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Coronation of King George VI, 1937

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the mother and father of the current Monarch) took place on this date 80 years ago today, on May 12, 1937.

King George V had died on January 20, 1936, at which time Edward VIII assumed the throne. Shortly thereafter, he caused a constitutional crisis after announcing his plans to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The crisis was resolved by his abdication on December 11, 1936, at which time George VI assumed the throne.

Edward’s coronation was originally scheduled for May 12, 1937, and the event went on as scheduled, with George rather than Edward being crowned.

1937May15RadioGuideThe event was broadcast live by radio in America. Radio Guide for the week ending May 15, 1937 predicted that the event would be “without doubt, radio’s biggest show–the ‘crowning event’ in the twenty-odd years of radio broadcasting’s existence.” The magazine reported that there would be a battery of microphones in place to bring the scene to listeners all over the world.” NBC and CBS planned six hours of continuous coverage.

 



1947 Toaster

1947ToasterThis ad for a humble toaster appeared 70 years ago in the May 12, 1947, issue of Life magazine.

Made in the USA, in a factory owned by General Electric, the toaster is undoubtedly well made.  It’s undoubtedly heavy, reliable, and probably made excellent toast.  The accompanying text touted the fact that it was adjustable, and the toast would be done exactly how you wanted it, light, medium, or dark.  The snap-in crumb tray allowed it to be cleaned in ten seconds.  And it even had another feature not found in modern toasters, the ability to have the toast either pop up when finished, or stay inside to keep warm until it was needed.

In the unlikely event that it broke, there were shops where you could take your toaster to be repaired.

In short, it was probably better than a toaster you would buy today, and it’s easy to pine for that simpler time when toasters were better.  Until you look at the price.

This simple toaster cost $17.75.  To put it another way, you could buy it with eighteen silver dollars, and those silver dollars would set you back exactly $18 in paper currency.  Those same eighteen silver dollars today would cost you over $300.

So yes, the toaster 70 years ago was better than the typical toaster you would buy today.  Today, you would probably buy a model similar to the ones shown below.

 

Yes, the 1947 version was probably better. But it was also a lot more expensive.



1927 Balloon Jumping

1927MayPMNinety years ago this month, the cover of Popular Mechanics, May 1927, shows a sport that inexplicably never caught on:   Balloon Jumping! As described in the magazine, a balloon of about 18 feet in diameter was attached to the jumper’s shoulders. In his pockets, he would carry lead weights. The balloon and ballast would be balanced so that the man’s net weight was about four pounds. Thus equipped, the jumper could leap to a height of about 40 feet and travel about a hundred yards. In favorable wind conditions, jumpers were known to travel over a quarter mile in one stride.

The balloon was filled with 3500 cubic feet of gas. In the event that the gas expanded in the hot sun, the balloon was fitted with a valve, allowing the jumper to vent excess gas, preventing uncontrollable lift.

After the jump was complete, the complete outfit could be packed into a large suitcase.

This video shows the sport in action, although it doesn’t look quite as graceful as depicted in the magazine:



1942 One Tube Emergency Broadcast Receiver

1942MayPMSeventy-five years ago this month, the May 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics carried the plans for the “Veep” one-tube AC-DC broadcast receiver. The set was built on a simple galvanized chassis, and mounted in a cigar box, the “Veep” name coming from the brand of cigars.

The sew was designed to be rugged and compact, and the part count was kept to an absolute minimum to keep costs down. The set ran off standard household current, eliminating the worry of batteries running down. It was designed for instant emergency use. The set could be kept in a pocket, and in case of need for the latest news, air-raid warnings, or other programs, it ccould be put into action at the plant, office, or home at odd times.

The set used a single 117L7-GT serving as rectifier and detector. Since the set ran right off the line cord, the article warned not to use an external ground connection.

1942MayPM2The set would pull in local stations with a 3-4 foot antenna. For greater range, the antenna could be connected to an ungrounded metal object such as a hand rail or bed springs. While the set was designed for headphone operation, it could drive a speaker for strong local stations.1942MayPMSchematic

 



1867 Manhattan, KS, Earthquake

On this date 150 years ago, April 24, 1867, Kansas experienced its largest ever earthquake, with its epicenter just north of Manhattan, Kansas.  It was felt over an area of almost 200,000 square miles, and caused minor damage in Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, along with a handful of injuries.  Damage included cracked plaster, downed chimneys, and loosened stones in buildings.  At Paola, KS, one wall of the post office was destroyed.

The report shown here appeared in the Chicago Tribune on April 27, and originally appeared in the St. Joseph, MO, paper on April 25.  In St. Joseph, the earthquake was described as a “low rumbling sound, similar to that produced by a heavily loaded wagon passing over a bridge.”  At St. Joseph, “almost the entire population had rushed terrified from counting rooms, workshops and kitchens into the streets.  At first everybody seemed to be under the impression that his particular building had suddenly become possessed of an unusual number of devils, and was pirouetting by itself; but upon seeing his neighbors rushing out under apparently the same conviction, the idea flashed upon him that an earthquake had playfully jousted us.”



Station D-E-B-U-N-K, 1942

1942Apr12ChiTribSeventy-five years ago, the April 12, 1942, issue of the Chicago Tribune carried this story about a wartime curiosity on the shortwave bands, Station DEBUNK.

After the United State entered the war, the station sprung up on 7.2 MHz, and tried to pass itself off as a clandestine station operating from inside the United States.

But according to the newspaper, the FCC had confirmed what most SWL’s had already figured out, namely, that the station was broadcasting from Europe. The newspaper noted that the station was on the same frequency as the Berlin shortwave station.

The newspaper also noted that many listeners saw the hand of Freddy Kaltenbach in the station’s appearance, noting that it expressed his manner of expression and thinking. We previously wrote  (here and here) about propagandist Kaltenbach, a former Iowan of German birth.

The station was also profiled in the April 18, 1942, issue of Radio Guide, which noted that the station normally signed on to its 41 meter frequency between 7:30 and 8:00 PM Central War Time. The transmission began with an interval signal consisting of a piano playing part of the melody from the Star Spangled Banner, repeatedly playing the music for the words “by the dawn’s early light.”

The announcer then asked listeners to phone their neighbors to tune in and then played some jitterbug records. After about ten minutes, the announcer, one “Joe Scanlon” unleashed propaganda that was “anti-British, anti-American, anti-Communist, anti-Jewish, in fact, anti everything but National Socialism.”

After the diatribe, the station would sign off with the Star Spangled Banner. The Radio Guide profile noted that the station was amateurish in nature, with “the modulation as rotten as the talks.”

Announcer “Scanlon” was actually Herbert John Burgman, originally of Hokah, Minnesota.  Burgman served in the U.S. Army from 1918 to 1920, posted in Germany. In 1921, he was employed as a clerk at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and married a German national. By 1941, he was a committed Nazi sympathizer, and declined repatriation to the U.S. along with the rest of the embassy staff, and he signed on as a propagandist for Radio DEBUNK.

After the war, he was arrested a tried for treason. The prosecution relied not only eyewitness testimony, but the recordings of the broadcasts from the FCC’s Silver Hill, Maryland, monitoring station. Despite a plea of insanity, Burgman was convicted of 13 acts of treason and sentenced to 6-20 years in prison. In 1951, the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. Burgman v. United States, 188 F.2d 637 (D.C. Cir. 1951).
He died in prison in 1953 at the age of 59.  He then found his way home to Minnesota and is buried in Austin, MN.

You can listen to a sound clip of Station DEBUNK at this link.



US At War: April 6, 1917

One hundred years ago today, April 6, 1917, the United States entered the First World War when Congress declared war on Germany.  President Wilson, in an address to a joint session of Congress on April 2, had asked for the declaration, citing unrestricted German submarine warfare and the Zimmermann telegram.  The Senate passed the resolution on April 4, with the House following on the morning of April 6.