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Spring 1996 | Volume 11 |  Issue 4

The Blue Riband Lives

I HAVE JUST READ “THE THRALL OF the Blue Riband,” by Robert C. Post (Winter 1996). Your readers might be interested to know that the Blue Riband, which the United States won on her maiden voyage in 1952, is now in foreign hands. The Sea Cat , a tri-hulled car ferry built for the England-to-France channel trade, eclipsed the United States ’s record in 1990 by a mere two hours and forty-six minutes. But this was a 243-foot aluminum-hulled boat carrying no passengers and only basic crew. In 1992 the Italians took the Riband with a light yacht that averaged sixty miles per hour and crossed in fifty-eight hours and thirty-four minutes.

Nevertheless, the last true ocean liner to win the Blue Riband was, and always will be, the SS United States .

Frank E. Wrenick
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Seaway To Somewhere

DANIEL J. MCCONVILLE, IN “SEAWAY to Nowhere” (Fall 1995), articulated the history of the St. Lawrence Seaway extremely well throughout most of his article, but the few negative remarks about the Seaway unfortunately inspired the attention-grabbing title. I am compelled to defend my bread and butter in case anyone read your title without reading the article.

Yes, the Seaway has experienced a decline in cargo over the years, and yes, the millions of people who have earned a living from this magnificent waterway know that tomorrow will not be the same as today. The Seaway may not have completely fulfilled the grand visions of the movers and shakers in 1959, when it opened, but it has been and will continue to be an essential part of Canada’s development as a trading nation. Because of the collective expertise and creativity of the people who have been a part of moving more than two billion tons of cargo through this enormous navigable waterway, the Seaway will be around for many years to come.

Nora Logan
Manager, Public Relations
Thunder Bay Harbour Commission
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Flying Saucer

ROBERT DOUGLASS’S ARTICLE ON THE Avrocar (“Flying Saucers From Canada!,” Winter 1996) was very enjoyable. It reminded me of an aircraft developed by Sikorsky in the 1980s called the X-Wing. It was basically a fourbladed helicopter; the objective was to stop the rotor in flight with the blades positioned so they formed an X. This would create, in effect, a fixedwing aircraft with two sets of swept wings, one sweeping forward and the other back. It was similar to the Avrocar in two respects. First, it used the Coanda effect rather than mechanical linkage to control the lift on the blades; the control stick operated air valves that directed compressed air over each rotor blade. Second, it was another attempt to create a vehicle with both the low speed or hover of a helicopter and the high speed of a fixed wing. The program was canceled mainly because of lack of funds, not lack of technical feasibility.

Mike Ceruzzi
Monroe, Conn.

Flying Saucer

THERE IS AN AVROCAR IN THE NATIONAL Air and Space Museum’s inventory; it is located at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland. Visitors to the Garber Facility have often considered the Avrocar to be the answer to the UFO enigma, and they have been very disappointed when told of its less-thanoutstanding performance.

Philip N. French
Docent, Garber Facility
Silver Hill, Md.

Portable Ice Cream

“THE INSIDE SCOOP,” BY ANNE FUN derburg (Winter 1996), was truly a delicious piece of history. One small addition: In 1949 Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) received the first of forty patents for portable air-cooling units. That invention changed the truck industry—and changed the way we shop for food. Jones, an African-American inventor, has twenty additional patents for inventions such as portable X-ray machinery, movie sound equipment, a self-starting gasoline engine, and other devices for controlling temperature. In 1991, nearly a century after Jones’s birth, President Bush awarded him a posthumous National Medal of Technology.

Professor Fred M. B. Amram
Director, Academic Affairs
General College
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minn.

Do Not Drop!

I ENJOYED MICHAEL PETERSON’S FINE article “Thomas Edison’s Concrete Houses” (Winter 1996), and in particular the segment on concrete furniture. During the mid-1980s, while I was doing research at the Henry Ford Museum, I came upon a photograph of one of the concrete phonograph cabinets. The phonograph in the photo was in sad shape, with its lid cracked in two and its record cabinet door off its hinges. I learned that the cabinet in the photograph had been shipped to the Ford Museum in 1929 by Edison himself. Over the years it had somehow disappeared.

Judging from the photo, Edison’s concrete cabinets must have been quite ornate—this one was in rococo style—and Peterson is evidently right in his speculation that they simply couldn’t be shipped to market in one piece.

Ronald Dethlefson
Bakersfield, Calif.

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

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