Currently viewing the category: "Industrial & technological art"

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1975 Follow Me on Pinterest

The idea of creating an economy from a previously dead clientelle–the very after-market dead person–is relatively new. Once a middle class or lower working class with disposable income was created, celebrating the care of the dead was a paying option opened to the millions of families who were not the fastidious and celebratory wealthy. Once the notion of having other people take care of the dearly departed became a part of the popular ritual of dealing with the dead, an entire new industry was born–spawning other related and associated industries for supplying the dead-care-givers with amenities and notions and necessities of a previously unthunk and unthinkable nature. For example, the idea of needing to shave a corpse became an issue after it became fashionable to allow several days or more to pass between death and burial. Beards and hair grow in death, so the people caring for the body and its display now were ordained an issue of economy in nultiple shavings of a corpse. Now that may or may not have been an issue, but it was certainly presented as a possibility by the incredibly-named "Razorless Post- Mortem Shave Co."

Deadpunk shave

{Many thanks to reader Max W for providing the information for the correct information for the citation of the above image–the magazine is Casket & Sunnyside for January 1912, and there are ample references to it in Charles Addams and Jessica Mitford.] The worry for the consideration of the cost of a shave (15 cents) for a dead person seems quite an inescapable weirdness and luxury. The weirdness of the name of the company nearly obscures it common nature–it isn't exactly the Acme Corpse Company, but it is close to it, and it addresses just one small bit of minuatiae of deadness in the vast sea of Dead, Inc.

The sellers of the razorless post-mortem shave equipment didn't receive a patent for their process–nor did anyone else, for that matter, at least so far as I can determine.

Here are some further examples of Dead, Inc/DeadPunk patented death appliances:

Post-mortem skull examination facilitator:

Postmortem Underwear for the prevention of dead leakage and deodorization:

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

People have been thinking along the lines of "electrons" for a long time, though the word is of relatively recent origin (1874), coined by the wonderfully-named Johnstone Stoney (1826-1911) after deducing that ther must be some type of electrical bit that vibrates within the atom that would generate light. J.J. Thomson (1856-1940) stated later in 1897 in his paper "Cathode Rays" that evidence points to the fact that there must exist particles that are less massive than the hydrogen atom–he called these objects "corpuscles" but he was referring to what we now know as "electrons". The gorgeous "oil drop" experiment of 1910 by R.A.Millikan (1868-1953) determined the charge of the electron, and in the next year–1911–Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937, and one of the 20th century's greatest Kiwis) proposed the structure of the nuclear atom. Then the major development of Louis de Broglie's (1892-1960) particle/wave duality, and so on into our near-present. But in between the beautiful work of Millikan and Rutherford came this little beast, a very unsatisfyingly-assumed image of an atom and its swirling electrons. The image appeared in the December 1920 issue of Illustrated World and just seems so unfair to the cause of beauty that I thought to share it.


JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

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This thinking stick comes to us via the courtesy of the Scientific American Supplement (19 August 1876, page 542), and shows a lovely Victorian non-SteamPunk answer to on-the-run calculation. It is an almost-elegant device, and seems as though it should work just fine. Its utility as a writing instrument seems a bit limited, as seems the calculator part, but the whole of it seems to be full of possibility–and a very nice piece of dedicated thinking.

[Text describing the invention below.]

Other nice examples of adding/writing found in the U.S. Patent Office via GooglePatents are seen below:

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1960

I was shocked to investigate this seemingly magically-produced engraving under magnification–it was a small piece of inset work used to illustrate an idea within a much larger overall engraving. The detail is about a 5% cropping of the full image:

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It is a subset of this detail:

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Which in turn is a detail from this beautiful work which is itself a four-by-four inch detail in a larger engraving, the footprint of an elevation of the Sepolcro di Caio Cestio, which was printed in 1840.

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The craftsman who produced this engraving incised 250 lines on one side of this 4-inch-square, then proceeded to incise another 250 lines on the other–or so. This means that there are something on the order of 62,000 (or thereabouts) squares produced by the draftsman in order to make a mostly-black background for the image.

The plan is for the pyramidal tomb of Caius Cestius who was a monied Roman who demanded that for the disbursement of his will to be complete had to have this tombstone built to himself in a prescribed period of time–mostly very quickly. The result has been captured by Piranessi and others–a very sharp-pointed pyramid about 130′ at its base and 145′ tall. When finished the builders incised their victory and documented it on the side of the pyramid so:

Opus absolutum ex testamento diebus CCCXXX, arbitratu (L.) Ponti P. f. Cla (udia tribu), Melae heredis et Pothi l(iberti). (“The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by
the decision of the heir [Lucius] Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia, and Pothus, freedman”.)

All I really wanted to comment on here though is the craftsmanship of producing this finely-lined and remarkable detail

JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

I wroFood refrig965te earlier in this blog about the geology of meat and want, the last in "States of Perfection: Refrigerated Food & the Archaeology of Meat, 1954" (here). ("Like Greek statues, orders of architecture, the golden ratio and Vitruvian man, these ads from LIFE Magazine in 1954 measure a sort of highest-attainable-state, though directed at middle class America….") This is a continuation on that theme, a little, as I found this interesting piece of a refrigerator ad in LIFE magazine for 26 July 1948. Art Linkletter interviews two women and a refrigerator here, introducing the new G.E. Electric Space Maker, which must've used a new motor to make more space available inside the new unit, as it wasn't much bigger on the outside than the old one. But seeing the food displayed on the ground in front of the refrigerators shows us what people wanted to have in their house, to eat–and what more of it they could want. Side-by-side: normal want, and advanced want.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1944

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In the long history of People Wanting Things, it has only been in the past few centuries where human beings were able to see the possibilities of their wants, or needs, displayed in print in the forms of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. For thousands of years previously the wants were visceral and obvious–certainly the physical part of stuff that wasn’t exactly needed was not on display in any format, their descriptions passed by word of mouth–at least for the vast unwashed and working classes who could neither afford the newspapers or the goods for sale, as these were the times (in general that were BDI (“before disposable income). The “luxury” of catalogued needs really didn’t begin until the mass circulation broadsheet or newspaper and the growth of the lower middle class, which in North America wasn’t until the 19th century. Not only did this medium display the possibly variations of need, but also made suggestions of needs-not-yet-imagined, introducing the unknown for consideration in the “need” department. These are early advertisements that were also selling the possibilities of themselves, as well the dream that went with them.

Want ads elastic917It is interesting to look at advertisements from other eras–they seem to have an hypnotic effect, a small about of caffeinated want-lust is perhaps left over from those antique displays. In any event it is fascinating and revealing to see what the popular goods were that were being displayed. And by the time of the example that I’m using for today’s post– American Agriculturist for the Farm, Garden, and Household (published in New York in 1871, this being volume XXX of the rock-of-Gibraltar journal for the small farmer)–the pages were teeming with material for sale. For this one issue (February, 1871) there were a scant forty pages to the issue–the format though was packed with info, the type was about 8-point and in triple columns, and the sheets were 13 inches tall. Pages 121-148 (of 160) is news and reports on all matters agricultural, from news on different seeds to newly manufactured sowers to discussions of fertilizers to a new type of cucumber; the rest of the issue, pages 149-160, were entirely dedicated to advertisement, the ads running cheek-to-jowl, some of which were 1/8-pagers, and the other tiny slugs of one square inch. There’s about 250 ads on these twelve pages, many of which are illustrated. The woodcut images are occasionally fantastic.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1926

From the looks of it, this image from an 8 April 1933 issue of the Illustrated London News is not quite a "verbal bomb" as we might think of such a thing today. The cutaway drawing (by the sensational G.H. Davies, who produced hundreds of these images for the magazine over four decades)shows an acoustic device housed in a Vickers Victoria aircraft. As described in the descriptive text to the image, Sir Philip Sassoon ("speaking in the House of Commons on the Air Estimates last month") mentioned in May 1933 an attempt to induce forces hostile to the U.K. in Northern Kurdistan by flying over rebel strongholds and threatening an air attack if no surrender was forthcoming.

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Evidently a translator would address the town at 2-4,000' elevation through an audio system that amplified the voice"1,600,000 times". An address was made to the leaders of the tribesmnen to surrender their position, else an air attack would occur after three days. Even though described in the title of the image as a "verbal bomb", it isn't anything like the directed energy/sonic/acoustic/infrasonics/pulse weapon performance degraders that are currently available. What was happening here was simply (or not so) an attempt to get an enemy to relieve their position via tangible threat, sort of an acoustic leaflet bombing prior to the real thing. Of course this was backed up by actual bombing, which was still a relatively new weapon for armies–several nations which possessed this newish facility of war practiced bombing civilian/military targets alike in extra-territorial possessions. (There was a hot debate over what constituted fair use of aerial bombs beginning in earnest in the 1920's, but much of that soon devolved into debates on what constituted "civilian populations", and there the definitions were wide and sloppy.) In any event, the loudspeakers did not emit high-powered sound that would disturb/puncture eardrums or cause dizziness or problems with eyesight by making the eyeballs vibrate–they were just loud conveyers of Bad Things to Come.

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

In my experience with images in silhouette, the technical adaptations are very unusual (at least for things that are not spotter guides for enemy aircraft or ships-at-night)–more uncommon still are industrial buildings rendered in silhouette. But here’s an example, taken from the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) for 1936. These are factories in the Feldmuehle Papier- und Zellstoffwerke company , and are really quite attractive.

The following two images are details from the 14th silhouette, at bottom-center:

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And the full-pahe ads looks so:

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Also see an earlier post here on Air-Punk & Underwater 19th Century Cyborgs]


This land-whale of a vehicle, a bus design for "Land Crusing De Luxe", is left mostly to our imagination so far as specs and stats go. It looks as though it would accommodate perhaps 14 people on a long haul. There were two levels of living space as well as room for two (or four?) in sleeping quarters…perhaps a more luxurious class was seated downstairs. In any event there were three attendants on the bus for its not-many passengers, including a chef, a seward and a driver. (Elsewhere in the article the driver is referred to as a "pilot".)

I'm sure this would have been a beautiful thing–I picture is red on black, with an ultra-shine. I'm also sur ethat it would have been a delsight.

Source: Popular Mechanics, August, 1934.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1878

There is, buried deep within this engraving, a small but penetrating snapshot of working life in very early 19th century England. Very working life. We'll get to that in a moment, after introductions are made to the brilliant composer of these images.

Blogtunnel_full239 J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, and was published in America for the first time in 1851 following Spencer Baird’s translation from its original German.

The key to his work is the amount of data displayed on each of the 500 engraved plates illustrating this work and the way in which it is arranged. The design and layout of the 30,000 items on these 500 plates was a work of genius, and for my money it is easily the best-presented complex means of the display of data and objects that was published in the 19th century.

Take for example this illustration in the technology section (a subdivision of the applied arts which is a sub division of the plastic arts) and, continuing in this complicated scheme, was Plate 1 from Section X Number A1 with a description found in the text on a dozen pages in Section 2 of Volume 2 on section pages 134-150 and overall page numbers 835-851 (!). The plate contains 35 figures, very finely executed and rendered (many of the other of the 500 plates have 100 or more figures), and is in general related to the construction of roads and tunnels (and further, part of the “communications” section).

This of course would be a perfect Hypertext candidate.

The illustration itself contains an enormous amount of information. The row along the top third or so is dedicated to street construction and paving stone, showing stones in plan and profile, as well as a cross section and ground plan of a “typical” street (including sidewalks). It is interesting to note the detail of the cross section and the stonework that is placed beneath the horse and wagon section of the street. There are some other beauties here as well–details of wooden paving blocks, the plan for a Laves of Hanover road, different ways of cutting stone blocks—but we won’t deal with those right now, except to point out that there are several renderings of street cleaners and road rollers (of Shettenmann and another of Schaefer) used to border the street section from the tunnel section.

Blogtunnel_middle241 The middle section of the engraving is of course a cross section of the Thames tunnel of the beautifully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (begun in 1825 and completed 1843, the tunnel 35 feet wide (11 m), 20 feet (6 m) high and 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running between Wapping and Rotherhithe at a depth of 75 feet (23 m)). The representation here is only one inch high and ten inches long but is loaded with just fabulous detail, no the least of which are the (less than) 1mm tall workmen that can still be seen in the tunnel.
The enlarged detail shows a section of the tunnel being built according to Brunel’s new specifications: a larger, shielded tunnel being constructed around the interior construction of 12 individual tunnels (each about tall enough to allow a (short) man to stand erect.

It is unneccessary to say how difficult this work must have been. Cramped, dirty, dark, stale-aired, and dangerous, this was the very definition of a compromised working environment.

In short, the engraving is a superb example of *correct* design of great artistic ability, all accomplished while displayed heaps and gobs of interconnected, complex information.