Monday, December 31, 2012

How to patina your custom motorcycle

Happy New Year!

Circular Saw for Cutting Firewood

Electric Wiring for Home or Farm.  New Edition.  Simpsons-Sears Ltd. 1953.
Safety First!

Hula Hoops

In 1948 two undergraduates, Arthur "Spud" Melin and Richard  Knerr founded Wham-O based on their first product, a sling-shot (which made a "wham-o" sound when hitting its target).  In 1955, a building inspector named Fred Morrison came up with a plastic flying disc, which Wham-O bought and produced in 1957 as the "Pluto Platter", renaming it in 1958 as the "Frisbee."  Melin and Knerr found out that children in Australia played with bamboo hoops, an idea which they turned into the Hula-Hoop in 1958.  In four months, they sold 25 million of them.  The company itself has changed hands many times.

In 1994, the Coen brothers released "The Hudsucker Proxy" which used the invention of the Hula-Hoop as the basis for a zany tale.  While I don't personally think it represents their best effort, its worth watching for the old machinery (ticker tape machines, a short scene of what appears to be the production line for the Hula-Hoop) and basically as a a send-up of how corporations function.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nice Ford Firetruck

Dodge, disappearing...

Take the Action Ride on a Wards Riverside

Popular Mechanics, July 1967
So fast that the lower half of the motorcycle gets blurred!

Glass cutter wars

Above, various glass cutters.  From top to bottom:

Fletcher No. 01 in case
Fletcher No. 01 without case
Hoppe, Germany
Red Devil
Fan Out III, Japan

The glass cutter owes its beginnings to O.M. Pike, a jeweler in Leverett, Massachusetts.  He was convinced that he could come up with an alternative to diamonds for cutting glass, so he began experimenting.  He ultimately devised a hardened-steel rod positioned between two friction rollers, which he patented in 1869 as the "Magic Diamond."  Fortuitously, he soon made the acquaintance of Samuel Monce, who worked for the R.J. Ives Machine Shop in Bristol, Connecticut. Monce improved on Pike's idea, patenting a bone-handled tool with a steel wheel as the "Excelsior" (which became more commonly known as the "Bristol Diamond"). Four years later, Fred Fletcher joined the company as an engineer, adding the idea of interchangeable wheels to the product.  Fletcher eventually joined with his two brothers and his father-in-law Franklin Terry to manufacture their new glass cutter in a barn on the Terry property.  In 1911, Fred bought out his brothers and incorporated as the Fletcher-Terry Company.

In 1875, Frank R. Woodward patented the "Woodward Wizard." This was a tool ostensibly designed for cutting paper stencils but Woodward produced and sold it only as a glass cutter.  Woodward didn't have the means to produce the tool on his own, so he approached the Smith & Hemenway Co., Inc. of New York City.  This company had been founded in 1872 by Landon P. Smith and John Francis Hemenway in Hill, New Hampshire.  On a trip to Sweden, Smith heard a blacksmith refer to sparks "those little red devils" which gave him the idea to use the name "Red Devil" for the new glass cutter.  Smith & Hemenway claimed in its circa 1926 catalog that "in 1872 the wizard Woodward conceived the idea of cutting glass with steel..."  Patent infringement cases between Woodward and Monce went on for years, and ultimately it seems that Woodward was able to have Monce's patent invalidated by proving that similar tools (particularly O.M. Pike's) had been in use prior to Monce's patent.   

Both Red Devil and Fletcher-Terry continue to exist as separate companies, both making glass cutters to the present day.  (Fan Out is a Japanese maker of various products, including specialty tools for the stained glass trade.  Hoppe is a German tool maker that appears to have gone out of business.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Gilera USA

Ski-Doo Racing in Timagami, Ontario 1964

Canada 1964.  The Official Handbook of Present Conditions and Recent Progress.  Ottawa:  Canada Year Book, Handbook and Library Division, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1964.

We must save rubber!

A Selection of Ships' Badges of His Majesty's Royal Navies.  
Gutta Percha & Rubber, Ltd., 1942.

Friday, December 28, 2012

John Henry Benson

From: The Northern Pacific Main Street of the Northwest.
Charles R. Wood; Bonanza Books 1968

Engineer John Henry Benson oils the running gear on his Pacific locomotive. The white mustached aristocratic appearing old gentleman started on the Northern Pacific Railway in the 1870s and retired in the 1920s after a half century of service.
One of my favorite photographs.

Colt Aircrewman

The New Wonder Book Cyclopedia of World Knowledge.  Philadelphia & Toronto:  International Press, 1954.
The Colt Aircrewman was an ultra-lightweight version of the Detective Special constructed of aluminum alloy, and made from 1951-1957 for use by US Air Force aircrews.  It was apparently plagued with problems, especially cylinder cracking.  Nevertheless, in good condition they seem to demand almost $3000 these days.

Harley Earl and the Gas Turbine Firebirds

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.  My Years with General Motors.  New York:  Macfadden-Bartell, 1965.
Clearly, the inspiration for the Batmobile!

For more information on these stunning vehicles, visit Conceptcarz.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mongomery Ward (Benelli) Mojave 360 fuel tank

The source of the favorite fuel tank of current cafe racer customizers. No wonder, as it seems to be perfectly suited to almost any bike it's used on. There have been so many of these tanks for sale lately, it makes you wonder where all the bikes went.
 Below the tank on a 650 twin. I suspect this was only a prototype or a styling exercise.

Jawa Ice Racer

Cycle Guide


Allan Anderson.  Remembering the Farm.  Memories of Farming, Ranching, 
and Rural Life in Canada Past and Present.  Toronto:  Macmillan of Canada, 1977.
The World Book Encyclopedia.  Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1970.
Mules are the result of mating a male donkey with a female horse.  As a result, they have an uneven number of chromosomes and cannot reproduce.  (A cross between a female donkey and a male horse is called a hinny, and these animals are not as highly prized.)  According to a fascinating article "Riding High.  Mules in the Military" by Susan Orlean (The New Yorker, February 15 & 22, 2010), a mule can carry as much as 300 pounds, 7 hours a day, 20 days straight, without a complaint.  They've been found to be smarter than horses.  George Washington owned some of the first in the U.S., sired by a donkey he had received as a gift from the King of Spain.  In the subsequent 150 years, mules were put to work on the farm doing all sorts of work in return for, in William Faulkner's words, "the privilege of kicking you once."  In the 1930's there were over 5 million mules in the U.S. and the military used a lot of them during World Wars I and II.  By the 1950's, mechanization had largely replaced them and their numbers had dropped to about 2 million.  They are now being given a second chance as riding animals, especially for middle-aged women who have undergone knee-replacement surgery.  Mules give a smoother ride, are easier to care for, are cheaper, and give about 25 good years compared to 15 for horses.

Glider Diner, Scranton Pa.

Diner built by the Mountain View Company (serial unknown) installed onsite in 1952 and still going strong at 890 Providence Rd. Scranton 60 plus years later!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mining Equipment

Looking like a character from a kids cartoon, this mining shovel dumpcart was liberated from deep underground to live out its days as a display at a rest stop in northern Ontario.

Typhoon Wreckage

Typhoon rocket attack results
George G. Blackburn.  The Guns of Normandy.  A Soldier's View
 of France 1944.  Toronto:  McClelland & Stewart, 1995.

We used to make things in this country. #49: Acme Ruler & Advertising Co., Toronto

I love old wooden rulers, which are getting scarcer every year.  They make great paint stir sticks, which means that many of them ended their life in a paint or varnish can.  All of the rulers below are marked "Acme Made in Canada."

The Acme Ruler and Advertising Co., Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario was established in the 1890's and made rulers, blackboard triangles, and protractors.  It also made cribbage boards.  Below, two of their products from the 1950's or 60's:

(The helpful folks at the Cribbage Board Collectors Society (CBCS) were able to establish that the Aristocrat Junior board was in fact made by Acme Ruler & Advertising They inform me that, according to Bette Bemis' Book, Cribbage Boards 1863-1998, Acme originally distributed and then made boards designed by Glanson Games in New York City, one of the largest producers of such items.  Later, Acme streamlined the ends and sides of the tracks on its own boards.  Acme also distributed the unusual round "Threelane" wooden boards made by the H.A. Sicotte Manufacturing Company.)

The Acme diamond logo was first filed by the company in 1964, and was declared "dead" in 1989. 

The company's height was from the 1950's to the early 1970's.  According to the Cribbage Board Collectors Society, Acme successfully made the transition to plastic, offering several boards in this material, including a British Columbia Ferries edition.  The ultimate fate of the company was clarified by cribbage instruction pamphlet:

This shows both the Canadian Acme diamond trademark and the stylized scissors trademark of the U.S. based Acme United Corporation.  This American company was formed when the Acme Shear Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut acquired the Westcott Rule Company of Seneca Falls, New York in 1968, three years later becoming Acme-United.  They filed for their scissors trademark in 1973.  So, it would appear that the Acme Ruler and Advertising Company was itself also acquired by Acme United at some point, becoming the Acme Ruler Company out of Mount Forest, Ontario.  (Are you confused yet?)

Under American ownership, production was inevitably moved off shore.  An Acme United ruler is shown below (clearly identified by its logo).  It's marked "Acme China" and is of much cheaper quality than any of the Acme Canada rulers.  (Sigh.)

The similarity in company names is purely coincidental.  Everyone remembers Wile E. Coyote's spectacularly unsuccessful attempts to dispatch the Roadrunner using "Acme" products in the Warner Bros. cartoons.  Duke University holds the Richard Pollay Acme Advertising Collection, with around 3000 items bearing this name from the 1850s through to 2006.  It turns out that over 900 companies used this name in the U.S. and Canada, including: Acme Bail Bonds; Acme Boots; Acme Brick Company; Acme Harvester; Acme Markets; Acme Motor Truck Company; Acme White Lead and Color Works; Duane H. Nash, Inc.; Lautz Bros. and Company; and Warner Bros.  An example below:

Below, an example of the Canadian Acme family:  metal shears.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gilera USA

Despatch rider at Dunkirk

Gutzon Borglum and Mount Rushmore

The following pictures are taken from an official visitor's guide:  Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  "The Shrine of Democracy."  Keystone, South Dakota:  Riordan & Riordan, 1982. (The publishers appear to be no longer in business.)

In the early years of the 20th Century, Gutzon Borglum was already an accomplished sculptor.  Among his accomplishments, he wrote a personal report that was highly critical of the Aircraft Board's production problems during World War I,  (Basically, the early aircraft were hand-made, and not amenable to the mass-production techniques that had been developed by the American auto industry.)

The Mount Rushmore project was begun in 1927 by Gutzon Borglum, and completed by his son Lincoln in October 1941, a half year after his father died.

The undertaking was quite remarkable, given the tools and technology available at the time.  To ensure correct scale, a protractor was attached to the top of each head, with a 30-foot arm traversing this arc and extending out over the face, graduated in feet and inches.   A 1/12th scale model of each head had a similar arrangement, so that plumb lines could be dropped from the arm in any place, measurements taken from the model, and then expanded 12 times to indicate the amount of rock to be removed from the mountain face.  Each face had a measurement made every 6 inches, vertically and horizontally, with this information then painted on the spot so that the inexperienced work crews could simply follow this information to remove the correct amount of granite.  Workers were lowered by hand-operated winches on leather chairs like bos'n chairs, with jackhammers and other tools also winched down to them.  The pneumatic drills were powered by compressors at the bottom of the mountain, providing air pressure through a 3-inch pipe.  They went through about 400 drill bits a day, and each dulled bit was taken down to the blacksmith's shop at the base of the mountain to be heated, sharpened, re-heated and tempered.  Borglum was scrupulous about safety, and no workmen were injured or killed on the project, a fantastic accomplishment.

Gutzon had also intended the monument to include a "Hall of Records" about two-thirds of the way up the mountain.  He wanted this to be a repository of human knowledge for the future, to prevent his sculpture from joining in mystery such artifacts as the giant heads on Easter Island.  He described the Hall as follows:

     "Recesses will be cut into these walls to be filled with bronze and glass cabinets, which will hold the records stamped on aluminum sheets, rolled separately and placed in tubes.  Buts of our leaders in all human activities will occupy the recesses between the cabinets.
    The records of electricity, beginning with Franklin, which has given us light, heat, mustic, the radio, the telegraph, the telphone and controls in power the extent of which we can hardly imagine, must be here, together with the records of literature, the records of travel, immigration, religious development and the record of perhaps the largest contribution that we have made to humanity, which has been free controlled peace, a government of the people, by and for the people."

This Hall was never completed.  For more information,  see this article in the National Parks Traveller.

Of greatest relevance to our Progress is Fine blog, Borglum also had the following to say:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Processing photographs in the 1960's

St John's.  North America's Oldest City.  Newfoundland Tourist Development Office, August 1961.
Doesn't that chair on the left look comfy!

A is for Atom, B is for Bomb

The Golden Treasury of Knowledge, Volume 14.  New York:  Golden Press, 1961.
From a popular children's encyclopedia of the time.  Thankfully this content is no longer so necessary.