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Posts Tagged ‘model trains

“Any workout which does not involve a certain minimum of danger or responsibility does not improve the body – it just wears it out”*…

 

If you are one of the 51.8 million people in the U.S. who use a treadmill for exercise, you know there’s much pain for your muscle-and-fitness gain. On your next 30-minute jog, as you count down the final seconds, ponder whether the hard work made you a better person. Consider whether the workout would feel different if you had powered something, even a fan to cool yourself off.

Two hundred years ago, the treadmill was invented in England as a prison rehabilitation device. It was meant to cause the incarcerated to suffer and learn from their sweat. It would mill a bit of corn or pump some water as a bonus…

How an early-19th century penal innovation became the top selling piece of exercise equipment in the U.S.: “Treadmills were meant to be atonement machines.”

* (That well-known fitness expert) Norman Mailer

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As we try to find our rhythm, we might send well-constructed birthday greetings to Frank Hornby; he was born on this date in 1863.  A visionary toy designer, he created the Meccano construction set (in 1901), a toy that used perforated metal strips, wheels, rods, brackets, clips, and assembly nuts and bolts to allow kids to build unlimited numbers of models.  A huge success, it spawned a monthly magazine– and U.S. competition (e.g., the Erector Set).  He introduced Hornby model trains in 1920 (originally clockwork and eventually electrically powered with tracks and scale replicas of associated buildings); the “Dinky” range of miniature cars and other motor vehicles was added in 1933 (spawning such competitors as Corgi, Matchbox, and Mattel’s Hot Wheels).

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Written by LW

May 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Are you feeling nostalgic?” asked Tom in passing….

In 1914, American chemist John J. Porter produced the first line of chemistry sets, “Chemcraft.”  It was such a hit that a few years later, science fanatic A.C. Gilbert, maker of Erector Sets and, later, American Flyer model trains, put out his own. At the time, it was understood these kits were not just amusements but tools to groom young men– and at the time, it was “young men“– for careers in science.

Since then, budding scientists have found other encouragement on toy store shelves as well:  The Atomic Energy Lab, The Ant Farm, The Visible Man (and finally, Woman)…

But neither Porter nor Gilbert could even imagine the prospect of basement meth labs or terrorist bomb factories, nor for that matter, the explosion of product liability suits… Indeed, since the days of those earliest offers– which featured all sorts of dangerous, thus entertaining, substances– chemistry sets have been progressively denatured…  leading Collectors Weekly to ask: which are better: science toys of the past or those of the present?  (Includes a nifty shout out to our Friends at Make…)

…If you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: “dentistry.”
– P.J. O’Rourke

As we slip on our protective goggles, we might wish a bite-free birthday to zoologist Marston Bates; he was born on this date in 1906.  An expert on mosquitoes, his fieldwork in Albania, Egypt, and Columbia led to the development of the effective diagnoses, treatments, and ultimately prevention of Yellow Fever.

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