A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Well, this is not anywhere near the first image of a pulley, not anywhere close--I don't even know when that might have appeared in a manuscript in the 9th century or whatever--but it is certainly a very attractive gang of pulleys. It occurs in Robert Fludd’s (1574-1637), Utriusque Cosmi . . . Historia (1617), and in it I see Hero/Heron of Alexandria (10-70 ACE), who I always associate with the pulley, and of course with his famous inventions, which in some respect are early forms of 'robots". In this image, the pulley-robot of some complex means is operating the "drive element" and producing (still) the necessary energy to produce change. And--this is a fine image.
I found this wonderful ad in the July, 1869 issue of American Agriculturalist--in real life the woodcut is about 1.5"x 4" and was designed well enough to attract the attention of a practicing farmer needing arithmetical help. It was an intelligent design and speaks well of the readership. The adder--patented just a year earlier by Charles Henry Webb (1834-1905)--would have a long life in various incarnations, a history of which can be found in this excellent article at History-Computer.com (http://history-computer.com/CalculatingTools/Gadgets/Webb.html)
In the last day or so I've been checking through some of my popular journals looking for references of the first usage of a tank in combat in WWI (which occurred in April, 1917). Popular Mechanics had a quick reference in their monthly issue for Map 1917, though now that I am into September 1917 for Scientific American I haven't found anything on the tank in its pages. (Still to come is the Illustrated London News which I do recall having a large piece on the tank in April, 1917; and also the Illustrirte Zeitung, which I also recall having something on the tank in their place quite quickly following the tank's appearance, which was an introduction to a new form of warfare that caught Germany very much by surprise.
[Popular Mechanics, August, 1917, pg 307]
It will no doubt be of interest to many that in August 1917, just four months after the first use of the tank that Popular Mechanics had a fairly detailed article for children of all ages on constructing a toy tank. Almost as quickly as a monthly magazine can report on an event, Popular Mechanics did so and then very quickly thereafter had a DIY project in its pages of the new innovation. I reprint the four-page article in full:
Continuing what has become a series of posts from 1917 (all this prompted by looking for early mentions of the first use of a tank in battle during WWI) we come to The Enormity section. There are others to come, but there is something extra here in measuring production in terms of tall buildings--in this case, the Woolworth Building. In 1917 this was the world's tallest building, and was so from 1911-1930, with 53 floors and 792' high, its neo-Gothic greatness replaced by the Bank of Manhattan (928') and then by the Chrysler Building, followed by the Empire State Building, and then the World Trade Center, and so on, which I mention just to put the Woolworth into perspective as a famous building capable of being used as a standard of measure. What our graphic from the Scientific American (January 6, 1917) as to show is the enormity of the newish American automobile industry. The large car is supposed to represent the amalgamation of all cars built in the U.S.--the striking thing about the graphic for me is the second car, which is the production for only the year 1916. In the background we see an enormous gold coin for the annual expenses of the car industry, and further back still the enormous cans of gas and oil used annually (which I guess were configured in terms of volume of the Woolworth Building). All-in-all, the visualization got its point across pretty effectively.
This article comes from a volume of Popular Mechanics that I have been enjoying for a few days now. "Your Victory Car", written by Brooks Stevens for the December 1942 issue, discusses a vision for the future, a nod to "normalcy" at a supremely difficult time in the world history of the 20th century. Car design went off in another direction, of course--a lot of what we see in these pages looks like offshoots of the Fuller Dymaxion car from a decade or so earlier--though some of the ideas present here (more streamlining, lighter design, smaller engines) wound up in cars in the future...it is just that the cars didn't quite look like these cars.
Here's an interesting cross section by the great and invaluable George Horace Davis, appearing in the November 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics, page 41. I've noted elsewhere that Davis reminds me of Thomas Nast, in a way--his output was enormous and workmanship wonderful, seemingly publishing drawings like this every few weeks, if not more frequently, reminiscent of the fantastic production of Nast. I can only imagine that Davis was seeing most of the detail in his memory rather than referring endlessly back-and-forth to references--I don't know that this is so, but it does make good sense. (For other work by Davis, just enter his name in the google box for his blog appearances.)
The following photos are from a pamphlet entitled The Miracle Workers, a product of the Cheney Silk Company, extolling more the virtues of the considerable workforce and their living conditions more so than the product. My guess is that the pamphlet (with no publishing info) was printed around 1910, evidently when the company was coming towards its zenith after having been in business for 40+ years. I thought it would be worthwhile to share industrial/production images from uncommon sources like this one--especially since the "wrapper" holding the text wouldn't necessarily invite a reader inside. In any event, here are the few photos dealing with the interior of the factory, though there are others (like the one showing a worker's lunch room) that show the school, and church , and other such social buildings that were constructed for the workers by the company. It seems that the company had an unusual trajectory--getting a boost during the Civil War by producing the famous Spencer Rifle, then concentrating on the silk business, and then after suffering through the Depression and the failure of the silk market selling itself off to a company in teh 1950's that switched gears from silk to velvet
I don't mean to trivialize the contents of this pamphlet by focusing solely on its cover design, but I guess that is what I am doing, not having any real interest in the content. That said, the work is by Bob Edwards (1905-1990) who led a long and very interesting life as a union person, labor organizer, Socialist, MP, and a fighter against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. (He was also the author of another interesting pamphlet that appears elsewhere on this blog on the British chemical industry in 1944 and its "Nazi associates" http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2014/09/superior-cover-design-chem-industry-nazism-and-race-suicide-1944.html). In this present pamphlet Edwards looks at the history of the CIO "and the sit-down strikes" while concentrating on its role in the U.S. during WWII. This is pretty dicey stuff (as John Lewis would discover when his vehement pro-Union and non-interventionist/Isolationist policy proposals was defeated by his membership) and rubbed up the wrong way against U.S. defense and war policies. But Edwards was looking for something different, writing in this pamphlet well deep into (the U.K.'s) WWII about the need to change capitalist industry in the U.S. and a "REVOLUTIONARY OCCUPATION OF INDUSTRY" (caps in the original) to be achieved through "Workers Power and Socialism", all of which would probably not play all that well int eh U.S. at this point. (It is unclear exactly when in 1941 this pamphlet was published, but I assume it is probably after the Nazis ended their cordial entente with the Soviet Union.)
Anyway, there is an interesting history of sit-downs in the pamphlet--I still like it more for its cover, though.
Before the internet the idea to the idea of the internet existed to some extent in the head of a great unsung hero of the U.S. WWII figure, Vannevar Bush, a person who may well have invented the notion of hypertext. Vannevar (pronounced “van ee var”) was a flinty no-nonsense New Englander who was an organizational and mechanical genius who as a professor at MIT developed a remarkable analog computer that greatly advance computation capacities for solving differential equations. This was in the 1930’s, and even after creating an improved electromechanical version of the machine still chose the wrong way to go in the soon-to-materialize digital computer revolution. During WWII Bush was one of the most important Americans in the war effort, overseeing the entire scientific effort of the U.S.—an enormous effort dispatched beautifully (and successfully). His importance in this regard is difficult to overstate. He also published a short paper on the hypertext idea in an article in The Atlantic in 1945.
The article, “As We May Think”, outlined his idea for a device he called the MEMEX (“memory” and “index”), which compressed and organized all that its user could remember and whatever information would be obtained in the future via electromechanical apparatuses, and available with associative tracking between the microtext frames. So all manner of book and papers and reports and newspapers and images would be microphotographed and stored in a beautifully-indexed mechanical retrieval system where it would live with the information of others. There was also the possibility of real-time textual additions to whatever it was that was retrieved, the genetic precursor of hypertext. Bush’s thinking has been deeply recognized (and also by the creators of the internet) as the intellectual grandparent of the modern internet.
And so I had a mostly-comical response to the image that I found (left) in the pages of the March 1932 issue of Popular Mechanics--it was actually on the back of the page that I was looking for (on passenger rocket travel across the Atlantic). With Bush in mind, this image of a man reading a miniaturized book using the system of Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (1854-1942), and the photo shows the reader with the equivalent of a 100,000-word novel. The article only mentions this one book, and doesn't venture out into imagining anyone carrying a library with them, nor does it mention searches of organizing systems, but it does bring to bear the possible power of having access to a vast amount of info held on a strip of paper about the size of a newspaper column. And for 1932, that was a strong idea.
This lovely pamphlet has a design that seems to me deeper into the modern future than it was--it seems a product more of the 1930's and perhaps into the 1930's than the 1909 item that it is. The pamphlet was on a proposed gyro-monorail, a project funded by publisher August Sherl (1849-1921), who had the idea for constructing separate high speed (200 kph) rapid transit lines while maintaining existing rail for shipping. But as sleek and as stable as it may/might be, the gyro-monorail is one idea that never really got past prototypes and development, as was the case with Sherl's project, which did actually get to a full-size prototype which was demonstrated in Berlin, but the idea did not flourish, and the project was cancelled.
This yellow is similar to the cover of Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish..., the color yellow symbolizing courage/nobility in Japan, wisdom in Islam, and a deity-color in Hinduism; the color so fond of many great writers like London and Doyle, and Harte and Stevenson that they employed in in titles of the books. The favorite color of Van Gogh1, and perhaps not-so-favorite of Shakespeare (appearing in references to bile and melancholy and falling leaves), it is usually a positive color--except that it also can signify cowardice, ego, caution, and illness (malaria, jaundice).
And so, yellow. The yellow here is a color of soil, and a beautiful yellow it is, the chart a piece of found-art in itself, a found-Abstraction. It actually was published in the Atlas of American Agriculture, lithographed by A. Hoen, and published in 1936--a particularly bad year for U.S. western soils.
And a detail:
1. The Van Gogh museum's "Van Gogh Letters" is a must-visit if you are interested in his correspondence. http://vangoghletters.org/vg/ Actually the word "green" pops up about 15% more often than "yellow" as the most often mentioned color in the correspondence, though I think that the scholars say that his favorite color hands-down was yellow.
"Keep then the sea which is the wall of England, and then is England kept in Gode's Hand, so that fore anything that is without, England were at peace withouten doubt."
This fantastic three-foot-long panorama was published as a folding centerfold for the Illustrated London News Supplement of May 30, 1942. By the middle of 1942 I think it was pretty clear that Germany could not hope to compete with the U.K. in the production of ships, and especially in the area of submarines, where the Luftwaffe demanded and received the lion's share of resources necessary for construction.The Battle of the Atlantic was being won, the blockade was working and intact, and the U.S. had entered the war militarily. No doubt it was a good thing for the reader's of this popular magazine to be reminded of their stellar naval history at this point of the war. There are 45 ships and boats on this panorama, ranging from the times of Alfred the Great to the King George V.
In my experience popular images prior to WWII that put the reader inside of the picture-- giving them the same view as the observing, principle member of the picture--are very uncommon. Honestly, they just don’t happen very often, and I wish that I had paid more attention to them over the years before I realized they were as rare as they were. Such is the case with this extraordinary and action-packed picture in which the reader is hosted just behind and slightly above the head of the pilot of the aircraft dive-bombing the battleship. It appears in The Illustrated London News for 7 November 1935, and it must have been captivating for the readers, being given the sense of closing in at great speed on the ship. There are actually eight other smaller perspective images embedded in the image as well. The largest of these (at top) places the viewer directly inside the subject, giving them the feeling of how it looks like to the bombing officer of the aircraft as it approached the fleet. The other five images shows what the battleship looks like from different height from the inside of the aircraft. Perhaps this doesn’t look like much to us today, but at the time, I can assure you, these images were exceptionally uncommon offerings of a personal perspective that few readers had ever experienced.
I found this ad on the back page of the last issue of the Scientific American before that of December 29, 1877, which carries the announcement and description of the invention by Thomas Edison of the groundbreaking "talking phonograph". In any event, the saw image is beautiful: