Archive for February, 2011

Walter Wellman On The Future Of Aerial Navigation

From February 5, 1911


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: 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

Why People Disappear — Some Famous Cases

From February 5, 1911


WHY PEOPLE DISAPPEAR — SOME FAMOUS CASES: Detectives Make Some Surprising Statements About the Causes — Kidnapping a Rarity, but There Are Some Notable Instances — The Vanishing of Adele Boas. (PDF)

With several cable networks trying to fill 24 hours of news, it sometimes feels like we hear about missing person cases all the time. We have missing kids on milk cartons, the evening news, and TV shows about unsolved crimes. There’s even a prime time drama called Without A Trace that follows a Missing Persons investigation unit. But 100 years ago, people thought disappearances were fairly rare, according to this article. Not so, the reporter learned.

Nothing more common is known to the police or the detective agencies. It is commoner than pocket-picking and not much more exceptional than intoxication. So common is it that at Police Headquarters there is a squad, working the usual number of hours per day, known as the “Disappearance Squad,” and headed by a Police Lieutenant. It consists of about eight men, who work daily on the cases of mysterious disappearance reported to Centre Street. They are headed by Lieut. Finn, an expert on disappearances.

So common is it that the Pinkerton Detective Agency keeps a collection of scraps on “Missing Persons.” Looking over its collection, one is forced to the conclusion that somebody disappears every day. It must be remembered, too, that this collection includes only cases where there is something sufficiently interesting about the disappearance to get it in the newspapers.

So common is it that whenever some dismembered body is found in a river or in a trunk, scores of people shoot up all over the country, identifying the body as that of their lost daughter or sister, who, up to that time, nobody knew had disappeared.

The article goes on to describe several famous cases of disappearances, and explores some of the reasons people go missing.

Update: I thought it might be prudent to add some links to resources about currently missing people. CNN’s Nancy Grace is running a series about 50 missing people profiled over 50 days. The FBI has a list of missing people they’d like you to be aware of. And the NYPD has a similar list broken down by borough.

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Written by David

February 3rd, 2011 at 11:51 am

Posted in True Crime