Adolph Schmidt sat in an inn in Badenburg the evening of his father’s wedding to Ramona Higgins, caught between wishing the Ring of Fire hadn’t happened and thankful it had. Up-timers, he thought as he sipped his beer, are rude, self-centered jerks . . . who are the making of my family. Adolph was bit ambivalent about up-timers. About the fact that while others were being promoted around him, he was being held down by his father, Karl. Who doted on David Bartley. I’ll commit a war crime . . . well, maybe just murder, if one more stupid up-timer asshole says “sieg heil“to me.At the same time there is the knowledge they bring . . . the family is already much richer than it ever would have been in the old history.And there are the other things that up-timers brought, like knowledge of electricity. Which brought him full circle. Adolph had been trying to get some interest in the notion of small-scale electric plants in the weeks leading up to the wedding. He hadn’t been getting that far, but was making slow progress.
Now the Partow twins, Brent and Trent, just mentioned that it’s one of the projects that they are interested in and people are falling all over themselves to invest. It just isn’t fair. And it seemed that his father, who was at best neutral to the idea when Adolph brought it to him, was already involved in the planning to set up this new mutual fund to finance the twin up-timer mechanical geniuses in doing it. It just isn’t fair. Adolph had another swig of beer.
The next morning Adolph had a horrible headache and his father was off on his wedding trip, what the up-timers called a honeymoon. Adolph was left to run things but not really in charge. Responsibility without authority. Adolph was expected to manage things without making any decisions more than the most minor. Success was expected and would be ignored, failure would be more proof that he wasn’t ready for a real leadership position.
The Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation, the Badenburg Sewing Machine factory, the Badenburg electroplating shop, and the other companies owned in whole or in part by HSMC chugged along smoothly under Adolph’s management. He made three trips to Grantville to arrange for the production of devices that certain of the businesses would need. One of them took him to the Grantville high school where the concrete program was just getting started. Yes, they could make him concrete but the cost would be high and the quality not great. After some discussion he decided to go with stone and mortar. He noticed in passing several of the up-timer girls in the hall and was noticed in turn. Adolph had apprenticed to a blacksmith; he was a young, healthy man who had worked at skilled but hard labor since he was twelve. He was a physically powerful young man and looked it.
He was also the eldest son of the Schmidt family of Badenburg, which meant he was a wealthy young man. He looked that, too.
Since everything was working well there was nothing for Papa to notice when he and Ramona got home. Adolph didn’t even get a “good job.”
Unknown to Adolph, while he had noticed the high school girls, they had noticed him. Questions were asked, a name was discovered. Adolph Schmidt, the son of Karl Schmidt, yes, the one who married Ramona Higgins and bought the HSMC. Rich and going to be richer, considered something of a catch in Badenburg, at least since the Ring of Fire. One of those asking was Heidi Partow. She had had no idea that the twins knew anyone that cute.
Heidi mentioned seeing Adolph Schmidt at school, Brent shrugged.
Heidi mentioned that it would be nice to invite Adolph over to dinner. Brent looked at her. “What’s up?”
“Nothing! I just thought it would be polite.”
Trent looked at Heidi, then at Brent, then back at Heidi. “Oh great! She’s got the hots for Adolph Schmidt.”
“I do not!” was out of Heidi’s mouth long before her brain was engaged. It was like something she would have said when she was twelve, or maybe eight when boys still had cooties. And it made her wonder if maybe she did, a little bit. She had made the suggestion because she had seen the guy and was curious. Granted he wasn’t a member of the nobility, not even the lower nobility, and since the Ring of Fire the possibility of marrying a real prince had become a lot more than a fairytale for up-timer girls. On the other hand, the Schmidt family were the up-and-comers in Badenburg. And, well, he was good looking in a Conan the Barbarian sort of way and he dressed well. But she was really just curious, wasn’t she? It didn’t matter. Trent was going to have to be taught a lesson. Certain youthful acts of indiscretion were brought up. Things the twins really wouldn’t want Mom and Dad to know about.
Adolph Schmidt was invited to the Partow house for dinner.
Adolph had no real clue why he had been invited. Maybe it was to talk about the generator factory they were trying to find the time to set up, he wondered as he rang the doorbell. Adolph was still impressed by doorbells even if he knew better.
Dinner was friendly and fun. The Partow twins were hard not to like; Heidi was pretty bordering on gorgeous and Mr. Partow knew all about engines. They talked horsepower, internal combustion versus steam. Mr. Partow was for internal combustion. It just stood to reason that with the fire inside the engine you got more bang for your buck.
Trent, just being Trent, argued for steam. You got more bang, sure, then had to throw most of it away with a cooling system that added complexity. You needed an electrical system to provide a spark, still more unnecessary complexity.
Adolph joined the fray in defense of Mr. Partow and internal combustion. “Don’t underestimate the craftsmen of our age.”
“Oh, I’m not.” Trent said. “I’ve seen your work, Adolph, and the work of other down-time craftsmen. I know how good you guys are. I don’t doubt for a second that you guys could build an internal combustion engine by hand, given the time. It’s the time that’s the killer. Your time, Adolph, is simply worth too much to waste on handcrafting a radiator.”
“How is it any more wasted on a radiator than it is on a boiler?” Brent piled in on the side of internal combustion.
Now Trent was all alone, trapped, cornered, but not giving up by any means. “Granted it’s too valuable to waste on handcrafting anything that can be machine made, but why pretend that the boiler of a steam engine costs efficiency and ignore the loss of the cooling system in internal combustion? And what about the electrical system? A steam engine uses a constant flame; you don’t need to be worrying about sparking a new explosion fifty times a second. All these extra complexities are extra costs as well.”
“And yet you and Brent are setting up to make generators?” Adolph asked.
“That’s more Brent’s thing than mine,” Trent said. “I was pushing the pedal-powered washing machine.”
“Which is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” Heidi broke in.
“Much as it breaks my heart to disagree with such a beautiful young woman,” Adolph said without feeling or displaying the least bit of heartbreak. In fact, he grinned at her as he continued, “You’re looking at it from the point of view of a woman who has an electric washing machine and the power to run it. Look at it from the point of view of, say, my sisters who have spent time with a wash board and a tub of soapy water. From their point of view, the pedal-powered washing machine that offers the possibility of clean clothing without the red, rough hands and the aching back that comes with the use of washboards is quite the dream come true.”
“Sure, I understand that but if you’re going to build home power plants anyway . . . which Brent is, why bother with the pedal-power washing machine?”
“A couple of reasons,” Adolf said more seriously, “the pedal washing machine is faster to put into production and less expensive. Especially when you add in not only the cost of the electric washing machine, but the power plant as well. Granted the power plant will be useful for many things, but it’s simply too expensive for many a poor family no matter how useful. It will be decades, I fear, before our notion of middle class comes to equal you up-timer’s notion of poor.”
“Which is where saving the lives of husbands that can’t afford to buy power plants comes in,” said Mrs. Partow. “Because you’d better believe that any man who expects me to use a washboard is headed to an early grave,” she added, giving Mr. Partow a hard look.
Mr. Partow cringed which brought general laughter.
“We’re working on the home and small business power plants,” Brent said. “Well, Henry, uh, Hieronymus—what a name—Steiger is working on them and consulting us whenever he runs into a bug. But there are enough bugs still in the system that they’re still essentially hand making them. Which we shouldn’t be doing anyway.”
“They’ll get faster I’m sure.” Mr. Partow said.
“Yep,” Brent agreed. “If Henry can ever get back to building a production facility rather than hand making generators.”
“You could always say no!” Heidi said.
“If only!” Trent said.
“Why can’t you?” Adolph asked.
“Politics!” Brent said it like it was a dirty word. “The mayor of Weimar has to have a generator and has to have it now. Not after we get into production.”
“Oh.” Adolph said. The mayor of Weimar had visited his family a week before and Adolph had mentioned electroplating as a useful business. Adolph hadn’t had any intent to cause the twins grief but the mayor had been going on about needing jobs for the people that were flooding into Weimar now that it was considered halfway safe and he really needed businesses. Well, Adolph had set up the electroplating subsidiary for HSMC and it wasn’t like it was something they were keeping secret. Adolph knew of several other operations near Grantville. All using power generated from inside the Ring of Fire but Adolph hadn’t really thought about that. Adolph didn’t ‘fess up but he did feel he had to say something in the mayor’s defense. “They really do need the industry,” he started.
But Trent was already waving. “I know they do. So do the other people that are screaming about needing them now. That’s the problem! If it was just some smuck wanting to show off we’d tell ‘um to go fly a kite with a key tied to it if they wanted juice.
Adolph’s confusion must have shown.
“Never mind. A reference to Ben Franklin,” Trent said. “The point is we do know they need the things which is why we can’t just say no. Even though in the long run it would get more out faster.”
Adolph nodded. He knew about the pressure that up-timers were under to get something out the door now. Heck, HSMC was under the same pressure. He’d also gotten chapter and verse about what a bad idea it was to yield to that pressure if you could possibly avoid it. Always a bad option, if occasionally the best of a bad set of options.
All in all, Adolph found it a quite enjoyable evening and he learned a great deal. As he thought about it over the next several days he began to seriously consider steam as something that would make sense in somewhat the same way that the pedal-powered washing machines did. It was workable. Adolph decided to try to discover just how workable. There had to be something wrong with it. There had to be, else why weren't they arlredy doing it?
Herr Frystack was reasonably willing to talk about steam engines with Adolph, though his primary interest was trains and the re-creation of the glory days of steam trains. They had several talks and Adolph learned quite a bit. He began to get a feel for how the engines, both steam and internal combustion, worked. Even after a year and more and much of the magic having rubbed off, the how of their working had been abstract, theoretical. Now, talking with Herr Frystack and playing with the working model steam engines with their cylinders and pistons, pushing and pulling against the pressure contained in a cylinder, and then seeing that pressure move the piston and turn the flywheel, it became real for him—as real as his hammer and the fire in his forge. There were more talks over the next weeks with several of the steam heads and a few of the recruits to the cause, both up-timer and down-timer, who had joined since the Ring of Fire. There were books on steam power and the many types of steam engines and on model engines. That is, engines that could be used in models.
Adolph learned what was wrong with steam engines. They were loved. Each steam engine was a thing of beauty, handcrafted by a hobbyist. They weren’t working engines, though they worked quite well. They weren’t factory made by people who made their money by getting them out the door and into the hands of paying customers. They were the products of artists and artisans doing it for the love of the doing. Great stuff; marvelous stuff; glorious stuff; and utterly impractical. It was one of the things that had been hardest to take about what came out of the Ring of Fire and not just for the down-timers, but for the up-timers as well.
It was more the way of going about it than the machines themselves. A power drill is incredibly more efficient than a hand drill, but it is still just a tool. As a tool it spends most of its time sitting on a stool or a table somewhere waiting to be used. Take it and put it in a frame so that a chair leg will fit in the frame just one way and so that pulling the lever will turn on the drill and drill a hole just the right depth and suddenly you have a device that, in combination with others, will turn out a chair leg in a few seconds or a few minutes. What the up-timer historians called the early modern period was the end of the age of the craftsman and the start of the age of the industrial worker. As long as steam engines were produced as works of art, even if they were made using the most modern tools available, they would be too expensive for general use. The trick of it, the horrible degrading trick of it, was taking out craftsmanship and replacing it with standardization and simplification. That was what they did to turn out the quantity of sewing machines they turned out and that was how Adolph would have to do it if he were to produce an affordable steam engine.
One of the example engines had, in the world up-time, run on compressed carbon dioxide. It became the basis on which Adolph designed what he hoped would be his primary engine. The model had only four moving parts, excluding bearings. The modified version would have a couple of extras, to save on wear by replacing the ball with a cap. He would have a cylinder made of four parts bolted together, both because it would be easier to make that way and because it would allow changes to the engine by changing one of the parts. Adolph knew that this would make the engine less robust and heavier at the same time. But it was a matter of needing to replace parts in five years rather than ten and the parts would be easier to replace.
The piston and piston rod go to a crankshaft, which was designed in such a way that more than one piston could be attached, so that the same parts used to make a one-cylinder four-horsepower engine would make a two-cylinder engine and so on. The idea being to have the smallest number of parts make the largest number of engines. That idea might seem to be in conflict with the cylinder being made in four parts bolted together. And, in fact, it was in conflict with it. But while the cylinders could be poured in one piece, the machine tools needed to finish a one-piece cylinder were much more complicated and expensive than the machine tools needed to finish four separate pieces. There are compromises in any design and Adolph had consulted with the twins as well as Herr Frystack several times before he had a proposal that he thought was good enough. All this took a great deal of time, what with Adolph’s day job.
“What’s this?” Karl Schmidt asked as his son handed him the folder.
“It’s a proposal for a new business, Papa.”
“I don’t have time to add another business,” Karl said. Adolph should know that without Karl having to tell him.
“I’ll run it, Papa,” Adolph said. “It’s production steam engines. They are actually easier to build than sewing machines.”
Karl didn’t believe that for a minute and he didn’t have time to go over a pie-in-the-sky proposal from a son who was supposed to be managing much of the day-to-day operations of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. And shouldn’t have time to come up with said pie-in-the-sky proposal in the first place. Who knew what was going wrong at the plant while Adolph screwed around trying to be an up-timer. It didn’t occur to Karl that Adolph was still being paid as a journeyman smith, in fact rather less than a journeyman smith might be hired for in Badenburg today. Adolph hadn’t gotten a raise since the Ring of Fire. Which, if anyone had pointed it out, Karl would have felt that it was perfectly just. After all, Adolph was working for the family business and he wore the best clothing at the family’s expense, ate at the family table . . . the journeyman pay might well be seen as a rather generous allowance. It didn’t occur to Karl—as it doesn’t occur to many parents—that an adult full-time employee who happens to be your son is still an employee. All Karl could see was his son goofing off again when he should have been working. He might have seen more if he had actually looked at the proposal. But he didn’t. Instead he blew up and spent fifteen minutes telling Adolph to stop wasting his time and get back to work.
Adolph took it, as was his habit. Granted, he had sadly unfilial thoughts about hammers and tongs but he took it. He also decided that he had to get away from his father, or at some point those thoughts about hammers and tongs might take on all too real a meaning.
Adolph Schmidt didn’t know what to do, so he talked to his sisters. Who were worried but generally supportive; they knew their father. Unfortunately, there wasn’t all that much they could do. Also, while trying to be modern, Karl was actually more supportive of his daughters’ projects than his son’s. They recommended that he go see David Bartley. Which wasn’t something that Adolph wanted to do. He couldn’t help thinking of his young stepbrother as an interloper in the family. To go to David to get him to intercede with his papa was more than Adolph could bring himself to do.
“No, not that,” His eldest sister Gertrude said. “I doubt David could change Papa’s mind either. You should see if that fund that David runs will fund the new project.”
“David doesn’t run it,” Adolph said, unable to keep the resentment out of his voice. “Frantz Kunze and a board of directors . . . ”
Seeing his sister’s expression he ran down and Gertrude spoke. “That’s just the sort of talk that makes Papa think of you as a child.” She smiled, then, “And it’s also just how Papa sounds when he doesn’t get his way.”
Adolph had to smile at his sister. “How did you grow so wise, little goose?” Giving her the nickname she had hated as a child.
She shook a fist at him, laughing. “I’ll goose you, you. Jerk!” she used an up-timer word. “Seriously though, talk to David. He’s not so bad really, and he’s not trying to displace you in Papa’s heart.”
Adolph grimaced. “I know and that just makes it worse. He’s not trying but he’s still all I hear from Papa.”
Adolph couldn’t bring himself to go to David Bartley, not yet. Instead he went looking for other investors. He was always welcomed in politely; he was always shown the greatest respect. Then he was always asked how much his father was investing. He learned quickly to say he hadn’t asked his father to invest in this, he wanted to do it on his own. Which was in a sense true, he had offered the project to HSMC, not his papa. But it didn’t help. He was a down-timer not an up-timer, he was not yet twenty-five and if Herr Schultz wasn’t involved, no, so sorry, we can’t help you.
Worse, word of his quest for investors got back to his father almost immediately, as Adolph had known it would. That led to a screaming match between him and his father, who still didn’t look at the project.
“The project isn’t the issue,” Karl Schmidt bellowed. “It’s the betrayal.”
“What betrayal?” Adolph bellowed back for once. “I brought it to you for HSMC and you weren't interested.”
Things went downhill from there. Adolph wasn’t ordered out of the house, not quite. And he wasn’t fired because Karl had no one to replace him with, but Karl was now looking for someone. He told Adolph so that night.
“Yes, we heard about it,” Heidi said. “Why didn’t you take it to your dad first?”
“I did,” Adolph said. “He wasn’t interested.”
“Then what’s he complaining about?” Heidi asked.
Adolph tried to explain but it didn’t seem fair to him either. He’d come to the Partow’s home to try to get the twins endorsement. Brent and Trent were convinced that it was doable—profitable was another question.
“It’s just not what we do,” Brent said. “We figure out how to build stuff and even how to build it without wasting money and so far as I can tell this is a good project as far as these things go. You’re using specialized machines rather than powered handcrafting and that’s good. It’ll increase production and save a fortune in the long run. But will there be a market at the sales price? Talk to David and Sarah.”
Adolph was pretty darn sure there would be a market at the sales price, even if it cost twice what he thought it would to build the engines. What most up-timers didn’t realize was just how expensive even the worst paid labor was at doing physical work that a machine could do. And it wasn’t just adding power Adolph had gotten chapter and verse on Thomas Blanchard and Henry Ford. A backhoe is an incredibly expensive piece of equipment. One had come through the Ring of Fire and two more little ones had been built since. Yes, a backhoe was horribly expensive, especially hand-built in the here and now, but not as expensive as a hundred guys with shovels. Not even if wages paid those hundred guys were so little as to leave them starving to death. He nodded to Brent. “I’m sure it’s viable.”
“I think so too,” Trent said, “but we’ve been wrong before.”
David almost wished it was a crappy idea. Instead he took one look and knew it was a money maker. Adolph, as much as any down-timer, understood how up-timer tech could be integrated with down-timer tech to make stuff with the best compromise between initial investment and long-term costs and it showed. In fact Adolph understood it better than most up-timers. He had seen that the major bottleneck would be skilled labor and maneuvered his business proposal away from that danger. He knew what the down-time foundries could do; he knew just what machines a specialized foundry would need to make the parts for steam engines without depending on skilled labor that didn’t exist. David turned a page. Sales of the first model would pay for the development of later models. Steam had the advantage that it could use anything that burned. Gas, coal, wood, cow chips—if it would burn and boil water, it would power a steam engine, which made it less dependent on any particular fuel supply. With the still heavy restrictions and high cost of gasoline, that was an important consideration. He could see the twins’ fine hands all over the proposal, which said important and encouraging things about Adolph’s ability to accept advice and consult with others on what he didn’t understand himself. In fact, if this was anyone else, David would already have the contracts out.
He told Adolph as much. “Unfortunately, your dad’s been talking to people since you had your fight. I’ve been told that if you brought a project to me I was not to authorize it on my own but bring it to the board.” David shook his head. “Your father has gotten to be an important man and while there are some who resent that, there are a lot more who don’t want to piss him off.”
“So it’s no again?”
“Not necessarily. Frantz Kunze isn’t going to roll over for anyone, not even Karl, and they didn’t say to turn you down, just that they wanted to look at it,” David said. “It’ll take a few days.”
As it turned out it took more than a few days. The Croat raid happened while they were still talking about it. Kaspar Heesters got back from Amsterdam while they were still talking about it, with a shit load of money. But that didn’t help. The problem had never been the money. Finally, on a close vote, the board said no. They said no, though Adolph didn’t know it, out of fear that Karl would be pissed enough to expose the way OPM had been started. Which would still embarrass some very important people, in spite of what it had done since.
Meanwhile, David had decided that aside from being a good investment, what Adolph wanted to do was needed. He wasn’t willing to screw Adolph over, so he talked privately to Frantz Kunze, Sarah Wendell, the Partow twins, and his Grandmother Delia. Then, using HSMC and OPM stock as collateral, they borrowed the money. Sarah, who was handling Jeff and Gretchen’s wedding present by doing exactly what she was doing with her own stock, included them in the deal.
So Schmidt Steam was a lot better funded than HMSC had been and rather better planned as well. The prototype engines, three of them, were built in Twinlo Park, the twin’s research shop. They were, so to speak, handcrafted with machine tools. Because they were being made to test the design. So were the prototype flash boilers, both versions. The engines needed slight tweaking and led to a tweaking of the specialized machine tools that would be used to finish the parts. If the escape valve was shifted a quarter inch to the right, the attachment of the radiator would be easier. So the fitting to the machine that drilled out the escape valve was adjusted so that the cylinder body would rest turned a quarter inch to left. The designs were tweaked, then sent off to Grantville machine shops to have the parts fabricated. All while Adolph was still working for HSMC.
Karl was finding out how important Adolph actually was to the running of HSMC and getting more and more pissed off the more he learned. The truth was that while in most ways Karl was a good business man and a good boss, he had a blind spot where his kids were concerned. That blind spot focused on his son. It was there where his daughters were concerned as well, but was overwhelmed by the standard boy’s role/girl’s role thing. Also because while Karl could and did learn from experience, Adolph had the unfortunate position of being the experience Karl learned on. And while Karl learned, he wasn’t that good at admitting he’d been wrong.
By the time the tweaked machine tools were ready, there was a cold war between father and son. No blows exchanged and few words. Adolph, unable to go to his father about the question of where to set up shop, instead went to the Sewing Circle, to the Partow twins, and at their recommendation to David and Sarah.
“Magdeburg,” David said. “It’s going to be the capital but most of the people are dead and more than a few of them are dead without heirs. With their property going back to the crown and the city council, there’s land in town and it’s right on the river so you’ll have access to iron, sand, clay, coal and whatever else you need. Perhaps more important, it’s outside of Karl’s influence. It’s not like Karl rules the roost here, but he is an important person. In Magdeburg, well, people have heard of him because of the sewing machines but mostly it’s going to be Karl Who? David Who? for that matter.
“Adolph Schmidt, who is setting up a foundry and steam engine factory with the backing of several money men back in Grantville, can be his own man in Magdeburg, not his father’s rebellious son.” Then David gave Adolph a sardonic grin. “And David Bartley won’t be caught in the middle of the muddle.”
“Try and get in good with the Committees of Correspondence,” Sarah added. “It looks like they are going to be a power in Magdeburg more than here.”
Magdeburg was a bustling disaster area, Adolph thought as he looked at the place for the first time since the sack. He was on a slight rise near the city—there were no hills worthy of the name near Magdeburg. He had driven from Grantville to Magdeburg in a steam car powered by one of the prototypes. It had two cylinders, giving it about eight horsepower and a small Lamont boiler barely big enough to provide the steam the engine needed. It had a chain drive going from the engine to the rear axle. The twins had had the steam wagon built at Twinlo. It was mostly wood, but had air shocks and wider, shorter wheels than a normal wagon would have. Oddly enough, it performed pretty much like a wagon pulled by a team of eight fresh horses. At least insofar as speed was concerned. But his horses ran at a trot the whole way, only slowing when going uphill, or when Adolph adjusted the steam and put on the brakes. It was a test of the steam engine and the steam wagon design. And for the most part a successful one, Adolph thought.
It was not a practical device for sale. Not this year and probably not next. The engine and boiler had cost nearly fifty thousand American dollars to make because they were the first of their kind and had been made a piece at a time as a way of testing what would be needed to make the parts in quantity. The body had cost almost as much again though Adolph hadn’t been charged that much for it. The twins had wanted to build it.
It would, he knew, have driven an up-timer to distraction. Having to stop every couple of hours to put more coke in the fire pan. Trundling along at ten or twelve miles an hour. Bumping along, because when compared to an up-time car it was a very bumpy ride. In spite of the shocks and the padded bucket seat, when iron-rimmed wheel met rocky road neither gave much and the shock of the encounter was transferred to the body of the wagon. But for someone used to ox-drawn wagons more often than horse-drawn, it was a miracle of speed, comfort and endurance. It was also advertising, which is why Adolph had continued to drive even after he had reached the Elbe rather than take a riverboat the rest of the way.
David and Sarah—and when he thought about it, Adolph—had all agreed that showing up in Magdeburg in the steam wagon would excite interest in the project and make the hiring of workers and finding of property to rent or buy for the factory easier. It would be much harder to question whether he could actually make steam engines if he had driven into town in a wagon powered by one.
So Adolph sat in his bucket seat on a cold March morning in the year 1633 looking at the burned out hulk of a city. And a burned out hulk it was, but not an empty one. Workmen were everywhere in this history, as he knew they wouldn’t have been in the first. This was to be Gustav’s capital and the Captain-General of the CPE would not have a ruin as his capital. So a combination of government money, mostly loaned to the Captain-General at the absurdly low rate of three and a half percent, and private capital often invested by the Abrabanel family in the purchase of city lots and the starting of businesses, was flooding into the city—bringing with it jobs. Many of those jobs involved working for Jews connected in some way to the Abrabanel clan. The population of the new Magdeburg was self-selecting to be tolerant of Jews and American ideas. While Magdeburg wasn’t a Jewish city, it was going to have a larger Jewish contingent than most cities in Europe and those Jews would be able to live anywhere in the city and wear whatever clothing they wanted. It was a new idea to Adolph, one that had come out of the up-timers . . . but, surprisingly, not one that bothered Adolph Schmidt in the least.
Badenburg was too small a town to have a separate Jewish quarter and Adolph had played with Jewish children as a child. He had been perhaps a little less prejudiced than most, but not much. Then Rebecca Abrabanel on the TV set, and the leader of the up-timers marrying her . . . well, it might have happened in a down-time town. Rebecca Abrabanel was beautiful, after all. But it would have been a great scandal and ruined Mike Stearns as a leader. To the up-timers, though, it was nothing. No scandal at all, so what, and if you’re upset by it, what’s wrong with you? To this extent at least Adolph Schmidt had assimilated up-timer ideals by association with the up-timers and with the Jews of the Abrabanel clan with whom he’d done considerable business.
Which reminded Adolph that there was a representative of the Abrabanel bank he needed to see first thing. He had a bank draft from the Badenburg Bank to deliver to establish his account. They would also be of considerable help in finding quarters and buying, or perhaps renting, a site for a factory. Adolph let off the brake and turned up the steam, then proceeded toward the west gate of Magdeburg. His wagon drew a crowd and he got directions to the banking house managed by the Abrabanels here in Magdeburg.
“Yes, Herr Schmidt. I received a note about your coming and your needs.” The banker looked not the least like Rebecca Abrabanel and was named Frantz Goldman. “I’m a cousin on my mother’s side to Balthazar Abrabanel . . . well, second cousin . . . or perhaps third . . . once or twice removed.
For a moment Adolph was reminded of the up-timers stories of dwarves and their complex family relationships. But, no. It was simply that every Jew in central Germany was busy trying to come up with a relationship to Rebecca Abrabanel. Adolph hid a smile. Heck, if he were Jewish he’d be trying to come up with one. Come to think of it . . . Now Adolph let his smile show. “Then we’re related. Give or take another remove or six.”
“What?” Surprise, even shock, covered Herr Goldman’s face. “I thought you were a gentile. Not that it matters here . . . “
Adolph held up his hand. “I am. Lutheran, in fact. The relationship is on the other side. If it exists at all. I never checked. My father married Ramona Higgins and Grantville is a small town with everyone related to everyone. I know I’m related to Jeff Higgins and so, of course, to Gretchen Richter. They have stock in HSMC.” Adolph shook his head. “I don’t know whether to be thrilled or chagrined by the sudden additions to the family tree. But be assured that Rebecca and Balthazar Abrabanel could only add glory to any family, so far as I am concerned.”
“You know, I never really thought about that,” Herr Goldman said with an air that seemed to say it was an issue he wished he didn’t have to deal with.
“Well, we’re all related if you go back far enough,” Adolph said. “Whether it’s Adam and Eve or some tribe in Africa fifty thousand years ago. All human beings, all family in one way or another.” And that too, from Herr Goldman’s expression, wasn’t something he was looking forward to contemplating. Adolph tried another subject entirely. “What’s available in terms of property in Magdeburg?”
With relief they shifted to the discussion of business. Magdeburg had a large number of properties on the market, unfortunately most of them had titles in question. Dead people have heirs and while much of the property would go back to the crown, which would and which wouldn’t was still an open question.
“Rumor has it that the parliament . . . is it of the CPE? . . . will settle the matter, perhaps setting aside a fund to settle law suits of misplaced heirs so that the crown or the city council can sell the land with clear title.” Goldman shrugged. “It hasn’t happened yet, though, and may not. Meanwhile, the few places that have clear title are going at a premium price.”
That wasn’t good news. “What about the cost of labor?”
“Well, it’s not as high as around Grantville,” Goldman said, “but it’s pretty high with all the construction going on.” He went on naming the daily pay rates for masters and journeymen of various crafts and for common laborers. He was right; it wasn’t as much as people got in Grantville or Badenburg. It was closer to what they got in Jena. About two-thirds of what they’d get in Grantville. Which wasn’t so much bad news as news less good than Adolph was hoping for.
“What about raw materials, iron ore or bar iron, food, cloth, that sort of thing?” Adolph asked, hoping for some good news. He got it. Apparently enough engines had made their way to the Elbe to increase the flow of goods and lower the prices. Food, wood, coal, bar iron and copper from Sweden, fish and whale oil from the North Sea, all flowed up and down the Elbe and Hamburg was afraid enough of Gustav that they were only being mildly piratical about the duties they charged on goods coming through their harbor.
All of it taken together looked to make Magdeburg one of the better places to live in central Europe. Low cost of living in terms of food, clothing, and even shelter, combined with high wages. On the other hand, it made it only half way a good place to start a business. Material costs were low but wages were high and so was land that had clear title. For now Adolph needed a place to stay while he looked for a factory site. He asked Herr Goldman about it and was directed to an inn with a stable he could store the wagon in.
A week later Adolph was at a dead stop. The problem was simply that this was Magdeburg, not Badenburg or Grantville. He didn’t have his papa looking over his shoulder and criticizing everything he did, but he also didn’t have the position that he had back home. Grantville might be the God-dropped magic land, but Badenburg—at least as the Magdeburg patricians saw it—was still the sticks.
Adolph had grown up as a medium large fish in a small pond. Then after the Ring of Fire he’d became a big fish in a bigger pond. But Magdeburg was a really big pond, and in spite of the letter of credit Adolph was seen as an itty bitty fish. Commanders of armies and great nobles lived here. This was the capital of the Confederated Principalities of Europe. Okay, it was a burned-out ruin that had been shrinking in size for fifty years before the sack. But it was a snooty burned-out ruin. And all Adolph was, was the probably-soon-to-be-disinherited son of a provincial industrialist.
Herr Simpson had been made admiral and was building a naval base and ship yard here. The rich and powerful of Magdeburg didn’t talk to him. Not outside of doing business. And if they weren't talking to a prominent up-timer, they certainly weren’t talking to some schmuck who happened to live a few miles from Grantville.
“Adolph Schmidt to see Fredric Decker,” Adolph introduced himself at the Freedom Arches. He was finally taking Sarah Wendell’s advice, even though Gretchen Richter wasn’t one of his family’s favorite people. The objection to her and to the Committees of Correspondence wasn’t personal, it was political. The Schmidt family were what Ben Franklin called the middle people and what more radical revolutionaries called the bourgeoisie. Usually just before they brought out the guillotines as tools of social reeducation. The Schmidts were quite literally the owners of the means of production.
Yes, Adolph’s father was a senator and a member of the Fourth of July Party, but he was part of the Quentin Underwood branch of the party, not the CoC. Adolph, at first glance, was the sort of person the CoC was quick to recruit, a journeyman craftsman with nothing of his own but skill. But Adolph was a journeyman waiting to become a master, not struggling to become one. His father had owned the smithy he was a journeyman in even before the Ring of Fire. Adolph had sat beside his father at every union negotiation from the formation of the union on. And those negotiations had been friendly enough while the workers were in the room. Papa was a politician these days, after all. After they left, Papa complained quite a bit, or chortled, if he had to give up less than he’d expected.
All this had been going through Adolph’s mind during his walk over. Going round and round in his mind rather, because he didn’t have a clue what to do about it. He’d expected to deal with the workers after he had a factory located but here he was, unable to even find a property that had clear title. And Herr Goldman had been less helpful than he had hoped. Adolph’s connections in Magdeburg were almost nonexistent.
“Yes? Herr Schmidt from where?” asked a middle-aged man with the burns on his hands that said the man had been a blacksmith for some years. Adolph had similar scars dimpling the backs of his hands, if not as many.
“Sorry,” Adolph took a moment to calculate how many Adolph Schmidts there were in Magdeburg at any one time. The number was probably greater than one even the day after the sack. “Adolph Schmidt from Badenburg next to Grantville. I was recommended to Herr Decker by Frau Veronica Richter.”
“The one with the steam APC?” One of the younger fellows in the Arches piped up.
“Yes, though it’s not armored,” Adolph said. “That’s what the letters stand for: Armored Personnel Carrier. What I have is a mostly wooden wagon that is powered by one of the prototype steam engines I had made up in Grantville. Driving it up here rather than taking the train and river boats was to test the engine in the field, as the up-timers say. I just call it a steam wagon. ”
“So you’re Karl Schmidt’s son,” The blacksmith said.
“Yes,” Adolph said, though it clearly wasn’t a question.
“Our guest is rich,” another of the older men said.
“My father is rich,” Adolph answered, fully aware that rich was a four-letter word among these folks. “I am, I suspect, disinherited.”
“Nice disinheritance,” the kid said. “Say, Mom, if you disinherit me do I get a steam wagon of my own?”
“You’ll get the back of my hand, you imp,” an older woman said. “See if you won’t”
“Aw, I get that anyway,” the kid said, not visibly cowed.
“My father had nothing to do with the steam car.” Adolph couldn’t keep the stiffness from his voice.
“So I’d heard,” said a man about Adolph’s age, maybe a few years older. “I’m Fredric Decker. We were expecting you earlier.” He waved Adolph to a corner.
“I’ve had difficulty finding quarters. Not for myself, for the factory. If you were expecting me I assume you know why I’m in Magdeburg.”
“Rumor and a little better,” Fredric said, “but only a little. Grantville is some distance away and the telegraph is expensive. Tell me about this business you want to start.”
“I want to build steam engines, the small sort, that are inexpensive enough to be used by a decent-sized market. For instance, the engine that powers my wagon would also power a tractor to pull a plow. Not the sort of plows that the up-timer tractors pull, but bigger than are mostly used down-time. It will run the powered tools in a small to medium shop. Turn a grain mill, power a dozen sewing machines, or a like number of drills or lathes or hammers.”
“What does it need? This steam engine.”
“The engine itself, a boiler and it should have, but doesn’t have to have, a radiator,” Adolph said. “If it doesn’t have a radiator then it needs a good source of clean water, preferably distilled. There is a boiler, called the Lamont after its up-time inventor, that one can even use sea water, but it’ll . . . ” Adolph ran down. “Sorry. I sound like the twins. You meant what will it take to build them, didn’t you?”
Fredric nodded. “I’ve heard of the Partow twins but never met them. Are they as brilliant as people say?”
“Yes and no,” Adolph said. “Grantville draws brilliant people as a magnet draws iron. Some of the brains that have arrived since the Ring of Fire are so smart it’s scary. They make the twins seem a little slow and me feel like an idiot. But the twins are very practical when it comes to mechanical things, without losing any enthusiasm. They are willing to listen and learn from just about anyone. I would say potent, more than brilliant, describes them best. A potent combination.”
Fredric nodded and brought the conversation back to the matter at hand. “So what will you need to build your engines?”
“A foundry to pour the parts and to make the steel they need from Swedish bar iron. And operators for the finishing machines. Which are being made in Grantville and will be shipped as soon as I find a place to ship them to. The operators need not be particularly skilled. These aren't general purpose machine tools but specialized to do one or two preset jobs, in one case five jobs depending on which attachments are used.” Adolph brought himself back again. “The point is skill is not necessary. A willingness to work at a boring repetitive job is.”
“Why not use the general purpose machine tools?” Fredric asked and Adolph could tell by the way he said “general purpose machine tools” that Fredric wasn’t entirely sure what they were.
“They are powered machines that are very flexible in what they can be made to do and require a high level of skill in their use. Almost an art. Herr Partow, the twins’ father, is a machinist and as much a master craftsman as any smith that ever held a hammer. And that’s why I’m not using them. You can produce a machine tool a lot faster than you can a machinist. In fact, a couple of the machines we’ll be using are general purpose machine tools with attachments added so that the workman can’t use their flexibility.”
Adolph gave him a sardonic grin. “I know it sounds silly, even crazy. But we don’t have the master machinists and even if we did they would slow down the process if they worked without the attachments. We break down the making of the parts to a series of very simple operations. Each worker does his operation and puts the partially finished part on the table for the next worker.” Adolph shrugged “It works. I just wish we could use it for producing the crucible steel.”
“Why not get your steel from the US Steel company? I understand they are doing well there?”
“Transport costs, at least till the tracks go all the way to the Elbe. Well, partly transport costs. I know how to make crucible steel so we can make better steel here and make the parts a little lighter. Crucibles are a more expensive way of making steel but they were used up time for the best grades of steel.”
“So you’ll be making steel, pouring the steel into rough shapes, then finishing it with machines sent from Grantville.”
“Yes, and steel tube boilers,” Adolph said. “Swedish iron is ten guilders to the hundred pounds in Hamburg last I heard, but copper is seventy guilders to the hundred pounds. I think we can afford the iron and coke to make steel . . . better than making the boiler tubes from copper. And the same process for the radiators.”
“What about rust?”
“I asked the same thing of Herr Andy Frystack,” Adolph said. “Apparently it’s not just water, it’s water with air in it that causes rust. If you’re not just letting it sit around with high oxygen content water in it, rust isn’t that much of a problem. Sediment is a worse problem. For that you should used distilled water or the Lamont boiler. Anyway, I need to set up a factory.”
“And you're here to hire?”
“Not yet.” Adolph shook his head. “I would be, mind, if I had a place to put the people to work. But Herr Goldman hasn’t been able to help much in finding a place with clear title.”
“That’s because you’re not a burgher of Magdeburg or a member of the nobility,” Fredric said. “Goldman makes a big deal of his relationship to the Abrabanel family these days, but he was a money lender before the sack and was one of the first to flee. His real loyalty is to the power structure that was already here. As soon as you find a place on your own, he’ll arrange for one of his friends to buy it and rent it to you.”
“Damn,” Adolph blurted. He’d been around the up-timers long enough that casual blasphemy was casual with him. “Sorry. An up-timer habit,” he apologized. “The truth is, I half suspected something like that. Certainly, he didn’t seem an ardent supporter of expanding the franchise. The problem is how am I going to find a property to which I can gain clear title without having him pull it from under me? How am I going to find a property without his good offices?”
“We might be able to help with that,” Fredric said.
“Oh, we’re certainly able but, bluntly, what’s in it for us? What’s in it for the CoC or the poor of Magdeburg to have one more rich man setting up shop?”
“Jobs certainly,” Adolph said. “Are you looking for a fee of some sort?” Adolph sat back and thought, actually that wasn’t unreasonable. They would be providing a service and one of considerable value. But, as it turned out, that wasn’t what they were after. The CoC was a presence in Magdeburg but it wasn’t the only presence. At this point there was as much question about who would control the streets as who would control the town council. Rather more in fact, since Gustav Adolph of Sweden was going to be in ultimate control of Magdeburg.
“What we want is assurance that you will hire CoC members.” What they wanted was a union shop. A union shop with good jobs and profit sharing so that they could show people that the CoC could get people good jobs. The CoC wasn’t a union. It was a borderline revolutionary cabal, but if people were going to join, it would help if there was at least something in it for them.
“I won’t hire people who won’t work or can’t do the job,” Adolph said. “The up-timers call it feather bedding. Apparently with the idea that the employee spends his working day resting in a feather bed. Well, I don’t own a feather bed. Not even at the inn where I’m staying and I’m darn sure not going to hire people to sleep on one.”
“They’ll be good workers,” Fredric assured him.
“I do my own hiring,” Adolph insisted. “Certainly I’ll hire your members if they are qualified, but I have to decide that.”
“And here you were just saying you didn’t need skilled craftsmen,” Fredric complained. Which was true enough.
They talked—negotiated, really—for some time. Fredric even brought over several prospective employees. Most of whom were, in fact, qualified and a few who weren't. Adolph had apprenticed as a smith; his father had run a foundry most of his life and for all intents and purposes Adolph had been doing the day-to-day running of the foundry, the smithy, the electroplating shop and been involved with the crucible steel shop for the last year. He knew what the workers needed to know and could spot a faker pretty quickly. Adolph didn’t think that Fredric was trying ringers on him so much as simply that Fredric couldn’t tell from conversation who was a qualified foundry man or smith and who wasn’t. So far as the crucible steel making . . . well, there simply weren't a lot of qualified people for that in Magdeburg. Adolph wasn’t willing to say there weren’t any. Admiral Simpson was in Magdeburg with up-timer help, but those folks weren't at the Freedom Arches. At least not looking for a job. For machine tool operators, well, Adolph’s machines were designed to take skill, or lack of skill, as much out of the equation as possible. They couldn’t take it all out and there were probably going to be some problems but to keep them at a minimum he need people that would listen and understand and at the same time people that wouldn’t screw up through boredom.
In any case, they came to an agreement. Adolph would hire union men, that is, members of the Committees of Correspondence or associated groups and the CoC would help him find and acquire clear title to property in or near Magdeburg.
The lot Adolph bought was on the Elbe, but upriver a couple of miles from Magdeburg proper and on the other side of the river. It was a good buy because if you didn’t have cheap water transport it was inconveniently placed. It cost about two-thirds of what Adolph had expected to pay and Adolph had underestimated land prices in Magdeburg, failing to take into account the level of land speculation in the new capital city.
For Adolph, who had three prototype steam engines and was up here to manufacture the things, a couple of miles upriver in a covered steam boat was no trouble at all. He took one engine that produced about four horsepower and used a two-foot-long piece of bicycle chain for gearing, had a propeller made at a blacksmith shop and once it was all installed in a eighteen-foot long, eight-foot wide boat, he had a steam-powered water taxi. Every morning and every evening it made several trips across and up the river from the Magdeburg docks to the factory site, carrying the workmen that first had to build a factory before they could start building engines.
Because the property Adolph had been able to get clear title to was what was left of pasture land after it has been run over by armies, the first thing needed was guys with shovels, to dig a quay with a berth for the taxi. Then, crushed rock for fifty feet of road up from the quay to the foundry building, which was to be next door to the finishing building. Which they decided to build first so that there would be a place to put the machine tools, already made in Grantville and just waiting to be shipped. Of course, they wouldn’t have anything to finish until they got the foundry going, but at least it would be a place to put them that was mostly out of the rain. Right now they were racking up storage fees in the Higgins’ warehouse.
“I have someone I want you to meet,” Fredric told Adolph as they were having a not very good dinner at the Freedom Arches. “A foundry master.” Adolph had learned that his dealing with the CoC had closed some doors to him. Not that they’d been all that opened in the first place. But the patricians and craftmasters of Magdeburg didn’t want to talk with him.
“What is he, another country bumpkin come to the big city?”
“No, born here in Magdeburg,” Fredric told Adolph. “Survived the sack, put everything he had or could raise into rebuilding his foundry. Things seemed to be looking up when he got a contract with the ship yard that Admiral Simpson is building. When he goes to turn in his first load of parts, the up-timer inspector turns down the whole lot. Seems the steel’s not up to spec.”
Adolph was nodding but Fredric kept right on talking. “He was going to make a fuss till this up-timer pulls out a file and proceeds to cut his good steel like it was iron.”
“Not enough carbon in his mix I’d wager,” Adolph said.
“Probably,” Fredric said. “Anyway they gave him a cheat sheet and told him he had one more shot before he got put on a ‘don’t use’ list.”
“Those cheat sheets are pretty good,” Adolph said.
“Not for Herr Kalb. Says he’s read over the thing and just can’t fit it in with what he does.”
“The two trains,” Adolph said.
“The up-timers use word problems in their schools.” Adolph shrugged. “So do we. Anyway one of those word problems is called the two train problem. There are two trains, one is traveling forty miles an hour from city A and the other is traveling sixty miles an hour from city B. City A is five hundred miles from city B. They both leave their stations at five in the morning, what time will they pass each other?”
Fredric’s eyes were glazing over a bit and Adolph grinned. “The trick part of the problem is figuring out which is necessary information for solving the problem and how it’s necessary. In this case, since we only care about when they will pass each other not where, what matters is the average speed. Which is fifty miles an hour. Five hundred miles at fifty miles an hour is ten hours, half that is five hours. They left at five in the morning, so they will pass each other at ten in the morning.” Adolph shrugged. “Some people are good at word problems like the two train problem and others aren’t. I’d guess Herr Kalb is one of those people who aren’t.”
“Probably.” Fredric agreed “but what’s to be done about it?”
“It’s just a guess, but if he goes through the process with someone who knows how it works working with him on it, he’ll pick it up all right. He’s a master foundry man, after all. He should know his metals.”
“Could you take him through it?”
“Probably. But, not to put too fine a point on it, what’s in it for me?”
“You’ll have to work that out with him, but the man does have a working foundry.”
The cheat sheet was more in the way of a booklet. With information on mix, pours, quenching, and tempering. Herr Kalb was used to pouring cast iron. You don’t temper cast iron and it will generally shatter if you try to quench it. Adolph, on the other hand, while not really an expert on crucible steel making was familiar with the process and could combine that with the cheat sheet and his own notes. First they had to get just enough carbon in the mix . . . . It was going to take some time.
It did take time. Adolph spent day after day with Kunz Kalb as they experimented and tested pours of crucible steel and learned to adjust the amount of carbon by injecting air into the crucible or adding powered coke and cutting it off from the air. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. Adolph’s own factory buildings were built with very little supervision from him. He couldn't be in two places at once. On the upside, Kunz Kalb understood iron and foundry work. He even understood most of the up-timer’s notes. It was just putting the two together into a coherent whole that had given him trouble. With Adolph’s help he learned what was crucial in different grades of steel. Put another way, he learned how to connect the notes to the reality of making steel parts.
Adolph got twenty cylinders and twenty pistons with piston rods, cylinder heads, and valves, steel tubing and sundries, by which time Herr Kalb had a good working knowledge of the making of crucible steel. So the finishing machines got put to use before the foundry was up and running. In fact, the foundry was put on hold. A deal with Herr Kalb was cheaper in the short run and might prove cheaper in the long run as well.
Bending, shaping and welding the steel tubing into boilers turned out to be a fairly time-consuming process even with the machines they had. The boilers weren't all that challenging, technically. They were just tedious, having lots of connections, none of which could leak when hot and under pressure. It was nothing that they couldn’t do, not even anything they couldn’t have done before the Ring of Fire. Assembling the steam engines themselves proved the easiest part of the process. They had few moving parts. Those parts, while they did have to deal with considerable heat, didn’t have to deal with explosions going on in the cylinders. That’s a difference of thousands of degrees at peak.
“So,” Fredric asked. “When will you have steam engines for sale?”
“We’ll have the first one ready in a couple of months,” Adolph said. They were again in the Freedom Arches. ” After that, it’s hard to say but I figure that we’ll have one every couple of days.”
“Why so long then so fast?”Fredric’s tone made it pretty clear that he felt Adolph was talking out his ass.
Adolph wasn’t offended. Instead he remembered his father telling him about a conversation with a tailor about how fast sewing machines would be made. “Longer setup time and shorter production time is one of the hallmarks of industrialization.” Adolph sounded portentous even to himself but darn it, it was true. “I know it seems awfully fast. Though, in fact, it’s pretty slow. You’re thinking like I have one guy in the shop taking the iron we buy from Sweden, the crucibles and making the steel, then making a cylinder, finishing the cylinder, going back, getting more steel, pouring the piston, finish . . .
“It doesn’t work that way. We get the poured cylinders five at a time because that’s how many cylinders Herr Kalb makes from a crucible of steel. Five cylinder bodies, five cylinder heads, five valve balls, per pour. He does another pour to produce four pistons, eight piston rods, and a fly wheel. And we’ve been getting them for the last couple of weeks. And ever since we got the first batch in, Kurt has been finishing cylinder bodies. We have thirteen of them finished and ready to go in the shop and Jurge has finished fifteen of the cylinder heads. They’ve got a little competition going, which is fine with me.” Adolph raised his voice a bit so Kurg and Jurge could hear him as well as several other CoC members who were employees. “As long is their quest for speed doesn’t affect quality.”
“Anyway.” Adolph grinned at Fredric. “We’re building up a stock of finished parts while we wait for Grantville to send us some more of the specialized machines we use. One of them is what Brent calls a can lidder even though it doesn’t do a thing about lids. What it does is fold over the steel in two pieces of pipe to connect them. But the fold is a lot like the fold used to attach lids to aluminum cans up-time. It produces a good airtight seal.”
“Fine, but since you’ve got some of the parts finished and ready why not go ahead and put together some steam engines to get some income coming in?”
“Mostly because I’m about two hundred thousand American Dollars ahead of where I thought I would be at this point,” Adolph said.
“Remember when I got here I was planning to build my own foundry to pour my own blanks?”
“I didn’t end up doing that. Instead I’m getting a good price on blanks from your friend and there are a couple of other foundries interested in the work. So I didn’t spend a couple of hundred grand building a foundry and it doesn’t look like I’m going to need to anytime soon. But even if I hadn’t had that piece of good luck, I still wouldn't be doing it. It’s always a bad deal to take people off a task that lets them put out a hundred bucks worth of work in an hour and put them on a job that lets them put out five. All those finished parts and mostly finished engines that we are building up are money in the bank. And as long as I’m not desperate for cash I’m going to keep right on banking them.”
“Can’t you just sell the engines that are ready now?” Fredric asked, interrupting Adolph’s thoughts.
“No.” Adolph shook his head. “It’s the boiler that turns the heat into force, the engine turns the force into work . . . you have to have both. We could build pot boilers, basically just big sealed pots with a fire under them and pipes running from them to the engine. But they are really wasteful of energy. Twice as much coal for half as much steam. The more surface area the more heat is transferred to the water and less is wasted heating the surrounding air. Why the sudden curiosity?”
“It’s not sudden,” Fredric said. “There have been questions about what your engines would be able to do since you showed up in the steam wagon. You turned around and put one in that boat you use to take the guys to work and I understand you can pull it out of the boat and use it to run the factory you’ve got out there.”
That was overstating things just a bit, Adolph thought, but not too much. “Just about, yes.”
“I asked around out at the Navy Yard. And learned some of the stuff you can use steam engines for. Sawing wood, grinding grain, just about anything you can do with muscle, wind or water you can do with steam. Meanwhile, there aren't enough people in Magdeburg to do all the jobs there are. Which makes finding work for people pretty easy. But at the same time, knowing that your shop is all CoC members, friends of the Committee who do things like grind grain into flour have started asking us if your engines might help out with the labor shortage. Feeding a team of nags to have them walk around in a circle . . . well, that’s grain that could feed people.”
“Yes. That’s what they are for. Hook up a one-cylinder with a flywheel to a grain mill and you can send the nags to the glue factory. So, the reason you’re asking is you’ve got friends who want to buy steam engines?”
“Well, who are interested in the possibility anyway,” Fredric said. “I’m not sure how willing they will be to pay the price you’re asking.”
Adolph had worked it out. Each four-horsepower engine with boiler cost about thirty-five hundred American Dollars to make. About seven hundred of that was materials: bar iron, coke, copper, acid, electricity, welding flux, and so on. The rest was labor and the finishing machines amortized out over several hundred boilers and engines. There was some savings as the number of cylinders went up, the eight-horsepower, two-cylinder engine cost about sixty-five hundred, with similar savings on the twelve and sixteen horsepower versions. “The best I can do is twelve hundred American Dollars per horsepower. That’s five thousand for a four-horsepower, single-cylinder engine, ten thousand for the eight-horsepower.”
“That’s more than the horses would cost.”
“It sure is and worth every penny and then some. You have to feed a horse whether you’re riding it or not and most of the time you’re not. It’s like an engine that’s always on but most of the time it’s not hooked up to anything. The same is true of a man who rows a boat or turns a hand drill.”
After that, Fredric or other members of the CoC brought around friends of the Committee and expressed hope that they be placed at or at least near the front of the waiting list if they decided to buy the steam engines. Not everyone did and deciding not to buy the steam engine wasn’t always a mistake. There were some places where the advantage it would give didn’t justify the expense. However, there were a lot of places the difference between muscle power or the inconsistent wind and water power more than paid for the cost of a steam engine.
In August of 1633, Adolph was informed by messenger that Abrabanel Bank had moved. It was now located in the more radical section of the city. The part of the city that was controlled, in all but name, by the CoC. Adolph went to visit and learned that Herr Goldman was no longer managing the bank, though he still worked there. Apparently there had been complaints. Adolph hadn’t lodged any of them, at least not officially. He exchanged mail regularly with his sister and his backers back in Grantville and may have commented on occasion that Herr Goldman seemed less than enthusiastic about, well, anything modern, be it political or mechanical. By that time, Adolph had a decent stockpile of mostly finished steam engines and partially made boilers and radiators. He had also caught up completely with Herr Kalb and Adolph was looking for new suppliers, else he would have to finish the foundry part of the operation. Which he didn’t really want to do. He could build a foundry and have control over the whole of the process from iron bar to finished power plant. But it seemed a waste when there were already several foundries that could do the work. It would also cost a lot of money for not that much long-term savings.
The new Abrabanel banker took him to visit foundry operators and managed to convince several of them that making the parts of steam engines would be a good business to get into, because Herr Schmidt had a solid business with good credit. All in all, it was a very productive couple of days and the new manager was apologetic about his uncle’s actions.
Adolph was forced to make the occasional exception to his “don’t waste your time hand crafting steam engines” because of delays in getting some of the specialized machine tools he needed. Not because he needed the money, he didn’t. People needed the engines. And if Fredric was still friendly and supportive Gunther Achterhof was just plain scary. To make it worse, when you included the time and labor to hand assemble the boilers, Adolph was taking a loss on every engine he sold. But sell them he did, just as few as he could get away with.
Almost all of the steam engine sales were industrial, powering boats or factories of one sort and another. Herr Kalb had bought one to provide forced air to get higher heat, another to provide power for winches to lift crucibles of hot liquid steel. Hooked up to one of the generators which were starting to trickle into the Magdeburg area by now, one of the four-horsepower engines would provide about three kilowatts of electricity, a little less. Enough up-time to run two or three households but down-time enough to run the electrical devices of a small village or a business. Schmidt Steam wouldn’t become the household word that Higgins was already starting to become. Instead it would become a different kind of name, an office word, one that people in business knew.
And that was what finally started to force open the doors of the Magdeburg middle class. Well, that and the new Abrabanel banker. They wanted the steam engines he had. Labor costs were going through the roof, even unskilled labor like ditch digging. A Fresno scraper pulled by a couple of horses could dig a ditch faster, cheaper and better than men with shovels; pulled by a steam tractor it could dig that ditch faster still. And coke was cheaper than hay—much less wheat—for the amount of work done. So the patricians of Magdeburg gradually realized that yes, they needed these new contraptions. By then, of course, they were behind the curve. Adolph was selling the engines as fast as he could make them and he wasn’t limiting his sales to Magdeburg. All up and down the Elbe, people were buying steam engines in advance of production and the patricians of Magdeburg were near the tail end of the line.
They’d put themselves there for reasons of social position, political power and fear of an uncertain future. With Adolph and other businessmen, with the CoC and with the workmen pouring into the city because of the word that work was available, there had been a lot of “hold the line against the low class invasion.” But they were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work and innovation going on, and most of them by now had realized that the winds of change were approaching hurricane force.
They weren't actually stupid people. In fact they were much like Adolph’s father. They weren't going to apologize for snubbing him, not in so many words. But they knew they had blown it. Adolph and even Fredric Decker were invited into the homes of the city’s moneyed class.
Which is how Adolph learned that Fredric had a background much like his own. They were at the home of one of the patricians of Magdeburg. Herr Durr was a moderately astute and blunt fellow who had asked Fredric and Adolph to dinner.
“I was rather surprised to get your invitation,” Fredric said, over knockwurst and sauerkraut.
“Having realized how much influence you CoC people were acquiring, I hope to get a feel for your goals.”
“Well, that explains Fredric,” Adolph said, “but what about me? Granted my employees are all CoC people but I’m hardly a CoC activist. Just a manufacturer of steam engines.”
“And the son of Karl Schmidt, one of the wealthiest men in Badenburg and owner of the Higgins Sewing Machine Company, related by marriage to the Higgins family of Grantville, with family connections in half the cities in Thuringia. When we got around to looking we noticed that you seem to be . . . ” Herr Durr ran out of steam. He wasn’t quite blunt enough to say “the right sort of people” or “our sort of people.” Though both Adolph and Fredric heard it as Durr was thinking very loudly.
“So that’s the reason you invited me rather than some of the frankly more important members of the CoC here in Magdeburg.”
“What. No! It’s simply that, well, you’re not as frightening as, say, Gunther Achterhof.” Durr paused. “Wait. Are you of the patrician class?”
“I was . . . ” Now it was Fredric’s turn to run out of steam. Then he took a deep breath. “I was studying law in Jena when—” He took another breath. “—the town I’m from found itself in the path of one of the armies. That was in twenty-nine. My family was killed and the shop . . . more than a shop, really. My father had three journeymen and a dozen apprentices working for him. He made the copper and bronze utensils for several nearby towns and villages.” Fredric shrugged, but it didn’t really come off. “Anyway, the army came through, my family was killed, the shop was looted and burned. Part of the reason I had been sent off to Jena was my father and older brother, though skilled at their trade, were less skilled at bookkeeping and recording things. When the smoke cleared, the debts owed my family had disappeared. And I was penniless in Jena. When the up-timers came to Jena’s rescue, I was a day laborer sleeping under eves all too often. I joined the CoC half out of desperation. Anything that looked like work might be in the offing looked good to me.”
“So you're not the sort of fanatic the Richter woman or that fellow Spartacus are,” Durr said more than asked.
Fredric gave Durr a hard look. “I am quite as dedicated as Gunther or Spartacus.” Then gave a lopsided grin. “Spartacus, by the way, is a member of the lower nobility.
“Herr Durr, I’ve been a patrician and a man without a city. I know that there is some truth to the notion that the guilds are protecting people from shoddy workmanship, but I also know that they are even more protecting themselves from having to compete with newer, better ways. More, I know what that protection costs the poor. I’ve experienced it. So, yes, I am dedicated to the goals of the CoC. I would like to achieve those goals with as little harm to the masters and craftsmen of Germany as possible, but if it puts every burgher in Germany out of a job, I’d still be dedicated to it.”
Then Fredric looked over at Adolph. “It’s not my business, Adolph, but I’d give a lot to have a father again even if he was a stubborn old fool who was threatening to disinherit me. Yes, the added perspective that I have gained lets me see more clearly, I think, but the cost was too high. Don’t throw away what can so easily be lost.”
“Actually, he hasn’t threatened to disinherit me.” Adolph tried to lighten the mood. “He may or may not have disinherited me when I left and for a while after I left my sisters were forbidden to mention my name in front of him. But from my most recent letters, he seems to have calmed down some. Not a lot, but some. I suspect that my success will go farther toward getting me back into his good graces than anything I could say.”
They talked about business after that. About the market for steam engines and possible competition. After they left Herr Durr’s home Fredric commented that “Herr Durr has a quite presentable daughter . . . ?”
“And,” Adolph noted, “he seems to be preparing ground to present her. You should watch out, Fredric, since you have let slip that you are of the appropriate class.”
“Me?” Fredric said. “What about you? Or do you have an up-timer girlfriend back in Grantville?”
“Why do you think I’m in Magdeburg?” Adolph laughed. Then from nowhere the image of Heidi Partow slipped before his mind’s eye and he swallowed.
Three days later Heidi arrived and Adolph wondered if he was developing second sight. But no.
“I’m your new sales manager.”
“What on earth do I need a sales manager for?” Adolph asked. “Wait a minute. Has someone else started a steam engine factory?”
“I imagine so but that’s not all.” Heidi reached in her bag and brought out a booklet.
There were drawings and text about how you might make a steam pump, they were calling it. It was basically a bellows run backwards, and as Adolph read it he thought it would work not well, but it would work. “It couldn’t handle much pressure,” he said.
“The twin creeps say it doesn’t need to. Something like five pounds per square inch and you’re going to have a couple of tons of force. That’s enough to lift a pretty big hammer or a fair amount of water up a well.”
“But this is crap compared to the engines we’re making here. The amount of steam you need to operate it is going to be over the top! It’s going to weigh tons! It’s . . . “
“I know. The twins know. Even David Bartley knows,” Heidi said. “And David Bartley can’t screw in a light bulb without help.”
“David’s not that bad,” Adolph said, and it was true. Adolph was almost sure that David could screw in a light bulb, even one of the down-time made ones, if he had to. Almost sure.
“I’m just going by what Trent says,” Heidi admitted. “Of course, he and Brent think that anyone who can’t rebuild an engine with their toes is mechanically inept.
“The point is the local lordling or village counsel or whatever can pay ten bucks for this and have the local craftsmen make it against the . . . what is it . . . ten thousand American Dollars you’re charging?”
“Well, not quite. The ten thousand dollar model is an eight-horsepower engine and comes with a flash boiler and radiator to recapture the steam and inject it back into the boiler at just below the boiling point which saves fuel. This thing!” He pointed at the booklet. “Uses a pot of water with a pipe going out the lid. You have to take off the lid and pour in a bucket of water to refill it. You’ll burn down a forest trying to use this thing. And you’ll have to replace it every few months as the steam cooks the leather.”
“I surrender! I surrender!” Heidi held up her hands. “I’m not David Bartley but I’m not a mechanic either. I’m more the artistic type. Which is why I’m here. I took art classes all through high school and the last year I took a couple of advertising and marketing courses. I’m not like a Madison Avenue ad agency, but I’m pretty good.”
“And wanted to come to the big city?” Adolph asked.
“Nope.” Heidi said quite firmly. “There’s big and there’s good. Magdeburg is big all right and it’s going to get bigger. But there is more talent in Grantville than anywhere else on earth. This is like leaving Greenwich Village to go live in Detroit.” Heidi found herself a chair. “And that’s the problem,” she admitted. “Yes, an up-timer can make good money researching stuff in the library. But if you want to be a commercial artist, well, you’re competing with people like Rembrandt. Not Rembrandt himself, yet, but he could show up any time. Damn it, I was always a pretty good artist, I had dreams of getting a job at . . . Oh, never mind. I couldn’t get a job in Grantville, not in art or commercial design or marketing.”
Adolph was a little bit shocked as he listened to and watched Heidi Partow pour her heart out. He was quite sure that this wasn’t how she had expected the interview to go either.
Heidi visibly pulled herself together. “So when this thing showed up in Grantville and the twins were talking about it, I said I could fix it. And I think I can, given the chance.” She looked Adolph in the eye and he could see unshed tears in her eyes. “So, I used family connections to get a job.” She handed him a letter.
Adolph nodded and took the letter. He knew in a way how she felt. He hadn’t been thrilled to have David Bartley as one of his major investors and the backer who had found most of the rest. “Sometimes you have to do what you have to do,” he said in English.
“It’s ‘gotta do,'” Heidi said, with the beginnings of a smile. “Anyway, if it were just another company the folks back in Grantville wouldn’t be all that worried. It’s going to be a while before the steam engine market even starts to get saturated. But the cheat sheet thing makes every leather worker or smith in Europe your competition. And while the output of each is insignificant, the output of all of them could saturate the market pretty good.”
Adolph was shaking his head. “You can’t use one of these on a boat or a wagon. They’re too bulky.”
“You don’t have to make them all the same size, do you?”
“No, but a bellows can’t handle the pressure that even a wooden cylinder can, much less good steel. To get the same power one cylinder of ours has it’s going to have to be a whole lot bigger. A couple of psi just ain’t the same as a couple of hundred. No, these are going to be limited to stationary locations where there’s a fair amount of room. You won’t be using one to pull the winches on a sailing ship any more than to power a river boat.”
“So how much of your market is stationary with plenty of room?”
Adolph grimaced. “A lot of it.”
“So yours are better but more expensive?”
“Yes. Initially at least. A low pressure steam pump like these has to use more fuel and probably a lot more. Also they are going to wear out fast. You put steam, even if it’s barely steaming, into leather . . . it can’t be good for it.”
Heidi didn’t say anything and Adolph looked over at her she was biting her lower lip as he had seen her do sometimes in Grantville when she’d been thinking hard. He waited.
“Build one,” Heidi said. “Build a couple or even several that will have about the same output torque, horsepower or whatever, that your one-cylinder engines have. Then do a bunch of side-by-side tests. How much fuel does it use to do the same stuff. How much it weighs, how much space it takes. Meanwhile I think I have an idea for an ad campaign.”
“So we can tell people what they are paying for.”
Why not, Adolph thought. It’s no worse than having the guys hand assembling boilers. And there was that letter that she had given him. It was from Schmidt Steam’s board of directors. A board made up of most of the investors, in other words most of the owners of his company. It specified the salary she was to be paid out of his operating budget, a pretty high salary by Magdeburg standards. It also instructed him to cooperate with her. On general principle he wrote a letter of his own to Schmidt Steam’s board of directors. A bit of nepotism was okay and he even understood that the Partows wanted Heidi to have a reasonable income. But this project of hers . . . when you counted in the labor and materials to make the darned things it was an expense considerably more than Heidi’s salary for six months. Oh, and by the way, when am I getting that can lidding machine you promised me?
Three days later he got back his answer. Do it! “There are thousands of the instruction sets being printed up in Jena. While the threat isn’t immediate, if you expect to stay in business more than a few years you’re going to have to give people a reason to spend the money to buy the steam engines.”
Adolph got to work. He hired two more journeymen blacksmiths and had them build the bellows steam engine according to the instructions in the pamphlets. It took them a surprisingly long time. First putting together a good solid bellows is a job of work. Second, just turning around the valves didn’t quite cut it. The one-way valves work fine for a system where you’re turning work into moving gas, not so well where you’re turning moving gas into work. That took a valve that could be switched open and closed by a mechanical linkage. The instructions were clear enough but it was still a new device. To get the things to work took quite a bit of tweaking, and once they worked they took a lot of steam to run, which in turn—even using one of Adolph’s boilers—took a lot of coke. Using a cast iron pot with a lid wired on and a tube going from pot to bellows engine, they took even more coke. For the amount of work done, either in the engineering sense or the practical sense, they were much more expensive in terms of fuel than his engines. They were still better than using a horse, an oxen or a man.
Adolph picked up a boiled egg and waved at the bellows pump. “What do you think, Rudy? Is it worth it?”
“Sure is.” Rudlinus Nussbaum had a blacksmith’s build, light brown hair, hazel eyes, a friendly manner and a chip on his shoulder. He was a CoC member like all of Adolph’s employees, even Heidi. He expressed his CoCness by giving his opinion on the work being done freely and openly. He wasn’t rude about it particularly, but most masters weren’t that keen on hearing “you’re not doing that right” from a journeyman. Especially when he was right. Which is why he was looking for a job in a city where there were four jobs for every three men. “I’ve done my time pumping a bellows and it’s hard work. We’ve hooked this thing up to the testing gear but all that tells you is how it compares to your steam engines. Well, I think we ought to hook up a horse to the testing gear and a man and an ox as well.”
“That’s a good idea,” Adolph mused. “We’ll give all the guys in the shop a go.” He grinned. “Let Heidi give it a try too. This whole thing was her idea.”
They learned a few things. One was that the horse power calculated by Watt was considerably more than a draft horse of the seventeenth century put out on a regular basis. Adolph didn’t know why that was but it was. Horses put out sustained work of around four-fifths of an official horsepower, oxen about half, men about a tenth. That meant that the little eight-horsepower steam engine, which even with boiler and radiator only weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds, was, in theory, worth eighty oarsmen.
Adolph pictured a Viking long ship with empty oarlocks and a little steam engine pushing it along. It wasn’t true, of course. As it happens, propellers are innately inefficient and so is exerting all that force against water at one point rather than eighty. When all that was taken into account, the steam engine on the little water taxi that they used didn’t go that much faster than it would have with twenty men at the oars. Assuming of course that you could fit twenty oarsmen in the little thing in the first place. Which explained nicely why the little thing trundled right along at a good clip.
When they had run all the numbers on the bellows engines, a couple of different versions of it, and compared cost and running cost. It didn’t really answer the question: Is it more cost effective to buy one of the Schmidt engines or get by with one of the cobbled together bellows engines? Because the answer to that question depended on who you were, what you needed it for, and how much money you had.
There were people, even villages, for whom five or ten thousand dollars might as well be a million. It was more money than there was in the entire village. Cash money anyway. Their rents, mostly paid in a percentage of the harvest, were more than that. It didn’t matter. That sort of cash money was simply unattainable. And the villagers or village couldn't get a loan and wouldn’t if they could. Because that was how people got behind and got thrown off the land.
There were people and villages who might manage it, but would still be better off to start with something that they could make themselves, even if it would cost more to run. People who could replace grinding the grain by putting their backs into it with grinding the grain with a bellows engine didn’t need even the four-horsepower single-cylinder Schmidt engine. Meanwhile, the people in the shop were starting to look at him a little funny.
Adolph had, mostly by accident, gotten himself in with the CoC, and while some of his employees were members of the CoC to, for instance, help them get a job, there were a number of the true believer type that made his father rage about radical insanity. And made Adolph himself think in terms like, “not playing with a full deck, a few bricks short of a load, bats living happily in belfries.” Mostly it wasn’t a problem. For the most part the CoC guys were excellent workers, the slightly loopy ones as much as the sane ones. But since they had started the experiments they were looking at him different. Like he was getting ready to force people to buy his engines when there was a cheaper alternative available. Which was utterly ridiculous, because there was no way Adolph could do that even if he wanted to. And he didn’t want to. Well, not much anyway. So he was less than sanguine about how Heidi would react to the results of the tests.
Adolph presented his results to Heidi. “I almost hate the idea of advertising against these. I know that even if we cut our prices to the bone there are going to be a lot of people that simply can’t afford our engines. These might actually be a viable alternative for people that can’t afford ours.”
Weirdly enough Heidi was grinning at him. “Can I quote you on that?”
“In our ads, I mean,” Heidi said. “It’s called ‘damning with faint praise.’ Rather than saying they don’t work, we tell people that they do work but not as well as the real steam engines that we make. That does two things. First, it makes us sound reasonable and honest. Second, it makes it a matter of pride to have one of ours if you can possibly afford it. Because having one of the homemade ones makes you look like you’re poor.”
While he had been running the tests, Heidi had been working up an ad campaign. Well, two. One for if the bellows engines really sucked and one for if they were pretty good. Now she showed the second one to Adolph, with blank labeled boxes for the test results. It was not exactly soft sell and it played heavily to the vanity of the buyers.
One ad, called “Rocket Ship to the Moon,” showed a rocket ship in 1685—according to the cartoon. It had four frames and was supposedly an interview with a parent of one of the astronauts. And in the background of each picture was a Schmidt Steam engine chugging along. In the fourth picture, they got to talking about it and the old fellow explained that his granddad had bought it back in 1635 and they still used for household power. “Still works,” the old fellow said. “With proper maintenance it’ll work for another fifty years.” That sheet didn’t even mention the bellows but the notion that this was a thing to look at as a durable good. Accent on the durable. Buy one, treat it right and pass it on to your kids and their kids. Other ads did talk about the bellows engines and the pamphlets that were out there, some of which were accurate and useful and others not so much. It even mentioned the names of the good ones, and encouraged people who didn’t think they could afford a real Schmidt Steam Engine to make themselves a bellows engine as a stopgap measure.
When Heidi got to the end of her presentation she added a bit. “Could your guys put together a booklet of instructions on how to build a bellows engine using what you learned from making these and what you already know about steam?”
“Maybe we could, I guess. Why?”
“Because the capper—the perfect ad—would be to put out our own modified design for a bellows engine that’s better than the one out now and at the back of the booklet we put an ad for Schmidt Steam Engines with copy something like, “When you’re ready for the real thing contact us here.”
And that’s what they did. It took some consulting with the twins back in Grantville on design but they put together a decent low-pressure high-volume steam engine that could be built out of the stuff that could be found in any village in Germany and put together by any decent craftsman.
For the next year, through the death of Hans Richter and the change from the CPE to the USE, they made steam engines and printed ads and booklets. They had just gotten the final machine and were running about six months behind on orders when on October 7, 1633 Hans, who neither Adolph or Heidi had ever actually met, flew his fatally injured Belle into the Danish ship and the pages of history. Adolph and Heidi were in what would become Hans Richter Square when Princess Kristina ran across the stage to hug Hans’ princess and steal the collective heart of central Germany.
The morning after, half of Adolph’s work force was gone to the volunteer regiments. And if he hadn’t had a business to run, Adolph would have been with them. But it still left him short of trained workmen. Heidi suggested hiring women, something that simply hadn’t occurred to Adolph. But Ermegart, the CoC lady who had replaced Fredric, thought it was an excellent idea and at least they were less likely to run off and join the army.
The new hires had a learning curve to go through, but once through it were just as good as the guys had been. From then on Schmidt Steam had an integrated work force. And guys and gals being guys and gals, that led to marriages and later still maternity leave and daycare. That all happened gradually though.
It was almost a year and a half after Adolph had arrived in Magdeburg that Heidi popped into his office and announced. “We’re being sued.”
“According to them we stole their idea for the bellows steam engine and violated their copyright on the booklet.”
“Oh, come on! We hardly make a profit on the booklets. They’re really ads for the engines.”
“And that’s why they’re so pissed, I bet. Our booklets are cheaper and better than theirs. That has to hurt their sales.”
Adolph put his head in his hands. What next?