purpose. The manufacturing and residence portion of the city would be connected by a continuation of the three platforms, which would be the same in all sections of the city, and which would also be continued in the form of bridges over the river.

The same idea of durability in all structural work would be maintained in the manufacturing portion of the city, the only difference being in general design of buildings, which would be adapted in each instance, in size and convenience to the industrial purpose carried forward within its walls, and would, in each separate case, form a geometrical part of the machine of production. Each building would stand separate and apart from all others, and liberal space would be allowed for their necessary future extension.

The same artistic beauty would be maintained in the exterior architectural design of the buildings and in the upper chamber and outdoor platform of this portion of the city.

In interior arrangement, ample room would be allowed, so there would be no crowding of machinery or lack of room for handling material, and every facility for light and ventilation would be provided for. In general, white porcelain would be used for floors, ceilings, and walls, relieved to a limited extent by colored borders and panels of beautiful design.

The machinery in every establishment would be made as nearly automatic in the handling of material as possible, as well as handling material to and from machines and from one machine to another, and to and from the transportation system, which would find entrance beneath each building. This automatic system would be made a distinctive feature, which would prove practical where material was handled in large quantity; and constant and rapid progress would be made in this direction.

All machines would be run by the direct application of electric power, all shafting and belting being dispensed with wherever it was practicable.

The general working of this industrial system, by which the vast population would be supplied with every material want, would be simplicity itself, and would combine order and economy in every part. The raw material, brought from every section of America or foreign lands, would be delivered in cars direct to that establishment where it was to be utilized in the process of manufacture. Here the wheat would be delivered to the mill direct from the field where it was produced; and it would be the same with wool, cotton, hides, and spices from foreign lands, and the hundreds of items that go to swell the demand of a large population. Articles of food consumption would be produced with the greatest care, and the highest standard of quality and purity would always be maintained; and there would be a constant gain in this direction.

The manufactured product, in its finished state, would be delivered from the machines into packages containing from five hundred pounds to a carload; and for special articles used in large quantities, porcelain-lined cars would be provided. In this shape, flour, and many other articles, would be delivered to the storerooms of those buildings of "Metropolis" where food would be prepared, and there remain until contents were used. The whole process of handling food products finds its greatest economy by being thus handled direct from factory to place of consumption in bulk, dispensing entirely with our present system of small packages, which entails an enormous amount of labor. The same principle of handling in bulk would be adhered to in the handling of preserved fruits and vegetables, which would be put up in porcelain-lined packages holding from one hundred to five hundred pounds, such packages being returned to the manufacturing department over and over again.

All manufactured food and products would find their way direct from their place of manufacture to a common centre of distribution, and from this centre they would be distributed to those buildings of "Metropolis" where food was prepared for the table. As I have before described, there are four thousand of these buildings in "Metropolis"; and, at first sight, it might seem like an enormous task to keep them supplied with food from day. But, when it is considered that almost all manufactured products could be delivered in quantity sufficient to last a year, it only means the supply of twelve or fourteen of these buildings on an average each day. All such materials as flour, sugar, salt, spices, baking-powder, extracts, soaps, vinegar, syrups, etc., could be delivered in bulk, and in special cars which would be retained in the storerooms of the buildings where the food was prepared until emptied, when they would be returned to the proper manufacturing establishment, and refilled.

The departments devoted to the manufacture of wearing apparel and household necessities would be carried forward on the same general plan, except that the finished product goes direct from the manufacturing establishments to mammoth emporiums. Thus we would have a furniture emporium, rug emporium, curtains and hangings, gentlemen's clothing, underwear, etc., women's dress goods, etc. In these mammoth establishments, would be arranged, in attractive display, the products of the highest developed intelligence in art and science,--goods in greatest variety of texture, design, and beauty, all of highest grade and quality. Here the people would select what they desired without money and without price.

Many will maintain that the people would abuse this privilege, but such would not be the case; for under a material equality there is no incentive to hoard up, and no one could load themselves down with the care of clothes which they did not need and could not wear. And no one would fill their apartments with a lot of useless trash and furniture which is neither useful nor ornamental, and would be in the way.

I here reiterate what I have said before, that no system can ever be a perfect system, and free from incentive for crime, until money and all representative value of material is swept from the face of the earth.

In addition to those manufacturing industries which would contribute directly to the supply of material necessities, would be the mechanical industries--mammoth machine-shops where machinery would be produced, foundries and rolling mills, and those establishments which contributed to the arts and sciences, to the extension and furtherance of public improvements, and to agricultural implements and machines.

In the generation of the power to meet all the requirements of the people, that which demanded the least manual labor for a given output of energy would be the system adopted. This, without question. would be that which would result from the fall of water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. From thousands of turbines this power would be immediately transformed into electrical energy; and, thus handled, the power would be transmitted direct to the various places where it was to be utilized. Thus from the mammoth electric plant would radiate the energy that was to run the five hundred thousand passenger elevators of "Metropolis," the transportation system, the heat and lighting system, and the mammoth mills, machine-shops, and manufacturing establishments. Like the heart of a sentient being the city would pulsate with life through its millions of arteries of copper and steel, and stand a living, breathing monument of man's combined and highest intelligence.

I believe, as much as I believe that I live, that, if the plan outlined could be understood by the masses, enthusiasm would amount to such a pitch in the excitement and desire to see "Metropolis" completed that millions would enlist their services for an indefinite time to forward its building, and all they would ask would be soldier's fare and clothing. What would money be to them, when the near future would see it pass into the oblivion of an ignorant age? 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
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