Capturing the Vibe… Science, Invention, Exploration & Industry from the 1920’s…

February 9, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

Nerdy things this month in our continuing series, “Capturing the Vibe” where we try to imagine what the world felt like to a newspaper reader from the past by immersing ourselves in their “vibe of the day”. This month we explore an issue of Scientific American from the 1920’s which documents the latest and greatest inventions of the day.

In this regard…


Some Scientific American issues have front color covers which always grab my attention.



These ladies are ladies are repurposing airplane struts as toys for tots …


Artists visit the zoo to sketch real live animals …

The Panama Canal has new terminals added…


Perhaps the beginning of Geothermal? …


And finally, on the back page a beautiful color ad for Federal Motor Trucks.

Snapshot 1881: Is it a car, a bike, a train or a trike?

July 17, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Is it a car, a bike, a train, or a trike – or something else altogether? Looking back with an effort to place various inventions into current-day buckets is not always easy. However, in this case, there is one thing we know for sure: It is a velocipede: “a human-powered land vehicle with one or more wheels.” This one appeared in the April 16, 1881 issue of Scientific American.

Einstein… Smarter than a 5th grader?

June 9, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

To even ask such a question seems a bit absurd, but let’s double it. What about a 10th grader?

As reported on the front page of the May 16, 1952 issue of The New York Times, the 70-something “genius” Albert Einstein was put to the test. How did he do? He received an A+ for kindness, and, using today’s measuring stick where everyone is a winner, he posted another high score for effort. As for his answer… go to the NYT link above to find out if he was able to go toe-to-toe with a question given to a group of 15-year-olds.

Spoiler alert! In all fairness Dr. Einstein, rumor has it the question was listed under the “Challenging Questions” portion of their assignment.

Scientific American’s “Not So Bright” (?) Ideas…

January 9, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the years our staff has written quite a few posts focused on historic and transformative inventions which were featured within early issues of the Scientific American. The phonograph, lightbulb, telephone, modern sewing machine, and thousands of other devices have all had their moment in the sun thanks to this publication. However, as is the case for many of the good ideas from the past which came to fruition and now make our lives easier, a host had rather humble beginnings. With this in mind, our resident videographer decided to gather together three examples which fall into the “humble beginnings” bucket. Please enjoy.

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 · 2 Comments 

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.

Next Page »