(Roughly) Daily

This way…


In the 1920s, America began coast-to-coast Airmail service, but the pioneer pilots had trouble navigating the route, since navigation charts of the day were fugazi and you couldn’t exactly pull over to ask a farmer for directions. And traveling at night, when it would have been most efficient, or in bad weather was impossible. To solve this Congress then funded these gi-normous arrow-shaped Airmail Beacons, some up to 70 feet long, to trace a route across the country.

The arrows were painted bright yellow and each was accompanied by a tower up to 50 feet in height. At the top of each tower was a powerful gas-powered light, and at the bottom of the tower, a shed to hold the gas.

The easily-discernible design made the arrows visible from a distance of ten miles, and each arrow pointed the way towards the next, some three miles distant. That’s according to the Postal Museum; however, this blog claims the towers were 10 miles apart with a 40-mile visibility. It’s possible the former is describing the earlier towers and the latter is describing updated versions.

What’s not in dispute is that the beacon towers are all gone, the steel having been broken up and recycled for America’s World War II effort. But the no-longer-used arrows remain, their paint long since worn off by the elements, the arrows themselves too difficult to make breaking them up worthwhile. And unless Omer Haciomeroglu sends his Concrete Recycling Robots into the American hinterlands, they’ll likely be there forever.

From the always fascinating Core77.


As we imagine Horace Greeley’s smile, we might recall that it was on this date in 1860 that James Wallace Black, a painter who had turned to photography (his daguerreotype of abolitionist John Brown hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery), took the first aerial photography captured in the U.S.

Black went up with balloonist Samuel Archer King in King’s hot-air balloon, the Queen of the Air, shooting Boston at 1,200 feet (8 plates of glass negative; 10 1/16 x 7 15/16 in).  One good print resulted, which Black entitled “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It”– the first clear aerial image of a city anywhere.

“Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It”


From Black’s obit in “Wilsons Photographic Magazine,” March 1896



Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

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