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Congress Was Prophetic About Cars, But Ford,
Buick, Chev, Olds, Cadillac Won

The Congressional Record of 1875 warned: “Experiments are underway to use an engine to propel a vehicle. It may someday prove to be more revolutionary in the development of human society than the invention of the wheel, the use of metals or the steam engine... The dangers are obvious... Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline engines might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action.”

Despite this admonition, it wasn’t long before Frank and Charles Duryea introduced the first American gasoline vehicle, in 1893.

One of the early inventors was David Dunbar Buick. He left the plumbing business, where he had invented a technique for fusing porcelain to cast iron, and developed a new car. The car was successful, although the company was not. It went bankrupt, and Buick sold his rights to W.C. Durant, the founder of General Motors.

Also early on the scene with this dangerous new form of transportation was Louis Chevrolet. He was a Swiss engineer who was originally in the bicycle business. He and Durant formed the Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911. Chevrolet and Durant did not see eye to eye as partners. About the only thing they agreed on was the name. Chevrolet wanted a car named after him to be classy - he was a race car driver and wanted that type of car. Durant wanted a car that could compete with the Ford Model T. Durant won, and Chevrolet went back to designing and racing sports cars.

The Oldsmobile was named for Ransom Eli Olds, who produced his first runabout in 1901. The Cadillac was named by Henry Leland, who used the name of Antoine de la Monthe Cadillac, a French explorer who founded the city of Detroit.

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Bed Linens Provided Early Days Challenge

Among the items we take for granted today are sheets and pillowcases. This was not always the case, however. Making and repairing “bed linens” was one of the time-consuming tasks facing an early-day housewife.

The wealthy colonists had sheets that actually were of fine linen. Less well-to-do families used coarser materials such as canvas or hempen, a cream-colored rough linen. They were seamed in the middle and hemmed at both ends.

Originally, just a single sheet was used on a bed, on the bottom. It was not until the 1880s that two sheets per bed became standard.

Women marked their bed linens by embroidering their initials, along with numbers, on them. This enabled them not only to keep track of how many they had, but also to rotate them for more even wear.

There was dissension in the mid-1800s as to whether India ink should be used for marking. Some claimed it disfigured the sheet. Others who were either more practical or less skilled with an embroidery needle recognized ink marking as a great labor-saving technique.

The best pillowcases were also made of fine linen. The earliest ones had twill ties at one end to close them. In 1850, buttons and buttonholes frequently replaced the ties. By the late Victorian period, matching sheets and huge pillowcases were in vogue.

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Ben Franklin Memorabilia Could
Fill Any Household

An interesting collection can be built around memorabilia related to Benjamin Franklin.

He was an extremely versatile man and any collection relating to his achievements could include books and pamphlets about him, by him, or printed on his press; and prints and engravings in which he is featured.

He invented lightning rods, fireplace stoves and bifocal glasses, and early representations of these will add interest to a collection.
He also founded the first fire department, so appropriate items from this category will also fit.

Franklin began his pocket-sized paperbound Almanacks in 1732. They interspersed weather information with witty sayings and moral precepts. About 10.000 were sold annually, and Poor Richard’s Almanack was often the only reading material in early households.

The wise sayings of Poor Richard, praising common sense, honesty, and prudence, became wonderfully successful in the instruction of American morals. Often borrowed from the classics, Franklin simplified and clarified them with his own wisdom, and such sayings as “God helps those who help themselves” have become American proverbs.

A collection of Franklin memorabilia should probably include samples of the many plates and mugs made over the years that have been decorated with maxims from the Almanack. Transfer printed plates were made as early as 1780 by Staffordshire, England, potters and exported to America by the thousands. Peddlers sold them throughout the countryside, as they sold their wares.

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