Inventions

Mark Twain, surely the most American of great American writers, was, like the country itself, a creature of stupendous contradictions—gentle and tender at any given moment, and in the next possessed of rages so intense they cou Read more >>
This is the story of a sturdy American symbol which has now-spread throughout most of the world. The symbol is not the dollar. It is not even Coca-Cola. Read more >>

The Agony of J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the life of J. Read more >>
Long before the energy crunch became a crisis, Rube Goldberg was lampooning the American fascination with gadgetry that helped bring it about. Read more >>

Fifty European nations came to America on her hundredth birthday—and, for the first time, took her seriously

Centennials don’t make sense. It should be evident that a hundredth anniversary is a mere numerical happenstance without historic significance. Read more >>

the world’s greatest inventor

The last half of the nineteenth century was a time of creative progress. Invention, especially the kind that was designed to improve the quality of life, had taken firm hold of the public imagination and would not let go for nearly a century. Read more >>
The man on the preceding page is mounted on a bicycle made by Colonel Albert A. Pope. An ex-soldier and shoe manufacturer, Pope spent a good deal of time at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition pondering an English “ordinary” (large front wheel, small back wheel). Read more >>

The fastest man in the air competed with the Wrights for ten years, became rich, and awakened America to the air age.

America has long been celebrated as a nation of inventive tinkerers. Read more >>

With a wave of his plastic wand Carl Fisher transformed a tangle of mangrove swamps into a peculiarly American resort

Rogers once remarked that Florida would still be known mainly for turpentine rather than for its sunshine resorts if it hadn’t been for Carl Graham Fisher, a brisk little entrepreneur and promoter from Indianapolis. Read more >>

A careless America has lost or ignored most of its priceless collection of patent models. Sometimes exquisite,sometimes little more than toys, those that remain display in the inventors’ own handiwork the history of our technology

The engaging artifacts on the preceding page are, for all their quiet simplicity, survivors of an extraordinarily harrowing career. More important, they are part of a national treasure that is now threatened and dwindling almost daily. Read more >>

So Richmond proudly described its electric trolleys, the first truly successful system in the world

For the citizens of Richmond, Virginia, in 1888 the city’s new trolley system was a source of inordinate pride. Read more >>

OF BALLOONS, THE FIRST AIR-MAIL LETTERS, AND THE EVER-ENTERPRISING FRANKLIN FAMILY

Seventy-seven-year-old Benjamin Franklin was at the top of his form in the fall of 1783. Minister to the court of France since 1776, this revered figure from the new young country had scored widely in France. Read more >>
In the year 1854 a young man named George Washington Eastman rather reluctantly maintained a residence in Waterville, New York. Read more >>

AMERICAN DESIGN II THEY COMBINED BEAUTY AND UTILITY IN ORDINARY OBJECTS

We observed in the February issue of AMERICAN HERITAGE that the compilation of the Index of American Design was a singularly happy byproduct of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Read more >>
Attached to every city in America is at least one illustrious industrial name. In Detroit it is Ford. In Durham it is Duke. Read more >>
Everyone knows a little about the rise and fall of DDT—how it was once hailed as a great boon to mankind; how useful it was in field and garden, house and yard; and how at last to our dismay it was unmasked as a killer, the chemical Al Capone, a threat to our Read more >>
For a very long time it has been supposed that man could adjust himself to almost anything in the way of speed, noise, or financial outlay, just to get from one place to another in the least possible time. Read more >>

Samuel Colt’s life was brief but eventful. He was an imaginative inventor and an ambitious pitchman whose legacy included scandal and success—and firearms that were revolutionary in more ways than one

The funeral of Samuel Colt, America’s first great munitions maker, was spectacular—certainly the most spectacular ever seen in Hartford, Connecticut. Read more >>