The Steel Tree Stump, Part I (Popular Mechanics, 1917)
The American press seemed a bit late in writing about the wartime innovations when they printed this piece:
"Observation posts made of lumber and sheet metal to look like tree trunks are among the latest disguises employed on the battle front to deceive the enemy and enable watchers to occupy positions of advantage."
The steel tree-stump gag had been in effect since 1915.
The First Folding Wing Monoplane (Popular Mechanics, 1912)
A passing glance at aviation magazines from the early Twentieth Century reveals that that particular sub-culture was very concerned with the ability to allow for trouble-free ground transport of aircraft. There were many magazine articles picturing how biplanes could be deconstructed for this purpose and up until 1912, or so we are led to believe by the editors of Popular Mechanics, the de Marcay-Mooney monoplane was the first flying machine that was able to have it's wings fold back (much like a bird or a beetle) and when re-set at 90 degrees for take-off, could fly successfully.
The Elephant on the British Home Front (Popular Mechanics, 1917)
We are told that the attached picture could only have been snapped in the more eccentric parts of Britain during the Great War and that it serves as graphic proof that the farm labor shortage was as dire as the farmers declared that it was.
The First Automotive Brake Lights (Popular Mechanics, 1918)
Many dented fenders later, the first signal indicators show up. This article makes clear that both the Brake light and the turning signal indicator are both the same color (red) but they are an improvement on what was sporadically used in a few circles: the "Illuminated Glove" (a fingerless mit intended for the left-hand that was supposedly easier to see when making stop or turning gestures).
Armed Motorcycles (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
The combining of machine gun and motorcycle was an entirely Canadian concept that made an appearance early in the war. It is highly likely that the vehicles never got their "baptism of fire":
"an interesting adaptation of the motorcycle to military uses has been made by employing it as a light artillery vehicle...the accompanying photograph shows a machine gun mounted on a sidecar chassis."
Air Cruisers of the British Flying Squadron (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Here is a short article with photographs depicting two unnamed British fighter- planes: one is described as "double-decker", with the pilot riding directly over the gunner and the second boasts of a steel fuselage construction.
French Dirigible (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Pictured herein is the French dirigible ADJUDANT REAU as it appeared during the first months of the First World War.
Also depicted are two early tri-planes which were used to help elevate the craft.
New York to Philadelphia in Record Time (Popular Mechanics, 1910)
Pilot Charles Hamilton (1886 1914) made the first round-trip flight from Philadelphia to New York and back again flying a Curtis bi-plane in 1910:
"He flew from New York to the Philadelphia in one hour and fifty minutes. His average speed on trips to the Quaker City was 46.92 miles per hour, but returning he averaged 51.36 miles per hour."
The NEW YORK TIMES paid Hamilton $5,000.00 for this achievement.
Earliest Car Crash Photograph (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
A rare action photograph of an unidentified car and driver smashing into the crowd-control fencing at the Vanderbilt Cup Races held in Santa Monica, California during the summer of 1914. The unstoppable juggernaut was cruising at sixty-miles miles per hour.
Click here to read about the historic trans-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh.
*Watch a Film Clip About Auto Racing Between 1903 - 1906*
Experimental Nightflights (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Photographs of one of the first attempts at night flying with wing-mounted electric lights.
The First Casualty of an Air War (Popular Mechanics, 1912)
It was during the Italian-Turkish War (1911 - 12) that aircraft began to play active rolls in support of military operations. This article is remarkable in that it reports that as early as 1912, aircraft was used not merely to aid in the observation of enemy troop movements but also to drop bombs.
"Captain Monte of the Italian army aeroplane corps has achieved the distinction of being the first airman wounded in battle while in the air with his machine."
One of the First Bomb Sights (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Attached is a photograph and short description of "One of the latest bomb-dropping devices" that were available to French and British pilots during the earliest days of World War One.
Railway Guns (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Railway-mounted artillery can be dated to the 19th century, however their shining moment came during World War One, and the most notorious of these was the German manufactured "Paris Gun" which showed up in 1918 and was able to shell that city from as far as 75 miles away.
The well-illustrated article attached herein first appeared a few months prior to the war's outbreak and concerns the railway gun that the French had on hand at the time: 7.87 inch, 6 inch and 4.7 inch howitzers which were intended for coastal defense. By 1916 both sides in the war would be deploying enormous rail-mounted naval guns, capable of delivering a far larger blow.
Click here to read about the U.S. Navy railroad guns of W.W. I.
Racial Segregation in Truxton, Virginia (Popular Mechanics, 1919)
A small notice appeared in POPULAR MECHANICS MAGAZINE that announced African Americans "will be allowed" to live in a new town located in Virginia intended to house the employees of the naval station in nearby Portsmouth. Due to small reports as this, Truxton proved to be a destination during the African-American migration period.
French Pilot Glides Under the Arc de Triomphe (Popular Mechanics, 1919)
A great picture of Lieutenant Charles Godefroy flying his Nieuport under the great arch of Paris during the Autumn of 1919. The stunt was performed three weeks after the French Victory parade that marked the end of the First World War and was intended to serve as a salute to the French pilots who died during the course of that blood bath.
*See 1919 Footage of Lt. Charles Godefroy Flying Through the Arc de Triomphe *
Germany Introduces the Leather Gas Mask (Popular Mechanics, 1917)
A year and a half before the end of World War I, the German Army introduced the "Lederschutzmasken", a leather gas mask made of specially treated Bavarian sheepskin with removable lenses. Designed to replace the rubberized cloth gas masks, the 1917 respirators proved to be far more effective against phosgene gas than the 1915 masks. The Allied powers dismissed the new design as evidence that material shortages on the German home front were forcing changes.
Click here to read about the celebrations that took place in Paris the day World War One ended.
Keeping German Diplomats Safe in Paris (Popular Mechanics, 1919)
In light of the overwhelming hostility toward Germans, whether they come to Paris to sign a peace treaty or for other reasons, the Parisian Gendarmes thought it best to enclose their hotel with palisade-style fencing, which they hoped would serve the dual purpose of keeping them in as much as it would serve to keep hostile natives out.
A photo of the barricade illustrates the article.
Miracle Hats (Popular Mechanics, July & November, 1914)
Often decanted in barber shops is the old joke:
"There is only one thing that stops hair from falling------the floor".
Our hats are off to the scientific-community of 1914 that tried to make the above gag even more forgettable than it already was, however, the search for the cure for baldness continues into the Twenty-First Century.
Odd-Shaped Propeller More Efficient (Popular Mechanics, 1918)
For at least one week in 1918, the slide-rule jockeys lounging about in the faculty watering holes at the aeronautical engineering brain-trusts believed that the propeller illustrated herein was pretty slick, and bound to bring greater speed to the aircraft of the day. But the bright lads at OldMagazineArticles.com couldn't help but notice that this propeller design was never seen any time after this issue of POPULAR MECHANICS was on the stand, so we have our doubts concerning the "increased efficiency" that the propeller was credited in creating...
What do you think?
Two Parachute Pioneers (Popular Mechanics, 1912)
Attached is a well illustrated article concerning two of the earliest parachute drops: one was quite fatal while the other had a jollier ending. The first leap documented in this column was made by a fellow known only as F. Rodman Law (dates?); he jumped 345 feet from the torch of the Statue of Liberty and landed 30 feet from the water's edge. The next day, parachute enthuiast Franz Reichelt (1879 1912) jumped from the first platform of the Eiffel Tower with a parachute of his own design. The Popular Mechanics correspondent reported that:
"His body was a shapeless mass when the police picked it up."
*Watch the 1912 Film Footage of Franz Reichelt's Unfortunate Parachute Jump*
Alfonso XIII and his Typewriter (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886 1941) is remembered as a pretty level-headed guy, but non the less, it was news items like this one that made Karl Marx first dip his nib in the inkwell...
In this Newsreel Footage, Spain's Alfonso XIII Goes Into Exile
Tailoring at Sea (Popular Mechanics, 1910)
During the First World War a popular songster in the United States penned a little diddy that ran just so:
"-Though the Army is the clover
T'was the Navy brought them over
And the Navy will bring them back...".
In anticipation of this roll, the far-seeing Department of the Navy ordered each and every American battleship to have within its arsenal at least one sewing machine, and a tar who was proficient at tailoring in order to make themselves worthy of the task.
Naval Aviation as a Concept (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
As early as 1914, the dreamers who saw the possibilities in aviation began to envision non fixed-wing aircraft and ships that could carry them out to sea. The attached 1914 article concerns an unnamed ship being constructed at the Blyth Shipyard in England that is designed to transport "flying boats" at sea, picking-up and lowering to and from the sea by way of cranes. The article is illustrated.
The Round-Winged Monoplane (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
This is a small illustrated page about an early monoplane popularly known on the English isles as the Flying Teatray. A peculiar looking machine, it apparently was able to get off the ground for a while (see illustration) but it was passed by for service during the First World War, which had been raging for some three months by the time this article was published.
Iceberg Warnings as Early as January (Popular Mechanics, 1912)
The attached two paragraphs appeared in Popular Mechanics some six weeks prior to the maiden voyage of Titanic:
"As many as 4,500 different bergs have been actually counted in a run of 2,000 miles; estimated heights of from 800 to 1,700 feet are not uncommon, and bergs with lengths of from 6 to 82 miles are numerous."
The notice indicated that if the Indian Ocean is suffering such a large number then certainly it can be surmised that the North Atlantic will be plagued doubly. It stands to reason that if the editors of this magazine were aware of the heavy presence of South-bound icebergs, then the naval community must also have been in the know.
The Weirdest Invention of 1912 (Popular Mechanics, 1912)
Up all hours and badly in need of sleep, the pointy headed historians at this website have examined all other possibilities and - leaving no stone un-turned, mind you - have unanimously voted in favor of dubbing this the weirdest invention of 1912...
Consumers Tell it to Detroit (Popular Mechanics, 1954)
Attached are the results of a nationwide survey from 1954 indicating what the American automobile consumers were shopping for in cars:
54% preferred whitewall tires over any other kind
68% preferred push-button door handles
59% wanted jet-age hood ornaments
44% wished that dashboards were loaded with dials and gauges
Papier-Mache Used to Deceive German Snipers (Popular Mechanics, 1917)
By the time the U.S. Army had joined the war in 1917, they were far behind in the study of camouflage, but they did their best to catch up quickly. The American generals assigned the task camouflage to the Signal Corps, which began to cruise the ranks for artists and sculptors because of their natural abilities understand paint and scale (one of the more well-known W.W. I Signal Corps camofleurs was the painter Grant Wood: click here to read about him).
The attached article displays an illustration that clearly shows that the American Army had torn a page out of that well-worn play book written by the British Camouflage School in order to deploy papier-mache dummies along the front lines. There is no evidence or written word to indicate that it was actually done.
The Dummy Horse Observation Post (Popular Mechanics, 1918)
History's ancient example of camouflage, the Trojan horse, has a modern twist in this illustrated article. The journalist reported that at some undated point earlier in the war the French had a chance to set a mock horse-carcass between the opposing trenches and use it as an observation post. It is quick read.
German Howitzers (Popular Mechanics, 1914)
At the time, the war of 1914 - 1918 was unique in the sense that it was the first war in which more men were killed as a result of the projectiles rather than from disease; and it was artillery that did the lion's share of the killing. This article appeared during the early months of the war when the world was shocked to learn of the astounding losses due to advancements in artillery. There is an illustration of an unidentified German howitzer (more than likely a 1911 model 210mm) and an account of the roll that German gunnery played during the siege of Liege and Fort Loncin in particular.
"The one big surprise for the military experts thus far developed in the European war is the effectiveness of the heavy guns of the German field artillery. Never before have such terrible engines of annihilation been carried by an invading army as those used in the assault upon the forts at Liege."
*Watch a Film Clip About the German Mauser K98 Rifle*