The Funicular

Chas, “The Funicular”, Zagreb, Croatia

This is one of the shortest; but also one of the steepest funiculars in the world. The track length is only 217 feet; but the height is 100 feet with an inclination of 52 degrees. The funicular started operation in 1890 powered by a steam engine, which was replaced withan electric engine in 1934. The cars reach the top in 64 seconds.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of July

Casual Attitude

July 7, 1880 was the birthdate of the American inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder.

Otto Rohwedder was born in Davenport, Iowa, the son of Claus and Elizabeth Rohwedder, of ethnic German descent. He attended the public schools in Davenport, eventually becoming an apprentice fo a jeweler to learn a trade. He continued his studies, graduating with a degree in optics from the Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology in Chicago.

Otto Rohwedder became successful in his career as a jeweler, expanding his business to three locations in Saint Joseph, Missouri, where he had settled with his wife and two children. He used his experience with watches to invent new machines in his spare time. Convinced that he could develop a machine that would slice bread, Rohwedder sold his jewelry stores to fund his efforts. In 1917 a fire broke out in his factory, destroying his prototype and his blueprints. Forced to find new funding for his project, it took several more years before he could bring his machine to market.

In 1927 Otto Rohwedder successfully designed a machine that not only sliced the bread but wrapped it afterwards. He applied for patents and sold the first machine to Frank Bench of the Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri, in 1928. The first loaf of automatically sliced bread sold commercially on July 7, 1928, on Rhowedder’s forty-eighth birthday. Sales of the machine to other bakeries increased and sliced bread became available across the country.

In 1930 the Continental Baking Company of New York City introduced their “Wonder Bread” as a sliced bread. Other major companies saw the success of the marketing and followed with their own sliced products. The availability of standardized slices boosted the sales of the 1926 invention, the automatic pop-up toaster. For the first time, American bakeries in the year 1933 sold more sliced than unsliced bread loaves.

Otto Rohwedder was granted seven patents for his bread slicing and handling machines between the years 1927 to 1936. In 1933, he sold his patent rights to the Micro-Westco Company of Bettendorf, Iowa, and joined the company. He became vice-president and sales manager of the Rohwedder Bakery Machine division. His original bread-slicing machine is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The Glass Insulator

Blue Colored Hemingray CD257 “Mickey Mouse Ears” Glass Insulator

The Hemingray Glass Company operated between 1848-1972 and was the largest manufacturer of glass insulators in the world. This five inch high cable-style insulator by Hemingray was produced from 1910 to 1940. It was used in secondary power distribution and had a voltage rating of  6,600 volts. They were produced in two versions: a regular saddle groove (as shown) and a wide saddle groove for heavier gauge wire. It was patented on June 17, 1890.

Art Deco Radio

Addison 2 “Waterfall” Catalin Art Deco Radio, 1940, Dark Green and Butterscotch

The Addison 2 was made circa 1940 by Addison Industries Limited in Canada. It had an Art Deco unique styling and bold use of color; in this model it featured a marbleized dark green-black case and butterscotch trim.  This streamlined radio design featured the famous “waterfall” speaker grill trim and surround “bumpers” at the base with speed-lines.  A fairly small radio for the period, it measures 10.25 inches x 6 inches high x 5 inches deep.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 21st of June

Pastel Study in Blues and Pinks

The original Ferris wheel opened to the public on June 21, 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

George Washington Gate Ferris Jr. was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Pittsburgh bridge-builder. He began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. Ferris understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders.

The buttressed steel wheel that Ferris designed was truly original—so much so that the structure’s design had to be derived from basic assumptions because no one actually had experience constructing a machine of this size. By the winter of 1892, Ferris had the acquired the $600,000 in funding he needed but had just four months of the coldest winter in living memory to complete construction before the expo opened. To meet the deadline, Ferris split the wheel’s construction among several local machine shops and constructed individual component sets congruently and assembled everything on-site.

Construction crews first struggled with laying the wheel’s foundation. The site’s soil was frozen solid three feet deep overlaying another 20 feet of sand that exhibited liquefaction whenever crews attempted to drive piles. To counter the effects of the sand, engineers continually pumped steam into the ground to thaw it, then drove piles 32 feet deep into the bedrock to lay steel beams and poured eight concrete and masonry piers measuring 20 x 20 x 35 feet.

These pylons would support the twin 140-foot towers upon which the wheel’s central 45-ton, 45-foot-long, 33-inch-wide axle would rest. The wheel section measured 250 feet across, 825 feet around, and supported thirty-six enclosed wooden cars that each held up to sixty riders. Ten-inch steam pipes fed a pair of one thousand horsepower engines—a primary and a reserve—that powered the wheel’s movement. Three thousand of Edison’s new-fangled light bulbs lit up the wheel’s supports.

The Ferris Wheel opened on June 21, 1893 on the first day of the Exposition and ran until November 6th of that year. A fifty cent fare entitled the rider to an initial six-stop revolution as the passengers filled the cars and then a nine-minute continuous revolution with views across Lake Michigan and parts of four states. The attraction was a success, earning $726,805 during the Exposition. By 1906, after operating for thirteen years in three locations, the original Ferris Wheel had fallen into disrepair and was slated for demolition. It required three hundred pounds of dynamite to completely level the wheel and shatter its foundations.

Brady Whitney

Brady Whitney, The Codex Silenda

Merging two of the ultimate pastimes—books and puzzles—the Codex Silenda has to be physically solved in order to read it. And no, these aren’t simple word games and math problems, but rather deviously complicated mechanical puzzles crafted from laser-cut wood that are embedded within each part of this 5-page book. The solution to each puzzle physically unlocks the next page. As the reader moves through the book a short story is also revealed, etched on pages opposite the puzzles.

The Codex Silenda was created by industrial designer Brady Whitney who is currently funding the it as project on Kickstarter. At the moment it looks like all funding tiers involving the book have filled, quadrupling their funding goals, but maybe they’ll add additional levels soon.

The Stealth Bomber

The Stealth Bomber Electric Bike from Sweden

Ultra-powerful electric bike with nine pedal speeds using an internal gearbox in the bottom bracket. Top speed of 50 miles per hour with a 1.5 kwh battery pack and 4,500 watt motor. Long travel front and rear suspension to soak up bumps and jumps, this thing is more motocross than ebike.