Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Millionaire To Make His Home On A 95-Foot Yacht

From June 25, 1911

MILLIONAIRE TO MAKE HIS HOME ON A 95-FOOT YACHT

MILLIONAIRE TO MAKE HIS HOME ON A 95-FOOT YACHT: James B. Hammond Is Building the Lounger II., According to His Own Notions, with a Garage and an Aquarium Aboard and State-rooms Artificially Cooled. (PDF)

Forget about the yacht for a moment. James B. Hammond was a millionaire who made his fortune with his invention, a typewriter you can read about at the Virtual Typewriter Museum.

This article describes Hammond as an eccentric millionaire. The yacht is just a small part of this profile.

“They call me eccentric,” he said, in a tone of deep disgust for those who said this, “but I really do not see why a man is not privileged to live his own life in his own way.”

Seated in a high adjustable chair in a big room, chiefly conspicuous for its view of the Hudson, Mr. Hammond was found in amiable companionship with his dog and his canary…

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Written by David

June 21st, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life,Technology

New Motorboat Beats World’s Record In Speed

From May 28, 1911

NEW MOTORBOAT BEATS WORLD'S RECORD IN SPEED

NEW MOTORBOAT BEATS WORLD’S RECORD IN SPEED: Alexandrian Inventor builds a Cup Challenger That in Trial Trips Is 7 Miles Faster than Dixie II’s Best Time (PDF)

I don’t have time to write more comments on this article because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.

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Written by David

May 27th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Technology

Nation’s Rare Documents Unprotected Against Fire

From May 28, 1911

NATION'S RARE DOCUMENTS UNPROTECTED AGAINST FIRE

NATION’S RARE DOCUMENTS UNPROTECTED AGAINST FIRE: Even the Original Declaration of Independence and Constitution Are in Peril and Thousands of Invaluable Records Are Merely Filed Away in Wooden Wall Cases (PDF)

The rest of this post is unwritten because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.

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Written by David

May 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Politics,Technology

New Public Library’s Novel Mechanical Devices

From May 21, 1911

NEW PUBLIC LIBRARY'S NOVEL MECHANICAL DEVICES

NEW PUBLIC LIBRARY’S NOVEL MECHANICAL DEVICES: Electrical Plant There Is as Large as That Used to Light the City of Stockholm — Special Appliances in Every Department of the Building. (PDF)

The rest of this post is unwritten because I’m a brand new dad and need to focus on that for a bit. But please feel free to read the article and make your own comments.

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Written by David

May 20th, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Technology

A Spell To Exorcise The Demon Of Seasickness

From May 7, 1911

A SPELL TO EXORCISE THE DEMON OF SEASICKNESS

A SPELL TO EXORCISE THE DEMON OF SEASICKNESS: Scourge of Travel Doomed If This Invention, Which the Hamburg-American Is to Install on Its New Liner Europa, Does All That Is Claimed for It. (PDF)

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Written by David

May 6th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Technology

Centenary Of Maker Of First Portrait Photograph

From April 30, 1911

CENTENARY OF MAKER OF FIRST PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPH

CENTENARY OF MAKER OF FIRST PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPH: New York University Will Honor the Memory of Prof John William Draper, Who Took the First Human Likeness When Daguerre Failed to Do It. (PDF)

I’m a photographer professionally, so articles like this are especially interesting to me. This one celebrates the 100th birthday of John William Draper, credited with taking the first portrait photo, an image of his sister Dorothy.

Back then, photos required long exposures, so the subjects needed to sit extremely still. Draper experimented with putting white powder on people’s faces to lighten them up a bit for the picture. And he also realized that if a person sits still for a 30 second exposure, they can feel free to blink during that time without worrying about ruining the image. But any other movement must be considered and eliminated:

“The hands should never rest upon the chest, for the motion of respiration disturbs them so much as to make them have a thick, clumsy appearance, destroying also the representation of the veins on the back, which, if they are held motionless, are copied with surprising beauty.”

Here’s some more of Draper’s advice for a portrait sitting:

“It has already been stated that pictorial advantages attend an arrangement in which the light is thrown upon the face at a small angle. This also allows us to get rid entirely of the shadow on the background or to compose it more gracefully in the picture. For this it is well that the chair should be brought forward from the background from three to six feet.

“Those who undertake daguerreotype portraiture will, of course, arrange the background of their pictures according to their own tastes. When one that is quite uniform is desired, a blanket or a cloth of drab color, properly suspended, will be found to answer very well.”

While Draper took the first formal portrait, Louis Daguerre actually took the first photo of a person. He captured a photo looking out over a street in Paris. It was a long exposure, so people moving through the frame were not captured. But one person stood still long enough to register in the image while he was getting his shoe shined. But the figure is tiny and silhouetted, so it could hardly be called a portrait.

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Written by David

April 29th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Seeking An Invention To Prevent Railroad Collisions

From April 23, 1911

SEEKING AN INVENTION TO PREVENT RAILROAD COLLISIONS

SEEKING AN INVENTION TO PREVENT RAILROAD COLLISIONS: Inter-State Commerce Commission Makes Tests on Staten Island of Young Texan’s Device, One of Twenty Selected for Official Investigation. (PDF)

In a sort of precursor to the X Prize, Congress set aside $50,000 and invited inventors to submit their inventions which would prevent railroad collisions.

Of course there was an avalanche — a grand rush of eager young geniuses to the spot. They submitted plans of every description, ranging from those that seemed to possess real merit to the wildest and most impossible dreams that ever rioted through a human brain.

The total number of inventions submitted was 185. Every one of them, no matter how extravagant, was looked into my the commission’s experts. Flaws were picked out which made device after device impracticable — one by one the fruits of hours and days and years of sleepless toll were discarded. At last barely twenty survived.

These were put aside for further consideration and further weeding out. Then exhaustive practical tests of the few survivors were instituted by the commission’s examiners.

I’m unclear if the winning inventor gets the $50,000, or if that money was used to test the inventions. But either way, one invention stood out as having promise, devised by a twenty-six year old named Frederick Lacroix.

No sooner had his idea firmly established itself in his inventive brain than he set to work making experiments, adopting and rejecting various schemes, until at last he hit on exactly what he was after. Then he had a model made for him, and with it made numberless further experiments to see whether his invention fully realized his dreams.

It did.

His solution involved adding a third rail to carry electricity, which forms a circuit with some equipment in the train. Another train on the same section of track would interrupt the circuit, triggering a device that automatically applies the brakes and whistle. As an added benefit, the third rail would also provide a telephone line so the trains can talk to each other.

In repeated tests, Lacroix’s solution worked. But I am unable to find any evidence that it was actually adopted as a safety device. Does anybody know?

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Written by David

April 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 am

New York’s First Subway Built More Than Forty Years Ago

From April 23, 1911

NEW YORKS FIRST SUBWAY BUILT MORE THAN FORTY YEARS AGO

NEW YORK’S FIRST SUBWAY BUILT MORE THAN FORTY YEARS AGO: Curious History That Surrounds a Grating Opposite City Hall Marking a Forgotten Enterprise of “Certain Prominent Citizens.” (PDF)

New York City’s subway opened in 1904. So what is this article talking about? Well, there was a secret subway, built without permission from the city. It was only one block long because it was exposed by a reporter before much work could be done. And this subway didn’t run on electricity as our modern subway does. It ran in pneumatic tubes!

So why did it need to be built in secret? Why wouldn’t the city have wanted it? Well, when the subway was first proposed, people did not think it was a good idea. Even the Times was against it:

The Times of March 15, 1869, editorially exclaims: “It is said that the Legislature is quite likely to charter a project for building what is called an arcade railroad under Broadway. We can scarcely believe it. When this wild scheme was dismissed a year or two ago we hoped and believed that we had heard the last of it — and so did everybody else.”

The public and The Times, though, were justified in their distrust of the scheme. Those prominent men wanted to build a subway with a vengeance. What they wanted to do was to dig down, the whole width and length of Broadway from the Battery away uptown, for seventeen feet. They proposed to restore the street by building a roof over the chasm.

This plan, as has been said, died a natural and unobtrusive death. The next move toward a subway was in the early part of 1869. It didn’t seem like a move at all. Legislative power was obtained to construct a pneumatic tube from Warren Street to Cedar Street for the purpose of blowing small and large parcels, indeed all kind of express business, between these two localities.

Then queer rumors began to fly around.

In the latter part of 1869 a young man dressed in working clothes, and looking rather mussed and dirty, went down in the middle of the night to the cellar of the Rogers-Peet Building. In this cellar he groped around until he found an opening he was looking for. He went through the opening and landed in an underground tunnel, dark except for flaring lights here and there. There was an air of excitement and feverish work in this tunnel. Whatever talking there was was done in whispers, although a shout wouldn’t have been heard on the street. The young man applied for work. He got it and spent that and the following night in very hard and earnest digging.

And then The Tribune came out with a full expose of the subway that was secretly being built.

The young man was a Tribune reporter.

The substance of the article was this: In the last week one block of subway tunnel had been dug and built by night. It extended from the southwest corner of Broadway and Warren Street to Broadway and Murray Street. So that nobody should see the earth that was dug away it had all been carted to the big cellar of the Rogers-Peet Building and dumped there. If The Tribune had not exposed what was going on a subway under the whole length of Broadway was to have been secretly built. A car was in the tunnel. Also a big machine that was going to blow the car from one end of the track to the other.

It seemed incredible. Who had ever heard of being blown through the earth to one’s destination?

New York wavered between perplexity and indignation.

When this article came out, the tunnel still existed. But it was most likely destroyed when an authorized subway system tunnel was built soon after. NYCsubway.org has a page with sketches of the pneumatic subway system, and more information about its demise.

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Written by David

April 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Ringing The Chimes Of St. Patrick’s On Easter Day

From April 9, 1911

RINGING THE CHIMES OF ST. PATRICKS ON EASTER DAY

RINGING THE CHIMES OF ST. PATRICK’S ON EASTER DAY (PDF)

100 years ago, the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral were played by a man who pulled various levers attached to clappers that rang the bells:

Though their music may be heard miles away, it can scarcely be heard in the Cathedral as far back as the Lady Chapel, while the chimes ringer himself, as he stands on the keyboard platform, 110 feet below the bells, operating the levers, will catch but faint murmurs of the melody as he plays. For play he does, when at his duty, after the manner than a man would play the organ, the difference being that instead of using keys, he presses down upon levers. There is a separate lever for each one o the nineteen bells. The device, which is termed the “tracker action,” is the same as that used in the playing of chimes generally. A wooden rod, 110 feet long, attached to each lever by means of a leather strap, and to the clapper of each bell, is the controlling agent of melodic communication.

I’m not sure if the bells are still rung by hand. The bells underwent a restoration at the end of the 20th Century, and I was able to find one video of the bells chiming in 2008, but it’s unclear if they are manually operated. The Cathedral’s official website barely mentions them, although they have plenty of information about the pipe organ.

My favorite church bells in the city are at Riverside Church on the Upper West Side. Their carillon was a gift of J.D. Rockefeller, Jr. It includes the world’s largest and heaviest cast tuned bell, and is still manually played on Sundays and special events. The current carillonneur is an 80-year old man named Dionisio Lind, who was recently profiled by the Daily News, who put together this video featuring him playing the bells:

When I came to New York, the bell tower was open to the public. It cost just two dollars to ride the elevator up half way, and then you would get out and climb the rest of the way through the tower, past all the bells, past the carillon keyboard (called a baton console), until you reached a platform that offerred a 360-degree view of Manhattan and New Jersey. The few times I ever went, there was nobody else up there. It was one of my favorite New York secrets. Unfortunately, the bell tower was closed to the public in 2001, citing fire safety concerns. I guess you can’t really build a fire escape on a bell tower.

Bonus: If you aren’t yet convinced that Riverside Church is way cooler than Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I have one word for you: Bjork.

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Written by David

April 8th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Music,Technology

Stories That Modern Science Has Made Impossible

From March 26, 1911

STORIES THAT MODERN SCIENCE HAS MADE IMPOSSIBLE

STORIES THAT MODERN SCIENCE HAS MADE IMPOSSIBLE: Why the Classics of Poe, Hoffman, and Others Seem Antiquated To-day. (PDF)

This amusing piece supposes that modern technology is making scary stories impossible.

It is lucky for us that Poe, Hoffman, Andersen, and other chroniclers of the great unknown lived years ago. For mystery and romance have suffered greatly at the hands of modern science and inventions. Electricity is the worst offender in that respect, as it has killed more goblins than all the grandmothers ever created.

Think how much richer in unearthly being the world was in the day of the tallow candle, the oil lamp, and the flintlock. Imagine your great-great-grandfather coming home at, say, 1 in the morning; the house he returned to was one of those immense, gaunt mansions, built piece by piece, wing by wing, of wood that creaked and moaned when the night wind rose or when the worms were milling slowly, stubbornly, the heart of the beams into impalpable, yellow flour. Your great-great-grandfather’s conscience may have troubled him a little, for he may have partaken of a trifle too much of he cheering claret.

When the street door’s lock had clicked behind him he stood enshrouded in the hostile darkness of the endless corridors; echoes magnified the noise of every motion, his breath sounded like a cyclone. A match finally consented to burn, and its flicker only helped him to realize the thickness of the velvety pall.

The lamp was located; its chimney struck, but finally yielded just before all that was left of the match was a short, winking ember. Another match was struck and this time the wick, with much spluttering, emitted a little light; back went the chimney to its socket, and the shade that surmounted it divided this mystic worlds of darkness into two regions — the table and a part of the floor were immersed in a soft yellow gleam. Above the shade, however, ghosts and goblins, frightened an instant by man’s intrusion, resumed their play.

Scary.

On a similar note, here are some stories that cell phones have made impossible. And here’s a list of Seinfeld episodes that could not have happened with today’s modern technology.

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Written by David

March 25th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Blood Tests In Criminal Cases No Longer Uncertain

From March 26, 1911

BLOOD TESTS IN CRIMINAL CASES NO LONGER UNCERTAIN

BLOOD TESTS IN CRIMINAL CASES NO LONGER UNCERTAIN: Murderers Can No Longer Be Shielded by Doubtful Analysis, for the Newest Biological Chemistry Can Now Tell Human Blood Stains from Others. (PDF)

Those fluent in biochemistry may enjoy the details, but the gist of the article is summed up in the second paragraph:

It has often happened in murder trials that the guilt or innocence of the prisoner depended entirely on the ability of expert witnesses to determine whether or not certain stains were caused by human blood. Formerly, this was a difficult question to decide. The revelations of biological chemistry, however, have made the tests comparatively easy. In fact, it is not too much to say that the tests used nowadays to settle the question whether certain stain, be they new or old, were made by human blood, constitute an exact science.

This reminds me to recommend The Alienist, Caleb Carr’s murder mystery set in 1896 New York City, to those of you who have never read it. The protagonist uses newly developed techniques (like fingerprint matching, for example) to solve the crime. It’s a very good read.

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Written by David

March 23rd, 2011 at 9:30 am

Experiment Station To Solve Housekeepers’ Problems

From March 26, 1911

EXPERIMENT STATION TO SOLVE HOUSEKEEPERS' PROBLEMS

EXPERIMENT STATION TO SOLVE HOUSEKEEPERS’ PROBLEMS: Mrs. Frank A. Pattison Heads a Movement to Give Practical Aid to Tests of Inventions That Lighten Labor and Effect Economies. (PDF)

Mary Pattison was the President of the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, “an organization of fifteen or sixteen thousand women, which believes in doing practical things.” The organization is still around today.

She set up an “experiment station” in her New Jersey home to figure out how housewives can make their daily routines easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Part of that involved trying new machines with potential to make labor easier.

Mrs. Pattison led the way to a small kitchen. It was full of strange objects, queer shaped ovens, and odd, black things standing on long legs.

“This,” said Mrs. Pattison, “is my electric motor.”

It was a small thing she touched, and it did not look like the solution of anything, but she wheeled it up to the coffee mill, slipped a pin somewhere, turned a crank, and in ten seconds the motor was working like a galley slave, grinding the coffee. After a minute Mrs. Pattison stopped it, drew out the pin that connected it with the mill, and explained that it would turn the washing machine, chop up the meant, or polish the silver, just as energetically as it had ground the coffee.

“This motor is not perfection by any means,” said Mrs. Pattison, “but it shows that we are on the right track. I paid $75 for it with the coffe mill, the polisher, the washing machine and the chopper included. It was quite a sum to put down at the start, but you see what a saving it is in labor…

“This,” she said, turning to another strange object that looked something like a wash boiler, “is the dishwashing machine. We had a great time getting this and it is not a very satisfactory one, though it is the best on a small scale in the market so far. I wrote to every firm that dealt in such things and I would get back answers that they had a very admirable dishwashing machine that would wash a thousand plates a minute, or something like that, and had been used in various hotels. Then they would add: ‘We have nothing as yet for the small kitchen, but we have some plans for such a model.'”

I like that women were technology early adopters back then.

[There are] vacuum cleaners which do away with the strain of sweeping, and of course it will be a part of our Federation to find out which are the best cleaners for the various purposes that our women will have need for… The average woman does not know about all these things, and if she does she is afraid to buy because she knows the chances are even that she is going to be cheated. We believe that when she knows where to turn for accurate information, she will joyfully buy them.”

A couple years later, Pattison wrote a book called Principles of Domestic Engineering, which you can read free from Google Books. The lengthy subtitle is “The what, why and how of a home; an attempt to evolve a solution of the domestic “labor and capital” problem – to standardize and professionalize housework – to re-organize the home upon “scientific management” principles – and to point out the importance of the public and personal element therein, as well as the practical.”

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Written by David

March 22nd, 2011 at 9:30 am

Streets To Be Glowing Lanes Of Hidden Light At Night

From March 5, 1911

STREETS TO BE GLOWING LANES OF HIDDEN LIGHT AT NIGHT

STREETS TO BE GLOWING LANES OF HIDDEN LIGHT AT NIGHT: Illumination of the Future Will Be by Concealed Lights So Reflected as to Rival Sunlight Within and Without. (PDF)

Buildings that glow in the night; façades lighted from hidden sources so that all the architectural detail is brought out as clearly by night as by day; streets in which the atmosphere itself is luminous without any visible means of illumination — these are among the possibilities of the not distant future.

We have become so accustomed to regarding the present as an age of marvels, so used to giving a seven-days’ wonder only an hour’s attention, that we give scarcely any notice to the inovations that come gradually.

In few lines of invention has there been a more steady advance than in that of the men who are trying to discount the setting of the sun and light up the night by artificial means.

What follows is an interesting discussion of different kinds of lighting, including gas, electric, vapor, and even firefly. It’s interesting to see the different possibilities pondered 100 years ago about something we take for granted today.

There are still a few places in the city to see old fashioned gas street lamps. In November, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the gas lamps that still (barely) illuminate the streets of Park Slope. And in Manhattan, City Hall Park still has gaslights on its fountain. The great website Forgotten New York has a deeper look at gaslight remnants around town.

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Written by David

March 4th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Wind In The Moving Pictures

From March 5, 1911

WIND IN THE MOVING PICTURES

WIND IN THE MOVING PICTURES (PDF)

Apparently, there was a lot of wind in early movies. Why were they all so windy?

The question is asked by almost every one who has been bitten by the bug of the moving picture show. It is a fact that in every scene where there’s half a chance of getting up a breeze it blows a tornado, or at least a brisk gale disports itself in the trees in the background and the skirts of the harassed heroine in the front.

A moving picture man solved the problem.

“That’s easy,” he replied in answer to a query. “If the pictures were taken when the air was perfectly still, then if the living characters happened to be still also the picture would be as dead looking at a 35-cent chromo of ‘Twilight.’ So a time is selected for photographing the scenes outside when the wind is playing old hob with things generally, trees swaying, and skirts fluttering and hair flying — haven’t you ever noticed how much more effective a woman is when her hair is streaming behind her like the burgee on a racing yacht?”

For a classic example of strong wind in silent film, jump to the 55 minute mark in Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr.(1928) and watch to the end.

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Written by David

March 3rd, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Gives Up Royalties On Great Telephone Invention

From March 5, 1911

GIVES UP ROYALTIES ON GREAT TELEPHONE INVENTION

GIVES UP ROYALTIES ON GREAT TELEPHONE INVENTION: Major G. O. Squier of the Army Turns Over His Patent to the Government — His Multiplex Telephone May Revolutionize Long Distance Talking. (PDF)

Major George Owen Squier gave the world a gift with one invention, and a decade later invented a technology which would become the butt of jokes.

First, he invented the multiplex telephone. That’s the technology which allows several conversations to be carried simultaneously on the same wire without crossover. Instead of profiting from this invention, he gave it to the public domain, saying:

Is it not right that I should give this to te public? I obtained my education through the American people; as an officer of the United States Army my time and all the good that may accrue from the use I make of that time and the education given me belongs morally to them. When a man in the army commences to think of money he commences to forget his moral duty to his country. It is my creed that all that is best in me, all that that best can produce, belongs to my country and my people. Do they not provide for me? I am assured by these people of the United States three square meals a day and comfortable quarters as long as I do my duty. A man with millions cannot ask more; he cannot eat more or dress more comfortably than my countrymen assure me I shall always find my portion as long as I do my duty.

“I have given my life and all that is in it to my country, and I think it only right that whatever of good I may bring forth, especially if that good has its roots in the education they afforded me, should accrue without cost to the benefit of the people. Therefore I have dedicated this invention to their use without reserve, placing it beyond the power not only of any monopoly of capital but even of myself to exercise any control or place any limitation upon its use. It is as free as air to the humblest.”

That is pretty noble.

In 1922, Squier came up with another invention that’s still with us today. He created Wired Radio, a service that piped music to subscribers over wires. It was originally intended as a better alternative to residential wireless radio, which was still working out its kinks. But those issues were quickly resolved, so this service was marketed instead to hotels and restaurants. Squier eventually decided that the service needed a better name than Wired Radio and, inspired by the catchy brand name Kodak invented, Squier changed his company’s name to Muzak.

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Written by David

March 3rd, 2011 at 9:45 am

Motorizing The Fire Department — The Horse Must Go

From February 19, 1911

MOTORIZING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT -- THE HORSE MUST GO

MOTORIZING THE FIRE DEPARTMENT — THE HORSE MUST GO: Engine, Hose Cart, Hook and Ladder and All Are to be Self-Propelled, and Fire-Fighting Will be Revolutionized. (PDF)

New York City was seeing a lot of progress around this time. Just law week we saw advances in street cleaning but now we see an even more significant advance: motorized fire trucks.

Fire Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo said the new fire trucks would cut casualties in half.

That thrilling sight — three plunging horses drawing engine or hook and ladder — one of the few thrilling sights to be seen in our prosaic city streets, is soon to become a thing of the past. Within the next five or six years there will not be a fire horse in Greater New York. The gasoline motor will do the work of these old favorites. Speed, safety, efficiency, and economy will be the result.

[…]

For years the Fire Department has been struggling to cut down the time required in getting to fires. Any year in which the time is decreased three seconds is looked upon as a banner year. Few people outside of the department realize how valuable seconds are. The average life saved at a fire is in a rescue made on a margin of seconds. Rescues are made only at the beginning of a fire.

The best time made by horse-drawn apparatus is a mile in five minutes, and the greater the distance to be traveled the greater the reduction of speed. The motor-driven apparatus wil travel at a minimum rate of twenty miles an hour, with a maximum for clear stretches of road of thirty miles an hour, distance being no factor whatever. The speed increase will be about 65 per cent.

The motor apparatus is also not as apt to cause street accidents. Though traveling at a higher rate of speed, it is much easier to control and stop than a truck or engine drawn by three galloping horses. It takes 150 feet to stop any horse-drawn apparatus. If there is a grade or the pavement is slippery it may take 300 feet, or even more. The motor-driven apparatus, though going at a rate of twenty miles an hour, can stop in its own length.

With the introduction of motor apparatus, the firemen used as drivers will be free to operate with the company at a fire. This will give an extra fireman who at present is kept watching his horses in the street. This will mean a 15 per cent. increase in the numerical strength of each company.

It never occurred to me that someone had to watch the horses.

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Written by David

February 16th, 2011 at 10:40 am

The 1911 Way To Clean The Streets Of A Big Town

From February 12, 1911

THE 1911 WAY TO CLEAN THE STREETS OF A BIG TOWN

THE 1911 WAY TO CLEAN THE STREETS OF A BIG TOWN: Commissioner Edwards Tells How Modern Invention Is Pressed Into Service in This Important Branch of a City’s Affairs (PDF)

100 years ago, the streets of New York were swept manually by three thousand men known as the “White Wings” because of their all-white uniforms. (You can see them march in an unspecified parade in this 1903 footage on YouTube).

While these three thousand men are doing the work about as effectively as they possibly can, it has been found by actual test that after their work is finished there still remains a residue varying from a small amount on smooth pavements to about three times as much on a granite pavement. The removal of this residue is the part of the street cleaning work which is the most necessary to be performed, because the material is a fine powder, is largely composed of grit, and when stirred up and blown is a source of annoyance to pedestrians and also covers exposed food stuffs, and is very detrimental to textile fabrics.

The city experimented with a new method of cleaning: using water. They actually took bacteria samples and found that cleaning with water was better than merely sweeping. So the article describes plans to use high pressure flushing machines to clean the streets, and quotes favorable experiences from other cities which already use this method. They call the flushing process “better, quicker, and cheaper” than sweeping by hand.

It would still be a while still before the advent of alternate side parking.

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Written by David

February 9th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Walter Wellman On The Future Of Aerial Navigation

From February 5, 1911

WALTER WELLMAN ON THE FUTURE OF AERIAL NAVIGATION

WALTER WELLMAN ON THE FUTURE OF AERIAL NAVIGATION: From Facts Gained in His Own Experiences He Points Out What Is Needed to Conquer the Air. (PDF)

Walter Wellman was an explorer who made several unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by airship (including an attempt covered here back in July). In this article, he considers the future of commercial air travel.

My faith is strong that having demonstrated the practicability of air travel man will go on till he has developed flight into a state of perfection and usefulness not even indicated by the apparatus of to-day.

Whether or not full commercial utilization of aerial navigation is coming, soon or late, is a question which no one can now adequately and confidently answer. It may come; it may not. My own impression, rather than conviction, is that in the next half century we shall have limited rather than universal commercial application of the art. But within those limitations will be found much that is highly beneficial to humanity…

Commercial aerial navigation, like any other navigation, means operation for a profit in competition with railways and steamships. involved in operation for a profit are certain requirements well understood, but which it will be well to state. First, there must be a high degree of safety of operation, and reduction to a small minimum of the risk of accident to the ship itself and its passengers and cargo. Without this high degree of safety ships and their cargoes cannot be insured at practicable premiums, owners cannot afford to carry their own insurance, (since the inevitable losses must be made up in some way,) passengers will not offer themselves for voyages, and goods will not be tendered for transportation without insurance.

Next, ships of an aerial transportation line, like steamships and railways trains, must be fairly sure of setting out on a given schedule, and of accomplishing the voyage in a reasonably close approximation to the time advertised beforehand. It is clear that great uncertainty of departure and of time of arrival would constitute a handicap against the enterprise in competition with more stable modes of transportation.

These objections, sure to hold in the long run, might not apply sharply to an aerial line as long as the novelty remained. For the unusual experience of a trip in the air passengers might offer themselves and be wiling to pay much higher rates of fare than they would have to pay upon competing lines.

Oddly, Wellman does not include thoughts of air travel by plane, even though that was clearly where the industry was heading. The first planes which carry passengers were already in development, but he focuses primarily on the problems of commercial balloon flight.

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Written by David

February 4th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business,Technology

Where And How New York Keeps Its High Explosives

From February 5, 1911

WHERE AND HOW NEW YORK KEEPS ITS HIGH EXPLOSIVES

WHERE AND HOW NEW YORK KEEPS ITS HIGH EXPLOSIVES: Most of It Is Anchored Out in the Harbor and the Rest Is Housed in the City in Small Quarters. (PDF)

100 years ago this week, 25 tons of dynamite exploded in Communipaw, New Jersey, killing 24 people and injuring hundreds. The explosion was so big that buildings in Manhattan shook, and four windows blew out in the Statue of Liberty’s crown.

So people naturally wondered how New York’s dynamite is being stored. How much dynamite does the city have, anyway? How is it transported? What are the rules for handling it? This article answered those questions, and examines what happened in Communipaw.

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Written by David

February 3rd, 2011 at 12:41 pm

New York Telephone Company Ad

From January 8, 1911

New York Telephone Company Ad

This ad appeared in the Sunday Times just a few weeks after the Magazine ran an article explaining how the telephone system works. That article, from December 4, quoted a recent telephone census that said New York had 310,000 phones. This ad shows that figure dates back to 1908.

The ad claims that the usefulness of your telephone service is measured by the number of people with whom it enables you to talk, and the class of people it reaches. What exactly were they trying to say? Was there a tiered phone service system in 1910, where lower class people had an inferior service that only allowed them to talk to each other?

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Written by David

January 7th, 2011 at 9:30 am