The U.S. Geological Survey has a nice collection of photos from the national parks of the American West, including a bunch of images from the various surveys of Yellowstone National Park from late 1800s that eventually led to the land being protected forever by the government. These early black and white photographs capture the beautiful natural landscape of an area that has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and a widely visited places in America.
I came across an interesting article recently about the Phillips screw and its inventor Henry F. Phillips. It was surprising to learn that in a moment of innovation in the late 1930s, Cadillac was the first company to use the Phillips screw. As someone who has the collectively random interests of history, WWII and and U.S. manufacturing, this story is a gold mine.
My friend Mark was telling me the other day that his four-year old son is at the stage in his development that he is constantly asking questions about everything. Apparently, the most common query is — why? In a way, I think I never really grew out of that phase (and I’m sure many of you are the same way). I look at an everyday object and wonder what the story is behind it. What went into it becoming what it is? Because everything has a story, even something as simple as a Phillips screwdriver.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The screw was invented in the early 30’s by Henry F. Phillips, a Portland, Oregon businessman. He knew that car makers needed a screw that could be driven with more torque and that would hold tighter than slotted screws. Car makers also needed a screw that would center quickly and easily, and could be used efficiently on an assembly line. The Phillips screw was designed so that it could be driven by an automated screw driver with increasing force until the tip of the driver popped out without ruining the screw head. So what many consider a design flaw is actually a feature (at least if you’re a car manufacturer).
The Phillips screw first gained acceptance with Cadillac in the late 30’s. Although there is a Phillips Screw Co. today, the company never actually made Phillips screws or drivers. They were produced under license by other companies. Unlicensed knockoffs proliferated, so that in 1949, Mr. Phillips was stripped of his patent.
Last month, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on the history and dire current state of the SS United States, “the most famous ship that didn’t sink”. Even with that motto, the SS United States is relatively unknown by today largely because the popularity of jet travel made ocean liners unnecessary shortly after it first set sail. It remains obscure despite the fact that the S.S. United States still holds the record for the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic. Obsolete almost from the minute the champagne bottle broke across her bow, the once great ship is now in danger of disappearing altogether.
First launched in 1952 after only two years of construction, the SS United States’s fanatical architect William Francis Gibbs had it built secretly, out of public view, on a dry dock in Newport News to strict U.S. Naval standards and his own obsessive guidelines. The glamorous ship had the capacity to hold 3,016 passengers, though it could be converted to carry 15,000 troops during wartime if the need arose. It was longer than the Titanic by 100 feet and faster by fifteen miles per hour, and completely fireproof on the interior (aside from a special fireproof mahogany used on the SS United States’s specially made Steinway pianos, no wood was used on the ship at all). Her famous passengers included John Wayne, Grace Kelly, Salvador Dalí, and John F. Kennedy. Seemingly every detail of the ship was meticulously planned and executed during construction to ensure that the SS United States would secure its place in history as the greatest passenger vessel of all time.
There’s a man in my hometown of Cleveland named Kyle Bitters who has been amassing a considerable collection of vintage thermoses. I recently learned about this collection of American vacuum bottles from another Clevelander (the talented photographer Eric Kvatek) who posted photos of all of these old thermoses on his blog. The significance of all of these thermoses was not lost on me, once I saw this place I quickly emailed Eric to find out more. The thermos guy, Kyle, who’s a retired air traffic controller, has apparently been collecting these since 1990 and has focused on metal bodied thermoses that don’t have characters or cartoons on them. His collection is greater than any I have ever seen. I’m sure someone in Japan would come and buy it from him for a considerable sum. Though, I’d have half a mind to make Kyle an offer myself.
Brothers Sandy and Emil Corsillo started The Hill-Side in 2009 with the simple idea of incorporating selvage fabrics into neckties, pocket squares and other accessories. It was, I’m guessing, one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments for a lot of people. A great idea that received a tremendous response. What began as a simple idea to put a spin on accessories, has since evolved into a bigger operation for the brothers Corsillo, a mini-menswear-empire that now includes a helluva lot of wholesale distribution (The Hill-Side is the brand I most consistently see in good shops around the world, that’s no exaggeration) an online store and the well-respected Brooklyn retail outpost Hickoree’s.
What started as an idea rooted in interesting fabrics has grown from that original concept, and it has at the same time remained focused on it. Earlier this year Hickoree’s teamed with a host of different men’s brands to produce a fifty item collaboration collection that incorporated dozens of fabrics from The Hill-Side. The emphasis on interesting fabric continues today with The Hill-Side’s special new collection of Old Virginia Modified Herringbone accessories. Made in the moonshine producing countryside of rural Virginia by a sixth generation weaver named Bob on an old loom, the collection continues The Hill-Side’s tradition of incorporating interesting and artisanal elements into its quirky offerings.
Just getting around to this, but it sort of is the perfect weekend for this type of thing. This past month the Japanese magazine Huge published an issue centered around all things American. The topic was approached in a uniquely Japanese way, which is to say it was comprehensive and something that seemed much closer in structure to a catalog than a magazine. Huge made in USA was very obviously based on the 1970s magazine Made in U.S.A. (pictured below), which was a watershed moment for many American brands in Japan. The copy below (Made in U.S.A-2) was a gift from a colleague in Tokyo who I work with on Red Wing. According to him, this magazine (which currently fetch about $250 per issue) is what really put the Red Wing Shoe Company on the map in Japan. Made in U.S.A.-2 is for me a prized possession and a constant source of inspiration.
Huge covers a lot of familiar ground by including folks like Wood&Faulk, Dehen, Stanley & Sons, Archival Clothing and a host of other American manufacturers. There are also some surprises and new finds along the way. If you live anywhere near a Kinokuniya you can still get your very own copy of Huge (June). If you are looking for a copy of Made in U.S.A.-2 best to search on Yahoo Japan auctions and hope the seller ships to the good old USA.
badass |ˈbadˌas| informal |ORIGIN 1950s: from the adjective bad + ass.
adjective: formidable; excellent: this is one badass memo pad.
Not only is Draplin an ACL Hero and American Icon, he’s also half of the wildly popular “pocket material” empire Field Notes. In a follow-up to Draplin’s other famous videos (what’s the status of that documentary?), the native Michigander spends some time “talkin corn” and showing off some of the farmers promotional memo books that served to spur the creation of Field Notes. The more video of Draplin I see, the more he continues to inspire and entertain. Respect must be paid to him for sticking to what he loves and for making great stuff.