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
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:
Josef Rodenstock (1846-1932) started his company, "G. Rodenstock" in 1879, manufacturing and selling mathematical, physical, and optical instruments--it survives to this day. This advertisement for the optics branch of the company appeared in the July 1, 1918 issue of Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig)--it is rather small in the original, but very effective; I couldn't pass it by without sharing.
This image really lifted itself from the page--it is from 1880 and has to me a very heavy scent of M.C. Escher to it. This would be a very "found" aspect of pre-Escher (1898-1972), but it does have an indefinable quality to it that seems very 20th-century. What we are seeing here is a perspective of the construction of the "New Church of the Oratory of South Kensington" (known as the Brompton Oratory), but I think given the various stages of completion of the structure the whole of it takes on a spherical, three-dimensional quality, and has a somewhat impossible-looking aspect, as though from multiple viewpoints. I think we're looking down through the naive, and though it is supposed to be representating a three-dimensional figure it seems profoundly not so.
[Source: The Building News, June 25, 1880; Herbert Gribble, architect.]
What it reminds me of directly is Eshcer's relativity, from 1952:
I know that what I've said about the Building News image is reaching, and it wasn't dealing with unusual geometries, or tessellations, or the oddish curved perspectives of Escher, but, well, it does somehow have that quality.
I've admired this image for quite some time, finding it in the Library of Congress' collection of the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) color photographs. It is anonymous, unfortunately, but since there were really only 23 or so staff photographers for this gigantic undertaking (including Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, John Vachon, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange, and Ben Shahn, ten of which are truly monumental names in the history of 20th century American photography) I think that we could guess that it was done by the hands of a master. It seems as though less than 2% of the 163,000 or so photographs made by this section during its eight-year run (1937-1945) were made in color, and I'm glad that this was one of them.
This photo reminded me of a very detailed, three foot long locomotive schematic that I have in the studio. It is a wonderful thing, and I've included some images of it below, all of which are clickable and very expandable (and clearer). Here's the first detail:
[For info on the locomotive, see http://www.railarchive.net/alcopacifics/]
And the full locomotive, laterally, and large--I couldn't straighten it out without loss of text, so apologies for the miscue:
[This bedside nurse's aid appeared in the July 17, 1869 issue of the Scientific American.]
According to the article, "The inventor of this nursing table has endeavored to afford greater comfort to the sick by providing them with the means of supplying in a measure their own wants during the absence of an attendant. In large hospitals the want of something of this kind has been long felt and in many cases its use in private houses would be a great convenience..." Mostly it was a drinking-and-spit-bucket apparatus--still it would no doubt come in handy and loosen the duties of the nurse somewhat.