Abraham Lincoln, inventor – only president with a patent?

February 10, 2013

Lincoln’s (and Darwin’s) birthday rolls around again next week. What do we know about our 16th president who was the subject of a great and a silly movie in the last year?

Some wag sent out this Tweet today.

Any visitor to Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello knows of Jefferson’s wide-ranging interests, and work in science and invention.  I was rather surprised to discover the depth of George Washington’s inventive work, in a seminar sponsorred by the Bill of Rights Institute at Mount Vernon a few years ago.

Abraham Lincoln, too?

Sangamon_River_near_Lincoln's_First_Home_in_Il...

Sangamon River near Lincoln’s first home in Illinois – Photo from Wikipedia

Lincoln lived along the Sangamon River, and he saw development of the river for commercial navigation to be a boon for his district’s economic growth.  Unfortunately, the Sangamon is not deep; boats had difficult times navigating over the many logs and snags, and shallows.

So, Mr. Lincoln offered a technical solution, for which he was granted a patent in 1849.  Details below, from Google Patents:

lincoln-patent-for-buoying_vessels_over_shoals

lincoln-patent-for-boat-buoying-in-jpg

Drawing for Abraham Lincoln’s patent of a boat bouying apparatus.

Was Lincoln the only president to get a patent?  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington worked hard at inventions.  Jefferson shared Ben Franklin’s view that new inventions should be for the benefit of all; does that mean he didn’t seek patents?  Washington’s inventions — including the 16-sided barn for threshing wheat — tended to be improvements on processes; I don’t know of any evidence he even thought of patenting any idea.

It’s possible that Lincoln was the only president so far to have held a patent.

Lincoln’s invention was never built, and that patent never used.

This is an encore post with additions.

More, and miscellany:

 


Time machine! For Digital Learning Day

February 6, 2013

Screen shot from HHMI's iPad app, Earth Viewer -- the time machine function.

Screen shot from HHMI’s iPad app, Earth Viewer — the time machine function.

Stealing the entire post from P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula:

I’ve been playing with it for a while. It turns out that when you go back to Cretaceous Morris, you need to be able to swim really well, but Cambrian Morris is high and dry on a fairly small landmass (whoa, but oxygen is way down and carbon dioxide way up). You can have your own time machine, too — it’s the EarthViewer app for iPad, and it’s free from HHMI Here’s what it has:

• Data and continental reconstructions dating back billions of years

• Climate and carbon dioxide data for the last 100 years

• The ability to manipulate the globe and zoom to any location

• Track the location of modern cities back over 500 million years

• In depth features on major geological and biological events in Earth history

• Clickable details on geologic eons, eras, and periods

• Automated play modes

• An extensive reference list

• Suggestions for classroom use

• Tutorial videos

Did I mention that it’s free? This HHMI thing is pretty danged sweet.

There is no creationist/Noah’s Flood version.

No Windows version, yet, either.

Did we mention the Howard Hughes Medical Institute made this and related apps free?


Typewriter of the moment: Abigail van Buren’s IBM

January 17, 2013

Abigail van Buren,

“Dear Abby,” Abigail van Buren, sorts through letters asking advice. Newseum photograph.

News flash, on Facebook, from the Newseum:

Abigail Van Buren, author of the “Dear Abby” advice column, died Jan. 16, 2013. She was 94.

NPR’s e-mail added a couple of details:

NPR BREAKING NEWS:

‘Dear Abby’ Dies; Pauline Phillips Was Adviser To Millions

Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she wrote the world’s most widely syndicated column. The daily readership grew to more than 100 million. The column is now written by her daughter, Jeanne.

More at NPR.org:

http://n.npr.org/NPRI/jN375186981_1570913_1570912_Z.htm

What an incredible melange of history in that photo!  You can read about Mrs. Phillips at the NPR site, but consider just this photograph:

  1. “Dear Abby” which used to be regular reading in most households in the morning — literally millions of American households.  She and her chief competition, “Ann Landers,” could each by herself move the nation, to change habits, to question manners, to change behaviors with vaccinations or new medical procedures, and in a few cases, move legislation through Congress.  No one in newspapering or broadcast today has the clout this woman had, but rarely used.  Not even Rupert Murdoch with his empire, had so much clout as Dear Abby.  (Many of us were surprised to learn later that the women who wrote Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers were twin sisters — another one of those twists in real history that no one would believe in fiction.)
  2. Isn’t that an early IBM electric typewriter? Our local Fry’s doesn’t stock even electric typewriters anymore, nor could I find one in my last run through Staples and Office Depot (catalog sales, perhaps). IBM probably hasn’t made one 20 years, and not one like that one in at least 40 years — that is not a Selectric.
  3. Dial telephone.  Not just a land-line, but an actual, analog, dial telephone.  Without seeing any identifying characteristics, we can assume that her telephone provider was the AT&T regional company — unlikely that it was Continental, the only other major provider in the U.S. at the time.
  4. The Yellow Pages telephone book under the phone.  I think even Yellow Pages stopped printing those things; we haven’t had a good update on our white pages in years.
  5. Newspaper syndication meant EVERYONE had access to her columns — no internet.  A dime for the local paper, and you had Dear Abby.
  6. The fountain pen in her hand, perhaps for more than just signing letters (what do you say, Office Supply Geek?).
  7. No computer, which in addition to replacing the typewriter, would probably also replace the four-drawer file cabinet in back of her (a locking cabinet, perhaps a HON?)
  8. Is that flowered pattern the wallpaper in the place? They don’t make orchid wallpaper like that any more.
  9. Look at that stack of mail.  Each came in an envelope, stamped, for less than 8¢ (1st class rates topped a dime for the first time in 1974).  No e-mail; no electronic version to cut and paste from.  Each letter to appear in the column had to be retyped on that IBM typewriter.  Most high school students today have probably never sent a letter through the mail, and many have never received one, either.

The Newseum didn’t credit the photo, nor say when or where it was taken; I’ve not found more details yet. At the Newseum site, the photo is credited to Phillips-Van Buren, Inc., the company that runs the column.  I’m guessing 1970 at the latest, and this may be in the 1960s or even 1950s.

Some of us old timers get future shock just looking at that photo.  Can your students date that photo with the clues in it, history teachers?  Journalism teachers?  (Photos at OzTypewriters suggest this photo could have been made in the 1960s.)

More:

Heck, it may be a 1950s typewriter (do you read German?):

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus d...

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus den 1950er Jahren Lizenz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  (Translated roughly, “IBM electric typewriter from the 1950 license.”)


December 31, 2012: Bright Idea Day, anniversary of Edison’s light bulb

December 31, 2012

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we celebrate a variety of historically holy days.  December 31, by tradition, is Bright Idea Day, the anniversary of the day Thomas Edison demonstrated for the public a working light bulb in 1879.

100,000 people gather in Times Square, New York City, tonight, and millions more around the world, in festivities for the new year made possible by the work of Thomas Alva Edison.

Here it is, the invention that stole sleep from our grasp, made clubbing possible, and launched 50,000 cartoons about ideas:

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey - Wikimedia image

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey – Wikimedia image (GFDL)

The light bulb. It’s an incandescent bulb.

It wasn’t the first bulb. Edison a few months earlier devised a bulb that worked with a platinum filament. Platinum was too expensive for mass production, though — and Edison wanted mass production. So, with the cadre of great assistants at his Menlo Park laboratories, he struggled to find a good, inexpensive filament that would provide adequate life for the bulb. By late December 1879 they had settled on carbon filament.

Edison invited investors and the public to see the bulb demonstrated, on December 31, 1879.

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb.  Library of Congress image

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb. CREDIT: Thomas Edison, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-98067

Edison’s successful bulb indicated changes in science, technology, invention, intellectual property and finance well beyond its use of electricity. For example:

  • Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey, offices and laboratory were financed with earlier successful inventions. It was a hive of inventive activity aimed to make practical inventions from advances in science. Edison was all about selling inventions and rights to manufacture devices. He always had an eye on the profit potential. His improvements on the telegraph would found his laboratory he thought, and he expected to sell the device to Western Union for $5,000 to $7,000. Instead of offering it to them at a price, however, he asked Western Union to bid on it. They bid $10,000, which Edison gratefully accepted, along with the lesson that he might do better letting the marketplace establish the price for his inventions. Other inventive labs followed Edison’s example, such as the famous Bell Labs, but few equalled his success, or had as much fun doing it.  (Economics teachers:  Need an example of the marketplace in action?)
  • While Edison had some financial weight to invest in the quest for a workable electric light, he also got financial support, $30,000 worth, from some of the finance giants of the day, including J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts who established the Edison Light Company.
  • Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — but his improvements on it made it commercial. “In addressing the question ‘Who invented the incandescent lamp?’ historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison’s version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.”
  • Edison’s financial and business leadership acumen is partly attested to by the continuance of his organizations, today — General Electric, one of the world’s most successful companies over the past 40 years, traces its origins to Edison.

Look around yourself this evening, and you can find a score of ways that Edison’s invention and its descendants affect your life. One of the more musing effects is in cartooning, however. Today a glowing lightbulb is universally accepted as a nonverbal symbol for ideas and inventions. (See Mark Parisi’s series of lightbulb cartoons, “Off the Mark.”)

Even with modern, electricity-saving bulbs, the cartoon shorthand hangs on, as in this Mitra Farmand cartoon.

Fusilli has an idea, Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Brilliant cartoon from Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Or see this wonderful animation, a video advertisement for United Airlines, by Joanna Quinn for Fallon — almost every frame has the symbolic lightbulb in it.

Other resources:

Patent drawing for Thomas Edison's successful electric lamp.  Library of Congress

Thomas Edison’s electric lamp patent drawing and claim for the incandescent light bulb CREDIT: “New Jersey–The Wizard of Electricity–Thomas A. Edison’s System of Electric Illumination,” 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-97960.

Yeah, this is mostly an encore post.

Even More, in 2012:


Typewriters of the moment: Isaac Asimov’s astonishingly prolific career

December 22, 2012

Isaac Asimov remains one of my favorite writers.  He wrote well enough, and his curiosity took him to topics I often find interesting.  At one time having published more books than anyone else in history on a wide variety of topics from quantum mechanics to trivia in the books of the Bible (does he still hold that record?), it was a sure bet one could find at least one book in one’s area of interest penned by Asimov.

When I started the spasmodic feature, “Typewriter of the Moment,” years ago I did a search for Asimov with a typewriter.  I didn’t find an image I thought suitable back when the internet was still operated by steam, and somehow I just never got back to that.

The other night this image popped up on one of my Facebook feeds, from “the Other 98%”:

Isaac Asimov at a typewriter creating, with pithy quote

Painting of Isaac Asimov creating at a typewriter, an early IBM Selectric. Who did the painting?

I appreciate the sentiment in the quote.  Asimov noted the Dunning-Kruger Effect, even if he didn’t have the advantage of Dunning and Kruger having named it yet, and he lamented the powerful undertone of anti-intellectualism that victims of the syndrome exhibit:

Anti- intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. (Asimov in an essay for Newsweek: “A Cult of Ignorance,” January 21, 1980, p. 19)

It’s an arresting image, a heckuva a quote, and it would make a good poster.  Plus, it’s an early IBM Selectric typewriter, marrying Asimov’s creativity with a great technological advancement in writing tools.

One boggles at the idea of Asimov with a great word processing program, a fast computer with great memory, and the internet at his disposal.  If Asimov were alive and creating today, we’d think Moore’s Law a great hindrance to the advancement of knowledge.

The painting delights me.  It’s almost photographic, and I like paintings that take great care to get small details right, photographically.  No dig at more spare or even abstract art, but this sort of painting takes great skill and great creativity.  Rising spirit-like from the typewriter’s platen we see a satellite (manned spacecraft, perhaps?), a flask of chemicals, and a leather-bound book, essential components in science fiction, and science.

So, who did the painting?  Was it done solely for that Facebook poster?

English: An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 71...

This is what that typewriter in the painting looks like, from the author’s angle. An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 713 (Selectric I with 11″ writing line), circa 1970. Wikipedia image

I’ve searched on TinEye, and Bing and Google, without success to identify the painter.

One version of the painting, before text was added, showed up at IO9, a site dedicated to science fiction, in an article discussing the writing habits of famous writers.

This does not appear to me to be the original, simply because data on the artist is not contained in the information section of the image.  The artist who did this illustration would be proud of it, and want to advertise her or his work.

This version has a slightly higher resolution; click on the image and note the reflections of lights in Asimov’s glasses, the reflections on the desk, and even the dings on the edge of the desk facing the viewer — this is great stuff!

But still I wonder:  Who was the original artist?

Any ideas, Dear Reader?

Painting of Asimov at work, at his typewriter

The painting of Asimov at his typewriter, before posterization with a quote over his head. Found at IO9

Did Asimov write on a Selectric?  Did he switch to the newer version, with a wider carriage, or stick with the old original?  Is there a photo upon which this painting is based?

Almost immediate update:  This site claims the artist is the same as the one at the bottom of the post, Rowena Morrill.  That’s a start.  Here’s more:  At Rowenaart, both pictures appear credited to Rowena.  Mystery solved?  Go buy a poster from her; this is great stuff.

More:

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

Hello! Could this be by the same artist? Caption from Wikipedia: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: Wright Bros. National Memorial

December 17, 2012

Kill Devil Hills monument to theWright Brothers

Wikipedia description: Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Photo by Ken Thomas, taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Dare County, NC, USA.

At this site, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

 


December 17, history written in the wind

December 17, 2012

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

Few witnesses observed the flight.  Though the brothers Wright fully understood the potential of the machine they had created, even they waited before revealing to their supporters, and then the world, what they had accomplished.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.  No ATC (Air Traffic Control) delays.  Neither brother endured a TSA screening.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:

(I almost always forget the big dates until the end of the day.  This is mostly an encore post.)


Longevity of DDT, in pictures

December 16, 2012

One of the key problems with DDT is its persistence.  That was a selling point early on — one application would last for six months to a year.  In the wild or in a city, DDT can breakdown in about a year, but it breaks down into DDE which is pretty deadly itself and can cause a raft of other trouble while it hangs around.  While DDT will kill young birds and even adult songbirds outright, its most pernicious workings come in the breakdowns.  DDE insinuates itself in the reproductive organs of animals, causing birds to be unable to lay eggs with properly calcified eggshells.  Even if the DDT doesn’t kill the chicks, the DDE gets next year’s generation, making sure the egg cannot protect the chick to hatching.

A treaty adhered to by most of the world’s nations targets DDT specifically, you can tell by the name if you don’t know the content:  The Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs), also known as the Stockholm Convention after the city where it was finally negotiated under the direction of the United Nations’ health care arm, the World Health Organization (WHO).

40 years after DDT use essentially ended in the U.S., traces of it still show up in the tissues of creatures in the wild, in plants, in crops, and in human tissue.

Where does it come from?

Most of what shows up is just circulating in the air, soil, water and living things.  There could be other sources.

I doubt this is a significant source, but a lot of DDT remains stored in barns and sheds on farms and in gardens across North America.  Over at a blog operated by an exterminator in Charlotte, North Carolina, we get a glimpse of history and potential disaster all at once.

Today, I traveled up to a Lincolnton, North Carolina Farm house to give a gentleman a price on Termite Protection for his home. After I performed an inspection, he took me out to his barn to show off a couple of old tractors. Immediately catching my eye on an old work bench was anachronistic blast from the past.

There it was, an unopened bottle of DDT. (See images below)  DDT  was Banned in the United States more than 30 years ago, and  it remains America’s best known toxic substance. Like some sort of rap star, it’s known just by its initials; it’s the Notorious B.I.G. of pesticides. And much like the Notorious B.I.G., it has been put to rest.

Electrolux Insecticide with DDT, Charlotte Pest Control Image

Electrolux Insecticide featuring DDT in the formulation, on a barn workbench in 2012, near Charlotte North Carolina – Charlotte Pest Control image

Did it really have DDT?  Look at the next photo.  It’s badly focused, but you can probably make it out, that line at the bottom of the can.

Contents label of Electrolux Insecticide, showing DDT

Label of Electrolux Insecticide can, showing DDT as the contents. Charlottepestcontrol.me image

DDT put to rest?  If only it were that easy. Not only is the stuff in that can still deadly, it’ll hang around for decades if released from the can.

You’re wondering, of course, just what in the world was Electrolux doing selling DDT?  Look at the label: See that woman using the vacuum rather like a spray device?

Cannister vacuums of the 1950s and 1960s were advertised as universal tools.  Not only would they suck up dirt from a floor, but they could also be used as blowers, simply by reversing the hole into which the hose was plugged.  Manufacturers provided attachments to make vacuums into paint blowers, powdered plant fertilizer spreaders, and liquid or powder pesticide sprayers.  See for example this page from a 1960s-era Universal canister vacuum:

Instruction manual for Universal vacuum, showing use as a sprayer of DDT or wax.  VacuumLand image

Instruction booklet for a Universal-brand cannister vacuum, showing the attachments used to turn it into a sprayer — and on page 28, a sprayer of DDT insecticide. Image courtesy of VacuumLand (go to that site to see the entire instruction manual).

The greatest dangers of DDT came from broadcast use outdoors.  These pictures show indoor use, but in application by an untrained, poorly-equipped amateur.  If your exterminator shows up in heels and pearls, fire that company and hire someone else!

In any case, vacuum manufacturers and resellers would often provide virtually every product that could be added to or used with a machine, often at very high markup.  In this case, Electrolux had some other company package DDT in a can with the Electrolux label.  That can must have been sold before 1972 when over-the-counter sales of DDT ended; it probably was before 1970, when most in-home uses of DDT were ordered to stop.   In the photos I have not detected anything to date it, but it must be at least 42 years old.

What a different time it was, when housewives used their vacuums to thoroughly spray their own homes with DDT!

More:


Selecting a replacement for South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint

December 9, 2012

Pecan tree shaker

Machine used by the San Antonio River Authority, similar to one to be used in South Carolina.


Typewriter of the moment: Ava and Linus Pauling, 1957

December 8, 2012

Can you identify the typewriter?  Update: In comments, Ed Ackerman said it looks like an Olympia.  Agree?

Linus and Ava Pauling, 1957

Caption from the Oregon State University Library: Linus and Ava Helen Pauling working on “An Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World”. 1957. Original held in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, Oregon State University Libraries.

Linus C. Pauling won distinction for his science work with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in 1954.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1954 was awarded to Linus Pauling “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.”

In 1957, Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling turned to other issues.  Having been beaten in the race to confirm the form of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953, Pauling turned to peace activism.  He opposed atomic weapons and wars.

In this photo, posed, Pauling and his wife who partnered with him in his campaigns for peace, worked on a statement to be issued later, to be known as “An Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World.”

Note the tools of editing of the day:  Cellophane tape, glue, scissors, pencils and pens.  The typewriter’s output could be cut into strips and rearranged on a separate sheet of paper, to be retyped later in order.  This was manual, analog word processing.

An online exhibit of Pauling’s work and photos at the Oregon State Library explained the document being worked on, and its use:

While the debate raged, Pauling continued to keep a high public profile, speaking widely and appearing often in newspapers and magazines through 1956 and into 1957, garnering attention by positing shocking estimates of fallout-related damage to human health. By the spring of 1957 it appeared that his and Russell’s efforts were yielding fruit. Alarmed by the dangers of fallout, Japanese, British, German, and Indian politicians began urging a halt to H-bomb tests, as did the Pope and the World Council of Churches.

In May, after delivering a fiery anti-Bomb speech at Washington University in St. Louis, Pauling conferred with two other scientists, Barry Commoner and Edward Condon, about next steps. They decided to mount a scientists’ petition to stop nuclear testing as a way to draw attention to the concerns of a growing number of anti-Bomb scientists. Their “Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World,” mimeographed and hand-mailed, garnered more than two dozen signatures within a week. Pauling took the project back to Pasadena, where he and Ava Helen, along with some volunteers, mailed hundreds of additional copies to researchers in more American universities and national laboratories. Within a few weeks they had gathered some two thousand signatures, including more than fifty members of the National Academy of Sciences and a few Nobel laureates.

On June 3, Pauling released his signatures to the world, sending copies to the United Nations and President Eisenhower. The petition made national headlines — and spurred an immediate attempt to isolate its primary author. Even the president took a shot at Pauling. “I noticed that in many instances scientists that seem to be out of their own field of competence are getting into this argument about bomb testing,” said Eisenhower, “and it looks almost like an organized affair.” This thinly veiled allusion to Communist backing for Pauling’s effort was echoed by a number of other critics of the ban-the-Bomb movement. The head of HUAC blasted Pauling on the floor of Congress for spreading Soviet propaganda. A few days later Pauling was subpoenaed to appear before a Senate investigatory committee (although those hearings were delayed, then canceled). Through it all, he continued to broaden the distribution of his petition through the end of 1957, expanding his mailing list to scientists around the world, including many in Communist countries. By the beginning of 1958, he and Ava Helen counted more than 9,000 signatures. When the expanded petition response was submitted to the United Nations, it once again made headlines worldwide.

Where is a text of the document?  I found one image of the document in holdings of the National Institutes for Health.  It’s indexed under “petitions” in the papers and documents of Linus Pauling in the Profiles of Science section.

For his work against war, Pauling won the Nobel Prize for Peace for 1962 (awarded in 1963).  Pauling is the only person to have won two Nobel awards alone, undivided with anyone else.

Does that typewriter survive today?  Is it in the collection of Oregon State University?

More:


Typewriter of the moment: Mark Twain’s Hammond

December 5, 2012

Still hoping to find a photo of Samuel Clemens at work on a typewriter.

But until then, this one will have to do:

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter, Jerry J. Davis photo

A Hammond typewriter that once belonged to Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain. Photographed by Jerry J. Davis, in an unstated location, probably Hannibal, Missouri

Other photos of Twain’s typewriter must exist; and since we know of at least two such machines, there must be some photos of each of them, no?  I wish museums and historians would consider the value of images of some of these objects, and make high quality photos of some of these famous machines.

Twain’s fascination with technology shines clearly in his work.  From his earliest writings we get lyrical and accurate descriptions of the mechanical workings of Mississippi riverboats, for one example.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court paints a long paean to technology of the late 19th century, transplanted in the tale several centuries earlier.

Some accounts claim The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be the first manuscript completed by typewriter — this one, perhaps? TwainQuotes.com features what may be a description of this history:

…I will now claim — until dispossessed — that I was the first person in the world to apply the typewriter to literature…The early machine was full of caprices, full of defects — devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells…He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered.

- “The First Writing Machines”

As a publisher and investor, Twain pushed the development of automated typesetting machines to quickly publish the memoirs of former President Ulysses S Grant.  Though the books were set quickly, and the best-selling memoirs provided an income for Grant’s widow, the technology was still balky and cost Twain his own fortune.

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter - TwainQuotes.com

Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com. Is this the same machine pictured above? There are similarities, but differences more than just the angle.

We shouldn’t be surprised with his acerbic comments on the machines; Twain’s caustic humor targeted everything in modern life.  TwainQuotes.com notes a fraction of a letter to his longtime friend:  Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com

The machine is at Bliss’s, grimly pursuing its appointed mission, slowly & implacably rotting away at another man’s chances for salvation.

I have sent Bliss word not to donate it to a charity (though it is a pity to fool away a chance to do a charity an ill turn), but to let me know when he has got his dose, because I’ve got another candidate for damnation. You just wait a couple of weeks & if you don’t see the TypeWriter coming tilting along toward Cambridge with the raging hell of an unsatisfied appetite in its eye, I lose my guess.

- Letter to William Dean Howells, 25 June 1875

Were things really so bad?

I regret to note that in our visit to Hannibal last June I did not encounter any typewriters.  Clearly, I’ll have to go back.

Tip of the old scrub brush to OObjects.

More:


Typewriter of the moment: Sports broadcaster Red Barber

November 1, 2012

Sportswriter Red Barber at his typewriter - Florida State Archives photo

Sportswriter Red Barber at his typewriter – State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/10011

The great Red Barber, when his hair was still red, working at his typewriter, with a volume of Roget’s Thesaurus close by.

Many of us knew Red chiefly through his weekly chats with Bob Edwards at NPR’s Morning Edition.  The biographies say Red died in 1992.  That was 19 years ago — it seems more recent than that.  (Edwards left Morning Edition in 2004.)

It may be ironic to show Barber at his typewriter.  He would be more accurately portrayed, perhaps, behind a microphone at a baseball park.

From 1939 through 1953 Barber served as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was working for the New York Yankees when he retired in 1966. Barber had the distinction of broadcasting baseball’s first night game on May 24, 1935 in Cincinnati and the sport’s first televised contest on August 26, 1939 in Brooklyn.

During his 33-year career Barber became the recognized master of baseball play-by-play, impressing listeners as a down-to-earth man who not only informed but also entertained with folksy colloquialisms such as “in the catbird seat,” “pea patch,” and “rhubarb” which gave his broadcasts a distinctive flavor. (Radio Hall of Fame)

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Typewriter of the moment: An old one, manual or electric (yours?)

October 25, 2012

Typewriter

A manual, Royal typewriter (Photo by mikeymckay)

It’s enough to make an old typewriter guy drive to Arizona, for more than the air (with a stop in Albuquerque at the Owl Cafe for an Owl burger, of course).

Polymath reporter Bill Geist from CBS News reported this piece for Sunday Morning, in February, featuring Mesa Typewriter Exchange in Arizona, and more:

Where is that movie on typewriters“The Typewriter in the 21st Century.”  Geist was poaching on their material a bit, wasn’t he?

Bring on the movie!

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Typewriter of the moment: e. e. cummings

October 25, 2012

Typewriter of the poet and author e. e. cummings:

Typewriter of e. e. cummings at NYPL, photo by Chris Wolack, WildmooBooks

Typewriter of e. e. cummings, displayed at the New York Public Library, 2012. Photo by Chris Wolack, WildmooBooks

Through March of 2012, 250 objects from the collections of the New York Public Library were displayed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.  A few of the objects exhibited were typewriters, including this one.

Did you notice?  The keyboard shows only capital letters!  Did that anger cummings, or make him crazy?  Not that we can see.

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Self-Portrait, Oil Painting. Cummings in the 1950s. Courtesy of Nancy T. Andrews, via Modern American Poetry

 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Wolack at WildmooBooks.


What do your clothes see in the washing machine?

September 15, 2012

Do you ever wonder what  your clothes would see, if they could see, from inside the washing machine?

Dario Viola provides a brief answer, courtesy his waterproof GoPro camera, on Vimeo:


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