Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Scientific American, The Day the Locomotive Lost to the Horse Carriage, and The Tom Thumb Cocktail

On this day in 1845, the very first issue of Scientific American magazine is published. In keeping with the magazine's mandate of publishing the latest that technology had to offer, it featured the cutting edge design improvements made in the newest model railroad cars with the following commentary:
There is perhaps no mechanical subject, in which improvement has advanced so rapidly, within the last ten years, as that of railroad passenger cars. Let any person contrast the awkward and uncouth cars of '35 with the superbly splendid long cars now running on several of the eastern roads, and he will find it difficult to convey to a third party, a correct idea of the vast extent of improvement. Some of the most elegant cars of this class, and which are of a capacity to accommodate from sixty to eighty passengers, and run with a steadiness hardly equaled by a steamboat in still water, are manufactured by Davenport & Bridges, at their establishment in Cambridgeport, Mass. The manufacturers have recently introduced a variety of excellent improvements in the construction of trucks, springs, and connections, which are calculated to avoid atmospheric resistance, secure safety and convenience, and contribute ease and comfort to passengers, while flying at the rate of 30 or 40 miles per hour.
Founded by inventor and publisher Rufus M. Porter in 1845 as a four page weekly newspaper, Scientific American is the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S.  In the early years, much of the magazine's focus had been on new filings at the U.S. Patent office - where much of the new technology first emerged.

On the masthead of the first issue the magazine describes itself as follows:
Each number will be furnished with from two to five original Engravings, many of them elegant, and illustrative of New Inventions, Scientific Principles, and Curious Works; and will contain, in high addition to the most interesting news of passing events, general notices of progress of Mechanical and other Scientific Improvements; American and Foreign. Improvements and Inventions; Catalogues of American Patents; Scientific Essays, illustrative of the principles of the sciences of Mechanics, Chemistry, and Architecture: useful information and instruction in various Arts and Trades; Curious Philosophical Experiments; Miscellaneous Intelligence, Music and Poetry.
It has more than lived up to its description.  144 Nobel Prize Scientists have contributed 234 articles to Scientific American and it is read by 3.5 million people and institutions worldwide.  Although the coverage of the advancements in railroad car design were of great importance in 1845, the magazine now deals with slightly more complex issues.



As a side note to the previous story, on this day in 1830, Peter Cooper's new steam locomotive, The Tom Thumb, would lose a speed race to a horse drawn carriage, but the writing was already on the wall.

Cooper had invested heavily in businesses that would supply the new Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. When the railroad began to have problems with its engines, and thus jeopardizing his investments, Cooper designed a prototype steam locomotive with a barrel as a boiler and steam pipes made out of old musket barrels. While on a track at the railroad yard awaiting a demonstration for executives, a horse drawn carriage pulled up and challenged Cooper and Tom Thumb to a race to which Cooper agreed.

Cooper's locomotive easily moved ahead of the carriage at the start of the race and was far ahead when a belt slipped off a pulley and the steam engine lost power short of the finish line. Although the race had been lost the exectutives were impressed with the newly designed steam engine and it went into production.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (also known to monopoly fans as the B&O Railroad) and Cooper's engine were both great successes.

The Historical Inebriant: The Tom Thumb Cocktail*


1 oz St~Germaine elderflower liqueur
2 large cucumber slices, halved
2 oz dry white wine
3 lime wedges
cucumber wheel for garnish

Muddle 3 lime wedges and 2 large cucumber slices in a shaker to release juices.  Add ice.  Add 2 oz of dry white wine and 2 oz St-Germaine liqueur.  Shake vigorously.  Pour into a glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel

*When I was googling for drinks at the end of this post, I searched for Tom Thumb and this drink came up.  Only when I went back much later to review did I notice that the site was Tom Thumb, a grocery chain, and the drink is actually named Cucumber Cocktail.  Apologies.  I like the drink, I like the grocery store's site and I'm keeping things as they are.  Try the drink, and if you live near a Tom Thumb grocer, let me know what you think of them.

Cucumber Cocktail

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