Insight into the mind of Tesla…

April 4, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

I am always dumfounded by the breadth of brilliance some well-known inventors of the past possessed.  Leonardo da Vinci, who is credited with the invention of the parachute, the barreled cannon, the Helical aerial screw, the winged flying machine, diving equipment & the self-propelled cart, also painted the Mona Lisa.  How can one not stand in awe? Let’s face it, inventors are often trend setters who give the world around them inspiration as well as practical solutions for common problems.

On Oct. 14, 1893, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN featured an article by Nikola Tesla which caught my attention.  We think of Tesla as one of the 2-3 most famous “explorers” who contributed to our current-day electrically powered world.  However, in this article, he is using his study of the eye to further his insight into electrical currents.  Below is a fitting quote from the article by this genius from the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

“The day when we shall know what ‘electricity’ is, will chronicle an event probably greater and more important than any other in the history of the human race.” Much ground has been covered in this regard since he made this statement, but most would agree we have yet to arrive.

Scientific American & The Columbian Exposition… A novice’s discovery…

March 3, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

As a new staff member and a novice to the hobby, until I started looking closely at an 1893 volume of the Scientific American Supplement, I had no idea that the Chicago World’s Fair was also called The World’s Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400-year anniversary of Columbus’ voyage.  I did some digging and found that it ran from May 1st through October 30th, which made the June 3, 1893 issue even more promising in terms of content.  The publication does not disappoint.

The front page displays The Exhibit of Windmills & The Palace of Agriculture in grand imagery. Page 3 has: “Notes from the World’s Columbian Exposition” detailing each building and display followed by intricate pen and ink illustrations of new inventions from engines and locomotives to potato planters.

How fitting for an expo honoring the man who jumpstarted America to also honor those who continued to move her along.

Old Newspapers – Music to My Ears…

February 21, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

From my earliest memories I can picture an original (“improved”) Edison Phonograph gracing my family home.  My parents loved antiques, and at some point, along their collecting journey, they had stumbled upon this gem. Recently, while downsizing, this vintage treasure was sold to a collector in Australia who was beyond excited.  As you can imagine, my parents’ “investment in history” did quite well.  While I am sorry to see it go, I’m glad it found a home with someone who will delight in its presence as much as I did.

This walk down childhood lane was triggered while I was viewing one of our old listings of a SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN for Feb. 27, 1909. It sure made me smile as it warmed my heart. These old newspapers are wonderful storytellers and memory joggers, never ceasing to delight.

Sedentary? Perhaps all you need is a little Jolt to get you going…

March 15, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

When we think of life in the 19th century (and prior), many adjectives come to mind but “sedentary” isn’t one of them. However, couch potatoes (minus the couch since few could afford them) must have been somewhat prevalent as to inspire an entrepreneur to come up with a solution: The JOLT! Whereas advertisements for such “inventions” were quite common in Scientific American, we recently discovered this one on the back page of a May 9, 1885 Harper’s Weekly. Although the contraption may not have been much of a financial (or health-generating) success, the mantra, “if at first you don’t succeed…”, merged with humanity’s proclivity for rest and relaxation, has served manufacturers and designers of exercise equipment for quite some time.

It’s interesting to note this ad occurred in May – long past the expiration date of most New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps making and then breaking annual promises to one-self is more of a recent pastime.

From Waco to Brooklyn…

February 8, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever been thinking one thing and a moment later your mind has completely carried you down several rabbit holes and back up into a field far away? As you try to retrace your steps, you are utterly amazed at how you ever ended up where you did. I find history to be much the same. I may begin my historical trek in a tiny town in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania, but before long I find I’ve meandered to the center of New York City. Such is the journey I took this snowy afternoon.

Every day I drive past an old industrial complex in my mountain town Of Williamsport, PA.. The signage says, “Williamsport Wire Rope Company” and the factory yard is filled with enormous spools stacked about … a photographer’s fantasy for possible black and white images. This picturesque scene is what originally caught my attention on those many drives home. This particular day a rabbit trail led me to an exploration of what the wire cable produced in this factory would have been used for which quickly lead me to an engineer named John Augustus Roebling (1806 – 1869). John had owned the very first wire cable company, similar to the one in my town. Not satisfied to just produce these cables, his mind dreamt of the many, yet be discovered, uses those wires might  have … Voila ! … Suspension Bridges. As a suspension bridge designer and builder extraordinaire, he  was instrumental in creating the beautiful city of Pittsburgh which became known as “The City of Bridges”. From Pittsburgh to the Niagara River … from Waco to Brooklyn NY, this man took spools of wire cable and transformed each area he touched into a practical work of art. My rabbit trail reminds me that my local history can be the start of the very best future road trips. Whether your interests lie with new scientific discoveries, historical biographies or works of art, much of history can satisfy almost any inquisitive mind. I see a historical bridge excursion coming this spring… perhaps even from Waco to Brooklyn.

Snapshot 1886… Mark Twain – yet another hidden gem…

January 7, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

This forum has often been used to highlight one of the unique benefits of the hobby of collecting Rare & Early newspapers – that is, collecting a newspaper for one purpose, only to later find a more precious item hidden within its pages. Such is the case with the Harper’s Weekly for September 29, 1866. For 40+ years we offered this issue with a spotlight on a variety of the interesting illustrations found within its 16 pages. However, we recently discovered yet another hidden gem: an article accompanying the popular print: “Burning of the California Clipper ‘Hornet'”. What’s so special about this uncredited article? It was written by Mark Twain – making it the first time an article written by him received national attention. What a find!

If you happen to be one of the lucky one’s to have purchased this issue without knowledge of the Mark Twain contribution, you now possess an issue of significantly greater notoriety (and therefore value) than what you previously had thought. Good for you.

Snapshot 1929… Just prior to the “crash” – Thomas Edison’s electric lamp…

September 14, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

When one thinks of late October, 1929, it’s hard not to focus on The Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. However, even just a few days prior to the world-altering event, people were going about their lives enjoying news of a huge new airport in Chicago which at the time featured the largest hanger in the world and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb. In regards to the pre-crash celebration of Edison, the October 21, 1929 issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune printed a set of related cartoons on the front page, one of which is related to this joyous event. I also (accidentally?) included the 3rd due to its timeliness. Enjoy.

Snapshot 1879… Thomas Edison – in defense of his electric light bulb…

September 7, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

The benefits of the light bulb are so interwoven throughout our lives, few would argue we take them for granted – until we notice their infamous ultra-luminescence just moments prior to our world becoming dark. However, back in 1879, Edison had received enough grief concerning his invention he would often feel compelled to provide a defense – some of which appeared in newspapers throughout the country. Such was the case with the December 27, 1879 issue of The Sun (New York). I appreciate the irony of a discussion regarding artificial light appearing in an issue of The Sun. Enjoy.

Snapshot 1927… A team effort through time…

November 25, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

When one considers the evolution of the computer, certain names come to mind: Charles Babbage and his son Henry, Alan Turing, John Atanasoff, John von Neumann, Henry Edward Roberts, Bob Bemmer, and James Gosling to name a few. However, like any grand endeavor, the number of unsung contributors is endless. Case in point: Have you ever heard of Vannevar Bush & Harold Locke Hazen? If you answered no, you are not alone. In fact, their names are absent on most lists of “pioneers in computing”. However, like thousands of others, their efforts were not insignificant. An article on the front page of a NEW YORK TIMES for October 21, 1927 places them front-and-center – albeit if only for a snapshot in time.

Snapshot 1692… Now you see it…

October 28, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Now you see it… Now you really see it. As one who cannot identify people’s faces if they are more than a few feet away, I really appreciate a good pair of glasses. It is hard to imagine a time when eye-glasses were a luxury, and even what was available was rather rudimentary. Thankfully, in the late 1600’s, an inventor developed a passion for optics, and made significant progress towards helping those with poor eyesight see well. The King and Queen of England took notice and he soon became their personal optician. Although quite rare, we came across an early advertisement for his services within an issue of The Athenian Mercury:

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