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A good old fashioned ice melting contest


January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

This morning I found these photos of two people participating in what the USC Libraries describes as an "ice melting contest." Wondering what the hell an ice melting contest was, I did a little digging.

Apparently in January of 1952 four cities in the American Southwest squared off to determine who had the most sunshine. The cities of Carlsbad, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; El Paso, Texas and Los Angeles, California all agreed to put out a one-ton block of ice. Whichever city's ice melted first was to be declared the winner.

Well, as you can see from these photos, Los Angeles was hit with rain. And though the rain seemed to do the trick in helping to melt the ice, it disqualified Los Angeles from the contest.

January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

The woman in the photo is French actress Corinne Calvet, who was in a string of films in the 1950s like What Price Glory? and The Far Country

The man on the right is A. K. Showalter, a meteorologist who according to his obituary in the L.A. Times, "apologized in verse" for inaccurate weather forecasts. A July 5, 1953 story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune quoted Showalter as saying that Los Angeles was the worst city in the country to be a weatherman. "The less weather you have, the more likely it is to affect people," he said.

January 15, 1952 ice melting contest at the Los Angeles airport (USC Libraries)

According to the January 17, 1952 issue of the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso was the eventual winner of the ice melting contest when its ice melted in 36 hours, 41 minutes and 52 seconds, beating Carlsbad by 5 hours and 12 minutes.

The funny twist to all of this is that cities in the Southeast wanted in on the action, but were told to stick it where the sun was not, in fact, shining. Apparently Galveston and Corpus Christi in Texas, as well as St. Petersburg, New Smyrna Beach and Sebring in Florida wanted to participate.

But Frank Kindel, the manager of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce who came up with the ice melting stunt said that those cities couldn't play because they weren't in the Southwest. Kindel said that the cities were "swampy jungle towns" and was quoted as saying "we were testing sunshine, not steam heat from swamps."

This, as you can imagine, didn't go over well in the Southeast. The excerpt below is from the January 17, 1952 El Paso Herald-Post.

C.E. McCleland, editor of the Galveston News, was shocked when he heard his town classified as a "swampy, jungle town" by Mr. Kindel.

Mr. McClelland challenged Mr. Kindel to a duel with ice tongs at 50 paces.

"Let's make it ice picks," Mr. Kindel said.


Mark Twain on copyright

[UPDATE: To be clear, Mark Twain was a rather notorious believer in infinite copyright. Just read his testimony for yourself, as linked below.]

Mark Twain testified before Congress in 1906. The bill he was testifying about was to extend the term of copyright in the United States to the life of the author plus fifty years. He said that this would satisfy any reasonable author because it would satisfy his own children. "Let the grandchildren take care of themselves," he said. An excerpt from his testimony is below.

My copyrights produce to me annually a good deal more money than I have any use for. But those children of mine have use for that. I can take care of myself as long as I live. I know half a dozen trades, and I can invent a half a dozen more. I can get along. But I like the fifty years' extension, because that benefits my two daughters, who are not as competent to earn a living as I am, because I have carefully raised them as young ladies, who don't know anything and can't do anything. So I hope Congress will extend to them that charity which they have failed to get from me.



Though the first practical helicopter wouldn't be flown until 1936, this "boostercopter" appeared in the April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics.


Talking Watches of 1895

This story about talking watches appeared in an 1895 issue of the Dutch journal De Natuur and was found in the book Victorian Inventions.

In the first reports on the phonograph invented by Edison in 1877, it was remarked that it would now be possible to produce timepieces capable of calling out the hours instead of indicating them by chimes. Instead of giving twelve successive peals or even saying 'cuckoo' twelve times in succession, the clock would call 'twelve o'clock,' 'quarter past twelve' and 'half past twelve,' etc. at the appropriate moments of the day.

Mr Sivan, a watchmaker of Geneva, appears to have succeeded in giving this temporary power of speech to an ordinary pocket-watch. It contains a phonograph disc made of vulcanised rubber having forty-eight grooves which correspond to the twelve hours and thirty-six quarters. If the button -- which is similar to that of a repeating-watch -- is pressed, the rubber disc starts rotating and a stylus, following the mounds and dales of the grooves, starts vibrating. It then transfers these vibrations to a membrane which converts them into sounds: 'twelve o'clock,' 'quarter past twelve,' and 'half past twelve' and so on, says the watch, reproducing the human voice.

A device such as this can be fitted to any clock. Indeed, Sivan has already manufactured alarm-clocks containing a talking disc which, at a specific time, calls out: 'Wake up!,' 'Get up!,' or, 'It is now time to get up!'


Bird Brains

The June 18, 1967 edition of the Sunday comic Soozi. I'd never heard of this strip before. But... just wow.