Vanishing Heritage

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. They are patent models, and each of them is a small monument to the native genius for invention that has put its stamp on all our national development. Read more »

“gems Of Symmetry And Convenience”

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. “All are modelled on the Broadway style and are gems of symmetry and convenience,” proudly wrote a reporter for the Richmond Dispatch of the little four-wheeled electric cars that were clanging cheerfully through downtown streets on their route between Church Hill and New Reservoir Park. “Brilliantly lighted” by incandescent lamps, heated by Dr.Read more »

“what Good Is A New-born Baby?”

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. Finally, in September, 1783, he had signed the definitive treaty of peace between America and England, bringing the Revolution to its formal end. The crowned heads of Europe saluted him; the diplomats admired him; the ladies adored him. Read more »

“you Press The Button, We Do The Rest”

In the year 1854 a young man named George Washington Eastman rather reluctantly maintained a residence in Waterville, New York. The reluctance arose from the fact that while the hamlet was pleasant enough, its population of a few hundred souls offered no scope for the ambitions and needs of a father of two little girls, with a third child on the way.Read more »

The Legacy Of Craftsmen

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. It was but one facet of a public-works program initiated to provide employment for thousands of idle people. The inclusion of art projects, along with more immediately practical undertakings such as road building and other public construction, was a big departure in a country where art patronage by the government was virtually unheard of, and all but anathema.Read more »

The Beards That Made Rough-keepsie Famous

Attached to every city in America is at least one illustrious industrial name. In Detroit it is Ford. In Durham it is Duke. In Milwaukee it is Schlitz, who made “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.” In the annals of Poughkeepsie, New York, it is Smith, or rather the brothers Smith, William and Andrew, whose patronymic is recognized wherever people cough. What Gloversville has been to gloves, Meriden to silverware, and Battle Creek to breakfast cereals, Poughkeepsie has been to medicated cough candy.Read more »

The Deadly Dust: The Unhappy History Of DDT

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 environment and possibly our very existence. Everyone knows that the federal and state governments are acting to end the DDT menace, saving us, if narrowly, from disaster. We can breathe easy again. . . . Or can we? Read more »

Here Comes Superplane

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 »

Gunmaker To The World

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. Jt was like the last act of a grand opera, with thrcnodial music played by Colt’s own band of immigrant German craftsmen, supported by a silent chorus of bereaved townsfolk.Read more »