Too cool, from the Lumec Blog!
Too cool, from the Lumec Blog!
What the what?! That’s William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, the guy who invented the Kinetoscope, among other completely awesome stuff! Today is Billy Boy’s birthday! Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!
Dickson was one of Edison’s “muckers,” the guys who did all of Edison’s work for him. What a d-bag he was, that Edison!
The Empire of Light is a series of paintings by René Magritte. Painted between 1950 and 1954, The Empire of Light contains three paintings housed at famous museums around the world, in New York one at each MoMA and The Guggenheim, and in Brussels (where I encountered this piece) at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in their fantastic Magritte gallery.
This piece is absolutely more spectacular in real life, though the images available online of his different renditions are still fascinating. The juxtaposition between the daylight skies and the manmade light on earth is fascinating. It is a simple yet superbly strong surrealist gesture.
Art is such a fantastic inspiration for us as lovers of light. That which is not lit cannot be seen, let alone painted, so these renditions of the world are our kin, and studying them can only benefit our work. This is a very theatrical piece, which shows how a tiny schism can create a spectacularly unsettling scene. What do you think of Magritte’s Empire of Light?
What?! It’s that time of year again, it’s the time to scream HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEN FRANKLIN! Nevermind the fact that he’s dead, he was one cool mopho, and should be celebrated.
When people all across Ben Franklin’s close-minded little world said to him, BEN! PLEASE don’t tie a key to a kite and fly it in a rainstorm, GOD will smite you, Ben Franklin just said hey f*ck you, I’m about to prove some serious scientific sh*t here.
It was serious. It was scientific. AND, he was a LADIES’ MAN, all the same! Check out my original HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN post!
There were a few birthdays over the weekend that I totally missed, and now I feel horrible! Oh wait, both of these people are dead.
HEY, so HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, Frank J. Sprague! Check out this proper lookin’ military-turned-mucker dude!
This is Frank J. Sprague and Rear Admiral S. S. Robinson (I told you he was military, he was Navy). This particular photograph is actually kinda neat, a bunch of folks presented him with a six-volume set of letters and papers on his 75th birthday. I think back in that time people expressed their pleasure for birthday gifts by taking pictures that look terribly uncomfortable, as you can see here. Fads change, I suppose, I guess you had to be there.
Thomas Edison and Frank Sprague were friends through a business partner of Edison’s, a guy named EH Johnson. Edison, in all of his wisdom, actually convinced Sprague to give up his Navy commission and come work in Menlo Park as a technical assistant. From the Elevator Museum (I’ll explain that later):
Graduating seventh in a class of 36 in 1878, Sprague was assigned to the USS Richmond, flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, where he filled a notebook with detailed drawings and descriptions of devices that evidenced his urge for invention. Among these were a duplex telephone, quadruplex and octoplex telegraph systems, a motor and a means of transmitting pictures by wire. Later, Sprague was ordered to the USS Minnesota. While his ship was in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1881, Sprague invented the inverted type of dynamo. Also in 1881, Spraque transferred to the USS Lancaster, flagship of the European Squadron, on which he installed the first crude electrical call-bell system in the Navy.
Sprague took leave to attend the Paris Electrical Exhibition and the Crystal Palace Exhibition in Sydenham, England, where he served as the only American member and as secretary of the jury of awards for gas engines, dynamos and lamps.
Meanwhile, Sprague’s ideas about motors and lamps had so impressed E.H. Johnson, a business associate of Thomas A. Edison, that he convinced Sprague to resign from the Navy in 1883 to become a technical assistant to Edison. While on Edison’s staff, Sprague assisted in the installation and operation of Edison’s pioneer three-wire electric light systems. Sprague also revised and corrected the Edison system of mains and feeders for central station distribution and developed a formula for determining the ratio of wire size to current amperage.
Now, the weird thing about celebrating Frank J. Sprague is not necessarily due to his contributions to the electric light bulb or electric light in general; Sprague’s contributions were to the electrical systems and main busses in Edison’s laboratory, as well as some of the three-wire lighting systems. Sprague did a lot of correcting of Edison’s power distribution mains and feeders, and he also did a lot of mathematical “updating” to Edison’s methods. Sprague knew that if he could do some math beforehand, Edison’s Muckers would have to do a lot less “noodling” and “fooling around” in the lab which would save time. Seems like pretty good sense, right?
Frank Sprague didn’t last very long at Edison Power and Light – about a year and change. Edison’s main interest was in light and lighting, but Sprague was more of a motor guy. So, in a move that I would have loved to see firsthand as it happened (as I have to believe there were some wonderful words exchanged), Sprague left Edison’s employ and went off to start the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company. Suck on THAT, Edison. What’s funny is that Edison actually DID suck on that, and he spoke very highly about Sprague’s electric motor to the world, and Sprague did pretty well. From the NNDB archives:
After several years of theoretical work and experiments, it took Sprague and his men only about 90 days to plan the route, lay a dozen miles (19 km) of track, construct the 375 horsepower steam and electric plant, and motorize 40 formerly horse-drawn cars. The first test runs were made in November 1887, and regular service began on 2 February 1888. The first runs were not without difficulties, including frequent mechanical and electrical problems, the indignity of a horse reigned to the trolleys for the additional pulling power needed to climb the tracks’ steepest incline, and the further embarrassment of seeing broken-down trolleys towed away by mule. With some tinkering, though, the system was soon made reliable, and came to be seen as far superior to horse or horse-drawn transport.
Within two years, Sprague had contracts to construct 113 street rail systems, and the within a decade horse-drawn streetcars had virtually disappeared from America’s cities, replaced by an estimated 13,000 miles of urban streetcar tracks. He designed a multi-unit train control system in Chicago, where he built the first of the city’s elevated “L” electric railways. He engineered the electrification of New York’s Grand Central Station, and with William Wilgus he co-invented the “third rail” system of powering electric trains for the New York Central Railroad. Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company was eventually merged into Edison General Electric, which subsequently became General Electric.
Sprague’s talent lied in railways and motors, both electric, as well as a good bunch of other inventions. One of my favorites is the elevator – yep, good ol’ Frank J. Sprague here invented the elevator. I have to believe that he was sitting at a bar one day and realized that if he turned a train on its end and made it run vertically, BOOM – elevator. Done.
Bring me another ale, Bitterman.
Happy Birthday, Frank J. Sprague! (Frank’s actual birthday is July 25. Sorry, Frank!)
Whoa! It’s time for Mr. Culture‘s birthday – and here he comes, Mr. Culture himself, Francis Robbins Upton! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DUDE!
(We’re all sorry you’re dead man, we’ll have a drink in your honor. Sorry you didn’t make it to 2011. I bet you’d be flipping your lid.)
The title of “Culture,” as he was called by the rest of his colleagues was kind of an awesome nickname given to him because of his wealth of knowledge. Francis Upton here was one of Thomas Edison’s Muckers – the guys who did all of the work for which Edison grabbed the credit. Upton was the most educated of all of his Muckers, and at one point he was made President of the Muckers! What a weird title. From the Smithsonian:
Upton was the best educated of Edison’s Menlo Park assistants, having graduated from Bowdoin College and taken graduate work at Princeton and in Germany. He was recruited by investors who felt it couldn’t hurt to supplement Edison’s wizardry with some advanced scientific training. They were right, and Upton’s understanding of mathematics and physics was of critical assistance in the development of the light bulb, the dynamo, and other elements of Edison’s system. Nicknamed “Culture” by his colleagues, he was placed in charge of the Edison Lamp Works in 1881. In 1918, Upton became the first president of the Edison Pioneers.
A bit more about Francis from About Inventors:
Francis R. Upton was born in Peabody, Massachusetts on July 26, 1852. He studied mathematics at Bowdoin College, Princeton University, and the University of Berlin (under Hermann von Helmholtz) before joining Edison at Menlo Park in December 1878. At Menlo Park he worked as Edison’s chief scientific assistant, preparing blueprints, performing calculations, and solving mathematical problems associated with Edison’s incandescent electric lighting system. He also helped design incandescent lamps, dynamos, and the electric railway.
Following the perfection of the incandescent lamp and Edison’s consequent expansion into lamp manufacture, Upton became general manager of the Edison Lamp Co. in Menlo Park and later in Harrison, New Jersey. There he combined his managerial duties with experimental work on lamp improvements.
Upton traveled to Europe in 1886 to inspect Edison’s financially-troubled electric lighting companies. While there, he examined a transformer used in alternating current electrical delivery systems and advised Edison to purchase the American rights. Edison did so, but later allowed his option to lapse, preferring the direct current delivery system. During the 1880s Upton also served on the board of the Edison General Electric Co.
He left the Edison Lamp Works in 1894 but returned to Edison’s employ in 1898 as an efficiency engineer at the New Jersey & Pennsylvania Concentrating Works. Upton’s talent for selling sand (a by-product of ore-milling) to cement manufacturers helped persuade Edison to enter the cement business himself. Following the collapse of the ore-milling venture, Upton joined the Edison Portland Cement Co., eventually serving as company representative for northern New Jersey. He left that position in 1911, continuing to sell brick and crushed sand independently.
Upton married twice and had three children by each wife. He served as first president of the Edison Pioneers (1918). He later retired to California, but died in Orange, New Jersey, March 10, 1921.
Something that is not well publicized for some reason was Upton’s writing for journals like Scientific American and Scribner’s Monthly. Upton wrote about Edison’s invention of electric light, and apparently he really impressed Edison, because Edison wrote a note to Scribner’s Monthly saying that Upton was the authority on the subject:
Ah, good times. Happy Birthday, Francis Robbins Upton!
Have you all seen this? ACT Lighting posted this great quick video on the history of ACT Lighting with the pres, Bob Gordon. If you’ve ever met Bob, you’d know that he’s a pretty cool dude!
Check out this quick video history of ACT Lighting:
Also, you should subscribe to ACT Lighting’s Youtube channel, because there are tons of videos on GrandMA stuff! That is quickly becoming one of my favorite consoles, especially after hearing Cat West and Joe Cabrera talk so highly of it. Seeing Jeff Waful rock that thing several times also doesn’t hurt! If you’ve never even looked at their channel, you are missing out – the Console Cocktails series is on there too!
Have you ever heard of the old lighting company Hall and Connolly, Inc? They made spotlights – reflector-less carbon arc spotlights, that were huge and, well, new then, old now! Hall and Connolly, Inc, from what I can find through research, became part of the Sperry Corporation and the Sperry Corporation’s holdings at some point in the WAY early 1900’s. The Sperry Corporation made big wartime spotlights and other World War II-era gear.
The IATSE #354 website had some awesome information on these spots, including a manual! I posted the pics of the manual pages after the gallery, check them out!
Check out this Hall and Connolly spotlight – Rick Hutton from InLight Gobos restored this puppy (Spot #322) from dilapidated rustiness to a state of beauty:
This is what it looked like before:
Look through this gallery of shots – click on a thumbnail, a gallery view will open, and you’ll be able to see them all full-sized!
Hall and Connolly Spotlight Manual pages:
Thanks Rick for letting me shoot the spot, and thanks to IATSE #354 for the pics of the manual!
Who’s that dude with the crazy curly coif? It’s James Bowman Lindsay! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, James Bowman Lindsday!
Good ol’ Jimmy BL here is a lesser known but still influential figure in the history of light and electricity. What’s funny about Jimbo here is that he, like many of his contemporaries across the ages, wasn’t a d-bag bent on world domination and capitalistic tendencies like Edison or Westinghouse. James was a good person with morals and values and all of those things people have told me about in my life.
(bwa, ha ha ha)
How James became involved in the industry was on two fronts – he invented an early version of an incandescent lamp, and he developed a system of wireless telegraphy that preceded Guglielmo Marconi‘s radio telegraphy devices. James Bowman Lindsay claimed that his electric incandescent lamp gave him the ability to read a book at “a distance of one and a half feet,” and he displayed it at a public meeting in Scotland in July of 1835. Unfortunately for Lindsay, his lack of being a ruthless scientist and businessman allowed Edison to take over the patent some 38 years later.
What was cool about Jimmy B here is that he was passionate about his work. I mean really passionate about it – to the point where he never married, gave his whole life to the industry for the better, and died while still conducting his own research. Now that is dedication.
We can thank James Bowman Lindsay for arc welding, submarine telegraphy, and an early form of the incandescent lamp (in addition to just being a hell of a guy and incredible astronomer, scientist, and developer). Thanks Jimbo, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DUDE!