Colt Pistol Patented

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Pistol patent day is celebrated tomorrow, February 25th. Samuel Colt received a British patent on his improved design for a revolver in 1835, and two U.S. patents in 1836, one on February 25 and another on August. That same year, he founded his first corporation for its manufacture in Paterson, NJ. Making firearms with interchangeable parts was still rather new (it had reached commercial viability only about a decade before), and it was not yet easy to replicate across different factories. The Colt Paterson revolver found patchy success and failure.

Colt made another attempt at revolver production in 1846 and submitted a prototype to the US government, which was used during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). This prototype was seen by Captain Samuel Walker, who made some suggestions to Colt about making it in a larger caliber. Having no factory or machinery to produce the pistols, Samuel Colt collaborated with the Whitney amory  in Connecticut. This armory was run by the family of Eli Whitney, Jr, the son of the cotton-gin-developer patriarch.

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Colt’s new revolvers found favor with Texan volunteers (the progenitors of later Texas Ranger cavalry groups), and they placed an order for 1,000 revolvers that became known as the Colt Walker, ensuring Colt’s continuance in manufacturing revolvers. In 1848, Colt was able to start again with a new business of his own, and 1855, he converted it into a corporation under the name of Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company. It was a leader in assembly line practice, a major innovator and training ground in manufacturing technology.

Colt was also innovative in the treatment of his employees. Although he ran the plant with a military-like discipline, he established a ten-hour day for employees, installed washing stations in the factory, mandated a one-hour lunch break, and built the Charter Oak Hall, a club where employees could enjoy games, newspapers, and discussion rooms. He also set up libraries and educational programs within the plants for his employees

In 1852 an employee of Colt’s, Rollin White, came up with the idea of having the revolver cylinder bored through to accept metallic cartridges. He took this idea to Colt who flatly rejected it and ended up firing White within a few years. Colt historian RL Wilson has described this as the major blunder of Sam Colt’s professional life.

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Rollin White left Colt’s in December 1854 and registered a patent on April 3, 1855 for an improvement in repeating firearms. On November 17, 1856 White signed an agreement with Smith and Wesson for the exclusive use of his patent. Smith & Wesson not only introduced its first revolver in 1857 (a rear-loader), but also started, as of 1858, to convert cap & ball percussion guns into rear-loaders, even with formerly Colt manufactured revolvers.

But the Colt’s company itself was prevented by American laws from infringing the Rollin White patent and in the 1850s and 1860s continued manufacturing percussion guns. In 1860 it produced a new revolver model for the United States Army. This Colt Army Model 1860 appeared just in time for the American Civil War. (from Wikipedia)

Lawn tennis, anyone?

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The modern game of tennis (originally called lawn tennis) was patented this date in 1874 by Walter Wingfield of Pimlico, England. It had close connections both to various field (“lawn”) games such as croquet and bowls, as well as to the older racket sport of real tennis. During most of the 19th century, in fact, the term “tennis” referred to real tennis, not lawn tennis.

Tennis is a racquet sport that can be played individually against a single opponent  (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a tennis racket that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent’s court. The object of the game is to play the ball in such a way that the opponent is not able to play a valid return. The player who is unable to return the ball will not gain a point, while the opposite player will.

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The rules of tennis have changed little since the 1890s. Tennis is played by millions of recreational players and is also a popular worldwide spectator sport. The four Grand Slam tournaments (also referred to as the “Majors”) are especially popular: the Australian Open played on hard courts, the French Open played on red clay courts, Wimbledon played on grass courts, and the US Open played also on hard courts.  (from Wikipedia)

Five-and-dime store introduced

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The F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth’s) was a retail company and one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. It was arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime, setting trends and creating the modern retail model which stores follow worldwide today.

The first Woolworth store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth this date in 1878, as “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, N.Y. Though it initially appeared to be successful, the store soon failed. When Woolworth searched for a new location, a friend suggested Lancaster, PA. Using the sign from the Utica store, Woolworth opened his first successful “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” on July 18, 1879, in Lancaster. He brought his brother, Charles, into the business. In 1880, they sold the first manufactured Christmas trees

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The two Woolworth brothers pioneered and developed merchandising, direct purchasing, sales, and customer service practices commonly used today. In 1910 Frank Woolworth took another leap and commissioned the design and construction of the Woolworth Building in N Y City. A pioneering early skyscraper, it was entirely paid for in cash. It was completed in 1913 and was the  tallest building in the world until 1930.

In the 1960s, the five-and-dime concept evolved into the larger discount department store format. Despite growing to be one of the largest retail chains in the world through most of the 20th Century, increased competition led to its decline beginning in the 1980s.

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The chain went out of business in July 1997, when the company decided to focus on the Foot Locker division. By 2001, the company focused exclusively on the sporting goods market, changing its name to the present Foot Locker, Inc.

 

Retail chains using the Woolworth name survive in Austria, Germany, Mexico and, until the start of 2009, the United Kingdom. (from Wikipedia)

Prizes inserted into Cracker Jack boxes.

A prize is inserted into a Cracker Jack box for the first time this date in 1913. It is well-known for being packaged with a prize of trivial value inside. Cracker Jack is an American brand of snack consisting of molasses-flavored caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, first produced in 1896. Some historians consider it the first junk food. It was named by an enthusiastic sampler who remarked: “That’s a crackerjack!” (a colloquialism meaning “of excellent quality”).

A German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim sold popcorn in Chicago beginning in 1871 using steam equipment. He eventually developed the present popular popcorn confection. The Cracker Jack mascots Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo were introduced in 1916. Jack was modeled after his grandson, who died at age eight shortly after his image appeared. Bingo was based on a real-life dog, a stray adopted in 1917, who died of old age in 1930.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a song released in 1908 with the line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” brought a lot of free publicity to the product. In 1922, the name of the Chicago company was changed to The Cracker Jack Company. The brand was bought by Borden in 1964, then Frito-Lay since 1997. (from Wikipedia and Cute Calendar.com)

Huckleberry Finn gets his own story

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Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published this date in 1885. He originally appeared in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876.

The character of Huck Finn is based on Tom Blankenship, the real-life son of a sawmill laborer and some time drunkard named Woodson Blankenship, who lived in a “ramshackle” house near the Mississippi River behind the house where the author grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. The father of Huck, called “Pap” Finn, may be based on Jimmy Finn, a full-blown alcoholic who lived on the streets, and it is only through Twain’s remembrances that Woodson is characterized as a drunkard. Twain left Hannibal and his boyhood at an early age and his memories of these people are colored by what he could have known and understood at the time, as a boy of less than 14 years old. Twain’s friend Tom Blankenship didn’t attend school because there were no public schools at the time, and his family was too poor to send him to a private school. Left at loose ends in a busy household with six sisters and lacking a mother who seems to have died when he was young, this Tom was indeed “at liberty” most of the time.

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Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn in his autobiography: “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquil and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – (from Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Wikipedia)

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–Mark Twain is the pseudonym of Samuel Clemons.