Cyrus McCormick: Inventor and Salesman

Lead: Denied a renewal on his patent for a mechanical reaper in 1848, Cyrus McCormick transformed himself into a marketing genius and blew the competition away.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the early 1800s the harvesting of grain had not caught up with other agricultural improvements. You could grow grain in great abundance, particularly in the rich soils of the newly settled mid-west, but getting it out of the ground was a problem. Harvesting wheat was labor intensive. If you could find workers, slave or free, they were very expensive in proportion to the revenue generated by the crop. The first commercially practical reaper for the harvesting of wheat was invented in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1831 by Cyrus Hall McCormick, the studious and clever son of a blacksmith. It consisted of a vibrating cutting blade, a reel to bring the stalks within reach and a platform to receive the falling grain. This basic design has changed but little in the years since. McCormick took out a patent in 1834 but lost interest until hard times forced him in the late 1830s to consider exploiting his invention. He sold several but discovered that during his absence others had entered the market most especially Obed Hussey whose design was different and whose reaper was popular in Pennsylvania and New York.

George Westinghouse II

Lead: Aware of repeated and often deadly railroad accidents, George Westinghouse developed the air brake.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At first Westinghouse tried to harness the steam generated by the locomotive, but found that by the time steam reached the rear of the train it had begun to condensing thus losing its power to force the brakes. His solution came while reading a magazine article describing the construction of the huge railroad tunnel through Mont Cenis in the Italian Alps. Instead of generating steam deep in the mountain for drilling which would eat up precious oxygen, engineers compressed air on the outside and pumped it to the tunnel face. Westinghouse applied the same principle to stopping trains, some of which were dozens of cars in length.

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George Westinghouse I

Lead: On a dark February night in 1871, the chief engineer of the New York Central's crack Pacific Express, Doc Simmons, peered beyond a rounded bend south of Poughkeepsie, New York and saw disaster coming and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Everything was executed precisely. Simmons blew the emergency whistle. Trainmen between each of the passenger cars went to their stations. The icy handles began to turn. The brakes began to bite. Too little. Too late. A wrecked freight train lay tumbled across the small drawbridge just ahead. The Pacific Express, its useless brakes complaining loudly, drove through the oil-filled tank cars and pitched into Wappinger Creek. The tanks ignited. Thirty people died including Doc Simmons. Pity. Had the New York Central not been so cheap, Simmons would surely have been able to save lives that night. Already available was a device so effective that it was to revolutionize the railroad industry. In the public outcry following the Wappinger Creek disaster, New York Central and most other major lines began to equip their passenger stock with an invention by a little-known engineer. It was the air brake. His name was George Westinghouse.

History’s Turning Points: Japan Discovers the Gun II

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: Japan rediscovers the gun.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1543, visiting Portuguese explorers jumped from the deck of a Chinese commercial ship into Japanese shallow waters and with their muskets shot a duck. The unfavorable results on the duck were duly noted by Lord Tokitaka, who purchased from the Portuguese two guns and commissioned his swordsmiths to copy these new weapons. Within a century firearms were playing a widespread, destructive role in the dynastic and feudal warfare consuming the Japanese upper class. These weapons were very good, indeed the Japanese significantly improved on comparable European designs. One such innovation was waterproof rain protection for the ignition platform, but soon the Japanese abandoned firearms and mostly returned to hand-held weapons such as the sword and the bow and arrow.

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History’s Turning Points: Japan Discovers the Gun I

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: Japan rediscovers the gun.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: Japan has taken a well-earned place in the modern era as a seat of much industrial innovation. Within 60 years of the visit of Commodore Perry in 1855, Japan had wrenched itself so significantly into the contemporary world that its navy had inflicted havoc on Russian naval forces at the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, sending the pride of the Czar’s fleet to the bottom of the Sea of Japan. In another thirty-six years, Japan would temporarily humble the world’s preeminent industrial power at Pearl Harbor.

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Windmills

Lead: Evoking visions of the charming Dutch countryside, the tilting object of slightly confused Spanish knights, and fights between green power and wealthy islanders, one of things that modernized rural America was the windmill.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1854, Daniel Halladay, a New England inventor, submitted a patent application for a self-regulating windmill, an ingenious device that automatically closed its blades during high winds so as to protect itself from damage. According to essayist Stuart Leuthner, this inaugurated the era of the American windmill.

Making Pictures Talk II

Lead: Making pictures talk, putting sound with film, took decades to develop. It required a whole new kind of technology.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The problem was synchronization and sound quality. Essayist Curt Wohleber writes that even if an inventor could have gotten lips to synch with pictures of the person speaking, turn of the century sound reproduction was so bad that it would have ruined the effect. Yet, by 1910, the tools were in place which would ultimately solve the problem. Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone had demonstrated that sound could be converted into an electric signal. Then Lee de Forest developed the audion, a vacuum tube that amplified and manipulated recorded sound. By 1920 De Forest had developed a new system, which converted sound into light. Processed by an audion, light was shined through a thin slit and recorded on the movie film at the exactly the right time, therefore speaking lips fit with spoken words.

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Making Pictures Talk I

Lead: Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph and the motion picture. Putting them together proved to be extraordinarily difficult.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In 1877 Edison introduced his first sound recording, his own voice reading "Mary Had a Little Lamb." A dozen years later, with an improved version on the market, he started work on method of recording and reproducing moving photographs.

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