Beach Wagon Innovation
Tuning in the whitehouse Maker Faire today? We have makers here at the National Archives too - presenting Helen Beach and her eponymous “Beach Wagon”:
Helen Beach was an archivist in the General Records Division, and she was frustrated with trying to manage double-shelved records with the carts then available. So she came up with her own design. Her suggestion was forwarded to the carpenter shop, where the design was refined.
From November 1946 to June of 1947, the proposal was sent around to various divisions for comment. On June 9, approval was granted for its construction. At the end of October, the prototype was built and delivered for testing. By July of 1948, various units had tried it out and submitted their impressions of the “Beach Wagon” (as it came to be called), and Assistant Archivist Robert H. Bahmer approved a $25 cash award for her idea. And the story even made the papers!
Great ideas really are timeless. The staff at Archives I still use Miss Beach’s “wagon” to this day! When we support our innovators, great things are bound to happen.
This post comes via Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Record Group 64, A1 155, Case Files for Employee Suggestions, 1944-1949. Case File 147-S4. National Archives Identifier: 7541348;
Record Group 64, P 75 “Press Releases, 1935-1964″;
Other photos by Marie Maxwell, National Archives.
So, what brilliant ideas have you come up with lately?
Patent Drawing of the innovative yet ill-fated Tucker “Torpedo,” 6/14/1949.
Patent of the Month: Tucker “Torpedo”
During World War II, the South Side of Chicago was home to one of the largest war plants in the country, used by Dodge-Chrysler to build bomber plane engines. After the war, Preston Tucker leased two of the buildings to build his “Torpedo” car. This site is now the home of the National Archives at Chicago!
Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.
Image: Tucker “Torpedo” Patent Drawing, 06/14/1949. National Archives Identifier 594674
The Boat That Won the War
The invention of small “Higgins” boats that could transport military equipment to the beaches without the use of wharves or docks was crucial to the strategy of D-Day.
In a 1964 interview, former President and Supreme Allied Commander of D-Day Dwight D. Eisenhower frankly said:
"Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us."
"Lighter for Mechanized Equipment" by Andrew Jackson Higgins, Feb. 15, 1944. United States Patent 2,341,866.
Higgins Boat, Camp Edwards, Massachusetts.
More on the Higgins boat in the new immersive D-Day exhibit from the National Archives on the Google Cultural Institute.
Elmer Trudgen’s one-man band has the cure for those Monday morning blues:
Elmer’s A Real One-Man Band
New York City–Elmer Trudgen, a Canadian farm boy, shows Gotham that the One-Man Band is no longer imagination. He has a contraption that enables him to play the piano, violin, guitar, harmonica, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, wood blocks, cymbals, cowbells and chime-all at once!
Velocipede to Work Day!
It’s a wet #BikeToWorkDay in Washington, DC, but luckily J.O. Lose’s patented one-wheeled velocipede is equipped with an umbrella!
Penny-farthing? Monowheel? Fixie? How are you biking to work today?
United States Patent 1,059,284: Ladder-Gripping Attachment for Shoes, 04/15/1913
This patent was included in the patent file for shoes invented by Michael Jackson. The shoes enabled him to execute his signature dance move that allowed him to lean forward to an exaggerated angle while performing on stage the song “Smooth Criminal.” This patent for a Ladder-Gripping Attachment for shoes was included in file because the patent examiner searched for any relevant patents.
(Today’s Document does not endorse hanging upside down from a ladder, even if you are wearing patented Ladder-Gripping Attachments for Shoes.)
Patent Drawing for C. H. Dinkelman’s Gymnastic Apparatus, 03/10/1891
From the series : Utility Patent Drawings, compiled 1837 - 1911. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
Christian Dinkelman’s invention was meant for use in “in circus-tents, theaters, or in the open air” and was specifically intended to “make the apparatus steady and strong and render it readily adjustable and quickly put up and taken down.”
Drawing for Improvements in Telegraphy
After years of experiments, Alexander Graham Bell devised the first apparatus to transmit human speech via machine. Bell patented his “Improvements in Telegraphy" (aka the telephone) on March 7, 1876, making it “…possible to connect every man’s house, office or factory with a central station, so as to give him direct communication with his neighbors.” His work culminated in one of the most profitable and contested of all 19th-century patents.
From the series: Patent Case Files, compiled 1836 - 1993. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, 1836 - 1978.
In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:
Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already. As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain. The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.
Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where the absent members had gone. There was a big cheese to be eaten at the White House to-day, and the appetites of members had driven them there to partake in the treat. To obtain a quorum he therefore moved that the Seargent-at-arms be directed to go to the President’s house, and invite the members there to return to their seats. [“Those that have done eating!”—exclaimed a member.] “Oh yes,” continued Mr. W. “those that have done eating their cheese, of course.” [“And let them bring a portion with them,” said a third.] “No, he did not want any of it—he had no wish to partake of any thing at the White House.”
A motion was again made that the House take a recess till 4 o’clock.
This true story is the basis for today’s first virtual “Big Block of Cheese Day” at the White House, which is hosting an online open house for citizens to ask questions. Sadly, there will be no physical cheese giveaway!
When we heard about the event, our archivists hunted through our records, but there are no official Federal documents relating to the cheese, probably because the cheese was a private gift. (In fact, we only turned up a handful of cheese-related records, including a recipe for making “loaf” from cottage cheese.)
However, we did find a mention of Jackson and cheese in this handwritten note (see page 4 and 5) from President Truman in 1952. The White House was being renovated, and Truman was thinking of previous Presidents and their treatment of the official furnishings.
Truman wrote, “Then old Andy Jackson and his rough, tough backwoods [illegible] walking on the furniture, with muddy boots and eating a 300-pound cheese, grinding it into the lovely Adams and Monroe carpets!”
Jackson was not the first President to receive a giant wheel of cheese as a gift. President Jefferson received on as well. There is even a monument in Cheshire, MA, to the cheese press used to make the cheese for Jefferson.
Alas, this cheese slicer was patented 30 years too late to help President Jackson get rid of his cheese more quickly….
Cheese Press & Slicer patents thanks to our colleagues at the National Archives at Kansas City!
Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838 (National Archives at Kansas City).
Patent for a cheese slicer, granted to J. G. Barker in 1860 (National Archives at Kansas City)
Thomas A. Edison’s Patent for An Improvement in Electric Lamps, 1/27/1880
From the Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
On January 27, 1880, The Patent Office granted Thomas Edison’s patent for “an Improvement in Electric Lamps” His patent was an improvement on electric lamps, not the invention of them, but because of Edison’s design changes and the materials he used—such as a carbon filament—his patent allowed for an electric lamp that was reliable, safe, and practical.
Patent Drawing for H. Hollerith’s Apparatus for Compiling Statistics, 01/08/1889
One of the earliest successful “mechanical computers,” Herman Hollerith's invention used punched cards to sort, tabulate and compile statistics, including the 1890 Census. His firm would go on to become part of International Business Machines (IBM).