July 31, 1790: Samuel Hopkins receives a patent for a potash process – the first US patent. Potash refers to mined and manufactured salts containing potassium in a water soluble form. They are usually used for fertilizer and today over 30 million tons of the stuff is produced annually. Hopkins hailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received this first patent for an improvement “in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” A new law passed on April 10, 1790 allowed for a patent to be granted, but these were evaluated by a committee of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Attorney General.
Hopkins’ new patent was signed by President Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. There were two more patents granted that same year. One for a new candle-making process and one for to Oliver Evans for a four-milling machine. This was new only in the fledgling country. The idea of patents stems from Renaissance Italy. The rest of Europe liked the idea brought out of Italy by Venetian glass-blowers who used the method to protect themselves from local artisans.
The first recorded patent for an invention was granted in 1449 to John of Utyman for a glass-making process previously unknown to England. John was awarded a 20-year monopoly. He supplied the glass for windows in such prestigious places at the Eton College Chapel. He was required to also teach the process to native Englishmen. Today, the US Patent Office receives hundreds of thousands of patent applications. There is a backlog of applications waiting for review. In January 2009, that backlog numbered 764,352. After working diligently for years, as of May 2011, it was down to 703,175 – its lowest point in the last few years.
There are many different patents being issued continually. In 1997, the top patent recipient was IBM. They were also the top recipient in 1998 through 2008. From 2003 through 2008, IBM received 20,519 patents. The last year alone, they had 4,169. In 2008, the top ten recipients got a total of 20,978 patents. The Korean company, Samsung Electronics, came in second with 3,502, five companies from Japan made the list, and Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard were the other top American patent recipients.
“A patent, or invention, is any assemblage of technologies or ideas that you can put together that nobody put together that way before. That’s how the patent office defines it. That’s an invention.” – Dean Kamen
“Lincoln said that the Patent Office adds the flame of interest to the light of creativity. And that is why we need to improve the effectiveness of our Patent Office.” – Jay Inslee
“No patent medicine was ever put to wider and more varied use than the Fourteenth Amendment.” – William O. Douglas
“This is the patent age of new inventions for killing bodies, and for saving souls. All propagated with the best intentions.” – Lord Byron
July 30, 2003: A mariachi band serenades the last old style Volkswagen Beetle as it rolls off the assembly line in Mexico. After 65 years in production and 21,529,464 cars later, the old Bug was dead. The Volkswagen Type 1, also known as the Beetle or Bug, was a German economy car built from 1938, and still in production as the New Beetle. While the public called them by their familiar names, Volkswagen itself did not until 1967. Early versions were called 1200, 1300, and 1500 which referred to the size of the engines in cubic centimeters.
Drawbacks to the little car were its styling or lack thereof, weak power, rough ride, and high noise levels. Regardless, it remained on the market for one of the longest periods of manufacture and is one of the most recognizable vehicles ever built.
Designs were first submitted in 1925 and modified over the years. In 1933, Hitler met with Richard Whittle and Ferdinand Porsche and asked them to develop a low-priced Volks-Wagen or People’s Car. It was to hold 2 adults and 3 children, have a top speed of 62 mph and not cost more than 990 Reichsmarks (about 31 weeks pay). The prototype appeared in 1935 with its air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. Production began and then war broke out. While Nazi elites were offered a chance to own a civilian version of Volkswagen from 1940-1945, most were military vehicles.
After the war, production resumed and by 1955 the one-millionth car rolled off the assembly line. The top speed was now 72 mph and the little car got 31 mpg. It was the top selling foreign car in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967, with stiff competition from the world market, Volkswagen made radical changes. While the car was no larger, many of the components were. Horsepower was increased, the electric generator doubled, the clutch size increased, along with many other systems. It came in new colors and with upgraded upholstery.
By 1994, Volkswagen knew that something more needed to be done and created the all new and improved Beetle. The old Beetle would be phased out and the New Beetle began to be sold in 1998. It comes hard top and convertible, 2- or 3-door, standard, Turbo, or diesel engines/transmissions, and costs about $17,000.
“As Volkswagen demonstrated, … automakers know how to design good bumpers.” – Adrian Lund
“We were the little Volkswagen trying to climb that hill without all of its cylinders. We gave it everything we had. We battled and battled. The neat thing is we figured out a way to win. That’s probably the best thing I can say.” – Mike Wilton
“The New Beetle never would have gotten approved for production if it hadn’t gotten rave reviews at the (Detroit) show from the public and the press, which stopped in its tracks when they saw it. That message quickly got back to Volkswagen that people thought it was cool and wanted VW to build it.” – Jim Hossack
“Americans are notorious car abusers. When Volkswagen cars are driven like typical Americans drive them, that’s when they start having significant problems.” – John Wolkonowicz
July 29, 1864: During the US Civil War, a spy was captured in Washington, D.C. Isabella Marie Boyd was born in 1844 in western Virginia. She was the eldest child in her family and called her early life idyllic. Although not rich, her family provided her with a good education. She attended Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore at age 12 and completed her training by age 16. At that time, her family arranged a debut in Washington where she lived the carefree life of a debutante.
Belle came to spying by accident. On July 4, 1861, Union soldiers removed a Confederate flag from outside her home and replaced it with a Union one. Next, one of the Union soldiers cursed at her mother and this enraged the teen. She pulled a pistol and shot the guy. She was exonerated, but her house was placed under guard. She charmed the men guarding her and learned military secrets. Belle sent those secrets on to Confederate officers via her slave. This plan unraveled when Eliza Hopewell, the slave was caught. The women were threatened with death if they tried this stunt again.
In May of 1862, Union officers met at the local hotel to discuss strategy. Belle hid in a closet to eavesdrop. Belle learned some state secrets and took off into the night, riding herself through Union lines. She used fake papers and lots of bravado to bluff her way through. She got to speak with an aide to General Stonewall Jackson and gave him information. She was given the Southern Cross of Honor. However, Belle’s lover turned her into the Union officials who arrested her on this day.
After her arrest, she was taken to the Old Capitol Prison. An inquiry was held on August 7 mostly concerning violations of orders that Boyd be kept in close custody. She was held for a month before her release was affected on August 29 during an exchange of prisoners at Fort Monroe. Later, she was arrested again for spying and once again was set free. In 1864 she went to England and there she met and married a Union naval officer.
After the war, Belle stayed on in England where she became an actress. Her husband died in 1866 and she returned to the US in 1869. Once there, she married again, this time a Southerner. She divorced him in 1884 and a year later married yet again. In 1886 she began to tour the country and gave dramatic lectures about her days as a Confederate spy. She died of heart attack in 1900 in Wisconsin and was buried there with GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, an organization composed of Union Army veterans) members acting as pallbearers.
BORN IN VIRGINIA
DIED IN WISCONSIN
ERECTED BY A COMRADE” – Bell Boyd’s tombstone
“To him, I am indebted for some very remarkable effusions, some withered flowers, and a great deal of important information.” – Belle’s diary concerning Captain Daniel Keily (first attempt at spying)
“The Yankee force is very small. Tell him to charge right down and he will catch them all.” – Belle’s message for Stonewall Jackson
“I thank you, for myself and for the army, for the immense service that you have rendered your country today.” – Stonewall Jackson’s note to Belle
“Since knowledge is but sorrow’s spy, It is not safe to know.” – William Davenant
July 28, 1945: A plane flies into the tallest building in New York City. The building had been designed by William F. Lamb who used previously rejected drawings to create the design in just two weeks. Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930 and the actual building was started on St. Patrick’s Day that year. There were about 3,000 people working on the building, mostly immigrants. Five of those workers died during construction. Former New York’s governor, Al Smith, allowed his grandchildren to cut the ribbon, opening the building on May 1, 1931. President Hoover turned on the lights remotely from Washington, D.C. and the Empire State Building was officially opened.
The Empire State Building stands 1,250 feet tall at the 102nd floor Observatory. Atop that is the 203 foot tall pinnacle for a total rise of 1,453 feet and 8 9/16 inches. The 86th floor has an indoor and outdoor observation deck. The pinnacle is peppered with broadcast antennas and topped by a lightning rod. It was the first construction project of over 100 floors and there are 1,872 steps from the ground to the 103rd floor. There are 6,514 windows in the building as well as 73 elevators. Also included are 473 miles of electrical wiring and 70 miles of pipe. It cost $40,948,900 to build.
In 1945, July 28 was a Saturday. It was foggy morning. Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr. was piloting a B-25 Mitchell bomber. He was undertaking a routine personnel transport mission from Boston to LaGuardia Airport. When he asked for permission to land, he was told of the zero visibility. He opted to proceed regardless of this problem. Because of the dense fog, he became disoriented. When he passed the Chrysler Building, he should have turned left. Instead, he turned right. He crashed into the Empire State Building at 9:40 AM. His plane struck between the 78th and 80th floors and caved in an eighteen by twenty foot hole in the north side of the building.
One engine shot through the opposite side of the impact and flew another block before landing atop another building. There, it started a fire, nearly destroying the penthouse of the affected building. The second engine and the landing gear fell down an elevator shaft. The fire due to the crash was extinguished in forty minutes; even today it remains the only such fire at such a height to be successfully contained. Fourteen people were killed. Betty Lou Oliver was the elevator operator and survived the event. She was lowered inside the elevator and the cable broke, dropping her 75 stories. She was injured, but survived. Despite all this chaos, the building was opened again the following Monday.
“Eddie Fisher married to Elizabeth Taylor is like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with a bar of soap.” – Don Rickles
“The Eiffel Tower is the Empire State Building after taxes.” – Anonymous
“An optimist is someone who falls off the Empire State Building, and after 50 floors says, ‘So far so good!’“ – Anonymous
“The Empire State Building is the closest thing to heaven in this city.” – Terry McKay
July 27, 1586: Sir Walter Raleigh returns from the Virginia colony with a new plant for the amusement of English society – tobacco. Raleigh was an English writer, poet, courtier, explorer, and apparently importer. He was born in 1552 or 54 and was raised Protestant. His family suffered under the rule of Catholic queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII who retaliated against the Catholic purges of her father with Protestant purges of her own. The Raleigh family was grateful when half-sister Elizabeth I took over the thrown.
Raleigh was sent to establish a colony in the New World and while Roanoke failed as a colony, it did pave the way for future, more successful settlements. The original colonists were not farmers, but seekers of gold and riches and they were woefully unprepared for settling in the New World. They did trade with the natives and one of the crops was the tobacco plant.
Tobacco, with its high nicotine content is found in the skeletal remains of ancient peoples only from the Americas. However, it is found throughout both American continents. It has grown in its present state since about 6000 BC. By the current era, it was smoked, chewed, and even used in hallucinogenic enemas. In 1492, Columbus ran into an unexpected land mass on his way to India and found natives with tobacco. The sailors brought some back with them and the first smoker in Europe was promptly jailed.
By 1518 Spain was asking for imports of tobacco and within 30 years Brazil was commercially farming the plant for export. Throughout the 1550s, the spread of tobacco covered much of Europe. By 1564, English sailors were using tobacco, but it was not known off the wharves. Raleigh introduced the habit to English society. Today, tobacco is smoked in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. There is snuff – dry, wet, or even creamy. Snus is steamed snuff and not smoked and has different health effects because of this. Tobacco water is used as a pesticide. And for medical use, the tobacco from one cigarette mixed with a teaspoon of water can be made into a paste and applied to insect stings to stop the pain and itching.
“Never slap a man who chews tobacco.” – Willard Scott
“Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations — wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco.” – Edmund Burke
“Why is it that everybody’s suing the tobacco companies and not the alcohol companies?” – Donald Trump
“For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.” – Walter Raleigh
July 26, 1989: Robert T. Morris is indicted by a federal grand jury, the first person to be brought to the courts by the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. While a graduate student at Cornell University, Morris released a computer worm. He claimed he was trying to determine the size of the Internet. He released the worm via MIT to conceal its origination from Cornell. It was supposed to count how many computers were part of the Net. All did not go exactly as planned.
The Morris worm was released on November 2, 1988 and was one of the first worms distributed via the Internet. The worm was supposed to first check to see if the computer in question had been counted. But Morris wanted to be sure that he was not receiving a false positive. This would have destroyed the worm. Therefore, Morris wrote that it was supposed to copy itself, even if the response to the already checked question was “yes” 1 out of every 7 times. This replication level caused the worm to spread far more rapidly than he had anticipated.
Because of the rapid spread and rapid replication, eventually machines would not only slow down, but come to a complete stop. The denial of service was unintentional, but still a problem. It is said that 6000 major UNIX based computers were infected. The cost of the damage, according to the US GAO was between $10 and $100 million. The loss of productivity caused by the worm was said to range from $20,000 to $530,000 per machine affected.
DARPA responded by funding a central point for experts to coordinate responses to these types of emergencies. The Morris worm is sometimes called the Great Worm reminiscent of the Tolkien creatures, Scathla and Glaurung. Morris was brought to trial and was sentenced to three years probation, 400 hours of community service, and fined $10,000 plus the cost of his supervision. This was far less than the guidelines had called for. Today, Professor Morris is teaching at MIT in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He also co-founded the online store Viaweb, one of the first such stores.
“A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program, which uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network) and it may do so without any user intervention.” – Wikipedia
“The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back.” – Unknown
“Computers have lots of memory but no imagination.” – Unknown
“If you have any trouble sounding condescending, find a Unix user to show you how it’s done.” – Scott Adams
July 25, 1925: Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) is established. A National News Agency was in place beginning in 1904. It’s first incarnation was as the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency (SPTA) established on September 1, 1904 by Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. It was suggested by the Finance, Interior, and Foreign Ministries and approved by the Tsar. One director from each of the ministries sat in control of the news.
The first name change came the day after Tsar Nicholas changed the name of St. Petersburg to Petrograd. The name of the news agency also changed to the Petrograd Telegraph Agency (PTA). It was seized by the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the Revolution and was declared to be part of the central government. The name changed in 1918 to Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) and became “the central information agency of the whole Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.”
In 1925, TASS became the central information agency of the country. TASS held the “exclusive right to gather and distribute information” both inside and outside the country. They controlled the news with 4,000 Soviet newspapers, TV and radio station under their control. They had more than 1,000 foreign outlets as well. They were one of the largest news networks in the world with correspondents in 682 offices inside the USSR and 94 bureaus abroad, employing about 2,000 journalists and photographers.
In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the name again changed to ITAR-TASS. This agency preserves the status of central state information agency of the country. That information is open to the public now. ITAR-TASS maintains an Internet presence with 45 round-the-clock news cycles in six languages and with more than 40 information bulletins. They operate the largest photograph service in Russia. The website maintains electronic data banks holding all agency materials produced since 1987. If all of the daily output from the website were printed, it would fill about 300 newspapers pages.
“To us, who are regaled every morning and evening with intelligence, and are supplied from day to day with materials for conversation, it is difficult to conceive how man can consist without a newspaper, or to what entertainment companies can assemble.” – Samuel Johnson
“I read the Social Democratic newspapers, I saw their disgusting attitude towards anything that bore even the slightest revolutionary character, and I realized that there could be no reconciliation between a revolutionary party and a party trying to earn a reputation for ‘moderation’ in the eyes of the government and the bourgeoisie.” – Peter Kropotkin
“The evil that men do lives on the front pages of greedy newspapers, but the good is oft interred apathetically inside.” – Brooks Atkinson
“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.” – George Orwell
July 24, 1901: William Sidney Porter is released from prison. Porter was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862. His father was a doctor and his mother died of tuberculosis when William was only three. Father and son moved in with an elderly relative. Young Porter read voraciously. He graduated from his Aunt’s elementary school in 1876. He went on to high school and then began working in his uncle’s drugstore in 1881. By age 19, William was a licensed pharmacist. He also began to sketch locals. His health was precarious and so he moved.
He ended up in Texas and took odd jobs on a sheep ranch. By 1884, with his health improved, he moved to Austin, Texas and carried on an active social life. He joined acting groups and sang in the Hill City Quartet. He began dating Athol Estes and even though her father disapproved, they secretly wed. They had a son and a daughter, with only the latter surviving infancy. Porter began working for a friend drawing maps from field notes and surveys. He was earning $100 per month. While doing so, he wrote stories for magazines and newspapers.
His writing began to take off and when he lost his job after an election change, he began working for a bank. His bookkeeping was lax, and he was fired but not indicted. He next began his own humorous weekly. Eventually, it reached a circulation of 1,500 which was not enough to support his family. They moved from Austin to Houston in 1895. There, Porter began working for a newspaper at only $25/month. As his popularity increased, so did his salary.
His old bank was audited, and he was charged with embezzlement. His father-in-law posted bail and the day before the trial, Porter fled. He first went to New Orleans and then to Honduras. His wife who suffered from tuberculosis was too ill to travel. When he learned she was dying, he returned to states and was arrested. He maintained his innocence, but without much defense, he was found guilty and sentenced to five years. He worked as a pharmacist in prison and continued to write. He is best known for his writing, which greatly increased after he moved to New York City to be near his publishers. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. His surprise endings were a trademark and today these types of endings are named for Porter. But they and the award given in his name use his pen name. O. Henry.
“A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.”
“If men knew how women pass the time when they are alone, they’d never marry.”
“Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.”
“Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. – all from O. Henry
July 23, 1888: John Boyd Dunlop applies for a patent for “an improvement in the tyres or wheels for bicycles, tricycles and other road tyres.” Dunlop was a veterinarian from Scotland. After ten years of practice in Scotland, the Dunlops moved to Belfast, Ireland and the good doctor again established a thriving vet practice.
Roads in and around Belfast were rough and rutted. With iron or wooden wheels or even with solid rubber tires, going to area farms was a jarring if not painful experience. Dunlop experimented with cushioned tires using his son’s tricycle. In 1887, he came up with a pneumatic tire – an inflated rubber tire using layers of rubber. He applied for a patent on this date and it was granted in December of 1888.
Unknown to him and apparently to most of the world, Robert William Thompson held a patent in the UK since 1845 and in the US since 1847 for a pneumatic tire. However, no one was producing or using Thompson’s tire. Dunlop went on to establish a business for making his tires although he continued to have legal battles with Thompson.
Dunlop’s tires were a crucial improvement in road travel and that innovation came at a crucial or advantageous time. Dunlop sold his patent for shares in the new company and did not become wealthy as the result of his re-discovery of the cushioned tire. However, his company remains to this day, improving safety and the comfort of road travel. Dunlop Tyres became global in the early 20th century when they opened a plant in Kobe, Japan in 1913. They are a worldwide presence and not only continue to strive to make a safe tire, but to do so without undue stress on the environment. They are proud of their efforts in manufacturing and recycling tires.
“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” – H.G. Wells
“The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond.” – Edward McDonagh
“What a lucky thing the wheel was invented before the automobile; otherwise can you imagine the awful screeching?” – Samuel Hoffenstein
Also on this day:
“Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
July 22, 1298: The battle of Falkirk takes place. The combatants were the Scots and the Brits. Scotland had a period of stability that ended in 1286 when King Alexander III died after a fall from his horse. His four-year-old granddaughter was proclaimed Queen, but she died while traveling back from Norway. This left Scotland without a ruler and before civil war could break out, King Edward of England, stepped in to help settle the matter. By 1292 and before helping out, he insisted all Lords recognize him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. The Lords themselves selected John Balliol as their next ruler. King Edward reversed their decision. The Scots and Brits took up arms to defend their say.
The Battle of Dunbar resulted in a Scottish defeat and King John was forced to abdicate. The nobles were forced to pay homage to King Edward or else be held prisoners of war. Animosity remained and in 1297 William Wallace came to attention when he assassinated William de Heselrig, the English High Sherriff of Lanark. Wallace and William Douglas the Hardy next carried out the raid of the Scone – a rebellion matching many others across Scotland. While many nobles surrendered to the English in July, Wallace and Moray were not among them. They continued their rebellions.
On September 11, 1297, Wallace’s men won a surprising victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. They were greatly outnumbered, but managed to hold the bridge and keep the British from crossing while suffering great casualties. Emboldened by this victory, Wallace led a large scale raid into northern England in November 1297. It was around this time that Wallace was knighted.
The Battle of Falkirk did not have the same topography and the Scots were once again terribly outnumbered. There were about 6,000 Scottish warriors facing 15,000 British soldiers. The English had twice as much cavalry and two-and-a-half times the infantry. Wallace used a devised technique called a schiltron where his soldiers were lined up behind a rounded shield wall. The British were using the longbow and were able to strike behind the shield wall from a great distance. The schiltrons fell apart and the British could move in to victory. Wallace lost many of his supporters and was forced to leave his position of leadership. He was captured in 1305 after a traitor turned him in. He was found guilty of treason and hanged, but not until dead, then he was castrated and eviscerated with his bowels being burnt in front of him. He was then beheaded and quartered. His head was tarred and placed on pike on London Bridge while his limbs were displayed separately throughout England.
“I have brought you to the ring, now dance if you can.” [before the Battle of Falkirk]
“I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.”
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
“I’m William Wallace, and the rest of you will be spared. Go back to England and tell them… Scotland is free!” – all from William Wallace