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Found 340 Resources

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Brooch consisting of green-patinated circular pocket watch case containing engraved diagram and found objects. Reverse covered by fragment of a printed page of text with a small, faceted lozenge-shaped purple glass paste adhered under bar pin.

patent model, vegetable assorter

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 212,000 issued to John H. Heinz of Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 1879. Mr. Heinz’s patent was for a design to automate the sorting of vegetables (as well as fruits, pickles, etc.) by size. Commercial packing technology had improved significantly at the time of the patent, and to keep up with faster production timelines a more efficient sorting method not dependent on manual labor was needed. Mr. Heinz’s design is shown in the photo to the left. It consisted of a wooden frame that held two concentric cylinders mounted on a shaft that sloped downwards from right to left. The cylinders had longitudinal slots wide enough to allow items of that size to fall through. The machine would be operated by the crank shown at the left end. The crank turned the central shaft via a gear so that the cylinders revolved, distributing the items evenly within them. Near the left side of the photo the inner cylinder is visible where it exits from the larger, outer cylinder. A hopper, shown at the upper right of the machine, received the items to be sorted and introduced them into the inner cylinder. To reduce jamming and produce an even distribution of items, the hopper was vibrated by a ratchet and bar at the end of the shaft. The inner cylinder had slotted openings that were sized such that all but the largest items would fall through into the outer cylinder. The inner cylinder’s longitudinal slots ended where it exited from the outer cylinder because, at that point, only the largest items remained. They would travel down the closed inner cylinder to the collection bin at the left. The slots at the upper end of the outer cylinder were sized so that the smallest items to be sorted passed through and into a collection hopper shown at lower right. Medium sized items would travel down the outer cylinder to its left end where a plate would force them to fall into the middle collection hopper. Each collection hopper could be closed by slide-gates to hold the items until workers could empty them. While this patent model has provisions for just three grades of size, Mr. Heinz made note that his invention was not limited to any particular number. This patent improved upon an earlier one by Mr. Heinz which was Patent Number 197, 934, dated December 11, 1877. In a later patent (Number 212,849 dated March 4, 1879) Mr. Heinz and his brother and co-inventor, Henry J. Heinz (founder of the Heinz Company), provided further improvements in the sorter design. In that patent they limited their description to a design for sorting pickles. They did away with the concentric cylinders in favor of an inclined, vibrating box with exit slots of varying sizes to sort the pickles. In 1890 Mr. John H. Heinz again improved upon the designs with Patent Number 545,689, dated December 17, 1890. That design was for a more elaborate version of the concentric cylinder sorter.

The patent model is constructed of wood and metal. The model is complete and shows all the key elements of the patent with the exception of the collection hopper slide-gates which are missing. Diagrams showing the complete design can be found in the patent document online (/

Zvetšenina [Blow Up]

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
The white background is divided by a grid into seven sections. Going clockwise, the sections are: (1)title: following upper margin "Anglicky film vyznamenany Velkou cenou na MFF v Cannes", and "zvetsenina" at lower margin of section; (2)title and pictorial exegesis: at right, vertically- "BLOW UP", along top margin: "Rezie: Michelangelo Antonioni", and the images of a plan of a sports arena, the number one, as appearing on a referee's scorecard, the pointing finger and hand of a man in a suit and cufflinks as it would appear in cartoons, and a diagram or man-made abstraction; (3, 4, 5, 6)same image of a photograph, layered one over another, as in stop-motion animation, of a young man pulling a shirt out of a young woman's arms as she holds it against her chest; and (7)a photograph of a nude, photographed from a low frontal angle.

Zambeccari Balloon

National Air and Space Museum
Count Zambeccari's balloon. Diagram of balloon with lettered components. No legend.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Would You Eat A Holiday Dinner in a Can?

Smithsonian Magazine

Nothing violates the sanctity of a cherished custom like sticking it in a can.

Want proof? Witness the French and their snubbing of canned wine. While the Japanese and Germans have taken to the portable practicality of wine in a can, less than 1 percent of French wine sold within the country comes tinned. Historically, craft beer makers eschewed metal containers for their special brews, trying to cultivate an image of distinguished superiority and distance themselves from the factory line Budweisers of the world (though that trend is starting to reverse again.) But there is something about the can, and the way it symbolizes the ultimate in convenience, that keeps designers, inventors and other innovators audaciously motivated to show that just about any grand experience imaginable can be canned, with little to no compromise. They say to try, for instance, whiskey in a can. Just give it a shot.

Though quite ingenuous (when you really think about it), the bulk of canning's maligned reputation, it appears, has much to do with its blue collar roots. Conceived, ironically, by Frenchman Philippe de Girard in 1810 as an inexpensive way to preserve food, cans have traditionally been associated with the urban working class. As the domain of miserly survivalists, canned food and beverages are typically what poorer folks stock up on during times of recession and prolonged economic hardship. The can’s already humbled image, however, isn’t helped any by egregious abominations such as Sweet Sue's whole chicken in a can and the peanut butter and jelly Candwich, which NPR's Sandwich Monday described as having a taste that's "somewhere on the continuum between Play-Doh and Taxicab Air Freshener."

So, what would we think of a Christmas Tinner, an entire Christmas dinner in, you guessed it, a can? Would it be the most convenient mass-produced full-course meal ever, or just the latest sacrilegious insult to the the holiest of holidays?  U.K. based video game retailer GAME purports to be offering the condensed meal as "the ultimate innovation" for those who "can’t tear themselves away from their new consoles and games on Christmas Day."

A diagram on the GAME's product site lists each of the nine courses as individual layers, starting with scrambled eggs and bacon on top, followed by mince pies and a main course of turkey, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and roasted carrots in the middle, and finishing up with a creamy layer of Christmas pudding. The product, which we suspect is more of an art piece than a serious commercial product, was designed by graphic artist Chris Godfrey, who, oddly enough, had previously created a similarly gimmicky 12-course romantic dinner as a way of lampooning the marketing tactics used by the food industry to sell processed goods. To make that version, he spent an hour preparing each gelatinized layer before adding it to the concoction so that the delineated portions remained intact. It was meant to be easily served right out of the can without the extraneous need for tidying up afterwards.

The idea for the Christmas Tinner was reportedly launched after the company found that 43 percent of gamers in the U.K. planned to spend most of the holiday season button mashing away in front of their consoles, according to CNET. Sales figures have shown that both the newly launched Xbox One Global and the Playstation 4 have each already surpassed 2 million units sold.

But anyone who finds the can-ization of such time-honored traditions abominable also needs to consider how insanely addicting video games are. A survey, conducted by Domino's Pizza, found that one-fifth of female gamers in the U.K. have skipped out on special occasions, such as weddings and bachelorette parties to game. Meanwhile, half of all male respondents said they've turned down sex just to stay glued to their controllers.

Cans of Christmas Tinner were said to have been recently distributed at a GAME location in Basingstoke, England, and the company allegedly may make the product available at more locations nationwide for £1.99 ($3.25) if demand rises. Currently, the product is listed as sold out at the retailer's online store.

But given the lack of verified purchases, the product smells more like a cooked-up publicity stunt than anything else.

Worthington and Baker’s Patent Model of Boiler Water Gauge – ca 1847

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 4,972 issued to Henry R. Worthington of New York, New York and William H. Baker of Williamsburgh, New York on February 20, 1847. The patent was for an improved design for a gauge to measure the level of water in a steam boiler. The inventors claimed to be the first to employ a “percussion gauge” for this purpose.

The image of the model shows a brass cylinder which contains a loosely fitting piston. The piston is connected by an internal rod to a crank that operates the indicating arrow shown at the top of the model. Two flanges on the brass cylinder would be mounted to the side of the boiler so that the desired level of water would lie between the two. There are holes through each flange that extend into the cylinder, and these admitted steam at the top and water at the bottom.

The term “percussion gauge” comes from the manner of operation of the gauge. The arrow pointer would be raised as high as possible and then dropped. This allowed the piston to fall until it hit the surface of the water with percussive force and stopped with the arrow indicating the level of water.

The patent model is constructed of brass and iron. All of the key elements of the patent are illustrated by the model. A full description of the operation of the gauge along with complete diagrams of the patent can be found in the patent document online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, /

Wooded island

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Verso: Diagram of cabin

Woodbury’s Patent Model of an Automatic Cut-Off for a Steam Engine – ca 1870

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 107,746 issued to Daniel A. Woodbury of Rochester, New York, on September 27, 1870. The patent was for an improved design for a governor which could control the cut-off valve for a steam engine. His design, instead of being based on fly balls and mounted on the steam valves, included a system of springs and weights placed directly on the engine's shaft. While more complicated and needing to be specifically designed for a particular engine, it had the advantage of accuracy and economy of operation.

Woodbury's design became one of the first industrially successful shaft governors, and such governors became increasingly popular after this invention.

The patent model is constructed of metal and mounted on a wood base. All of the key elements of the patent are illustrated by the model. A full description of the workings of the governor and diagrams showing the complete design of the patent can be found in the patent document online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, /

Wiegand’s Patent Model of a Gas Engine – ca 1864

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 44,572 issued to S. Lloyd Wiegand of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1864. Mr. Wiegand’s patent was for improvements in gas engines. Claimed improvements included: protection against the buildup of carbon deposits on the piston and cylinder; more accurate and fuel-efficient speed control; and a lower cost and higher durability construction.

Mr. Wiegand’s engine was designed to use “illuminating gas” which was a coal based product used for gas lighting. Due to inefficiency in combining the gas and air, carbon deposits were left on the surfaces of the combustion chambers. This damaged the seals between the cylinders and pistons resulting in leakage and reduced power. The patent called for a fluid to be injected into the cylinders via channels near the seals. The fluid would loosen and eject the carbon through the exhaust.

To improve the speed regulation and fuel-efficiency of the engine, Mr. Wiegand varied the timing of the intake valves. A shaft governor was included in one of the engine’s two flywheels, and this was coupled to a mechanism that adjusted the angle of the cam which opened and closed the valve. If the engine exceeded its desired speed, the cam adjustment would shorten the time the intake valve was open. The reduction in the amount of fuel entering the engine soon slowed it.

A search of available literature did not reveal any practical use of the patent. Shortly after Mr. Wiegand’s patent, N. A. Otto and others patented advances in gas engine such as compressing the fuel-air mixture prior to combustion and the introduction of the four stroke engine design.

The model as shown in the image illustrates all of the key elements of the patent except for the internal details of the valves and cylinders. It is constructed of metal. Diagrams showing the complete design can be found in the patent document online (/

Wiegand's Patent Model of a Variable Eccentric for a Steam Engine Cut-Off Valve – ca 1857

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 18,311 issued to S. Lloyd Wiegand of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 29, 1857. The patent was for an improved mechanism to operate the cut-off valve gear for steam engines.

Wiegand's design provided a means of adjusting the point in the power stroke of the engine’s piston at which high pressure steam being fed to the cylinder was cut off. This was desirable as power was extracted from the expansive force of the steam after the valve closed. This saved fuel by avoiding continuing use of high pressure steam. Wiegand provided a means of adjusting the point of cut-off while the engine was running. This was not new; others such as B. H. Wright and George Corliss had patented devices to do so. Both Wiegand and Wright based their designs on variable eccentrics. In a variable eccentric, the amount of eccentricity, or offset from the shaft center, can be varied by a control mechanism.

The method to accomplish this consisted of an inclined metal slide that varied the amount of eccentricity as a lever was moved causing the slide to move through a slot in the eccentric wheel. Wiegand's claim was that his design for the first time allowed such adjustments to be made regardless of whether the engine was operating in forward or reverse. In the image of the model the lever operating the steam inlet valve would rest upon the top of the eccentric which is the thin cylinder to the right center.

The patent model is constructed of brass and mounted on a hammered brass plate which is mounted on a wooden base. The brass base plate is inscribed “S. Lloyd Wiegand, Philadelphia, PA.” The control lever is shown at the left. The miniature hand crank at the right was intended to demonstrate the movement of the cut-off mechanism. Diagrams showing the complete design of the patent can be found in the patent document online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, /

Why Milo's Sunrises Are a Symphony of Color in The Phantom Tollbooth

Smithsonian Magazine

Despite having 12 books under his belt, including children’s fantasy classic The Phantom Tollbooth, 86-year-old Norton Juster feels writing is “an enormous ordeal.”

“I find it very scary, and I have to fight my way through every bit of it,” says the acclaimed author and architect whose omnipresent beard once drew comparisons to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but now evokes a jolly, old elf. Juster will be speaking at the Smithsonian later this month at a screening of the Washington, D.C. premier of the documentary film The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations.

Tollbooth, Juster’s first book, was published in 1961 and came about accidentally, through procrastination and boredom. He had been awarded a Ford Foundation grant to write a textbook on urban planning for school kids, but instead found himself scribbling notes and doodles about his childhood. He started creating a fantastical world based on wordplay and puns and his friend, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, agreed to illustrate it.

“Between the two of us, we just blundered through absolutely everything, and it somehow managed to work,” he says in a faint Brooklyn accent.

The book tells the story of Milo, a disengaged 10-year-old who doesn’t understand school or grownups. A phantom tollbooth appears in his room and transports him to the Lands Beyond where he encounters strange places and people, fights demons and rescues the princess sisters of Rhyme and Reason.

Since his first haphazard writing experience with Tollbooth, Juster has refined his writing process, but he is amazed that the act of writing has not gotten easier through the years.

At the beginning of each new writing project Juster hand writes his text using different colored pencils, pens and paper.

“I draw pictures, diagrams and maps.  There are arrows going all over the place, connecting things in different ways. They are virtually unreadable,” he explains.

Then he places the notes in manila envelopes and puts them away to “germinate” or “fester.” Several weeks later, he pulls them out and rereads them to see if the words still resonate.

Jeanne, his gracious wife of more than 50 years, once offered to type up his notes so they would be easier to read. But, when he revisited them weeks later, he was lost.

“I couldn’t understand what they were because everything that I had put into them—the pictures and the diagrams—was part of the thought process and that was gone,” he says.

So he went back to his old system and has not deviated since. When writing The Hello Goodbye Window, a Caldecott award-winning picture book illustrated by Chris Raschka and published in 2005, Juster tried to capture his 4-year-old granddaughter’s voice.  

Beginning with The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster has tried to show kids how to maneuver out of the Doldrums, a place where there is nothing to do and nothing gets done. (Still from the documentary, The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations)

“I thought I was doing so terrific. A couple of weeks later I took it out again, and I went through it, and I thought, no, it is not her, it’s me,” he says. He promptly crumpled up his work and started over.

“The first draft was a necessary process to clear all the cobwebs out of my head,” he explains.

Although Juster has a regimented writing process that he admits is tough work, he can point to several influences that made it easier for him to develop his unique writing style.

He believes his career as an architect and professor of environmental design had a major impact on his writing. “When you work in a field that is primarily visual, it changes you,” he says. It forced him to look at problems from several different vantage points. As a result, he now has “lots of different telescopes in his head,” which help him create disparate characters and their individual voices.

Another boon to his writing, says Juster, is the fact that he was born with synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon that causes multiple senses to get activated at the same time. Synesthetes often feel as if they are hearing colors, touching sounds or tasting shapes. Scientists believe it is as if wires are getting crossed in the brain. Juster did not realize he had this syndrome until well into adulthood, but he recognizes that The Phantom Tollbooth is littered with sensory transpositions. One of the most memorable passages demonstrating this rich, metaphorical writing is a series of sunrises that Milo creates by conducting hundreds of musicians in a symphony of color that lights up the morning sky.

“It is so liberating as a way of thinking. It is a sort of projector into new ways to understand. It is the kind of handicap that is an absolute positive in your life,” says the author of his sensory perceptions.

Juster also credits his father, who emigrated from Romania at the age of 6, with passing on a love of puns and wordplay that have become a hallmark of his books. According to the author, his father injected humorous, linguistic twists into everything he said. Juster found it annoying for the longest time. ‘Then after a while, I realized, hey, I understand this now and I can do it,” he says.

Juster’s writing has delighted generations of fans from all over the world as The Phantom Tollbooth has been translated into nearly 30 languages. He is always humbled and thrilled when readers tell him that his books have changed their lives.  One of his goals has always been to give his readers a “wider world to occupy.”

“People tell me how they can now do things that they couldn’t do, or think about things that they couldn’t think about in a way before,” he adds.

Juster understands from personal experience that childhood can be lonely and frightening and that “boredom can be damaging if you let it get the best of you.” Beginning with The Phantom Tollbooth, the author has tried to show kids how to maneuver out of the Doldrums, a place where there is nothing to do and nothing gets done. 

“I was trying to get kids to understand how creatively, and how imaginatively they can look at things and the difference it would make in their lives,” he explains. For many grateful readers over the last five decades, Norton Juster has succeeded in banishing boredom, and in so doing, widening their worlds.

Author and architect Juster Norton spoke July 12 at a Smithsonian Associate program in Washington, D.C. highlighting the enduring legacy of his children’s fantasy classic, The Phantom Tollbooth.  The program featured the documentary film, The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, which explores the longtime friendship between Juster and the book’s illustrator Jules Feiffer and chronicles how the iconic tale was created. Grammy-winning singer-storyteller Bill Harley, who wrote “Milo’s Tune” inspired by the main character in the book, also appeared.

What's So Important About the Bottom of a Cargo Ship? A Smithsonian Dive Team Explains

Smithsonian Magazine

I am once again leaving my familiar world behind and descending into the abyss below. The first dive of an entirely new expedition is the most magical. I am a member of a scientific research dive team studying biological invasions in coastal marine ecosystems off the coast of Bermuda for the Smithsonian Marine Invasions Research Lab. As I sink beneath the belly of a massive cargo ship, I glide my hand down the side of the vessel. The painted metal feels like smooth skin, but it is covered in a thin layer of brown biofilm, microbial life that clings to painted surfaces and is generally found covering the bottom of ships. Larger organisms reside inside the recesses of the ship’s hull.  

Invasive species are fundamentally changing the structure and function of ecosystems around the world and impacting many dimensions of human society.  Our research is important because the unintentional transfer of organisms by ships is the leading cause of biological invasions to coastal marine systems in North America, and also globally. ‘Biofouling’ organisms “hitch a ride,” attaching themselves to the hull and underwater surfaces of ocean-going vessels. Some of these species are the root cause of severe ecological, economic and human-health effects. The species—including the microbial biofilms—are also a major nuisance to shippers because they slow down the ships and increase fuel costs.

As I descend from the water surface at the bow of the ship, a large grated hole opens up in front of me and reveals its enormous propellers.  I swim closer to the grate to get a better view inside the tunnel containing the bow thrusters. Before even entering the water, the dive team made sure to check with the ship’s captain and chief engineer that all moving parts—potential hazards, such as bow thrusters, propellers, rudders and stabilizers—are locked down and secured. Swimming up to a propeller twice your size is a wonderful moment, but only if you know it will not whisk you away or chop you into bits.  

Occasionally during the dive I hear and feel the vibration of the ship “breathing.” The sound comes from the water intake vents, known as “sea chests,” which feed the ship’s cooling system and must remain operational. We are careful to avoid these areas of the hull. Low visibility—dimmed by the density of the particulates suspended in the water column—adds to the mystery, but I can make out the vague shapes of the other divers, ecologist Ian Davidson and researchers Lina Ceballos and Kim Holzer.

Ian photographs areas of interest and Lina is collecting specimens. In my excitement, I take a moment to grab a quick selfie.

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Smithsonian divers explore the hull of a massive cargo ship for biological invasions of organisms that "hitch a ride" on the hull of the vessel. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Biofilms are microorganisms that accumulate in layers on the ship's hull. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. The clean circle on the ships hole designates where the researchers have collected samples of the biofilms. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. Larger organisms reside inside the recesses of the ship’s hull. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. All moving parts and potential hazards—such as bow thrusters, propellers, rudders and stabilizers—are locked down and secured. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Visibility is so low that divers have to carefully steer clear of the ship's giant propeller. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. The water intake vents, known as “sea chests,” feed the ship’s cooling system and must remain operational. So we diagram those areas of the hull to avoid them. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Low visibility—dimmed by the density of the particulates suspended in the water column—adds to the mystery. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Ecologist Ian Davidson photographs areas of interest. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Researcher Lina Ceballos (left) is scraping samples and Kim Holzer collects them. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Samples are sealed in a plastic bag and dropped into a mesh bag clipped to the divers' gear. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Pencils seem to float away from the slates like they are on their own spacewalk. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. Bubbles from the divers' breathing aparatus collect on the belly of the ship. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Using a funnel and a syringe, biofilms are collected. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Propeller is nearly twice the size of the divers. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Ian Davidson collecting specimens under the cargo ship. (original image)

Soon, I am catching the specimens Lina collects and sealing them in a plastic sample bag, and dropping them into the larger mesh bag I have clipped to my gear. I then record the location and sample bag number on a slate with a pencil, which are tethered to my body.  

Simple tasks. Except everything wants to float or sink away, nothing wants to stay where I put it, including myself. If I spend too much time looking for something clipped to me, or writing on the slate, I look up to find I have drifted away from my intended position. Our pencils and slates float away like they are on their own mini spacewalk. If we don’t make sure that our tools are clipped to us, they are gone. We lost a slate once filled with data—it’s still down there somewhere. Fortunately, we had a duplicate available, otherwise we would have completely wiped-out an entire day’s work.

For the day’s second dive, we descend at mid-ship to go entirely underneath the ship’s belly. With every exhale, the bubbles collect above our heads onto the ship’s hull and reflect back at us like mirrors of mercury. Ian is trying to take pictures; too many bubbles are getting in his way. I move further away so with each exhale, I’m not contributing to his bubble problems. As I look back, I see a solitary scientist who appears completely engrossed in his work.

The third and fourth dives of the day are at the stern. Fatigue is starting to creep in, as we descend down the huge rudder. Visibility is poor and I almost swim right into the ship’s giant propeller. We proceed with the same sampling process, which by now feels like a routine.

On our fourth dive, our task is to take high-resolution images in small sections to create one deep-zoom image of the entire rudder. This is the last dive of the day and the most tedious, but I shoot 312 photographs just to create one image. Throughout the effort, I am constantly trying to maintain position, working slowly from left to right, from bottom to top, up the rudder, picture by picture.  

After we return to the marine station by boat, we unload and wash down all the equipment, refill the boat with fuel, and haul our equipment back to the house to hang it out to dry. Next, we get to work. These vessel surveys are designed to evaluate the extent, composition and condition (live versus dead, reproductive condition, stuff like that) of the organisms.  

Lina, Kim and Ian labor late into the night processing the specimens, while I download and manage today’s images. We’ll repeat this tomorrow and every day while we are here, weather permitting. Field time is expensive and precious. Bad weather can take that time away quickly, so we work constantly while we can.

When I return from the field, I am often asked by my family and friends what I experienced. Rarely do I have time to do what a tourist might, so I tend to miss a lot. However, any postcard that I send from Bermuda is going to say this: Today, what I experienced underneath the belly of a ship, was amazingly beautiful.

What Does an Eclipse Sound Like?

Smithsonian Magazine

How would you describe an eclipse to a blind person? The moon moves in front of the sun, yes. But what does that look like? Someone trained in illustrative description of images might say, “The moon appears as a featureless black disk that nearly blocks out the sun. The sun's light is still visible as a thin band around the moon's black disk. To the upper right, at the moon's leading edge, a small area of sunlight still shines brilliantly.”

That’s just an example of how such an event could be described. Bryan Gould, director of accessible learning and assessment technologies at the National Center for Accessible Media, a non-profit working to make media experiences accessible to people with disabilities, is hoping to offer oral descriptions of the eclipse in an app. Paired with other features, like a tactile diagram and audio from the changing natural environment as the eclipse darkens the sky, the app is designed to make the event more accessible to blind or visually impaired people who want to experience it.

Gould is working with Henry Winter, a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to develop the app, called Eclipse Soundscapes. As the August 21 solar eclipse darkens a path across the United States, Eclipse Soundscapes will release descriptions, timed—based on the user’s location—to match the progress of the eclipse.

Winter conceived Eclipse Soundscapes after a conversation with a friend who’s been blind since birth. She asked him to explain what an eclipse means.

 “I realized I didn’t have the vocabulary to answer that question for her,” says Winter. “Every way I thought about it was visual in nature, and I didn’t know how to explain it to somebody … light, dark, bright, dim, flash. All these different words have no meaning to somebody that’s never seen.”

But the project goes well beyond audio descriptions. It includes two further elements: audio of the changing soundscape caused by the eclipse, and a tactile exploration of the eclipse’s image (which means that people who are blind or visually impaired can “feel” the eclipse using vibrations on their smartphones).

Many creatures become active as the sun sets, and many of them use darkness as an indicator of time of day. During an eclipse, crickets will chirp and frogs will chorus, thinking night has fallen. These habits were noted as far back as 1932, in a Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences article titled “Observations on the Behavior of Animals During the Total Solar Eclipse of August 31, 1932.”

Such an event might provide an interesting representation of the eclipse, thought Winter, so he partnered with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds program, which preserves and catalogs sounds from the parks. Helpers stationed at national parks along the route will record audio during the eclipse, to hear the change in the “bioacoustical chorus” of the animals.

This can’t happen in real time, of course, so the National Center for Accessible Media is providing illustrative descriptions, based on a previous eclipse. The sounds of crickets, frogs and birds becoming active on the day of the eclipse will be added to the app later.

Last, with the help of an audio engineer named Miles Gordon, Winter is trying something completely new. Gordon developed a “rumble map” of the eclipse: The app places images of different stages of an eclipse on your smartphone’s screen, and as you trace your finger across the eclipse’s image, the vibration increases or decreases based on the brightness of the image.

“It does give you the impression that you’re actually feeling the sun, as you move your finger around,” says Winter.

Henry Winter, center, demonstrates the interactive "rumble map". (Kelsey Perrett)

Scientists around the world will be using the eclipse as an opportunity to study solar astronomy in a way they usually can’t, measuring the ultraviolet light emitted from the sun’s corona, which Earth-based observers can’t normally see, as it is overpowered by the normal sunlight. It’s also rare for an eclipse to cover this much land — it traverses from Oregon to South Carolina — and Winter points out that it is a particularly good opportunity for education and outreach.

Though education is important, for Wanda Diaz Merced, a visiting scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is completely blind, there’s a lot more to the eclipse than that. Merced, who has consulted on the Eclipse Soundscapes project, studies human-computer interaction and astrophysics, and to do her research, she needs assistance translating data into a format she can interact with. She’s been building tools to help with that translation, and sees elements of Winter’s project that could contribute.

“It’s still not a prototype that I may use, for example, to study elements of the photosphere. It is not on that stage,” says Merced. “But hopefully one day we will be able to not only hear, but to touch.”

The eclipse will occur on August 21, starting around 10 a.m. in Oregon and finishing by 3 p.m .in South Carolina. The Eclipse Soundscapes app is available for iOS now, and the team is working on an Android app as well.

Wedding Invitation, Los Angeles, July 30, 1994: "Help Them Celebrate their Marriage"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Poster announcement, with text and images throughout, providing location, directions, date of J. M. Jewett and G. P. Kirkpatrick's wedding and reception. Hand-lettered text in a variety of styles and sizes; at center, heart and telephone. Affixed to bottom center, USA 19 cents postage stamp (fawn). On verso, elements include motto from chocolate wrapper, Betty Boop, flower diagrams, round orange sticker affixed to center of flower (top, center). Printed in blue ink.

Weaver's thesis book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Book, bound in gray cardboard and containing some seventy-six pages of diagrams and descriptions of loom setup for different silks. Missing title page. Dated at top of page four "Janvier 5, 1829." Forty-two small samples of the weaves are attached to pages.

Weaver's thesis book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Oblong book, bound in dark green leather, with flap and metal clasp, contains 150 numbered pages of descriptions, analysis, weave diagrams and samples of gauzes, with mises-en-carte for many. 91 small samples.

Watt Steam Engine Indicator (Replica, 1927)

National Museum of American History
An engine indicator is an instrument for graphically recording the cylinder pressure versus piston displacement through an engine stroke cycle. Engineers use the resulting diagram to check the design and performance of the engine. This is a replica of the original steam indicator invented in the late 18th Century by James Watt of Scotland. This was the first device intended to measure the varying pressures within a stem engine’s cylinder as it was working.

Originally consisting of only the brass cylinder and piston, Watt’s assistant (John Southern) made the important improvement of the recording tablet and pencil that resulted in the ability to make a lasting recording of a complete cycle of the engine under measurement. The piston of the engine moved the tablet horizontally via an attached cord, and the indicator’s piston moved the pencil vertically. A weight attached to the tablet via a pulley caused the tablet to move back horizontally as the engine’s piston returned to its original position. The result is a steam pressure-volume diagram which is used to measure the efficiency and other attributes of the steam engine.

The introduction of this steam indicator in the late 1790s by James Watt had a great impact on the understanding of how the steam behaved inside the engine's cylinder and thereby enabled much more exacting and sophisticated designs. The devices also changed how the economics and efficiency of steam engines were portrayed and marketed. They helped the prospective owner of a machine better understand how much his fuel costs would be for a given amount of work performed.

Measurement of fuel consumed and work delivered by the engine was begun by Watt, who in part justified the selling price of his engines on the amount of fuel cost the purchaser might save compared to an alternate engine. In the early days of steam power, the method to compare engine performance was based on a concept termed the engine’s “duty”. It originally was calculated as the number of pounds of water raised one foot high per one bushel of coal consumed. The duty method was open to criticism due to its inability to take into consideration finer points of efficiency in real world applications of engines. Accurate determination of fuel used in relation to work performed has been fundamental to the design and improvement of all steam-driven prime movers ever since Watt’s time. And, the steam indicators’ key contribution was the accurate measurements of performance while the engine was actually doing the work it was designed to do.

Warka Water Tower

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Vopel Compendium

National Museum of American History
This is a complex brass instrument, consisting of a nocturnal, a sundial, a lunar aspectarium, and a geometrical quadrant. The maker, Caspar Vopel (1511-1561), taught mathematics in Cologne and studied cosmography. He made a number of armillary spheres and globes. The nocturnal is used to find the time of night from observations of circumpolar stars. On a simple nocturnal, a pair of circular scales and an alidade are mounted together. The larger circle is divided into a monthly zodiac calendar to set the instrument to the proper date. The smaller circle is divided into 24 hours, eighteen of which are marked to be read by touch in the dark. The observer would sight the pole star through the center of the instrument and align the alidade with the "pointer" stars of Ursa Major. Simple nocturnals were one of the most commonplace mathematical instruments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This compendium’s nocturnal and lunar aspectarium are on one side with the sundial in the design of fifteenth century astronomer Regiomontanus and the geometrical quadrant on the other. The nocturnal side has a zodiac calendar on the outermost ring of the base plate. The calendar scale is marked with the names of the months in Latin, divided to 10 and subdivided to 1 day numbered by 10. The zodiac scale has the names and engraved representations of the constellations, and each sign has a scale 0 to 30 degrees, divided to 10, subdivided to 1, numbered by 10. There are two moving volvelle plates, which are used to find the time of the rising and setting of the sun. The first has a pointer, marked "INDEX SOLIS" and with a sun symbol extending across the zodiac calendar carries scales for the time and the age of the moon. The time scale has hours 1 to 12 twice, divided to 1, subdivided to 15 minutes, numbered by 1 hour, and each hour position has a point for counting in the dark (except one 12, which has the index arm). Asterisks are engraved on the points for 6, the other 12, and 6. The lunar scale runs from 0 to 29|1/2|, divided to 1, subdivided to |1/4|, numbered by 1. The inner moving plate has an index, marked "INDEX LVNAE" and with a moon symbol, and is engraved with a diagram of planetary aspects marked "ASPECTVS PLANETARVM." It is pierced to reveal on the first moveable representations of lunar phases and parts of inscriptions. A long central index arm extends beyond the limit of the base plate; around the central pivot is engraved "STELLA POLARIS PER QUAM VISVS PROIEC." The arm is marked "INDEX HORALOGII" and ":PLAVST VRSAM" and "DVAE PARILES PLAVSTRI POSTREMAE A POLARI STELLA IN RECTAM DVCTAE SOLIS INDICE AD DIEM POSITO NOCTUR HORAM OST." The handle on this side is engraved "ASTROLABII DOPSVM HORALOGIIOVE NOCTVRNALIS. OMNIA CONANDO DOCILIS SOLLERTIA VICIT." The sundial side has a Regiomontanus-type altitude dial with 2 pinhole sight vanes and a three-element articulated arm for adjusting the point of suspension of the plumb-line (the line and weight are missing) on the triangular grid of latitude and zodiacal position. The zodiacal symbols are at the top, with each sign divided by three; the latitude scale is from 5 to 60, divided to 5, 5 to 65 subdivided to 1, numbered by 5. The grid is marked on one side "ZODIACI LATITVDINVM" and on the other "ZODIACI LATITVDINVM QUAE ET POLI ELEVATIO TAM NOTII QVAM BOREI." The hour lines are numbered both 1 to 12 "HORAE ANTE MERIDIANAE" and 12 to 1 "HORAE POMERIDIANAE." There is a solar declination scale to the right of the hour lines, marked with zodiac symbols, this scale and the mid-day hour line being marked "GENERALIS ZODIACVS MERIDIANVS." The midnight line is marked "MEDIVM NOCTIS SEPTENTRIO." Around the edge of the sundial side are two altitude scales to be used with the sights and the suspension point set to a position marked "QVADRANTVM CENTRVM." The outer is a scale of degrees marked "QVADRANS ASTRONOMICVS UNIVERSALIS." The inner is a geometrical quadrant or shadow-square scale marked "QVADRANS GEOMETRICVS" and "VMBRA VERSA" and "VMBRA RECTA." Ref: "Nocturnal" in Robert Bud and Deborah Warner, eds., Instruments of Science. An Historical Encyclopedia (New York & London, 1998), p. 414-416. Harriet Wynter & Anthony Turner, eds. Scientific Instruments (New York, 1975), p. 113-117.

Verso: diagram of cabin

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Verso: diagram of cabin

Vera’s Patent Model of a Friction Heater – ca 1869

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 86,046 issued to Pedro Vera of Bogota, United States of Colombia, on January 19, 1869. Mr. Vera’s patent was for improvements in machines designed to create heat by friction, for the purpose of generating steam or warming apartments. The main element of his design was a series of rotating disks in contact with stationary diaphragms. The friction between the disks and diaphragms produced heat which would be transferred to the water or air in contact with them. The alternating disks and diaphragms were mounted on shafts with the diaphragms being held stationary by four small rods along their diameters and running the length of the shafts. The rotating disks were keyed to the shafts. In the patent description, four shafts were mounted vertically inside a sealed cylinder that was intended to be water and steam-tight and strong enough to withstand the steam pressure of ordinary boilers. Springs were mounted between the tops of the shafts and the top of the cylinder in order to press the disk/diaphragm assemblies together to increase friction as desired. Each of the shafts exited the top of the cylinder via stuff-box seals and was topped with a pinion gear. The pinion gears were driven by a central gear on a shaft extending down through the cylinder. A pulley at the top of this shaft would be rotated via a belt by a source of power. The speed of the drive pulley would control the amount of heat generated by the device. Research of available trade literature and other sources has not revealed any commercial use that may have made use of Mr. Vera’s invention.

The patent model is constructed of brass. It illustrates the sealed case containing the disk mechanisms, the stuffing-box seals for the shafts to exit, and the pulley and gearing arrangement to drive the disks. An access door is provided on the model to allow visibility of the disks, diaphragms, supporting rods, and shafts. Diagrams showing the complete design can be found in the patent document online (/

Van Deren’s Patent Model of a Steam Engine– ca 1860

National Museum of American History
This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 29,642 issued to G.W. Van Deren of Bigflats, New York on August 14, 1860. The patent was for a steam engine design employing an oscillating piston. Instead of the more common straight cylinder with a piston within, Van Deren employed two pistons within a semi-circular cylinder. The pistons were connected by a curved rod with a pin in the middle for attachment of the connecting rod to the crankshaft. A steam valve above the cylinder admitted and exhausted steam alternatively for one, then the other piston. This caused a rocking motion of the pistons, and the connecting rod imparted rotation to the flywheel via the crank arm. This eliminated the need for crossheads and slides.

The inventor claimed that his design reduced stresses on the engine at the end of each cycle of the pistons and thus allowed operation at higher speeds. He also claimed reduced costs of construction. A search of available material did not reveal any commercial use of Van Deren’s design. He held two additional patents for components of oscillating steam engines.

The patent model is constructed of iron and steel. All of the key elements of the patent are illustrated by the model which demonstrates the engine motion. In the image the steam valve housing is the horizontal cylinder at the top of the model. The inlet is the orange pipe and the exhaust is from the top of the valve housing. The engine’s cylinder containing the pistons is the green semi-circular structure below the steam valve housing. The horizontal steel rod in front is the connecting rod from the pistons to the crankshaft. The valve gear eccentric is shown on the crankshaft on the right with its connected rods and levers to operate the valve. Diagrams showing the complete design of the patent can be found in the patent document online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, /

Type-O-Rama: What do typewriters reveal about innovation?

National Museum of American History

The sound of clicking typewriter keys filled the museum's Innovation Wing recently during Type-O-Rama. This event, presented by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project team, featured typewriters from the permanent collections and gave visitors a chance to try their hands at typing on models from the teaching collection. The poets from Typewriter Rodeo brought their vintage machines along to compose free poems on any topic—even an ode to typewriters themselves!

Nine typewriters of varying styles and eras set out on a table

The Taylor Foundation Object Project explores how objects we use in daily life grew out of groundbreaking innovations, and typewriters are one example of these "everyday things that changed everything." At Type-O-Rama, seeing machines that were used in American history and tapping away on devices from different eras got us thinking about what we can learn about innovation through typewriters.

Why revisit typewriter innovations today?

When you look at a computer or cell phone today, you can see evidence of the typewriter. It was used for many of the same purposes as today’s devices, like office work, personal correspondence, and creative expression. Controlled by physical touch, typewriters allowed users to stamp ink letters directly on paper with the press of a key.

A boy types on a black electric IBM typewriter

Visitors to Type-O-Rama got firsthand experience with Taylor Foundation Object Project teaching collection objects, including a 1920s manual Royal typewriter and a 1950s electric IBM typewriter. Many of our younger visitors had never seen a typewriter in person or touched one before encountering our teaching collection machines. These authentic objects are intended for close-up examination and handling, unlike ones in the museum's permanent collection.

Black and white photograph of a woman sitting at a desk in front of a large typewriter

Noticing the different feels and sounds of manual and electric typewriters, visitors got a sense of how these machines have been used in different contexts and times. They also discovered how durable typewriters can be: if a key got stuck or the carriage jammed, museum educators were on hand to show visitors how to fix these issues pretty quickly. (Unlike, perhaps, solving a problem with your computer today!)

How have typewriters changed over time?

At Type-O-Rama, curator Susan Tolbert shared typewriters from the Work and Industry collection that illustrated a variety of changes and innovations in these devices from different eras.

A woman wearing gloves opens a lid on a typewriter to show its all-uppercase keyboard

Mark Twain, an early adopter of the Remington, called it a "new fangled writing machine." The Remington's QWERTY keyboard, developed by Christopher Latham Sholes and Carlos S. Glidden, was specifically designed to slow typing speeds in order to lessen the chances that machines would jam. Jamming could occur when the mechanical type bars, which were operated by the keys and arranged in a semicircle, clashed against each other. Most computer keyboards today still use the QWERTY layout, even though there's no longer a mechanical reason to do so.

Left: a small typewriter sitting in a purple case: Right: two diagrams showing the placement of letters on a QWERTY versus a scientific keyboard

The Blickensderfer No. 5 typewriter has a "scientific" rather than a QWERTY keyboard, with the most commonly used letters on the bottom row to reduce hand movement. It also has a patented "type wheel" that contains all the characters and different type fonts. The wheel would rotate to strike the paper and create a typed mark, a method that minimized jamming.

What can typewriters reveal about the people who used them?

Typewriters provide a way to explore technological innovations as well as the stories of the people who used them. Curator Stacey Kluck shared a few objects from the Culture and the Arts collection that were used by notable people.

A black and white photo of a woman holding a book (Mildred Wirt Benson) next to an Underwood typewriter out on display at the museum

Beginning in the 1930s, Mildred Wirt Benson, also known as Carolyn Keene, used this Underwood Model 5 typewriter to write several Nancy Drew mysteries. The faded keys show its regular use, and the worn spot on the right side of the space bar reveals that Benson was probably right-handed.

Black and white photograph of women sitting in close rows working on typewriters

While Benson's machine has a unique connection to her life and beloved book series, the Underwood Model 5 was a ubiquitous device. The first widely popular workplace typewriter, it was used by many different people in a variety of jobs and contexts.

Left: A small yellow and black typewriter. Right: two men standing behind that same typewriter in a collections storage space.

Shirley Temple used this Bing typewriter, branded as an Anfoe Student Model, in the late 1930s, when she was around 10 years old. Made by a German toy company, student models like the Anfoe were lightweight and small in size to be practical for children to use.

A woman and a man look closely at a gold, rounded typewriter

How did users' needs drive typewriter innovations?

This 1872 Hansen Writing Ball probably doesn't strike you as a classic typewriter in appearance, but the Danish-made writing ball was considered an engineering feat.

Rasmus Malling-Hansen, an educator and the inventor of the writing ball, created a Braille model of the writing ball that users who were blind or had low vision could operate independently. The most famous writing ball owner was philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who sought a typewriter that he could use as his vision declined.

Alfred Ely Beach received a patent in 1856 for an "Improvement in Printing Instruments for the Blind." Instead of making ink marks, his typewriter imprinted raised letters on paper for reading by touch.

A piece of white paper with typewriter lettering on it

Typewriters have been used by many different people, for different purposes. We think this poem by Typewriter Rodeo poet Sean, "The Tip of History," articulates what makes typewriters so fascinating: their look and feel, how they've evolved over time, and how people have used them as a tool for work, communication, and creativity.

To see photos from Type-O-Rama and read more Typewriter Rodeo poetry, check out our album:




Caitlin Kearney is a new media assistant for the Taylor Foundation Object Project. Previously, she has blogged about exploring historical innovations through a classic American game show.

Posted Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 08:00
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Two Ways to Non-Bauxite Alumina, Page 139 from Fortune

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Page 139 from Fortune magazine featuring the continuation of a diagram by Herbert Bayer of making aluminum from clay using the ancor method at lower left. Continues from 2016-54-350. Page also includes a photographic illustration on the right side of a factory interior. Black printed text appears on the left above the diagram. Text includes the section heading, "TWO WAYS TO NON-BAUXITE ALUMINA." Verso: Black and white illustration by Julian Levi showing men in robes looking at model planes, with model planes hanging above.
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