Friday, September 15, 2017
100 years ago a large swath of Europe had been reduced to a trench-marred killing zone and German bombers had brought the war to London as World War I ground on toward its eventual and inconclusive end. Minds turned toward mechanized warfare, concocting ideas both horrible and ridiculous. In an era before the walkie-talkie, battlefield communication relied upon a combination of semaphore, flares, whistles, and written messages delivered by dispatch. Commanding officers, often located miles from the front, had to rely on outdated and often inaccurate information when making important decisions, adding to the stalemate that symbolized much of World War I.
With this problem vexing military minds, the same fervor for mechanized warfare that had militarized the biplane and created the tank awkwardly pivoted toward improving communication. It would be over twenty five years before reliable two-way radio communication came to the military, so the natural answer seemed to be increasing the efficiency and speed of the dispatch and thus the September of 1917 Popular Mechanics ran this cover.
Popular Mechanics called its big idea "The Unicycle Dispatch Rider" (in spite of the illustration clearly showing two wheels), a machine which essentially amounted to an inverted, prop-driven, velocipede. The idea never took off for a pretty basic reason - trench warfare developed to shelter fighting men from the raking fire of another World War I invention, the machine gun, and riding a big unicycle would be a little like strapping on a big target. Besides, the landscape of the front with its sandbags, shell craters, barbed wire, and other obstacles didn't make for much of a bike path.
Regardless, I like the steampunk feel of the cover, it kind of has a Jules Verne/H. G. Wells feel that speaks to the sci-fi writer in me.
Monday, August 21, 2017
"Now, Ethel, Harold says he's sorry he broke your doll, so I want you to forgive him."
"I'd feel more like forgivin' him, Mother, if I could swat him one first."
Life Magazine, October 22, 1914
Monday, August 14, 2017
Monday, August 7, 2017
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Life Magazine, July 2, 1914
More firework hating from Life Magazine. I have to wonder if the publisher back in 1914 had a really bad encounter with a sparkler when he was a kid. He sure seems to be traumatized by pyrotechnics!