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
Here's an unusual (semi-rigid) airship designed by Enrico Forlanini (13 December 1848 – 9 October 1930, an Italian engineer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer), appearing in Technical World Magazine for May, 1915, and bearing the fetching caption "Another Type of Aircraft". It certainly was different, referred to here as the "flying cucumber", though I doubt the Italians thought that. In any even the airship went down in 1914 and was not a factor in the war.
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:
No doubt there exist many opportunities to mine the radio broadcasting past with the statistics in this publication, though for my purposes now, I'm just reproducing a few of its very engaging graphic displays of information. The document, The Good New Summer Time, a Probe of the Summertime Listening Audience of Today, published by the National Broadcasting Company, and printed in 1936, contains useful information regarding programming and advertising for the relatively new medium of radio. The standards for the graphics are both light and a little complex--for example, in the display immediately below/center in the montage, we see a comparison between summer and winter adult audiences, the data points plotted in units of a standing man and seated woman listening to the radio.
There really wasn't that much data to be displayed, though the designers managed to fill the page in a pleasing way. It seems, overall, that this was an uncommon effort to display a small amount of highly useful limited-distribution data in an engaging manner.
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.
While looking through a volume of Scientific American (January-July 1917) for a technical reference on the newly battlefield-introduced tank ( I could find none) I stumbled upon this intriguing info-graphic for American Telephone and Telegraph. This of course is from at least seven decades before the concept of "wire" started to lose its shine in communications, and decades after the second "T"--for "telegraph"-- in "A.T.&T." lost most if not all of its meaning. This interesting half-page ad displays the total amount of telephone and telegraph wire and cable in the A.T.&T. system--enough to reach from the Earth to the Moon and back again, 40 times (which is about correct calculating from the perigee).
[Source: Scientific American, June 23 weekly issue.]
I wasn't looking for this--or anything else in particular--while browsing the year 1917 in Popular Mechanics, though when I came across it and noticed that tank was in parenthesis, it occurred to me that there was good reason for that. The "tank" was brand new on the battlefield when this issue of the magazine came out in May, 1917. The tank had made its first showing just weeks earlier in April, and had really only just come into its abbreviated name. The committee formed in February 1915 to spearhead the development of a new armored fighting vehicle was called the Landships Committee, and as one story goes, the vehicle was called a "tank" because of its resemblance to a water tank--also, it was intended to misdirect any information going the wrong way by not referring to it as a "landship", which would give away some of the secrecy. It should be noted too that it was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who established the committee. So what we see here on page 683 of the May 1917 issue of Popular Mechanics is a very early photograph of the tank in a mass distribution magazine.
The tank hit the battlefield pretty hard, and it evidently took the Germans by surprise--they certainly captured many more tanks than they produced, by far. During the war, from 1916-18, Germany produced only 20 tanks. In that same period, the U.S. produced 84, while the French constructed nearly 5,000 and Great Britain 3,800 or so. Germany was completely unprepared for heavy armored mobile combat--that would be a completely different story by 1939.
I've attached a photo of German soldiers with captured British tanks being hauled away on railroad flatbeds--no doubt these were photographic postcards. Seems to me highly plausible that Germany would employ more captured British tanks on the battlefield than they would German-made tanks.
[Source: wiki source-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanks_in_World_War_I#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-P1013-313,_Westfront,_erbeutete_englische_Tanks.jpg]
See this interesting table on tank production for WWI: http://landships.activeboard.com/t35439129/total-number-of-tanks-usedproduced-per-nation-1916-1918/
This invention/innovation looks coy and sweet today, but it actually addressed an issue in 1917. This was the year that "Hollywood production" in movies really begins, though there was already an explosion of movie houses in the U.S., "Hollywood" or not. Cinemas were plentiful and packed, and from the numbers I've seen already in 1917 50% of Americans were going to the movies several times a month--this number would top out in the 30's when it approach nearly 70%. So ushers standing at points throughout a movie house finding stray seats for people being held back by the doorman could have signaled the number of available seats with his lighted fingers, and moved the waiting line along more quickly than a lot of whispered back-and-forth strolls around the house.
The walking stick continued to be a "thing"--a gentleman's pursuit of gentlemanliness, of refinement, or culture, or style, and so on--deep into the 19th century. And as we can see in this sample from the Scientific American Supplement for November 26, 1892, people were interested not only in sticks but also in what other things the cane could do for them while perhaps aiding them in walking. Some ideas are sort of good, while others, not so. An example of the later might be the following--using your cane head as a cigar holder allowing you to smoke your stogie through the beak of a duck:
Other hidden additions to the cane were not such bad ideas, like the emergency supplies for a physician; and I guess if you going to carrying a cane for show or if you actually needed a cane to help your walk, having the cane serve another purpose was probably a good idea, or at the very least gave a cane-maker something to do beyond making a simple cane.
I did have a quick look at patents for walking sticks for 1875-1925 and found that there were a number of varied patents for walking sticks with umbrellas and stools lodged inside them, which makes sense. There were a number of stick-additions that you'd expect--like that for guns, booze holders, and rulers--and then a number of unexpected contrivances, like music stands, pool cues, fishing rods, soil testers, musical instruments, cameras, lamps, a combo gun-umbrella-fishing rod, and one of my favorites, the flag pole:
[Source, Google Patents: https://www.google.com/patents/US833320?dq=walking+stick&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj3xb3BlpvNAhUGTSYKHeJ6ADMQ6wEINDAD]
In the four hundreds years since Columbus' first voyage we find in the pages of Scientific American Supplement (July 23, 1892) a new mode of transport/exploration/recorder--the bike camera. Or, well, a bike with a camera-holding capacity. Or a bike with a tripod on which a camera could be placed. I know this is a lot less glamorous than a pre-Google pre-car, but in a sense, it is.
Which reminds me of an earlier post:
[Popular Mechanics for April, 1916.]
[Image source: Popular Mechanics, volume 44, October 1925]
Georges Demeny (1850-1917) was a pioneer chronophotographer and Victorian cinematographer, a visual experimentalist, an exploratory photographer, who made great contributions to the earliest history of the motion picture. He was an assistant and associate to Etienne Marey--who we have met a number of times on this blog, and who happens to be one of my favorite 19th c sci/tech figures, along with Hermann von Helmholtz, Thomas Young, and w. Stanley Jevons--before moving along on his own following a developing coolness between the two men in around 1894. This wood engraving, which appeared in the June 18, 1892 edition of Scientific American Supplement, shows Demeny's chronophoto work (on himself) as he studies what the face looks like when saying "vive la France".
[Source: Scientific American Supplement, June 18, 1892, pp 13726-8]
A nice appreciation of Demeny's contribution to the earliest cinema is found here:http://www.victorian-cinema.net/demeny
One thing is for certain with this dream of an amphibious car (Popular Mechanics, July 1942)--it certainly has a lot of curtains. I looked around a bit for the patent on this vehicle in the obvious places/keywords for patents 1935-1942 but couldn't find it. I did however bump into some other interesting amphibious craft, two of which I've reproduced below for their spherical natures and lack of curtains.
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.