Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

12
A Boy's Life in
the New Century

Musket-ball mold showing a freshly cast ball and sprue piece. (Photo by John Lienhard)

Let us begin with a scene in the late 1930s. I am seated at a gas-fired iron stove in the basement laundry room of my house. I hold a small iron ladle over the flame. It is half-filled with lead scraps that I scavenged under the linotype machines at the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press newspaper building. I found the lead when my father, writer and sometime science editor at the paper, took me to see the machines.

The gas flame is turned up high, and the lead has become a silver pool, partly covered with an oxide scum. In my left hand, I hold the musket-ball mold that belonged to my great-grandfather in his days at Sutter's Fort (described in chapter 1). It's shaped like a pair of pliers. Each side of its mouth is half of the mold. I keep the halves together by gripping the handles tightly.

Then I pour lead into the sprue hole of the mold, filling it to the top. The lead solidifies right away, and I open the mold. The exposed casting sticks to one side of the mold. I tap it on the concrete floor, and the finished musket ball tumbles out with the tapered sprue piece still attached.

Musket-ball mold showing a freshly cast ball and sprue piece. (Photo by John Lienhard)

-190-

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Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • Inventing Modern xi
  • 1 - 1846: Great-Grandpa and Manifest Destiny 1
  • 2 - Short-Lived Technologies: Searching for Direction 21
  • 3 - “the Irruption of Forces Totally New” 39
  • 4 - A New Genus of Genius 53
  • 5 - Remington to Modern: Finding the Core on the Fringe 64
  • 6 - Fires and the High-Rise Phoenix 84
  • 7 - The Titan City 101
  • 8 - Automobile 115
  • 9 - On the Road: of Highways and Gasoline 137
  • 10 - The Back Door into the Sky 152
  • 11 - Flying Down to Rio 172
  • 12 - A Boy's Life in the New Century 190
  • 13 - Inventing a Better Mousetrap 204
  • 14 - War 219
  • 15 - A Funeral in the Fifties 244
  • 16 - After Modern 258
  • Notes 269
  • Index 285
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