Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic, en route from Southampton, UK to New York, NY, sank after having struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland late the previous evening.  Over the course of two and half hours, from the time of the collision at 11:40 pm until 2:20 am the next morning, the ship gradually took on water while passengers and crew attempted to evacuate.  The ship, however, did not have enough lifeboats, and only 710 out of the 2224 people on board survived.

Composite of five mounted photographs of wireless operator on shipboard receiving distress call; life boats bringing Titanic's survivors to the Carpathia; Capt. Smith of the Titanic--1912. Image courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

The ship had launched on its maiden voyage to great acclaim as one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever created.  Its state of the art features and facilities included restaurants, libraries, a gymnasium, and a wireless telegraph.  Outdated safety regulations, however, allowed the ship to sail with only 20 lifeboats, accommodating 1,178 people.  Moreover, during the evacuation process, several lifeboats were launched before reaching full capacity.  Due to the famous “women and children first” protocol, the survival rate for men was considerably lower across all passenger classes and among the crew.

Crowd awaiting survivors from CARPATHIA. Image courtesy of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

News of the disaster was met with a combination of moral outrage and morbid fascination, and it has remained a popular subject of books, music, and film for the past 100 years.  In addition to primary source materials documenting the ship, the wreck, and the lives of its survivors, Opening History provides a glimpse into how the Titanic captured the public’s imagination.  Indiana University’s Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music includes several ballads about the sinking of the Titanic and Harvard University’s Immigration to the United States (1789-1930) collection includes the full text of Sinking of the Titanic, a book published in 1912 that provides a contemporary, sensational account of the disaster.

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On October 26, 1958, Pan American World Airways inaugurated the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707.

Unveiling of Boeing's new 707 jet, Renton, 1954. Image courtesy of the Museum of History & Industry, Seattle (MOHAI).

The prototype had been unveiled four years earlier in the spring of 1954, and Pan Am placed an order for twenty planes in the fall of 1955.  After its first commercial flight, the 707 quickly gained popularity.  Its success prompted technological developments in airports, air traffic control, and other aspects of air transport infrastructure throughout the 1960s, and the jet remained in production until 1979.

View from Boeing 707 jet on Pam Am Polar Flight direct from San Francisco to London, 1961. Image courtesy of Indiana University Archives.

The history of transportation is one of the major collection strengths of Opening HistoryKing County Snapshots has many more images from the Boeing Company.  Complementary collections relating to the history of aviation include: the Wright Brothers Negatives, Arizona Aviation History: The Ruth Reinhold Collection, and the Springfield Aviation Company Collection.

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On September 27, 1908, the first Ford Model T was completed at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.  Widely considered to be the most influential car of the twentieth century, the Model T was the first automobile manufactured on an assembly line using interchangeable parts.  Henry Ford envisioned this car for the middle-class consumer, declaring:

“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Workers assembling a Model T automobile in 1913. Image courtesty of the Detroit Public Library, made available through The Making of Modern Michigan project.

Opening History is rich in resources related to the history of transportation.  For more information on early automobiles, visit The Making of Modern Michigan project hosted by Michigan State University and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s New York to Paris Collection.

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On April 25, 1901, New York became the first state in the nation to require drivers to feature license plates on their automobiles. Though other states would soon follow New York’s lead, many states imposed the requirement without making the licenses readily available. Instead, car owners crafted licenses from materials such as house numbers, leather, and other items. When they appeared, government-made licenses were usually made of porcelain and later steel, though materials as diverse as plastic and soybeans have also been used. License plate sizes varied widely until a national standard was settled upon in 1956, the same year the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 funded the interstate highway system that allowed for faster travel across the country. New York also became the first state to require a driver’s license in 1910, though this was only mandated for chauffeurs.

A rear view of a 1913 Packard 48. Image courtesy of Detroit Public Library

Opening History has several collections relevant to automobile history, including Making of Modern Michigan: Digitizing Michigan’s Hidden Past, which extensively documents the history of the automobile industry in Michigan and its impact on local communities.

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Checker Cabs

photo Checker Cab Co. p.1

Checker Cab Co. p.1, December 21, 1939

87 years ago today, on June 18, 1923, the first Checker Cab rolled off the line at the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The Checker Cab became a  national icon, renowned for its style, which remained consistent throughout the life of the company. 1982 was the final production year for Checker Cabs, and the last Checker Cab was removed from service in New York City in 1999. The photograph above, depicting a Checker Cab in 1939, comes from the Utah State Historical Society’s Shipler Commercial Photographs collection, which documents people, places and events of the Progressive Era.

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The first revenue trains in the United States began service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore, Maryland and Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland, 180 years ago, on May 24, 1830.

This James Benney III’s 1889 photograph of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger platform in the downtown Pittsburgh, PA, is courtesy of Historic Pittsburgh Image Collection. The station pictured was designed by Frank Furness in 1877 and later was demolished and replaced by a new station on lower Grant Street.

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On May 8, 2010, the 3rd annual National Train Day will be celebrated at Union Station in Chicago. Participants will get a chance to see model trains, tour private and Amtrak train cars, explore interactive and educational exhibits, etc.

The digital item below, courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection, features an RR train photographed in Great Britain for the Bain news picture agency between 1910 an 1915.

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