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July 12 : On this day

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1844 : Fog Horn was First Demonstrated

The fog horn was first demonstrated Captain J.N. Taylor of the Royal Navy in 1844. At the time, it was called a telephone – to mean far-signalling, thus an instrument like a fog-horn, used on ships, railway trains, etc., for signalling by loud sounds or notes. The July 19, 1844 Times (London) reported, “Yesterday week was a levée day at the Admiralty, and amongst the numerous models..was Captain J. N. Tayler’s telephone instrument… The chief object of this powerful wind instrument is to convey signals during foggy weather. Also the Illustrated London News on 24 Aug. 1844 referred to “The Telephone; a Telegraphic Alarum. Amongst the many valuable inventions..that of the ‘Telephone, or Marine Alarum and Signal Trumpet,’ by Captain J. N. Taylor.”


1859 : Paper Bag Machine was Patented

goodale paper bag machine
Goodale’s paper bag machine design

In 1859, the paper bag manufacturing machine was patented by William Goodale, Mass.

1870 : Patent for Improved Process to Produce Celluloid

john wesley hyatt
John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920) of the Albany Billiard Ball Company , undated. Hyatt is credited for his use and production of celluloid. (Albany County Historical Association’s Hall of Fame/Times Union archive)

In 1870, a U.S. patent (No. 105,338) for an improved process to produce celluloid was awarded to John Wesley Hyatt, Jr., (1837 – 1920) the man considered to be the “father of the U.S. Plastics industry,” and his brother, Isaiah S. Hyatt of Albany, N.Y. In the early 1860’s he sought a substitute material for ivory billiard balls. He improved the techniques of molding pyroxylin (a partially nitrated cellulose) with camphor by dissolving in an alcohol and ether mixture to make it softer and more malleable. This he called “Celluloid,” a name trademarked on 14 Jan 1873. It was the first synthetic plastic. Unfortunately, it was inflammable, but was used for a period for production of photographic film, among other applications.

1894 : Eight Electrical Units were Adopted in U.S.

In 1894, eight units for the measurement of electrical magnitudes were adopted in U.S. law when President Grover Cleveland signed an Act of Congress “to define and establish the units of electrical measure” for the ohm, ampere, volt, coulomb, farad, joule, watt and henry. It was specified to be “the duty of the Academy of Sciences to prescribe … such specifications of details as shall be necessary for the practical application of the definitions.” The Act followed an International Congress held at Chicago in 1893, in connection with the World’s Fair. There, a Chamber of Delegates from various nations deliberated on the definitions. The International Congress was largely due to the Institute of Electrical Engineers and to local societies in the city of Chicago.

1906 : First Wireless Telegraphy Message in Southern Hemisphere

Guglielmo Marconi c.1902 (Image source : Science Museum Group Collection)

The first long-distance wireless telegraphy message across water in the southern hemisphere was transmitted 300-km across Bass Strait from Devonport, Tasmania to Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia, to demonstrate Marconi’s equipment. A Morse code message from Governor Gerald Strickland of Tasmania, was sent to Governor General Northcote of Victoria. The town celebrated. Businesses closed for the afternoon. A band played for the crowd of 2000 people at the event. Despite the test’s success, the Australian Government postponed purchase or approval for the service and after three months the stations were dismantled. However, by 1912, wireless equipment was required for ships in Australian waters.

1920 : Formal Dedication of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade.

In 1920, the Panama Canal was formally dedicated. It had taken more than 30 years to overcome the enormous engineering challenges and complete at a cost of $347 million. The first ship had, in fact, travelled through six years earlier when the Panama Canal opened to shipping on 15 Aug 1914. At that time, the world scarcely noticed the event since German troops were driving across Belgium toward Paris and the newspapers relegated the Panama story to their back pages; the greatest engineering project in the history of the world had been eclipsed by the totality of World War I.

1922 : First Motorcycle on U.S. Stamp

first motorcycle stampIn 1922, the new issue of the blue 10-cent U.S. Special Delivery stamp had for the first time the image of a motor cycle, replacing the 9 Dec 1902 version with a bicycle. Being the first new stamp of the Harding presidency, the revised design demonstrated a growing post-World War I interest in developing technology. This stamp began the year’s series of new regular postage stamps, collectively having a patriotic theme, and was issued with much more publicity than any previous regular series. The increased level of attention given by the Post Office Department to this series included giving advance notice, and is regarded as the early roots of the later practice of issuing First Day Covers for stamp collectors.

1957 : Connection between Lung Cancer and Smoking

smoking kills
Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

U.S. Surgeon General Leroy Burney, who served in the post from 1956 to 1961, issued a report on a connection smoking and lung cancer. Dr. Leroy Burney, US Surgeon General during the Eisenhower Administration was the first government official to publicly acknowledge the connection between smoking and lung cancer. Dr. Burney, himself a smoker, issued the report in 1957, saying, “It is clear that there is an increasing and consistent body of evidence that excessive cigarette smoking is one of the causative factors in lung cancer.” This statement and a stronger one two years later in 1959 set the stage for the 1964 Surgeon General Report on smoking and health. Burney died 31 July 1998, at the age of 91.





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