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Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive

Intriguing finds from Scientific American's past
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  • 1915 Warning: Beware of Used-Car Salesmen

    old car with doors open

    Suspicion of used-car dealers has a long history in the U.S. if an article in a 1915 supplement to Scientific American is any guide. The story, “Buying a Second-Hand Automobile,” by Victor W. Pagé, runs for more than 3,000 words, recalling one horror story in detail and giving loads of advice on how to avoid [...]

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    Happy 100th Birthday to the Crossword

    inboxex part of grid Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 4.11.06 PM

    On this day a hundred years ago, a journalist named Arthur Wynne published what is widely regarded as the first modern crossword puzzle. It appeared in the New York World, where it was called a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” By the 1930s most newspapers in America featured the games as well. Scientific American put a toe in [...]

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    Will the Real Christopher Columbus Please Stand Up?

    A portrait of Columbus attributed to Titian in 1893

    In 1893, Scientific American and other publications reported evidence that a true likeness, produced by none other than the Italian artist Titian, had been found

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    Call Us Scientific Home Journal

    colored photo of lobster

    I love Scientific American‘s archive not only for its record of scientific discovery but also for the surprises I invariably find there. Who knew that beyond covering cutting-edge research, Scientific American of the 1800s offered household hints and even recipes? A department called “Notes and Queries” offered tips and answers to readers’ questions. Among the useful [...]

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    Safety Takes Flight: A Notable Aviatrix on Preventing Airplane Accidents


    Ever since the first passenger was taken up in the air in 1908 safety has been a major concern of those involved in flying, building and riding airplanes. There have already been seven airline crashes in the U.S. this year, most notably the accident involving Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on [...]

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    Collapsible Summer Fun: The Berthon Folding Canoe

    Berthon Folding Canoe

    Summer is officially upon us, and that means a bevy of outdoor activities lay waiting for our enjoyment. Whether you’re a hiker, swimmer, boater, biker or picnicker, one thing is certain: the more portable the necessary equipment is to lug around, the better—especially for those of us who rely on public transportation to get from [...]

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    “We Build, We Fight”: The Role of the Seabees in the Invasion of Normandy

    Seabees Logo

    Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-day, when the Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. Whereas all branches of the Armed Forces who took place in the invasion deserve recognition, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to a group that I hadn’t heard of until I read about them in Scientific American’s archive: [...]

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    2 Ships Passing in the Fog: 35 Years before the Titanic, Uneasy Sailing on the White Star Line


    When most people think of famous ship accidents, the first that comes to mind is often the RMS Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912. This was not the first accident involving a White Star liner, however. One hundred thirty-six years ago, two White Star line steamers collided off the U.S. coast near New York [...]

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    Winning in a Snap: A History of Photo Finishes and Horse Racing


    This past weekend millions of people tuned in to watch the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is the longest consecutively run horse race event in America. Although this year’s winner, Orb, won by two and a half lengths ahead of his competitors, the winner has [...]

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    Hold the Elevator: How Otis’s Early Systems Worked

    Otis 1854 Elevator, Otis Elevator

    2013 marks 160 years since Elisha Graves Otis sold his first elevator, designed specifically for safety. Sales languished, though, until he attended the 1854 world’s fair in New York City and, at the Crystal Palace, demonstrated the innovation that made elevators stop, instead of falling, if their cables snapped. Scientific American, of course, had an [...]

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