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America the Ingenious

Kevin Baker

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Overland trail 1841 to 1869. Conestogas not sturdy enough to take on the American Midwest. Needed prairie schooners. Cost best part of $1000 for wagon, a team of mules or oxen, and supplies. You walked, bc wagons built without springs. A bucket of milk left in wagon for the day would self-churn into butter by nightfall. 20,000 pioneers died along the way, mostly through accidental gunshot or disease, partic cholera. but 500,000 made it across.

DeWitt Clinton mayor of NY beginning C19. He abolshed slavery, instituted universal suffrage, ended dsicrimination against Catholics, started free public school system, an orphanage, a literary socirty and a historical society still running today.

He also saw that NY state had only level natural gap in Appalachian Mts before you got to Georgia. Cutting a waterway through it would connect NYC with the Great Lakes, and open up the whole MidWest. Of course, there was the slight matter of digging a 363 mile canal system between Lake Erie and the Hudson River.

Hired 50,000 Irish labourers at 80 cents a day (glad to take it bc that was 5 times more than they earned at home). Predynamite, so used black powder to blow hard rock. Powder was lit by a small boy, on the theory that he could run away faster. A constant bombardment of stones large and small rained down. The labourers would fatalistically hold their shovels over their heads to keep off the shower of small stones and every nowand rhen to be crushed by a large one.

Finished in 1825, two years ahead of schedule, and a huge success. Tolls repaid it's backers in 9 years; backward towns along its route became thriving industrial cities, and NY became the cockpit of the industrial world.

When American cars were first aerodynamically tested in 1930, the "two-box" design was so bad that the cars were most efficient when driven backwards.

DC3 1936 the first airliner that could make a profit just carrying passengers. The intercontinental railway 1876 was a transport revn, being able to carry passengers across America in 83 hours. DC3 could do it in 15 hours, with a couple of stops to refuel. An estimated 400 are still in service today, and it cd conceivably be the first plane to last 100 years of service.

Samuel Morse was a windy, priggish racist who fervently believed that God wanted slavery preserved, ran twice for mayor of NY on anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic ticket, and led a campaign against 'French dancing' in theatres.

'Decibel' coined in honour of Alexander Graham Bell.

1821 a black NYer Thomas Jennings became first African-American to be awarded a patent, for a dry-cleaning process. No mean feat, since slavery still legal in NY until 1827. Some protest at award, since it was against the law for a slave to own anything. But Jennings had been born to free parents.

Jennings got rich from his process, using money to buy his wife and her family out of bondage. Had a daughter, Elizabeth, who anticipated Rosa Parks by over a 100 years. In 1854 she was ejected from a horse-drawn streetcar after a prolonged physical struggle. She sued the streetcar company for damages, won, and forced the desegragation of all the streetcars.

Dr Martin Couney invented incubators (in 1896) to save premature babies but cd not get hospitals to use them. So he exhibited them at sideshows, most famously for many years at Coney Island, charging visitors 25 cents a time to see them. Not until 1950 that hospitals began to use them.

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