Genealogy Carnival: Carousel (+ one Techish highlight)

The 36th edition of Genealogy Carnival is a carousel, or free-for-all. (I missed submitting an entry. Have I mentioned I’ve been busy?). Go read them all. One in particular I found striking, Technology and Early Adopters in Your Family Tree, by Thomas Macentee. Electricity, telephone, plumbing. How they did without, how they did. My grandpa wrote a 15-page double spaced paper for his family during the final years of his life, called “Twentieth Century Developments.” I wrote about it at great length in the comments, and am posting the same thing here, too–with some additional quotes.

My grandpa offered up his observations about various and sundry inventions and changes he’d observed in this lifetime in his “Twentieth Century Developments” paper.

There’s lots to do with transportation, beginning with railroad (his grandfather—from the 1880s and uncles worked for the Denver and Rio Grande RR in Colorado). Then, in 1912, my grandpa’s father bought a Model T—and his description goes into the art of car-care before there was much in the way of documentation.

For the first 12 years of my life we had nice old black Jim, our horse, and his buggy for transportation. Then Dad bought the Ford. I never knew where he bought it or how he got it to Walsen, but it was probably sent from Denver by freight. For a few years thereafter we had both Jim and the Ford, and that was a good thing, because we sure learned to operate that auto the hard way. The only information we had was contained in a 5 by 7 by 1/8th inch paper backed pamphlet. The oil was labeled “transmission oil,” and the instructions said to keep its level between the two petcocks on the side of the case. So we put in transmission oil. There were no SAE viscosity numbers in those days, but as I remember, it appeared to be about an SAE 60 or thicker.

Well, on a cold morning it was impossible to crank. We lived on a hill, so we pushed the car out of the barn, gave it a shove and get in and cranked the engine by allowing the car to get up speed going down the hill before letting it into high gear. Then when we parked it in the barn after use, we would drain 3 pints of oil out and bring it into the house and store it in the warming oven of the kitchen stove. Then, using the hot oil we could crank it with some effort, and it would always start when going down the hill. We finally tumbled to the fact that we should use engine oil instead of transmission oil, and our starting problems vanished.

My grandfather worked as an engineer for the General Electric Co, (one of the high tech powerhouses of 1920s, akin to Google, et al., today). 

He talks of the airplane and first jet engines (which he worked on in the WW2 push) and Gas Turbines and power generation, which he worked on from the late 30s until his retirement, and well after his retirement when he worked as a consultant.

Other topics: The single cylinder Corliss engine, a seemingly all-purpose boiler room type of motor, then later versions.

He wrote of plumbing, of the washing machine. and, of course, the refrigerator, which I’ve blogged about back when—OMG, nearly 8 years ago!! Oh, and communications and computers, too. There’s medical observations, too, ranging from the time before antibiotics to after—“I can still remember, in grade school in March, the empty desk or two which would not be occupied the rest of the year, because the occupant was stricken by diphtheria.” [list of other common but deadly illnesses] “Now all of these have either been eliminated or are well under control.”

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 20, 2007 in • GenealogyPersonal History
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