For months now, the Story Spieler podcast
(which features readings of public domain texts from Gutenberg Project as well as some CC licensed works) has been working through a 1910 book called Edison, His Life and Inventions
by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, a glowing biography of Edison. I've always thought of Edison as a kind of jerk and a plagiarist who took credit for his juniors' inventions (a narrative familiar to fans of Tesla), but there's some really remarkable stuff in here. Most recently, the podcast included the chapter on Portland cement
, and a remarkable account of a prefab, three-storey concrete house that Edison invented, which could be erected for $1200 (as opposed to $30,000 for a comparable cut-stone house). The house-moulds could be varied and permutated so that each house came out differently, and the houses were intended to form industrial suburbs around factories, so that working people could own their own homes.
Edison's conception of the workingman's ideal house has been a broad one from the very start. He was not content merely to provide a roomy, moderately priced house that should be fireproof, waterproof, and vermin-proof, and practically indestructible, but has been solicitous to get away from the idea of a plain "packing-box" type. He has also provided for ornamentation of a high class in designing the details of the structure. As he expressed it: "We will give the workingman and his family ornamentation in their house. They deserve it, and besides, it costs no more after the pattern is made to give decorative effects than it would to make everything plain." The plans have provided for a type of house that would cost not far from $30,000 if built of cut stone. He gave to Messrs. Mann & McNaillie, architects, New York, his idea of the type of house he wanted. On receiving these plans he changed them considerably, and built a model. After making many more changes in this while in the pattern shop, he produced a house satisfactory to himself.
EDISON PORTLAND CEMENT
This one-family house has a floor plan twenty-five by thirty feet, and is three stories high. The first floor is divided off into two large rooms--parlor and living-room--and the upper floors contain four large bedrooms, a roomy bath-room, and wide halls. The front porch extends eight feet, and the back porch three feet. A cellar seven and a half feet high extends under the whole house, and will contain the boiler, wash-tubs, and coal-bunker. It is intended that the house shall be built on lots forty by sixty feet, giving a lawn and a small garden.
It is contemplated that these houses shall be built in industrial communities, where they can be put up in groups of several hundred. If erected in this manner, and by an operator buying his materials in large quantities, Edison believes that these houses can be erected complete, including heating apparatus and plumbing, for $1200 each. This figure would also rest on the basis of using in the mixture the gravel excavated on the site. Comment has been made by persons of artistic taste on the monotony of a cluster of houses exactly alike in appearance, but this criticism has been anticipated, and the molds are so made as to be capable of permutations of arrangement. Thus it will be possible to introduce almost endless changes in the style of house by variation of the same set of molds.
(via Story Spieler podcast
(Image: The Thomas Edison Papers)
This week on Cool Tools’ Maker Update: Kitty Grabs Gold, a beer cooler that follows you, the Circuit Playground Express, Adafruit and Microsoft, Other Machine Co. and Bre Pettis, Tinkercad Lego export, a great kit for gadget and toy hacking, and Maker Faires. Our featured Cool Tool is the iFixit Electronics Tool Kit. Check out […]
The mechanical Royal Kludge keyboard (Update: in stock here) seems to do well with Amazon reviewers, but there are no guarantees you’ll receive one with the coveted OFF/NO switch.
Microsoft announced Tuesday a long-awaited upgrade to its Surface Pro series of high-end tablet PCs, dropping the number from the name and adding Kaby Lake processors, more minutes on a charge and a few dollars to the price tag. Here’s Mark Hachman, Senior Editor at PCWorld: For Surface Pro 4 owners, the new Surface Pro […]
Boasting an IPX6 waterproof rating, the Trakk Bullet Ultra Compact Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker resists dust and heavy rainfall. It’s currently available in the Boing Boing Store.The Trakk Bullet offers the same wireless convenience as other portable speakers, but few are built as tough as this one. Its utilitarian construction is designed to be a totally low-maintenance […]
The Ticwatch 2 Active Smartwatch is a simpler take on an active wearable that raised over $2m dollars on Kickstarter and is currently offered in the Boing Boing Store.Somewhere in between the single-day battery life and platform-specificity of the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices, there exists the Ticwatch. Instead of trying to shoehorn another […]
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]