Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory by James T Costa.
In his own way, Darwin was an inventor as well. In a time when humanity couldn’t even agree on the age of the earth, Darwin was trying to connect the dots. His invention was his ability to experiment and re-interpret what he was seeing and discovering.
We all know Darwin and his epic voyage on the HMS Beagle (1831-1836) and his contribution to our understanding of species that he named “natural selection.” But that is just the very tip of the iceberg. Darwin actually started off observing geology and trying to find why/what caused different patterns in rock formations around the world.
The bottom line in all of Darwin’s many interests and exploits was his ability to observe and then intertwine the current ideas and theories of his time often extrapolating them into something completely different.
Yes, Darwin’s greatest contribution was the theory of evolution, but again, there is so much more. 440 pages hardcover, originally sold for $28, now as a remainder, only $14.55.
Eric Sloane’s pen and ink style is unforgettable and his knowledge of early American know-how (that includes, all tools, wood, milling, road construction, the list goes on) is hard to believe. Growing up with a number of his books on the shelf, I reached for them often and in these times particularly, there is something so comforting in reading how all the different types of axes were used, or how to date a building by the types of nails, screws or fasteners used.
Sloane’s style (both in illustration and in word) is lyrical and attentive to detail, but also straightforward with just a touch of flourish.
A Museum of Early American Tools ($11.95, b&w, 128 pages) is fascinating. You really need at least TWO Sloane books on your shelf!
Eric Sloane was an artist, draftsman, sign painter, author, but most of all, a historian of early American know-how. His pen and ink images that illustrate all of his books are captivating and highly informative. Sloane was born in 1905 and after studying art and lettering, he set out across the US as a painter working road signs and barn sides. Eventually he settled back east and began a career as an author, illustrator meteorologist and mentor to many. As a kid growing up in Connecticut, A Reverence For Wood (arguably his most noted book) was always sitting near the reading chair, ready to be cracked open. In fact, when I asked my father for his copy to flip through, … Continue reading
A truly entertaining, well researched account of the early twentieth century friendship between Ford and Edison and the open road. Two men who created something new where little more than an idea existed previously, take to the road for two week camping trips long before the open road was ready for them. Guinn chronicles their story starting in the nineteen-teens when both are well established characters in the public eye. Both were always on the lookout for the next new thing, and both knew how to manipulate a story to their advantage. Into this mix add John Burroughs (the naturalist followed in the footsteps of Walt Whitman) and Harvey Firestone (tire magnate) and you quickly discover a fascinating story. Their … Continue reading
The Old & the New & Staying Flexible It seems advances in technology and its applications in day-to-day life are being reworked and upgraded with increasing speed and without warning. This becomes acutely evident when I traveled outside of New England – a fairly rare occurrence. Learning to use a computer, a cell phone – piece of cake. Now it seems you need an app for nearly everything; getting boarding passes for the airline, getting a ride from point A to point B, or paying for a parking spot. Tasks I assume simple and straightforward now require a smart phone and either cell a signal or high-speed internet service. A radio in a rental car shouldn’t be too hard to … Continue reading
It has literally been years since we have seen a new Ford tractor book be published. The far majority of them have been out of print. Motorbooks International (owned by Quarto) has held the rights to the books that Robert Pripps and Andrew Morland did together in the 1990s. The N-News has written many a letter over the years asking for some of the Pripps Ford tractor books to be reprinted, or to let the rights fall back to the authors so something could be done. Well, something finally has happened.
Beyond the Model T: The Other Ventures of Henry Ford by Ford R. Bryan. The author was a member of the Ford family, worked at Ford Motors for over 33 years and then after retirement, volunteered at The Henry Ford Museum doing research and digging deep. He wrote a number of books based on his finding in the immense Henry Ford Museum archives.
Eric Sloane was famous for his pen and ink drawing of rural American life. Born in 1905 in New York, Sloane trained as a fine artist and for a while made a living as a sign painter as he worked his way across the country. But he eventually returned to the New York region settling in New Milford, CT. Sloane was intrigued with early American living, especially in New England and had an affinity for all things related to tools, mechanical devices and country know-how. But his interests went deeper.
Abraham Lincoln was a man of tremendous capacity and drive. He was the 16th president of the United States and the first to be assassinated. He managed his political times (both in the Senate and as President) by balancing the needs of his friends and his opponents. In short, he was a consummate politician who led the nation through extremely volatile times. Emotionally, he was prone to depression and bouts of darkness.
The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was part of the New Deal Agency, created in 1937 to help fight rural poverty during the Great Depression. Between 1935-1944, FSA photographers took over 175,000 black and white photographs all over rural America. Many of the most iconic images of what this country looked like as it worked its way out of the Great Depression came through this government agency.
Social Distancing Versus Distant Socializing It was a very strange start to 2020. On the second day of the new year, my Uncle Gerard, the man that started this magazine and who showed me my first camera and helped create a passion in me for art and photography, passed away. Shortly after that, the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China. A few weeks passed and it was here. Suddenly, our lives are all about handwashing and social distancing to try and slow the spread of the disease. At first blush, this wasn’t a big challenge for me. I have a home office that is full of computers, books, manuals, and all of the things that are sold through … Continue reading
By John Cuny. Published in the N-News spring issue, April-May-June 2020, Volume 35 Number 2 I grew up in southern California when it was bean fields, before it all became Disney Land. As a 14-year-old, I worked as a gas boy for the local seaplane company that made daily flights to Catalina Island. I was around airplanes and tugs all the time. I’m sure some of them were Fords, but I was too young to know. This experience was the impetus to become a pilot. I was a single-minded kid and was flying by age 17. I did some time in the service, and in my late 20’s I moved to Texas and took a job as a pilot with … Continue reading
Communication is a curious endeavor. It is one of the things that (supposedly) makes us humans superior to all other creatures. (That statement is worth a book all on its own – human civilization is short and we have big problems getting along, so “superior” might be the wrong descriptor.) But over the last few hundred years, our methods for communication have evolved so dramatically it is mind bending. Continue reading
I bought my 1956 660 from a farm auction in the spring of 2015. The tractor is unrestored. I like the dings and faded paint – it gives it character. I rebuilt a tandem axle trailer and built a set of forks for the 3-point hitch. For now this 660’s major job is to get firewood, but we still enjoy riding it in the parade. Continue reading
I bought my 1948 8N as a partially dis-assembled unit almost 30 years ago. In early November I tried to start it and for the first time it was a “no go.” My lesson: solving a starting problem means you need to look at the possible issues and fix them as you find them…and there might be more than one! Continue reading