What Germany Can Teach Us

Robert Haven Schauffler in World s Work March 1 1908

What Germany Can Teach Us

Robert Haven Schauffler in World s Work March 1 1908

What Germany Can Teach Us

Robert Haven Schauffler in World s Work

WHY are American cities worse governed than German cities? Why are they in many ways so much less modern and comfortable and beautiful? It is not because we lack the progressive spirit or the wealth, the love of comfort or the sense of beauty. The cause may usually be traced to a disrespect for law, to a laxity of discipline, to an insufficient public control of public utilities and beauties. The Germans have too many laws, and they respect them. We too few and do not respect them. There is something of the slave about them ; something of the anarchist about us.

The first thing that strikes one in a German city is its varied, unmonotonous uniformity. All buildings are planned and built under a skilled, municipal supervision that has an eternal eye for the utility, the safety, and the beauty of the whole rather than of any of its parts—a supervision that protects the architecture of other centuries and tries to keep the 108

new from clashing with the old. Munich is an admirable example of how fully the architecture of a city may express the spirit of its time and yet be composed, under efficient supervision, into an artistic whole, the separate structures forming, but thessingle stones in the master-builder’s huge mosaic. Here the latest thing in Art Nouveau is not often allowed within fighting distance of the Renaissance. The Marienplatz, for instance, is a fine example of how later architecture may be made to harmonize with earlier.

Teutonic thoroughfares are models of cleanliness, and Cologne is the only German city of my acquaintance whose slum streets arc not as well kept as the best pavements of our cleanest cities. This condition is the result of a day and night cleaning force with an hereditary hostility to filth. (It seems to many of us that America shows more humor than good faith in entrusting its streets to the sons of one of the dirtiest nations

on earth.) The German uses much water on his pavements, and is beginning to install effective motor sprinklers, which, with the new motor tire engines, have passed beyond the stage of experimentation.

the German is earnestly trying to eliminate the ugly from his land. The electric accessories of his streets no longer offend the eye, and, in cities like Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, the avenues of candelabra-like trolley posts crowned with arc lights are charming additions to municipal beauty. Instead of those American boxes for waste-paper, which resemble garbage cans gone wrong, the German has a pleasant, vase-like affair with good lines, made of iron strips, and fastened to a trolley or lamp-post or telegraph-pole.

The average news-stand is an eyesore in America, but over there they realize what an important factor it is in the street-scape. And many of these booths are as attractive in their own lyric way as the buildings of Alfred Messel, in their epic way.

Street advertising is almost entirely confined to pillars at street corners, and offensive “ads” are classed with offensive smells. There are no billboards to mask the litter of vacant lots, to harbor criminals and refuse, to communicate fire, to cheapen and disfigure a beautiful thoroughfare

with the atmosphere of Pale Pills for Pink Livers, or to replace the loveliness of meadow and forest and winding stream by a stage-setting lurid with the glories of Father

O’Sweeney’s Dime Consumption

Cure. Even lights are regulated.

Among all the German cities, Hamburg is the only one whose evening beauty I have seen actually marred by the luminous sign.

In Berlin, the stations of the elevated railway have actually been designed with an eye to the beauty and character of the street. 1 lie less sightly parts are hidden by rows of trees ; the posts and girders are gracefully designed.

The German system of public convenience stations compromises between the publicity of the French and

Italian and the rarity of the American stations. Most of them are accessible, private, hygienic, inexpensive and neat. Our shortcomings in this respect have greatly stimulated the saloon business, but reform is already being agitated in some of our larger cities. In this matter we have much to learn from Germany.

Garbage and ashes are removed from the houses in closed cans and, by an ingenious mechanism, dumped into specially constructed wagons without exposing their contents to the air, thus doing entirely away with dust and odors. Although this method, if we adopted it, would bear heavily on the wretched army of scarecrows who prowl hungrily through our streets at dawn, burrowing into the garbage for a morsel, it might stimulate us to grapple more efficiently with this distressing question. The mendicancy problem is one which the German has solved. I have never seen a beggar in any German city except Cologne—a western city, touched by French influence—and every street in the Prussian capital is as safe as Unter den Linden.

The German is not willing that his ear should suffer any more than his eye or his nostrils. He is absolutely intolerant of unnecessary noise, for he wants to keep his nervous system normal. The discordant cry of the newsboy, the sempiternal steam whistle of the peanut-vendor, the overexuberant solo on the street-car gong, the whine of the beggar, the bell and bugle of the scissors-grinder—all these are conspicuously absent. In point of fact, the law even forbids you to warble Schubert or whistle Brahms on the public ways. This is going radical lengths in such a musical land, but the tyranny has its justifications.

What most humiliates my American soul in the Fatherland is the street-car, for there is no German village large enough to own an electric line whose cars are not more comfortable and more smoothly and efficiently run than the cars of any American city that I know. There the tram does not stop at every cross-street but onlv at the designated stopping places.

which are 219 yards apart. These places are marked by posts, often bearing enameled shields giving the number and route of every car that passes that point. This system of stops annoys an American at first, but he soon realizes that it enables him to travel with far more speed and comfort and with less nervous waste than in the trolleys of New York, where he hangs from a strap in a struggling crowd, is jolted twice at every other cross-street, and is exhorted roughly by a grimy conductor who is often in rags.

In German cars no one is allowed to stand in the aisles and only a definite number are accommodated on the platforms. The cars are gradually stopped and started without jerks and the apparatus enables the motorman to run very slowly and smoothly without the alternation of stop and jolt and lurch which marks the wake of the obstinate American ice-wagon.

I have often inquired the cause of this trying phenomenon and the men always tell me that the apparatus will not run the car slowly. One failing of our motormen, though, is not due to the machinery. Any German motorman who should start his car abruptly would be at once denounced by a carful of indignant passengers, and would lose his place within 24 hours. I once sent such a denunciation to the Interborough Company of New York and received a most courteous reply from some high official, who was as grieved and surprised as any official could be, saying that it was bad for the machinery, was strictly against orders, that the motorman would be called to account, and that he believed the painful circumstance would never occur again. I have since learned that this official has a reputation for humor.

In Germany the nervous ringing up of fares is replaced by a system of receipts, which are occasionally checked by an inspector. The conductor and motorman are clean, neatly uniformed, and, as a rule, courteous. At least, they make a point of assisting women with parcels and children, not merely punching them in the back. In a minino

ber of cities like Brunswick, Dresden, and Hildesheim, each car is provided with a clock, and the daily newspaper hangs on a hook for the use of the honored Úraveling-guests.” Passes which save money and trouble are available on all lines, and the public safety is so highly regarded that the law against boarding a moving car is enforced in several cities. I remember jumping upon a passing tram in Cologne. The conductor remonstrated with melancholy dignity. 1 smiled and considered the incident closed, but at the next stopping-place he ordered me off the car, according to law. In consequence of such rigor there are scarcely any trolley accidents in Cologne.

Tickets for subway, elevated and suburban trains—as well as Bahnsteig tickets admitting one to train platforms are sold by slot-machines—a device that would save much crowding and delay in our country. Change is even made by machinery, and 1 should not wonder if the slot-machine would eventually displace the ticketseller and reduce the expense of subway and elevated lines both to operator and to passenger.

The punctuality and safety of German transportation is due to a progressive spirit in the matter of safety devices and to governmental investigation of accidents, as well as to the quality of the employes—who have all been educated in the army and brought to a high level of discipline. No man without a good army record can win a position on tram or railroad ; and, once he is dishonorably discharged his outlook is dark indeed. Such a school for employes is impossible in our country, but better conditions would immediately follow the growth of a strong public sentiment in favor of clean, neat, courteous, careful, thoughtful, and skillful motormen and conductors. In short, we ought to revolt against being carried by a set of amateurs.

Opinions differ widely about the merits of the European compartment car. For my part, I prefer its opportunities for privacy, its better ventila-

tion, and its easy access to the platform.

Germany’s contribution to educational science is too well known for the mention of any but a few of the latest refinements. A city like Mayence is typical of the recent advances in school hygiene. There are showerbaths in the basement of each building for boys and for girls. Each child is expected to bathe at least once a week. He is furnished with a cake of soap, a towel, and trunks ; and there is room for fifty to bathe at once. Besides this, there are free swimming lessons in the Rhine for all that wish them. The floors of the schoolrooms are covered with lattice-work, which allows little shoes to dry more quickly on rainy days. The pupils' books and implements are furnished free on the demand of the parent, as well as a light daily luncheon, and it is said that most of the pupils do not know whether their parents pay for tnem or not. The belief that prevención is better than cure is thoroughly entrenched in the philosophy of the German, and in his practice as well. There is a considerable corps of school physicians in Mayence, and, every two weeks they measure, weigh, and examine each pupil. The sick and degenerate are sent to a large and completely equipped orthopaedic institution and there treated free. Children who stammer or pronounce imperfectly receive individual training.

It is good to know that we are preparing to imitate one of the best features of German university life and to encourage the migration of students—especially of graduates—from one university to another. It is to be hoped that the tragic fate of our foremost composer, Professor Edward MacDowell, may stir public opinion to relieve the creative men in our faculties of their undue burdens of classroom and committee work, and give them the large, fertile freedom of the German “docent.”

The Fatherland has taught us even more about music than about teaching, and still sends us the bulk of our orchestral musicians and virtuosi. But we have yet to learn from its devout

audiences how to listen to music ; how to create that rapport between performer and hearer without which the greatest music is impossible ; and how to keep the concert atmosphere untainted by the profanity of whispering and foot-tapping and flippancy. In Berlin you may hear the Philharmonic Orchestra perform a symphony programme for ten cents, while eating your supper among a crowd quieter than a Kneisel Quartette audience in New York. We Americans have two orchestras, two operas, and a string quartette which are among the finest, if they are not the finest, in the world. But there are few cities in Germany too small to have their orchestra, their opera, their quartettes and singing societies. Good music is a necessity to them, a luxury tó us.

Germany's most important contribution to the art of building in recent years is in its commercial architecture. Alfred Messel started the movement by building Wertheim's beautiful department store in the Leipziger Strasse, in Berlin—an achievement followed there by such notable structures as the Store of the West, the Rheingold restaurant and the offices of the Allgemeine Zeitung in Munich. These buildings clearly show their structure and their character, dispensing with opaque walls in the Gothic spirit. They are made of such rich materials as shell limestone, and what they have of ornament is of superb quality. Everything about Wertheim’s is in admirable taste ; shonpir.;g is made less sordid by a lovely statue here, and a garden there, where une may rest among trees and flowers, attending to nothing but the plash of an exquisitely sculptured fountain. The artistic influence of such a store set in one of our “strictly business” streets would be a fine educational influence for that pas donare shopper, the American woman.

The arts and crafts movement has taken deep root in German soil, and the Germans are determined to make everything about them as beautiful as they can. The numerous exhibitions of painting, sculpture, architecture

and handicrafts are thronged by all

classes of people and are of inestimable value in cultivating the public .taste. During last summer I saw such exhibitions in Munich, Berlin, Mannheim and Dusseldorf. The first two of these outranked the average Parisian salon, while the others surpassed any in America except the international exhibition in Pittsburg.

. The museum habit is widespread, and a German town no larger than Lakewood, N.J., would feel disgraced not to possess a gallery of painting, sculpture, antiquities, and casts as representative as that now in any American city ten times its size. The idiotic tariff on ancient art which has prevented the growth of our museums is to the Germans an indication that we are not quite “all there.” When we mention it they*grow embarrassed and change the subject. But among themselves they look knowing, tap their foreheads, and flutter their fingers.

In theoretical medicine the German leads the world, though the American is more brilliant in the practical application of German discoveries. The Virchow Hospital, in Berlin, . incomparably surpasses the Mount Sinai in New York, our finest Am rican hospital. It is built on the new pavilion system and consists of .thirty buildings set in charming grounds and connected with a large private park. One building is reserved for the department of pathology, whose chief is far greater than the pathologist of any American hospital, where this important department is usually restricted to one small room. The same international ratio holds in regard to hospital bathing facilities.

. Germany’s state subsidizing of laboratories in its largest chemical industries is another indication of regard for the value of creative work.

There is a comprehensive system of workingmen’s insurance and pensions. Practically all German workmen are insured against accident and sickness, and are pensioned by their employers when no longer able to work.

Baths and even recreations arc furnished them. At the Krupp Cannon Works, for example, not only are 112

tennis courts provided for employes, but also (for the different grades of Krupp society) a gymnasium, a golf course, a polo field, canoes, fencing rooms, riding horses, and a circulating library of 52,000 volumes.

Huret says that the administration of the German postal, telegraph, and telephone systems is the first in the world for order, regularity and the multitude of services which it renders to the public. For $5 a year anyone may establish his own letter-box and fix the hours of collection. He may register a letter in his own office. He may send and receive packages up to ten pounds in weight c.o.T at a trilling expense. There are many little conveniences in German post offices, such as a letter scale which anyone may use, slot machines for the sale of stamps and for making change, notices over letter boxes: “Do not for-

get stamp and address,” and polished brass trays at the door with numbered grooves where you may leave your half-finished cigars before entering the warm, well-ventilated, smokeless interior. Berlin’s Rohr-post should commend itself to the hustling spirit of America. One may write a sixccnt post card full and have it delivered within the hour by pneumatic tube and mounted messenger anywhere within the city limits.

Postal money orders are surprisingly cheap and the cash is brought to you by a messenger ; or you may order it placed to the account of a creditor. The postal banks are very popular and not only do an immense banking business, but also carrv on an active accident, sickness, and age insurance business among the lower classes. Flic people have implicit confidence in these banks and thcv do much to encourage thrift. Tf a workman, in a virtuous moment, decides to put by a little money regularly, he simply notifies the bank and every week, on a certain day and hour, the collector comes to give him a receipt for his dime.

What is more, these banks are actuallv made to pay dividends, and, on the revolutionary principle that what the* monev of the poor earns should

return to the poor, these profits are divided between unemployed girls, needy women, fresh air funds, public baths, halls where workingmen may meet on winter evenings, and so on.

The state operates the telephone service and it is unexcelled for speed and accuracy. In certain cities one has the right to complain if he is kept waiting more than thirty seconds for a connection. For twenty-five cents a month you may establish a direct, permanent connection with the doctor, the fire department, or the police and call them immediately without the services of “central.” They are now trying a device by which messages are received and automatically written at the other end of the line at those trying moments when “party doesn’t answer.” The telegraph is also a Government monopoly and the usual message sent from any post office or railroad station costs twelve cents to any part of Germany or Austria. It is possible to prepay a reply.

Though the Germans are not athletes in the Anglo-Saxon sense, they know how to live a sane, healthy, de-

lightful life, out of doors. As a rule, the whole family goes into the country for the week-end—an adventure which would be both expensive and uncomfortable for most dwellers in American cities. But the German has seen to that. Suburban travel by trolley and train is incredibly cheap, and his out-of-doors is completely furnished with restaurants and milkhouses and homely, comfortable inns. One may shoulder a ruck-sack and tramp through fhe barreoest part of the Fatherland with a certainty of better bodily entertainment than in a walk up the Hudson. Germans are famous walkers and the ruck-sack habit has so taken hold of them that a large part of the population flocks in vacation time to the Hartz, to the Thuringian, or the Black Forest, to the Bavarian Highlands, . or Saxon Switzerland for a few previous days of “mountain scratching,” as they love to call it. Their leather-strapped bags of canvas are not eyed askance by even the most bureaucratic of hotel porters. But I shudder when I imagine the fate of a ruck-sack in the St. Regis.

We can have the highest happiness only by having wide thoughts and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as for ourselves. The great thing is to love — not to be loved. Love is for both worlds. Perfect happiness is for the other only.