National Geographic : 1950 Aug
The National Geographic Magazine Water Will Spin This 24-ton Steel Wheel Like a Top Installed in a hydraulic turbine, it will develop 55,000 horsepower. A workman. at George Fischer, Ltd., in Schaffhausen puts finishing touches on the huge casting, 13 feet in diameter. In 1804 Conrad Fischer, founder of the company, was the first man on the Continent to cast crucible steel. The process, first achieved in England about 1740, was long a guarded secret (page 229). One important center of the industry is St. Gallen, founded about 614 by the Irish mis sionary for whom it is named. The Abbey of St. Gallen, shrine of medieval music and one of the centers of the mystery plays and of early German poetry, was one of the early cultural centers north of the Alps. Much of the town's historic charac ter remains, particularly the old patrician houses with their richly decorated oriel win dows and facades. St. Gallen and the neighboring Cantons of Appenzell and Thurgau long were famous for their rich hand embroideries and laces. At one time in this region 10,000 homes possessed little "hand-sticking" machines at which the women of the house holds worked. Modern textile fac tories have largely taken their places (pages 238 and 239). Today but a tenth of these machines are in operation, and they are employed mainly in finishing edges on ma chine-made handker chiefs. "Only a few elderly ladies now produce the old-style handmade lace," a St. Gallen handkerchief manufac turer told me. "It's a pity, but people no longer can afford to spend from two to six years on a single piece." From St. Gallen I went on to the moun tain-locked Canton of Glarus, from whence came the immigrants who settled New Glarus, Wisconsin.* With Casper Hoesli, Glarus merchant, and his wife, I drove through the Canton--a memorable experience. For this isolated re gion, lying in the basin of the Linth River, is almost completely en closed by high moun tains, culminating in the Todi, 11,886 feet. above sea level. In places the valley floor is less than a mile wide. To me, a stranger, the mountains press ing in on either side seemed overpowering and menacing. Near the entrance to the valley lies the lovely Wallen See, into which the rampaging Linth was directed more than a century ago. A canal, whose flow is controlled, was cut from the Wallen See as an outlet. Standing at the head of the canal, I could see it stretch like a narrow ribbon down to the Lake of Zirich, 11 miles distant. * See "Deep in the Heart of 'Swissconsin,' " by Wil liam H. Nicholas, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1947.