Category Archives: Invention Paths.

Comparing Inventions

Travelling by Horse and Carriage and Other Changes

by Rick Bretz

When determining when the horse and carriage stepped aside for the automobile, you can point to accessibility and price. When innovators like Henry Ford figured out how to produce automobiles on an assembly line and still keep quality, this produced a product in 1908 that was sold for around 825 dollars for the Ford Model T. Affordability meant that the buying public could get one and that Henry Ford could still keep a hefty profit margin and by equation produce more jobs with enough salary to buy, you guessed it, more automobiles.

However, as Orson Welles’ film, The Magnificent Ambersons, points out in a side story in the movie, you still have to get the buying public to change what they have become comfortable with using for the past several hundred years. The movie is set at the turn of the 19th Century as the automobile is gaining popularity. Some see it as a fad and others see it as a the beginning of new era.

1913 Model T Ford takes a couple off on their honeymoon

As Joseph Cotton, who plays Eugene in the movie, states during a conversation, “With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization? It may be that they won’t add to the beauty of the world or the life of men’s souls. I’m not sure. But automobiles have come. And almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They’re going to alter war and they’re going to alter peace. And I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles”

He could be speaking about many inventions over the years. The buying public has proven over and over again that if it is affordable and it makes your life easier then customers will buy it and buy it again.

The introduction of the personal computer bore this theory out during the last 35 to 40 years. Some people were reluctant to buy a computer either because of the price or rationalizing that they were fine with the typewriter and paper copies. Soon, innovators in the industry proved that the personal or office computer could make your life easier, if not more exasperating when it breaks, most of the time. Soon, the ability to save thousands of documents on a hard drive and research information for something, like say, a blog, or even a college paper, made the desktop and laptop the latest era of the golden age of inventions. It happens throughout history all of time. However, that doesn’t mean, you can’t go back in time and experience what our ancestors experience. For example, for a long time I kept a typewriter on hand just in case this personal computer thing didn’t work out. Not really, but I do still have a turntable along with my I-Tunes. I just like the way Motown sounds on an LP, that stands for Long Playing by the way.

Another way to use the way back machine, is take a trip to Charleston, SC. (In an automobile)

Charleston, SC, offers visitors a number of opportunities to examine the city’s historical architecture and other significant sites. You can see revolutionary period homes, civil war architecture, and the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. One of the best ways to get a start looking around the city remains a carriage ride. The carriage-the way our ancestors moved from one town to another just a short century-and-a-half ago. It’s an hour ride that takes your around the central area of the city.

One of the many horses that pull site seers around is Sammy. Sammy came from a Northern Amish community. He worked on a farm for most of his life and from what our tour guide told us during the tour, this is a break for Sammy from farm work. His schedule for Old South Carriage Rides is generous. He works for a few days in the city and then he is taken out to a farm to relax for a few weeks.

As its website states, “Old South Carriage Company operates a 65-acre plantation, Sugah Cain, on Johns Island, 8 miles from our stable. For 2-3 months annually, our beautiful horses are free to run in large pastures or leisurely graze under century-old live oaks.”

On Sammy’s trip this time he took 16 people. He maneuvered around traffic, pulled over to let traffic go by, threaded the needle on tight turns that would make a bus driver envious, stopped when the tour guide asked him for people in his carriage to take pictures, and performed at a high level of excellence.

At the end of the tour, Sammy gets to rest, have a drink (picture above), maybe eat if it’s time, and wait. If you are visiting Charleston, SC, visiting the historical sites and looking at the architecture is worth of the trip.   However, having Sammy or any of the other horses from the Old South Carriage Tours gives you a lasting memory to take back with you also.

Notable Links:

http://www.oldsouthcarriagetours.com/

http://www.history.com/topics/automobiles

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Magnificent_Ambersons_(film)

http://parkcityhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Teacher-Background-Information.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_and_buggy‘http://www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/ny_marst.htm

The Panama Canal and Hoover Dam

by Rick Bretz

Many engineering wonders dot the world from the Egyptian Pyramids to China’s long Wall.  The United States has been a part of two major engineering feats that are a testament to man’s apparent mastery over nature.  One was accomplished outside the country in Panama with the plan to bring together two oceans and the other in a desert with the goal of taming the Colorado River. The Panama Canal engineers had to deal deadly Malaria disease transported by mosquitos, making their jobs more difficult. The Boulder Dam project engineers figured out how to divert a river so they could excavate and pour millions of cubic feet of concrete.  Each project had their own challenges and issues but were overcome so that economies and cultures could make a step forward.

English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Ac...
English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Across the Colorado River; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Panama Canal     (Boulder) renamed Hoover   Dam in 1947
Construction:  1881-1889 (French Period) 1903-1914 (US Construction Period) Construction: 1931-35 (2 years ahead of schedule)
Reason for Construction:  Shortcut through Isthmus Reason for Construction: Prevent Flooding, provide   hydro-electric power, and irrigation
Cost:    US Dollars   $375,000,000 Cost: $50, 000,000 (1931 US dollar value)
Number of workers: More than 56,000 Number of workers: 5,000
Control: The United States until the 1977 Panama Canal   Treaty that ceded control to Panama. Today the Panama Canal Authority. Control: US Department of Interior, Bureau of   Reclamation,
Casualties: Estimated at 22,000 mostly from disease during   the French construction period (1881-1889).   For the American construction period,   Officially 5609.  Also, several   thousand undocumented West Indian workmen who died from explosions,   mudslides, railcar accidents and disease) Casualties: 112 construction related deaths.  42 died from Pneumonia (Controversial-some   research suggests it was carbon-monoxide poisoning working in the diversion   tunnels)
Major Obstacles: Tropical disease, mudslides,   Engineering issues such as terrain, worker safety, poor reputation resulting   in issues recruiting qualified people. Major Obstacles: Engineering, worker safety, high   temperatures
Benefit to US: National Security, Shipping Lanes Benefit to US: Hydro-power to several arid states in   the region.
Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Steam shovels, wagons,   locomotives, unloaders Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Diversion tunnels, “Jumbo”   trucks, “High Scalers”
Physical Characteristics: 50 miles in length, 8-10   hours to transit from ocean to ocean, each lock is 110 feet wide, 8 minutes   to fill lock with water Physical Characteristics: 726 high, 230 blocks of   concrete

 

 

The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam’s main controversy was the name itself.  As usual, politics entered into the equation when at the dedication speaker Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spoke the name “Boulder Dam” five times in a span of 30 seconds to force home the moniker.  Former President Hoover who helped marshal the construction plans through the political process wasn’t invited to the ceremony.  Later, after Hoover had completed many important projects after his Presidency thereby rehabilitating himself and his name, both houses in Congress passed a bill unanimously that officially renamed the dam, “Hoover Dam”.

Other than the naming controversy, the engineering plans and worker skill served the day to the project completed ahead of schedule.  Workers had a competition for what shift could excavate the most dirt and rock.  This friendly competition moved the project along.

English: High scalers drilling into canyon wal...
English: High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoover Dam has provided much-needed power and irrigation to the southwest region of the United States.  In recent years, traffic has been rerouted to the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. With this development, officials have stopped vehicle traffic  from crossing the top of the dam.

English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 19...
English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 1915 at the Culebra Cut while transiting the Panama Canal. Kroonland was the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built by American engineers and workers travelling to Panama to participate in the construction. The French gave up the project in 1889 after several issues hindered their progress towards completion of the canal.  The United States bought the rights to the project and equipment to finish the canal for 30 million dollars.  A high price for early 20th century dollar values.  Challenges still faced the United States effort.  Medical officers had to eradicate the mosquito population that transferred malaria and other tropical diseases. In addition, engineers developed the lock system to get ships from the one ocean over a land crest and down the other side to the other ocean.

The United States succeeded in completing the canal and was given control by Panama to run the canal for many years because the United States supported their independence efforts from Columbia.  However, the political winds changed and Panamanian support to retake control of the canal began to grow in the 70s.  This resulted in President Jimmy Carter negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty that gradually gave control to the host country Panama. Today the Panama Canal provides millions of dollars to the Panamanian National Treasury.

Two engineering monuments to human kinds ability to manipulate nature to achieve the desired result.  They are also existing structures that remind people that human sacrifice takes many forms. Although cultures and educated engineers are lauded for their towering accomplishments, it is also wise and appropriate to pause and remember the worker who braved daily dangers so that a family could be fed or one’s survival could be maintained. Some lived to tell their story, others didn’t.

 

Notable Links

http://www.history.com/topics/hoover-dam

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/140HooverDam/140Hoover_Dam.htm

http://www.canalmuseum.com/

http://www.history.com/videos/panama-canal-locks#panama-canal-locks

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/panama/

http://www.ushistory.org/us/44g.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Panama_Canal

http://thesilverpeopleheritage.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-panama-canal-death-tolls/

http://www.usbr.gov/projects/Project.jsp?proj_Name=Boulder+Canyon+Project+-+Hoover+Dam

http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/PanamaCanal

The Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges

Bridges are, and will continue to be, the original information super highway. Whether spanning long distances or a few hundred feet in length, a bridge connects people, towns, cities, cultures, industry and commerce. There is something remarkable about crossing a wide river like the Mississippi to get to a destination.  They are monuments to mankind’s ability, courage,  and engineering  skill. The following post features two well-known and visited bridges.

 

Similitaries

The Brooklyn Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge
Twisted cable suspension engineering Twisted    cable suspension engineering
Connects two NYC Boroughs Connects San Francisco and Marin County
Known worldwide Known worldwide
Longest suspension bridge upon completion Longest suspension bridge upon completion
Pedestrian access Pedestrian access
History of suicide jumps History of suicide jumps
First steel suspension bridge Steel shipped from East Coast ports through   Panama Canal to West Coast
27 men lost their lives during construction 11 men lost their live during construction

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Bridge, seen from Manhattan, New ...
The Brooklyn Bridge, seen from Manhattan, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.  The bridge’s main span is 1595.5 feet and was the longest suspension bridge when completed. John Roebling, a German immigrant, and bridge designer and engineer, began work on the project. He sustained an injury while conducting surveys resulting in an amputation that developed a tetanus infection that eventually killed him. His son, Washington Roebling, continued the project.

Unfortunately, Washington Roebling sustained a paralyzing injury himself due to decompression sickness soon after the construction phase began on Jan 3, 1870.  What is fascinating about the construction is that Washington Roebling’s wife, Emily Warren, stepped in to act as a liaison during construction.  Washington Roebling was incapacitated so Emily Warren communicated engineering plans to the staff building the bridge.  Under Washington Roebling’s guidance Warren communicated strength calculations, catenary curves. bridge specifications, and cable construction designs.  She assisted her husband for the next 11 years.

Roebling used airtight caissons that were made like massive wooden boxes. The wooden boxes were sent to the bottom using giant granite blocks.  The

Théobald Chartran – Portrait of Washington A. ...
Théobald Chartran – Portrait of Washington A. Roebling – Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

chamber was pressurized so that water and debris would be kept out.  They didn’t know enough about how pressurized air affected a person’s internal organs upon ascending to the surface too quickly. This is what is known today as the “bends” when too much gas forms bubbles in the bloodstream. Many were killed or injured during this process.  These workers were known as “sand-hogs” and earned $2 a day.  However, despite the dangers, they stuck with the process. Once they cleared away the debris and reached the bedrock, they started the process of laying the granite for the towers that were used for the suspension cables.

Roebling built the bridge so that it would be six times stronger than needed.  It is one reason the bridge is still standing today after so much vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use on May 24, 1883. On first day for crossing 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people travelled between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge.  Emily Warren Roebling died of stomach cancer in 1903. Washington Roebling died on July 21, 1926.  He fought the effects of caisson’s disease the remainder of his life..

Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge
Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The Golden Gate Bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait and is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate Bridge construction phase began on Jan.5, 1933 and was open to traffic on May 28, 1937. Pedestrians were able to cross on May 27, 1937. Ten different prime contractors and their subcontractors worked on the bridge  construction.  During the construction, 11 men lost their lives but 19 men were saved due to the project using safety nets.  The men who were saved by falling into the nets are known as the “Halfway-to-Hell Club.”

According to historical documents, the steel used in the construction of the bridge was manufactured by Bethlehem Steel in plants in Trenton, New Jersey and Sparrows Point, Maryland and in plants in three Pennsylvania towns: Bethlehem, Pottstown, and Steelton. The steel was sent to Philadelphia and shipped through the Panama Canal to San Francisco.

The construction design relies on cable suspension that passes through two  main towers. The weight of the roadway is hung from two cables that pass through the two main towers and are fixed in concrete at each end. Each cable is made of 27,572 strands of wire. There are 80,000 miles (129,000 km) of wire in the main cables.The bridge has approximately 1,200,000 total rivets.

Engineers working on the project used a “deflection theory” design that reduced stress by transmitting forces through suspension cables to the bridge towers.  The project cost more than $35 million. The project was finished by April 1937 and came in  $1.3 million under budget.

The color of the bridge is officially an orange vermillion or international orange. Since 1990 acrylic topcoats have been used for air-quality reasons. The program was completed in 1995 and it is maintained by 38 painters who re-paint the areas where it becomes eroded.

 

 

Both the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges are majestic when viewing or crossing over them.  The workers who died while making these structures deserve to be remembered.  The talented engineers and hard-working construction people who completed the bridge also deserve a “job well done!” from each citizen who walks, rides or travels across these bridges.

What are your names of your favorite bridges? Leave a comment and let me know.