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Engines of Our Ingenuity

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Aeronautics: 1869 Digital History ID 4510
Here's a richly-illustrated Harper's article that speaks to young people about flight. It was written in 1869. That was after 85 years of ballooning and parachuting, as well as many failed experiments with heavier-than-air-flight. The article begins like this: The obstacle for man in the way of his acquiring the art of flying in not the difficulty of constructing wings, but that of obtaining the necessary force to work them.
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The Typewriter Digital History ID 4507
I have an odd artifact here. It's my great-grandfather's letter book -- a bound volume with only tissue-paper pages remaining. He once wrote letters, with a dipped inkpen, on regular paper between the tissues. Before he tore the letters out and mailed them, he blotted them on the tissue, leaving copies behind. Here's the fuzzy imprint of a letter written in 1891: Gentlemen, Please quote me the expense of shipping 1 car load of saw dust from your station. Why did he use such a crude method? Well, carbon paper had been around for 22 years, but you couldn't press hard enough on a dipped pen to use it. With a typewriter and carbon paper, copying would've been a cinch; and the typewriter was also around by then.
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Chicago Fire Digital History ID 4509
The great Chicago fire began around nine on the windy Sunday evening of Oct. 8th, 1871. It didn't burn itself out until Monday night. Rainfall had been only 28 percent of normal that summer, and Chicago's population had recently grown by a factor of ten. Thirty years earlier, the modern balloon-frame house had come out of Chicago. That's the wooden structure with light joists and cross-members that we use in houses today. Chicago had become an overcrowded, wood-built, bone-dry city with a poor fire department.
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1876 Technology Digital History ID 4508
We celebrated our centennial in 1876. In just a century we'd turned from England's outback into a great industrial leader. We threw a great party that year -- the Philadelphia Exposition. It was by far the largest world's fair up 'til then. Now I've come across a magazine that plays counterpoint to the Philadelphia Fair. It's the 1876 volume of a magazine called The Manufacturer and Builder. It's a kind of Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Scientific American, all rolled into one.
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