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What Happens When You Mail a Letter (Dec, 1951)

Very cool. This article was written back when they still had a big network of pneumatic tubes connecting all of the post offices in Manhattan.

What Happens When You Mail a Letter

By Herbert O. Johansen

With the Christmas rush on, the complex network of men and machines that speeds the mails is working in high gear.

WHEN you drop a letter in a mailbox and hear the slot lid click, you probably give the lid a couple of extra flips for good measure. In return for that effort, plus licking the stamp, you take it for granted that your message of love, business, sorrow, cheer or complaint will be delivered to the right person at the right place in the shortest possible time.

And it almost certainly will be—along with the other 127,677,738 letters that are mailed in the United States on an average day—enough letters, if their envelopes were laid end-to-end, to reach from New York to Shanghai.


How to Handle a Rope



THE use of rope as a catcher goes back to the days when primitive man spread vine loops and crude grass ropes to snare animals for his food. But it took the American cowboy to become an artist with a rope. In long days in the saddle, drifting lazily with a trail herd, or hours alone during the night herding, the rope became his plaything. The comparatively simple routine of roping a horse, calf, or steer was not enough. He worked out new tricks. Step by step he progressed, until today the American cowboy is the wizard of the lariat.

To bring the fundamentals of roping to our readers we found a champion in D. H. Frank Biron, now operating the Cowtown Guest Ranch near Ramsey, N. J. Biron is an all-around “cow hand”—bronco buster, trick rider, wild-steer bulldogger. As a trick-rider and trick-roper champion he has his picture in the cowboy halls of fame from coast to coast.

Stitching Steel Into Streamliners (Feb, 1947)

Stitching Steel Into Streamliners

Budd’s new assembly line rolls out cars like cans.


AS YOU stand on a catwalk high above the plant you can scarcely see where it ends, dim in the distance, five city blocks away. The workmen dwindle to mere specks, the gigantic U-shaped welders become tiny tweezers. Toward you stretch three long, silver caterpillars: assembly lines. Here and there comes a flicker of blue flame from an arc welder, reflected and reflected again from shining stainless steel. Occasionally there is a rumbling medley of thumps from shot welders; otherwise there is only a low hum from the thousands of workmen and machines.

Here is modern technology in action—the assembly-line system the auto industry made famous. But as the great cranes swoop down along the line and the silvery bodies roll nearer and nearer you can see they are too shiny for automobiles—and too big. Each is as long as half a dozen motor cars—a stainless steel railway coach.

Torture Tests Tell The Truth (Sep, 1938)

That shoe tester looks like it has been taken right out of a Rube Goldberg contraption.

Torture Tests Tell The Truth

Ingenious Machines in the National Bureau of Standards help bring to light unknown facts about peas, pants, pots and paints.

by James N. Miller

EVERY time you visit the dentist, break in a pair of new shoes, buy an electric light bulb, heat your home, drive an automobile, wind your watch or weigh your groceries, you are directly or indirectly affected by the work of scientists located in an enormous network of laboratories in an obscure section of Washington, D. C. This is the National Bureau of Standards, where a group of technical men seem to live in a complicated mechanical world that appears far afield from that of Mr. Average American Citizen. This Bureau of Standards, without the slightest exaggeration, is the nation’s and probably the world’s, greatest quality testing laboratory. Every day, in almost every conceivable way, it performs monumental tasks which help make life healthier, safer, happier, more comfortable and more convenient for every one of us.

Prehistoric Monsters Roar and Hiss for Sound Film (Apr, 1933)

Prehistoric Monsters Roar and Hiss for Sound Film

THIS remarkable article tells you how the ingenuity and skill of motion picture directors solve the hard emblem of putting on the screen the forms and noises of animals that have been extinct thousands of centuries

by Andrew R. Boone

FROM the slime of tropical mud flats, the ghost voices of prehistoric monsters have reached the screen. Hisses and grunts of the pterodactyl and brontosaurus; roars from a tyrranosaurus, largest of the dinosaur family; groans and roars of an imaginary giant ape are reproduced by mechanical contrivances.

Kong, the ape, crashed through the heavy growth of an unknown forest, uttering fierce growls and beating his breast in rage. As the scene unfolded in silence before a small group of us in a tiny projection room, the studio sound experts discussed ways and means of re-creating his awful voice and the solid thumps of clenched hands against the massive chest.

The Birth of a Station (Dec, 1936)

The Birth of a Station

THE hush of early morning is broken only by the staccato beat of an isolated gasoline engine in a tent in an alfalfa field just beyond the city limits. A sleepy radio operator reads the meters of a portable transmitter arid makes an entry in his log. “One more hour,” he yawns, “and the job is finished.”

On the other side of town a mysterious looking car pulls up at a corner. The driver reads the street names, marks the spot on a map, then snaps on a complicated looking receiving set hung from the roof behind his seat. No sound comes forth. Instead, the needles of two meters swing across the scales. Rotating the loop aerial protruding through the roof, the driver secures maximum reading, makes a note of it, then goes on down the street.

How JIG-SAW PUZZLES Are Made by the Million (Apr, 1933)

How JIG-SAW PUZZLES Are Made by the Million

PUTTING jig-saw puzzles together is the latest craze to sweep over America. It has replaced the cross-word puzzle, the Tom Thumb golf course, and in many places has ousted contract- bridge. On this page are photos showing the steps in the manufacture of the millions of jigsaw puzzles sold each week.

Creating MOVIES in a TEST TUBE (Mar, 1936)

Creating MOVIES in a TEST TUBE

Cobwebs of rubber cement, ice cream from potatoes, candy windows, rain that is not wet, these and others movie chemists conjure.


IN THE motion picture world it is not possible to control nature. The movie-makers must fabricate artificial snow storms; glass that will not cut; fogs that can be controlled; bubbling, hot lava from volcanoes that are not erupting; and thousands of other things which are needed in creating movies. It is the chemist with his test tubes and laboratories who makes effects possible in great movie production. He is called upon to satisfy the various demands of the director at a moment’s notice.

To produce the effect of brisk coldness, such as vapor coming from the breath of an actor, dry ice, which is made from carbon dioxide, is placed in the mouth. Because of the extreme cold of this dry ice, the result is a mist coming from the mouth similar to the one seen in cold climates. So as not to freeze the mouth, the dry ice is placed in a container in the actor’s mouth. This same chemical “dry ice” is used in scenes where steaming tea kettles and boiling water is seen. The dry ice makes the water seem to boil.

Behind the Split Screens of TV (Jul, 1954)

Behind the Split Screens of TV

By Jan and Bob Jensen

IF MR. KIPLING had been sitting in the gilt-edged Hollywood audience that March evening in 1954 when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the Oscars in their 26th annual awards ceremony, he would have had to eat his words that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” They not only met, they talked to each other. On the large television-projection screen at the back of the golden bronze-draped stage, Donald O’Connor, master of ceremonies on the West Coast, was brought face to face with Fredric March on the East Coast, and the many thousands of miles lying between their respective noses had been eradicated by the magic of the communications era in which they live, so that the two were presented in one picture not only to the select audience of 2800 in the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, but to millions of TV viewers throughout the nation.


Willkie or Roosevelt?

HUMMING over wires from every corner of the nation, election returns in a few days will bring the answer to the question of America’s 40,000,000 voters: Who’s elected ?

Years ago, many days would pass before positive results of a Presidential election were known. Today it is a matter of hours and minutes. To make this possible, a scientific network of communication machines—teletypes, telephones, telegraph, and radio—manned by an army of workers, has been recruited and promises the earliest election returns in history. But nothing will aid the vote gatherers more than the voting machines that this year number 35,000 in twenty-two states.

First used around the turn of the century, the voting machine, by reason of its speed, accuracy, and honesty, has come up in popularity until this year it will tabulate nearly a third of the votes cast.

So you may see how modern high-speed machines count the votes, Popular Science selected a typical Mr. and Mrs. America and, in the series of pictures that follows, starts you around the clock with them on Election Day and shows you how they may well know on the same night “who’s elected!”