Sunday, February 26, 2017

Postblogging Technology, January 1947, I: If This Goes On

Mrs. B. T.,
79 Av de Harmonia,

Dear Jenny:

Since you are about to receive the Earl, Uncle George, and my Father for the New Years holiday, (best wishes for the Year of the Pig, if my next slips behind schedule!) you are also the lucky recipient of this newsletter. The important material is at the back, as usual. Ther endless bit at the head is just comment on the news, which is usually done in aid of defending Uncle George's very speculative stock investment strategy.

This time, you will see that rather more is at stake. You will find the Earl very frightening, tallking of socialist revolution by the summer. The news does not seem quite so alarmist, but I cannot believe that The Economist, usually so skeptical of the Labour Government, has not seen the handwriting on the wall. It is perfectly capable of doing the arithmetic, and seeing how much worse a bad winter would make things. My sense is that it is not saying anything, so as not to frighten anyone. There is also the little difficulty that the only possible route through the thickets runs through the new Republican Congress in Washington. If things go as badly as the Earl fears, it will be very difficult politics for them!  

I keep returning to the Earl's news instead of my own, and now I find that I have run quite out of time. It is a good thing that I wrote you last week, after so many delays, or you would think that nothing ever happens here in Santa Clara!  


P.S. Thank you for your Christmas gifts, especially the gown for Victoria, which is beautiful, and extravagant. You are perfectly correct in thinking that the rest of Arcadia can get very cold when the air conditioning is working hard enough to keep the nursery cool! A case of marmalade, and something a little more Californian, is on its way to you by return!

Return with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when the people who stayed at the Mayflower did, sometimes, also stay at auio courts in Nebraska.

Flight,  2 January 1947


“The Old Year” 1947 was a year in which British aviation was wonderful.

“—And the New” Will hopefully see something done about these airliner crashes. The paper thinks that with engines and navigation as reliable as they are (and navigation could be even more reliable, if not for politics), the crash problem boils down to landings and takeoffs, and the pursuit of high speed, which means high landing speed, is the issue. Which is, Uncle George reminds me, something that it has been saying for a long time.
It certainly doesn't have anything to do with the industry being reckless!

“Duplex Airscrews, Part II: An Analysis of the Rotol Hydraulic ‘Contra-Prop’” Rotol has put a contra-rotating airscrew on the Rolls-Royce Griffon 85-engined Spitfire 22. Unlike coaxial airscrews, which are driven by separate powerplants with the driveshafts co-axial, a contra-prop runs off a single engine plant, with the reduction gears complicated up to the point that one of the shafts rotates in the opposite direction from the other. This balances engine and air mass rotational torque and gives hydraulic engineers an excuse to build a ridiculously complicated gadget, when you include in the need for pitch changes, and the fact that the pilot controls engine speed and air flow, and the only way that engine speed can be reconciled with air speed and with the fuel-air mass is via automatic pitch changes. Any significant time change would lead to surges in the fuel mass flow and oscillations of the airscrew blades, which would be bad. And by “significant,” I mean a lag that exceeds the overall dampening effect in the pitch-change mechanism. 

“Naval Aircraft: Design Requirements Discussed by Supermarine Technical Staff: Precis of a Talk Given to the Southampton Branch of the R. Ae. S. by A. N. Clifton” Deck landing-capable aircraft have to land very hard on a very short deck. This makes them heavier. For a 10,000lb fighter, undercarriages (40lbs), arrestor hook support (60lbs), accelerator hook (50lbs), folding wings with lashing and slinging points (160lbs), and provision for oil heating and fuel draining (5lbs) and extra radio (30lbs) add up to an penalty of 450lbs. When landing on and launching at the same time, an aircraft carrier might allow only half its very short deck for takeoff. Lowered flap takeoffs are necessary, and contra-rotating airscrews, to eliminate swing, desirable. RATO units give a 1200lb thrust for four seconds, and weight 60lbs, with their jettisonable container adding 50. Engine and rockets together give 1 “g” acceleration. The British accelerator was a cordite or compressed-air powered winch pulling a trolley attached to the aircraft at four points, giving a maximum acceleration of 2.5 gs, or 1.75 on average. This, combined with engine, rocket, and 20 knots of wind over the deck, give an airspeed of 80knots at the end of a 250ft run. An alternative American system was better and simpler, and was adopted by the Royal Navy. Launching a squadron of 12 aircraft might take ten minutes, and if the accompanying ships were not headed upwind, the aircraft carrier might be 7 to 8 miles separate from the fleet by the end of the manoeuvre, something of a nightmare in a “Jutland” type situation. Fortunately, the Pacific Fleet never got into that position, thanks to Ray’s care and the Admiral’s dumb luck. Landing on was a much more difficult matter. Once again, the plane must approach against the wind. The arrestor gear can only absorb 60 knots of horizontal aircraft velocity relative to the ship (you have probably seen an automobile accident or two where the driver was “going like sixty”), so a 20-knot headwind absorbs almost half the total energy of an aircraft landing at 80 knots. At the same time, the aircraft’s undercarriage is absorbing a vertical velocity of 16 feet per second. Landing on is to take only 30 seconds per aircraft, which is why power wing-folding is so important, as the folding can be done while the aircraft is taxiing to the deck park or elevator.
The only problem with aircraft carriers is that the manufacturers keep failing them. They must love the Air Force or something.

In the future, the atomic bomb may make aircraft carriers more important, as they are much harder to find and blow up than land airfields, which can hardly move at all. Mr. Clifton can imagine a future in which radio-controlled missiles replace piloted aircraft, in which case an aircraft carrier will become something like a battleship –a magazine of expendable missiles, and a “complicated radio ‘brain’ for directing them.” This is a nice reward for reading through to the end –I can put it to Uncle George, and he will be off to design this radio brain twenty years ahead of its being necessary.

The paper remembers T. R. Thomas, Secretary of the Air Registration Board, who died at 53 last week, and Mrs. Richard Pearse, the former Dorothy Spicer, Pauline Gower’s flight engineer, at one point in the 1930s the only woman qualified as a ground engineer in England. Dorothy and her husband were killed in a York airliner crash near Rio de Janeiro this week. 

“The Old Year: High Lights of 1946” The year has seen some informal records: 53 hours from England to New Zealand, 32 hours to South Africa, and very real, important ones, including the speed record; and, more importantly the distance record, of which more below. It was also, I remind myself, a year of first after first in civil aviation as the postwar air services launched. It is now possible for a civilian to buy a ticket to fly from Europe to America, and once again possible to do so from England to Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa. All the dire news from the airlines’ business offices come down to it not happening even more and faster. Accidents didn’t help with that, notably the Constellation crashes that delayed BOAC’s Constellation service over the North Atlantic.  Pacusan Dreamboat’s Honolulu-Cairo flight over the North Pole shows that B-29s can fly a long way, even if it falls short of a genuine threat to Russia, as it was not carrying an atomic bomb. The year also saw the return of civil flying to England.  New planes this year included the Sabre-engined Fury I, which set a speed of 483mph at 18,500ft, 150mph faster than a Hurricane of the Battle of Britain, even if the piston-engined level flight speed record is still held by a P-47J Thunderbolt that exceeded 500mph in level flight. Nene-powered Vampires and Meteors are the future, but there are no English jet bombers to match the American ones, and no Mosquito replacement.  Various wartime secret projects, including the Short Sturgeon and the General Aircraft tailless glider, were announced, as were details of the abandoned Miles M52.
By The Flight magazine archive from Flightglobal, CC BY-SA 4.0,

New planes under construction at year’s end included the Supermarine S.14/44 variable-incidence amphibian and the Heston twin-boom observation aircraft

Exciting new programmes planes include the Percival Prentice trainer and the Avro Tudor II airliner, though some of the shine is off it now that it is no longer deemed Atlantic-capable, even if being able to carry 60 passengers is impressive. The Viking II and Handley-Page Hastings have arrived. The paper is far more excited than I am about the Solent, but until Hong Kong gets a new airport, flying boats are far safer, and offer the only hope for an international service into Macao. There are no completely new turbojets in full production, but the Derwent V almost counts, and the Nene and the Ghost are very near production. The excitingMetrovick turbines, with their ducted fan thrust augmentors, are doing well on the bench. Their potential for fuel economy may be the key factor when airlines come to choose jet engines. If not them, then the turboprop might steal the show. The Bristol turboprops are gadgety and interesting. The newly announced Armstrong-Siddeley Python is the most powerful British engine to date: 3,750shp at the airscrew, plus 1150lb thrust. 
Westland Wyvern with Armstrong-Siddeley Python engine. It was originally to take the Rolls-Royce Eagle 22.

The Mamba, on the other hand, is the smallest turboprop to date, at 1010 shaft horsepower plus 320lb thrust. Both use axial compressors. For the moment, however, civil services still depend on the old piston engine. It simply has too much of an advantage on fuel economy, especially while the problems of pressurising cabins for 40,000ft are being worked out. New piston power units include the Hercules 230, Sabre VII (the first English engine rated for water/methanol injection), Griffon 130, Merlin 620 and the coupled Centaurus on the Bristol 167. The Hercules 130, a 38.7L, 14-cylinder radial, gives 2055hp, a 50% improvement on the original, from a 20% increase in weight. This is more impressive in that air-cooled engines usually have less room to grow than liquid-cooled ones. The Merlin 620 is the civilian version, giving 1770hp at 3000rpm. It will be installed on the Tudor II and the Anglo-Canadian DC-4, making them loud and buzzy planes. (The paper doesn’t say that; James does, with the emphatic agreement of Reggie, Junior, who has had his war-surplus Indian motorcycle out for the entire holidays. He claims to know an old-time motorcycle courier who has lost the tip of three fingers to gangrene brought on by engine vibrations. All the more reason, I say, to not ride the thing, at least in winter! )

“Another American Amphibian: The Grumman Mallard Eight-ten-seater for Airline Work” A “feeder airliner” that can land on dirt or water. It should be just the thing in Hawaii and the Philippines. 

“Metrovick R.5: Open Fan Thrust Augmentor on Standard F.2 Gas Generator” The paper has already mentioned this obliquely. The idea here is that a “fan,” basically an airscrew, is placed behind the turbojet engine, and driven from the turbine, in the same way as the compressor, receiving cold air ducted from the front of the wings. The Metrovick installation is much simpler and lighter than a true airscrew, since it is not geared (It is “free-wheeling”), and the F.5 installation, isn’t even cowled. It’s just out there, like a regular “pusher” airscrew. The fuel efficiency comes from a little thermodynamic identity –and I had to stop myself after writing that. Please forgive my little pedantries!

Here and There

The paper celebrates two ex-RAF P.o.W.s who invited four German P.o.W.s from a nearby camp to celebrate Christmas with them. The paper has now decided that it is good to be nice to Germans. The Americans have tested a 14 ton V-2, launching it to a height of 111 miles with a top-speed of 3600mph. It is hoped that in a future trial, it might “hurl small metal slugs . . . [with] enough speed to overcome gravity and continue into space.” I assume that this means establishing an “orbit” around the Earth, and not achieving the actual Earth escape velocity, which is a staggering 7 miles per second.  Nature has given us one satellite, the Moon; any lucky Martians are treated to two “hurtling moons of Barsoom,” Jupiter and Saturn have dozens, and our own dear Sun has nine it its planetary family. Earth will soon surpass its neighbours and be far too gaudy and ostentatious for polite planetary society! 


D. Usher thinks that the Governmentis discouraging ultra-light aircraft “[T]o destroy our inheritance of airsupremacy towards the establishment of the Big Idea of a World State controlledby a World Government enforced by a World Police Force with propaganda by a UNOwhat –the ideal of most Internationalist and well-meaning, if misguided FederalUnionists who are among its most enthusiastic supporters.” So much for my notion that the civil air authorities were trying to stop crazy people from killing themselves! Norman Vaughan thinks that the Government is BUNGLING radio operator training. D. Usher’s second letter of the week thinks that there should be a powered-sailplane association, as well as a glider association and an ultralight aircraft association. “474” thinks that the Government is BUNGLING the “B” license. “Serving Volunteer” thinks that RAF medals-giving-out is being BUNGLED.

The Economist, 4 January 1947


“Oil Politics” Standard Oil of NewJersey and the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company are the joint American partners in an oil field in Iraq near Kirkuk, held in equal shares by Anglo-Iranian, Royal Dutch-Shell, the Americans and a French group. It is connected to the Mediterranean by a pipeline. Aside from this, Standard and Socony’s interest in the Middle East has been small; but now they have bought a substantial interest in a large field mid-way down the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. This is probably the largest oil field in the world, and they are talking about connecting it with the pipeline at Kirkuk. Hitherto, American and Caribbean fields have provided 78% of the world’s petroleum, but Western Hemisphere consumption is growing rapidly, and the American oil exporters look like they will soon have no oil to export. Meanwhile, the Middle Eastern oil producers have the opposite problem. Anglo-Iranian’s production, mainly in southwestern Persia, but also in the small trucial principalities of Kuwait and Bahrain, has doubled during the war years, even though Anglo-Iranian is hard pressed to refine and export it. The Americans will buy it in the Middle East and sell it in Europe. It will be, in effect, an American re-export, and a highly favourable item in the American balance of payments.The question is whether England will refine it, instead of importing already-refined oil from Abidjan in Persia. as it does now.Various concerns about Mediterranean strategy in WWIII, and the Arab reaction to Zionism are raised.

“Divided Zion” Speaking of Zionism, the Zionists are meeting in Basel more. Dr. Weizmann continues to believe that Palestine must be partitioned between Arab and Jew, while Rabbi Silver wants the whole country, and believes that American policy can be turned to that position, while the British have already made up their mind to be awful to Jews, so that there is no point in negotiating with them. Mr. Weizmann lost a vote on attending the London Conference, and has left Basel. A steering committee is trying to put the Silver vision into effect –which basically means violence. The paper calls on the Government to stop BUNGLING and enforce a partition.

“The Teaching of Economics” The universities are BUNGLING it. 

“Danubian Outlook, I: Prospects for Agriculture” In the countries along the lower Danube, peasants want land reform and better prices.

Notes of the Week

‘Nineteen Forty-Seven” The next year might not be completely horrible. Under the heading of “New Year’s Honours,” the paper unaccountably fails to mention my husband’s promotion. 

“Atomic Energy and Disarmament” The Russians have tentatively embraced the Baruch Agreement, in hope of securing atomic disarmament. Diplomatic manouevres continue.
The Russians, being paranoid, are afraid that an inspections and sanctions regime will be exploited to create a casus belli. 

“France and the Saar” France has sent customs officials into the Saarland and sealed off its German borders. The French are still angling for the incorporation of the Saarland into France, but won’t ask their allies for it, presumably because they expect to be refused. So now they’re caught halfway, and the paper thinks it was a serious misstep that will only hurt Germany further.

“The Coal Board Takes Over” The Coal Board has officially taken over the industry, promising a five-day week from May, but not adequate coal this winter. In related news, the extended unemployment benefit is now in effect. It won’t be expensive, since years of full employment have left the Unemployment Fund with a healthy balance, but it will address the worst aspect of unemployment, the long-term kind. The paper also notes that it reflects the “extreme immobility of labour.”

“Intelligence and the Birth Rate” Sir Cyril Burr of the Royal Commission of Population, has done up a study, recently published by the Eugenics Society, on the question of whether stupid people are having more babies than smart people, resulting in the population becoming ever more stupid since at least last Tuesday. (I am being facetious, but with a point, since extrapolating this trend back far enough yields ridiculous results, and no-one can ever explain why it shouldn’t be so extrapolated.) He has found the usual tosspot of rubbish about rich peoples’ children being smarter than poor people’s, and that all the world is going into the trash unless we stop assisting poor people with family allowances and start helping rich people with a “generous tax allowance for children increasingly progressively with earned income.” If I sound a bit vehement, it is because I have had far too many conversations with mothers about their children being excluded from San Francisco schools on the grounds of maladministered IQ tests. I even have a copy of one of Dr. Burt’s books, handed to me by a school administrator in the case of Tommy Wong, which I somehow restrained myself from returning in care of a dacoit. 

It turns out that by this point in his career, Burt is just straight making up his "The Working class r dumb" data. The Economist will blame one of the typos in this article on its printers next week, completely missing the fact that it has misspelled Dr. Burt's name. 

“Misunderstanding Over the Sudan” The English seem very enthusiastic about colonial independence when the alternative is handing it over to Egypt.

“Deflation by Exhortation” France has declared a 10% reduction in all prices over 60 days. The idea is to encourage the French to “hold” currency instead of goods, which are being hoarded. The paper thinks that the initiative is doomed, even if the current problem is “psychological” instead of inflationary, that is, due to budget deficits.

“De Gaulle and the Presidency” De Gaulle will not stand for the presidency of the Fourth Republic. Will there be a Gaullist coup? Further bulletins as events warrant.
Ten years more of this. Yay! I was going to paste in a picture of General de Gaulle here, but then I saw this one of Patricia Cutts, and I decided, if the choice is between two narcissists., I like Ms. Cutts better. 

“China’s New Constitution” The English press is reporting that the “Confucian Santa Claus” has blessed a grateful nation with a new constitution that is more democratic than otherwise because of American pressure. Meanwhile, T. V. Soong is under heavy attack in the Assembly for his “too obvious” American connections, with Chang Chun seen as a possible successor.

“Imperialism in Antarctica” The Antarctic might have uranium, in which case the current surge of national scientific research there may lead to said imperialism.

“Special Juries” The paper cannot see a problem with a system in which High Court jurors have to be men of property, and the “special jurors” have even more. (It is also quite excited that “black coat” professionals who work for local councils might soon be able to get their expenses remitted.) It reports that the lifting on the ban on married women work is spreading through the County Councils.

Danish Economic Crisis” The Danes are going to fix their heavy adverse trade balance by cutting imports 25% and increasing exports by 50%. English cars, textiles and luxury goods will be heavily affected, and the Danes blame the English for refusing to pay acceptable prices for Danish ram produce. The paper points out that it is (mostly) down to Danish extravagance and feckless irresponsibility.


W. N. Leak, of Dingle House, Winsford, Cheshire, is upset about the health services act. William F. Jordan, of 23 Arlington Road, Eastbourne, Sussex, points out that the paper’s attempt to compare Burma and French Indo-China goes astray. A revolution, if not a civil war, is clearly about to break out in Annam, while in Burma, the Burmese are cheerfully getting on with preparing for self government after the English leave, and since they seem prepared to do so, the country is as peaceful and orderly as can be expected. It would lift Great-Uncle’s heart if he were alive to see it. John Jewkes replies to Professor Balogh on the lines of, “No, you’re the unrealistic one.” Professor Balogh is at fault for liking planning, not liking America enough, and liking Denmark too much. (See above; also, France.) Charles F. Carter, of 20, the Broadway, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, thinks that the paper is much too harsh on the Government, and another correspondent complains that none of the draft reports and agreements on international trade have been published so that he can see them, due to paper shortages.

From the Economist of 1847

Incredibly, the paper used to be even more long-winded than it is now. “Monopolies, corn laws, bounties, excise restrictions, heavy discriminating customs duties are known to be wrong or forbidden by the laws of nature, like murder or theft, for their manifold evil consequences. . . “ Maybe so, but you just had a precious paragraph to prove these claims, and it boiled down to “Just say no to seconds at dessert.”

American Survey

“The International Bank (From Our US Editorial staff) Is the International Bank in trouble due to the resignation of Mr. Meyers and the delay in appointing a replacement? No, not as long as it acts like a bank, and also takes over Unrra’s job of providing relief, which isn’t what a bank does, but hem-haw responsible borrowing moral upstandingness conditions of trade it will all be right in the end! So long as certain countries (countries that are just like England) get loan repayment relief. Also, there should be legislation to allow insurance companies to buy World Bank bonds, because even though American banks are allowed to buy the bonds, and the Wisconsin decision was irrelevant, hem-haw some more.

“Basic Metals: Limits to Production”

During the war, it was fashionable to think that production could continue to rise forever. Now it turns out that there is not enough steel, as production of durable goods is running ahead of 1941, when there were 83 million tons of steel available, and this strike-shortened year will likely see 80 million produced. I very much preferred Fortune’s version, where it was mainly a shortage of types of steel, but even the paper notices that the shortage is mainly in sheet steel. Also, copper is short, leading off the base metals, such as lead, which has crimped theproduction of tetraethyl lead for high-octane gasoline and for paint, where theshortage is complicated by a lack of linseed oil to make lead-less paints.

As you know, the family took an interest in a large lead mine and refinery on the Columbia River at the Canadian border a half-century ago, because it was good cover for other business. Now we find quite embarrassing profits flowing from it –to the point where we’ve had to have very serious talks with the company about the box cars reserved for our use. (Traditionally we've had two or three at the back of the train as “dead head” be."It turns out that you can play the same game with timber, because it is almost as much lighter than lead concentrate as migrants. It has been a very good line in America for the last few months, and mine management thinks that we’re getting greedy. The reason that you care is that we’ll be taking more migrants.) 
I’m sorry. That interjection may be out of place. Anyway, from the perspective of the larger world, the more important implication is that the punishing American import duty on copper, enacted to protect the Anaconda partners, might be going.

American Notes

Completely irrelevant, but I'm never going to find
a better place for this.
“Programme for Congress” The new, GOP Congress wants lower taxes, still fewer controls on the economy, limits to Presidential power, curbs on labour, “full implementation of sovereign powers” abroad, and a probe into all the things that the Democrats got away with in the last fourteen years. 

The Administration will go along with curbing organised labour, but not nearly so far as “extending anti-trust legislation,” as industry is now demanding. In fact, here business has managed to find something so reactionary that even Senator Taft won’t go along with it. (In other news, the United Steelworkers might want a 20—25% increase this year, Chrysler wants 23—5 cents an hour, and there is increasing talk of “portal-to-portal” pay.)

“Dulles for Uno” Senator Vandenberg wants to run for President in 1948, and John Foster Dulles may replace him at the Uno. He is a Republican, and Congress wants more say on foreign policy, especially trade and tariff agreements, which the GOP are sure result in crafty foreigners getting their way over feckless American negotiators, led by Secretary Byrnes.

“Bilbo’s War Gains” Will Senator Bilbo be thrown out of the Senate for taking favours from war contractors, for intimidating Coloured voters, or, in the latest development, tax evasion? Probably the first, since the tax evasion case is slippery, and the Senator didn’t need to be out bribing and beating Negro voters when the state government stood ready to do it for him.

“The Morgenthau Diaries” Secretary Morgenthau’s diaries of his thirteen years in the White House extend to 900 volumes of 300 to 400 pages. The first published establishes that the Presidentchanged the price of gold fecklessly and with no consultation based on whims, and the fact that he had to maintain the price of American exports, and that it was all terrible, and that Montagu Norman and George Harrison of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had every reason to be horrified, even though nothing bad happened.  (Although financial markets suffered that worst of all perils, “uncertainty.”)

The World Overseas

“The Soil of Canada”

Canadians have joined the world in promoting soil conservation, with the establishment of a National Committee onSoil Conservation in Ottawa. Although it is not actually doing anything, and has no money to do it with, it is an important step. Dr. A. Leahy, the soil specialist of the Dominion Government, says that there are 89 million acres of land in use in Canada, including improved pasture, but that this includes 4 million acres of inferior land that should be withdrawn from cultivation, and that the virgin arable lands of Canada are, in addition, about 45 million acres. This is about 10% of the area of the provinces, and 5 ½ percent of the Dominion. The virgin lands include 2 million acres of “brown soil” in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, another “2 or 3 million acres” of “black soil” to its north, and 5 million acres of the “eastern podsol soil zone” in the Maritimes and eastern Quebec. British Columbia might have as many as 3 million acres of virgin land –it’s hard to tell with all the mountains. In short, there is no reserve to cover losses from erosion. Many techniques can reduce soil erosion, but Canadian yields per acre are so low it is not clear if they are going to be profitable.

“Dutch Financial Policy”

“The Return of Vargas” Ex-President Vargas will contest the elections to be held in Brazil that, by the time you have read this, will have long since happened, so you will know how it came out. For the record, the paper seems to think that he will probably win.

“Import Control in Shanghai” In an utterly unsurprising development, import controls at Shanghai will have a protectionist effect, but exclude certain interests from most favoured nations for the good of the Soongs Chinese people.

“Nationalisation and the Czech Two-Year Plan” The Czechs are nationalising industry, like Labour, and have a plan with “years” in it, like Russia, but also France.  It might not work out due to lack of exports to pay for imports.

The Business World

“The Kaffir Dilemma” Costs are going up, especially payments in kind to Coloured labour, due to rising prices, while the American buying price of gold remains unchanged. Higher costs affect the “pay limit,” or the amount of gold that can be extracted from a ton of ore at a profit. (The lower the pay limit, the leaner/deeper/unsafer the ore that can be extracted.) So the effect of rising costs is to shorten the life of a mine by reducing the amount of ore it can process. This is “hardly an auspicious background for the Kaffir share market.” The South African government will probably subsidise new mines.

Business Notes

“Looking Forward” The paper is still upset at the Chancellor for pushing interest rates on investments down. It is sure that the stock market is about to turn down, and points out that there is a limit to cheap money, because interest rates can’t go below zero, and considering that municipal bonds and the National Debt Commissioners are going the same way, it is clearly a sinister conspiracy.

“Only Chains to Lose” The paper hopes for an Association of Investors, and dreams of a “Capitalist strike,” but supposes that it is hopeless, because if the Government can alienate a million railway shareholders, it won’t hesitate to alienate investors.

“Fuel for Industry” Because it was the first to feel the pinch, Austin Motors got coal from the Ministry of Fuel emergency supply. Now Dunlop Rubber, the Bury cotton mills, and weaving firms around Blackburn have come close to stopping work. GEC at Witton is“precarious,” and EMI, near London, which employs 10,000 workers, has narrowly avoided a shutdown. The Northwestern Regional Board is proposing, in effect, coal rationing on non-essential services such as street-lighting, and the concern is that absenteeism and winter weather will push down coal production and make the problem even worse. It’s worth noting, however, that coal production the week ending 28 December 1946 was 2.275 million tons, compared with 1.701 million tons in the same week in December, showing that there has been progress. 

“The Budget Recoil” The “recoil” towards a balanced budget predicted by the Chancellor, has happened. The paper also notes that export prices have not begun to rise in reaction to rising import prices yet, and that no-one has volunteered to be President of the World Bank yet, because the Americans ignored wise English advice about administrative details. Also, the “end of window-dressing” failed to cause any of the catastrophes that some expected, while silver price discrepancies emerged again on the international market, due mainly to heavy demand in Bombay. Clothes prices are down, cotton profits are up, and base metal prices are going up, while platinum is going down.

“The Five-Day Week” The five-day week is spreading, and many employers find that it is not causing productivity declines. Amalgamated Cotton disagrees, but Standard Motor even proposes to go from a 42 ½ week to a 40-hour week as soon as possible. The paper hopes that there will be an independent study of whether or not the five-day week is bad. 

Flight, 9 January 1947


“Closer and Closer” England and America should be. The paper is very pleased by an official announcement that the two country’s armed services will continue wartime cooperation. “It is not to be expected that the two nations ill agree on every piece of equipment. . . “ But the Americans should license our jet engines, I add, under my voice.

This is a great idea if you can get the Americans to buy your stuff. If, on the other hand, you end up buying theirs, something about military Keynesianism in one country? By Tony Symonds - Symonds Family Archive, CC BY 4.0,

“Boscombe Down” Boscombe Down is where the Air Ministry has its trials and experiments establishment. The paper asked to send a team to look around and take pictures last fall, and it took until 23 December for the Air Ministry to vet the resulting article, and now here it is.

H. F. King, “Work and Organisation of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment” Oh, that’s the problem, right there. The paper sent an idiot to cover the story. He opens by complaining that the facilities of are inadequate. Considering that it was moved here in a hurry from a sea coast site at the beginning of the war, and has expanded enormously since, I wonder if this even needed saying? He goes on to a long, long list of essentially everyone who works at Boscombe Down, it seems. I wonder if they were besieging the paper, wanting to know when their story would appear? As for concrete details, well, it turns out that they do flying testing, and landing tests, and deck landing tests, also firing and bombing tests. The Ministry of Civil Aviation also farms out the work of granting the Certificate of Airworthiness to them.
It's been privatised now, because why wouldn't you want a private company operating Britain's Area 51, right?

American Newsletter

“Kibitzer,”  “Air Transport Deflation: BOAC’s Popularity: The Light-Aircraft Market”: Line-shooting ‘par Excellence’” “Kibitzer is smugly pleased to see that his prediction that air services were being over-expanded have come true. TWA, Colonial and Pan American have made 20—30% staff reductions; TWA has cancelled an order for eight Constellations and some DC4s; Western Airways has cut its orders for new machines by 50%; airline stocks are down. In the midst of this, BOAC’s Constellation service is building up “an excellent reputation.” “Despite the current unpopularity of air transport, BOAC’s courtesy, comfort, reliability, passenger handling and service generally are, even at  a time when things British are none too popular here, receiving high praise from everyone who has travelled with the Corporation.” He concludes that the idea of buying Constellations was the best ever, and all the old grannies of the British industry who wanted to wait to start flying until they had good, British planes were silly and wrong. After all, it has allowed the industry to focus on new types for 1950, instead of “fill-in types” for right now.
"The Flying Skyscraper"

“Kibitizer” also thought that the light aircraft market was being overblown, and he pats himself on the back for being right about that, too. He confidently predicts that special-purpose freight aircraft will benefit those who build them “on a world-wide scale.” He is also upset about an article in the 9 December issue of Life in which a pilot gets all hardboiled-talk about pulling a 10G turn at 500mph at 10,000ft, which would cause any aircraft existing to disintegrate. “[I]t is high time that the Press everywhere tried to treat aviation as what it is, not what a few neurotics think it should be.” He supposes that this article was planted in Life by the American air force to promote the P-80.

“Detecting Ground Resonance”

Ground resonance is a beat in helicopter rotors in the plane of rotation caused by resonance with the ground. This short article describes a report by a special committee on the SAE describing how to diagnose them.

Here and There

  The King’s Flight is taking some Vikings out to South Africa with ground crew in advance of the Royal visit. Miss Hilda Margaret Lyon, of Farnham, Surrey, of RAE Farnborough, the first woman to become an Associate Fellow of the R. Ae. S. has died at 50. The Air Ministry must be serious about supporting the ATC, because it has done a Physical Training course for it.

New Years Honours

Well, it is not here. You must get the full London Gazette to see it, but there it is. “Captain (E) Sir James Cook is promoted to Rear Admiral (E) on the occasion of his retirement from the active list.” No more Captain Cook jokes!

“Jet Propelled Flying Wings: Consideration of a Large Air Liner for High-speed Operation at Altitude” “Some day the flying wing will emerge as the accepted form of a passenger air liner.” No, it will not. And the reason that I say that is that it will have to have a 200ft wing span, and will have to counter tip-stalling with nothing but the “elevons” at the back of the wing, so all the talk about how much parasitic drag is being lost by getting rid of the fuselage is, and remains, complete mooonshine. Says me. But I am just a girl, who hasn’t been promoting this moonshine in and out of season for above 30 years, ever convinced that this time it was just around the corner.

So this is the only production flying wing aircraft before the fly-by-wire era, right?

Short articles cover work on cold starting jet turbines, the Swedish J21 being rebuilt as a jet fighter,.

Yetanother announcement of the B-36, which carries 300 electric motors, including a 22.7lb, 16hp pump, driving the hydraulic system, and a 1/50th hp motor for opening and closing the carburettor air filter door. It has ducted air de-icing, 28 cylinder Pratt and Whitneys, 110” main wheels, and all up weigh of 278,000lbs to achieve that long-dreamed-of 10,000lbs of bombs at 10,000 miles capability that will allow it to bomb anywhere on Earth.
Undercarriage detail. I doubt that any actual B-36 could have reached a 10,000 mile unrefueled range while carrying an atomic bomb; but no aircraft of its era came anywhere near as close. 

Rateau continues to work on a turbojet.

Civil Aviation News

Joseph A. Blondin, “Misleading Statistics: Candid Comments on ‘Passenger-mile Safety Criterion: Honesty as the Best Policy” Twenty years ago, Scientific American showed that, statistically, there was one fatality for every 8,422,460 streetcar traveller, 1 per 6,313,800 railroad passenger, 1 per 5,973,436 steamship passenger, and 1 for every 24,452 aircraft passenger. The airline industry responded by abandoning the fatality-per-passenger statistic in favour of fatality-per-passenger mile. Multiplying passengers by miles flown produces a safety number with so many zeroes in it that it[EL1]  just has to be safe, says Mr. Blondin. It is not.
A minor Constellation accident of the early '50s, not the Shannon accident, for which I could find no images. With the Prestwick catastrophe coming up, I don't want to overhype the December 1946 episode. Source.

In shorter news, the Government has directed that government departments should, like private passengers, pay a fine when they cancel their tickets. This will help ease the financial strain on the airlines. Qantas isn’t strained. It has had a very good year. Miles is bringing out an enlarged version of the Aerovan, the Miles Merchantman. America and China have signed an agreement allowing for reciprocal air rights, with passengers, cargo and mail at Shanghai, Tientsin and Canton; and in Honolulu, San Francisco and New York. BOAC American Overseas Airline freight aircraft will be using rocket assist to take off from Mexico City. TCA continues to expand, despite a worrying decline in airmail traffic. It has bought the Boeing hangar in Vancouver; continues to maintain the Liberators used by BOAC on the North Atlantic ferry route, is using Dakotas domestically, has begun receiving its DC-4 “North Stars,” and is planning services to the West Indies and Australia. Air India is now operating two Dakota services a day from Bombay, one to Delhi and the other to Karachi, in addition to its six daily services. Captain David Brice has left British South American for Silver City Airways. TWA has cut its schedule by 22% and its orders by 25 aircraft, because it finds itself in “as critical a position as when air-mail contracts were cancelled in 1934.” Boeing has abandoned plans to build the Type 417. 200 Piper Cubs have been shipped overseas since V-J Day. 1512 export orders are still in hand. Skytravel, the Liverpool Charter company, has taken delivery of a Bristol Wayfarer for service to South Africa.

The cause of the TWA Constellation crash at Shannon on 28 December is still unknown.

“AEAF Operations in North-West Europe: Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory’s Despatch” The late Marshal’s headquarters prepared a historical sketch of its operations before and during the Normandy campaign, and it appeared in the New Year’s number of the London Gazette. It is quite interesting from a historical point of view. I am a bit dazed to think of all the single-seat fighters that were pressed into service to spot for the fleet’s guns during the beachhead weeks. Before the war, the Fleet Air Arm was convinced that this duty required two, three, or even four crew! An amazing comment on the way that radio controls have improved in the last ten years!
Blackburn Blackburn. A three-seater. Grace has it confused with the Cubaroo.

J. Henderson thinks that joint ownership will promote private flying. I thought that was why they had flying clubs! M. Hughes agrees that people will think that air travel is safer if the newspapers would just stop reporting accidents. J. H. R. Allen points out that the papers hated airships even more; but a new American dirigible, three times faster than the Queen Elizabeth, with fares as cheap as £37, is imminent. 
R. 100 over Toronto, from Toronto Then and Now

The Economist, 11 January 1947


“Disarmament” The paper thinks that starting international peace efforts with atomic disarmament is going about things the wrong way around, it takes two pages to get around to saying. Good to know, even it does mean burying General Marshall’s appointment one paragraph from the bottom.
I was going to make a sarcastic comment about the strange way that The Economist is playing General Marshall's appointment down, but then the third image in a "General Marshall Nobel Peace Prize" image search turned up this sweet picture.

“The Planning Bill” My dear Jen, if you ever do take up reading The Economist, be prepared for an endless series of articles about people talking about how they are going to talk about something in the future. It’s something that I picked up from reading after Uncle George, who used to make snide and sarcastic comments about the endless, numbing writeups about preparations for talks about the future of international civil aviation in Flight. He would call them “Talking about talking about civil aviation.” I love Uncle George, even if he thinks that he is much funnier than he is, and he is not wrong about the way that "serious" papers love to talk about talking. The Planning Bill is about how English towns and counties and shires and principalities and what have you (“local administration”) are to go about making sure that buildings are built, and sewers dug, in an orderly fashion.  So it is about talking, and, in short (too late!), this is an article about talking about talking about talking. Hurrah! I am sure that the Earl knows all about the details. It’s just not that important to anyone else. And it is as long as the article about global nuclear disarmament!
Sweden's atomic-bomb proof underground aircraft engine factory is only the beginning. 

“The Music Boom” From the ridiculous to the sublime, as you English people would say. The paper introduces the idea that there is an “economic boom” in music by pointing out that the Albert Hall is booked months in advance, and that the BBC has just launched a third programme devoted entirely to music. “Do the deaf now hear?” It then wanders off into the weeds, because for it, music is serious music, and while there has been an expansion in "full-time orchestras” in England, and bookings.. The audiences aren't coming along. Since people’s taste for serious music is limited, perhaps this shows that the boom is already over. Next week, the paper proposes to discuss the costs and sources of revenue of “the various branches of the musical world.” At which point it might notice that there is a boom in the kind of music that people like.

Danubian Peasant Parties” Are nice. The wine is cheap, the music is rousing and the dancing ---Oh, this is about something else. Never mind, then.

Notes of the Week

“The Drive for Production” Workers aren’t working hard enough, and it’s not for lack of urging and exhortation, so the next step is clearly more “education in the factories.” Although as the paper points out, there is no way to measure per-man-hour productivity in industry, it is nevertheless clear that it is too low, and should be higher.  

“Anglo-American Military Policy” Talks on standardising equipment and coordinating military policy between England and America have gone a long way. As near as I can tell from the article, this has led some people (Oh, you know those some people, always some-ising) to say that it is too much, too close, England will have to fight America’s wars, England is losing its independence, etc. Tommy-rot, the paper says. In fact, Russia is welcome to join in, if it only will.

“General Marshall Leaves China” An unkind person might say something about being fired upwards. The paper concludes that there was nothing for him to be done, as the Chinese are xenophobic about foreigners due to their peculiar ways. (The peculiar ways of the Chinese, that is, since there is nothing peculiar about wanting other people’s silver, and taking it at the business end of a steam gunboat.)
It's a little self-serving for the descendant of a Guandgong merchant tong to emphasise the indemnity over the opium trade, but I don't think that it's wrong, either. 

“India: Sections and Provinces” India isn’t likely to achieve independence as a single country, but everyone will talk about it until independence sneaks up on them and it is too late. And the paper will be there, talking about what everyone is talking about: in this case, Sarat Chandra Bose resigning.

“Educational Touchstones” The Government is BUNGLING the 1944 Education Act.

“Disappointing Housing Output” This week, the news is that housing completions in November were disappointing, seeing the lowest rate of increase since March, owing mainly to the lack of timber for roofing, although the paper hopes that Mr. Bevan will admit that it is due mainly to his BUNGLING.

“Changing Administration in Germany” The paper is worried that the three chairmen of the German agencies are too conservative, and that this will retard full German unity.

De Gasperi in Washington” Where he is going to talk about the $900 million deficit in the Italian trade balance, which will make it impossible to keep the Italian economy going after Unrra aid ends in March, and will lead to left wing government in Italy, which is clearly to be avoided at all costs. The country will need 300,000 tons of grain a month to hold the ration. Only America has the transportation and the grain, and the strikes have made even that uncertain. Now there must be a hurry up effort extending after the end of Unrra, and there is no clear idea how this is to be accomplished. In other Mediterranean war-crippled countries-related news, a parliamentary report on Greece recommends that the Greeks be urged to form a broad coalition government, and that English troops should withdraw.

“And So to Work” This is the title of an exhibit in London about the effort to employ the 707,000 people on the Disabled Register. The Churches’ Committee on Gambling reports that gambling is up as much as threefold in seven years (they have numbers for dog racing, but not horse-racing or football pools), and probably amounts to £475 millions out of a total of £4,600 million spent on all forms of personal consumption. The Committee is appalled. The paper wants a “heavy” tax on the heedless extravagance of the poor.

“Suspense in Palestine” Uncle George used to summarise this kind of article by just saying “Palestinians are excitable,” or the like. I say “Palestinians,” becaise if I said “the Jews are excitable,” I would sound far too much like the typical GOP County association member here in Santa Clara.

“Commonwealth Occupation Force” There are 17,000 Commonwealth troops helping to occupy Japan, in which capacity the recent tidal wave has a silver lining, since it gives them something to do. The paper also notices a story about another force reduction, and since that allows it to talk about the Indian troops in Japan, it can talk about how awful the Indian NationalArmy was.

“Armenian Exodus” The Soviet Government’s effort to repopulate the Armenian highlands with Armenian expatriates is going well. Of 60,000 in Persia, 12,000 have already left, and 20,000 recently left Lebanon for Soviet Armenia. The ones who go are typically poor, as the rich are happy where they are, but perhaps they will contribute money?
I don't see any way this could go wrong.

Letters to the Editor

R. P. Lynton, of 69, Exeter Road, London, writes to point out that Amalgamated Cotton’s report on the consequences of the five-day week was preliminary by its own account; that many other factors have to be taken into account; and that the likely result of the 40-hour week is increased productivity due to reduced absenteeism. “It remains to be seen whether the consumer will pay for increased costs, or, alternately, for increased profits.” Walter A. Anderson, who writes from the Oriental Club, Hanover Square, London, suggests that the paper has made a mistake in its coverage of the Companies Bill, 1946. Tom Sargant, of 67, Haverstock Hill, London, takes the paper to task about its insistence that nationalisation is only justifiable if it increases efficiency. (The paper loves “efficiency.") Mr. S. T. Killick has opinions about the paper’s opinions about the oil business in the Middle East, which is that the petroleum companies are already too kind and generous to foreigners. Martin Madden, of 3 Hillcroft Crescent, has opinions about how economics should be taught.

From the Economist of 1847

A century ago, the paper speculated about the composition of the Cabinet. The paper wants a Peelite (that is, Conservative) ministry, mainly because it hopes that he will betray “the Protectionists” again. Then it goes on snidely about a recent hunt that killed “1039 of those destructive vermin –game, on one estate.” The idea is that this game is eating “the scanty crops of the impoverished tenants" between hunt meetings, and this is terrible. 

American Survey

“Majority Position” The paper spends a full column on the new Republican leadership of the more important Congressional Committees before moving on to the stock-taking now on within the Democratic Party. Henry Wallace wants to draw clear lines between “reactionaries” and liberals, while the Union for Democratic Action wants to include  “all sections of heirs of the New Deal,” under the chairmanship of Leon Henderson and Wilson Wyatt.

I'm worried that I'm being too subtle. 

“Saving the Soil” (From a Correspondent in Iowa)

Back in 1939, “When Messrs. Jacks and Whyte wrote their book, The Rape of the Earth,” many had been aroused to worry about soil destruction, but little had been done. [G. V. Jacks and R. O. Whyte, Rape of the Earth: A World Survey of Soil Erosion; American title, Vanishing Lands.]  The world, etc. In the eight years since, however, A Correspondent in Iowa reports, an enormous amount has been accomplished, and while a lot of it has to do with the formation of organisations with alphabet titles, concrete things have been done, as well.

American Notes

It’s halfway through the paper, probably time to notice that Secretary Byrnes has resigned to make way for General Marshall, who, it is hoped to make the Republican Congress brighten up a bit.

“Truman to Congress” The Annual State of the Nation Address was a chance for the President to throw down a challenge. There will be more trust-busting; debt reduction will take precedence over tax reduction; the budget will be much above Republican estimates, and will feature increased excise taxes; and Mr. Truman will continue to veto anti-labour bills in the wake of the unexpected upholding of his veto of the Case Bill. Also, the war is over effective 31 December, says the President, and so are the emergency proclamations made under the War Powers Act. That means the War Labour Disputes Act is gone, and farm subsidies are only guaranteed through the harvest.

“Filibusters After Bilbo” The “Bilbo filibuster,” which last week-end threatened to paralyse the Senate, has been brought to an end by a compromise arrangement, as Senator Bilbo retires under the pretext (or reality) of serious illness. This has led to talk that theremight be action on reforming the Senate filibuster.

“Ford-Ferguson” Ford, which has been making Ferguson’s revolutionary hydraulic-takeoff tractor (or so the paper sees it) for the American market, has broken with Mr. Ferguson. With annual sales of $1 billion, up from $450 million before the war, the farm implement and tractor business is very lucrative, and high farm wages will continue to promote mechanisation, so it is likely to get even bigger, and Ford doesn’t want to share.
If Ford does it, it's not piracy. By Mulad -, CC BY 2.0,

In shorter notes, Washington is still pushing the Soviet Union for a final resolution of Lend-Lease obligations to clear the way for a Russian credit; and the State Department is planning educational meetings around America to explain why internationalism is good for you.

The World Overseas

“Crisis in the French Empire” (From Our Paris Correspondent)

The Franco-Annamese War, which has been in abeyance for 60 years on account of the French having all the guns, was resumed on 19 December. The French find this inexplicable, since it is only fair that people, once conquered, should stay conquered. Even more unfairly, the Chinese are interfering. Hurrah! Somewhere I can support the Koumintang! The French Communists actually agree with this –the thought must make the Koumintang very uncomfortable. If, that is, they can tell the difference between French Communists and a piece of ripe cheese, which they probably cannot. The French Socialists try to occupy the middle ground, which is that the Annamese (and manyothers) ought to be more grateful for being conquered, and the French should be more accommodating of their feelings. The future of liberty, equality and fraternity on a world scale is whether the French have enough guns.

“The Nyasaland Market” After six years of steady economic expansion thanks to the war, Nyasaland is suffering from a severe shortage of trade. Nyasalanders need a steady supply of cotton piece goods, blanks, shirts, singlets and underwear, and aspire to have a bicycle and a sewing machine each. They have been paying for ever more of these imports with their ever-increasing cash income, largely thanks to Askari remittances. With the war over, they face the problem of finding £1.75 million in imports, some two-and-a-half times total imports in 1939. There is just not enough goods coming in, even though there is the cash to pay for it. In shorter news, the paper notes that more money circulating in West Africa has led to an insatiable demand for a tenth-penny copper bronze coin of local minting. 375 million are in circulation in British West Africa, despite efforts to popularise notes.
The Business World

“Programme for Steel” England is short coal, timber and steel, and the three interact. Coal must be exported to pay for timber, and steel is held back by a shortage of coal, despite the effort to refit furnaces to burn oil. To meet the steel shortage, Britain is scrounging supplies from as far afield as Canada and Australia, and hoping for a Continental recovery. The loss of exports due to the diversion of steel to the home market, is a blow to the export drive, and affects steel producers’ profits, as they lose an export differential of about £2/ton. The problem is, not enough steel, and the solution is in the sight in the distance, as European steel production comes back. But that does not fill up a page and a half, and the paper hasn’t talked about talking yet (I told you!) so now it launches into the way that steel supplies are allocated, and the threat of nationalisation, and something something the Government is BUNGLING. In shorter news below, a similar situation is emerging with cement exports, with total production in November at 6.9 million tons against a pre-war estimated capacity of 8 ¾ million.

Business Notes

By business, the paper often means finances, which could hardly be more irrelevant to a newsletter discussing how we are investing the money that our friends and family are slipping out of the London market to America. The paper is busy looking for places where English investors can escape “cheap money” and also with the alarming news that the Loan has been drawn down by $800 million out of $3750 million already. Speaking of, I hope the Earl survived his landing at Kai Tak and the ferry ride.
“Central Bank and National Debt” Marriner Eccles has made headlines by asserting that the entire American national debt is, in effect, a pay-on-demand obligation, inspiring a parade of the professionally worried to pronounce that the entire debt is about to be paid out in million dollar bills, leading to wheelbarrows of money to the bakery, etc. Marriner Eccles! The paper sets us straight. It’s only true for if no-one tests it, as with any kind of banking.

“The Sate of Labour” Strikes are down, the five-day week is advancing, the working class is still not convinced that it makes more sense, from the full technical efficiency perspective, to take their Christmas holidays in February and their summer holidays in November. (That is me, nudging Mr. Crowther in the ribs. In theory it is a wonderful idea to “stagger” paid holiday weeks so that everyone is not crammed into the trains at once. The problem that the paper refuses to acknowledge is that the labouring classes will be “staggered” into bad times, and shouldn’t they be allowed to bargain for something in return? (Perhaps I'm too sensitive on this score,having heard a few appeals in my time about Bay-area employers having the bright idea to work their heathen Chinese employees on Christmas Day without compensation later.) The Transport Nationalisation Bill is in trouble due to a haulage strike. On the other hand, Christmas coal production is up to 5.336 million tons vice 4.366, whether due to patriotic exhortation or the fact that “staggered” holidays are better than none at all. So far, this has been enough to prevent works closures. 

“Shipping after ‘The End of Hostilities’” The end of War Powers means that by 30 June, 500 American ships on barebone charters to Allied Nations must be either purchased outright or returned. England, which has about half, or 2 million tons, wants to maintain the charters, and emphatically not buy these floating heaps of junk, held together across the welds by bale wire and rats. Although we’ll take the Victories and the Maritime Commission tankers, or, really, anything not made by Uncle Henry. The Maritime Commission is excited by the idea of selling them while it can, and thinks that the revocation gives it leverage. The State Department sees disaster in the wind, and disagrees.

“Fur Market Difficulties” Fortune covered the failure of that company that was making the new sheepskin products last month. This week, The Hudson’s Bay auction (of 20,000 fox furs and 10,000 mink skins) did much better than recent New York sales, leading the paper to hope that more fur sellers will consign to London instead of New York, which will show up as a re-export to England’s credit when sold in Europe.

Unfortunately, timing prevents me from covering the story in next week's Economist about how the "electronics industry" is going ahead. So let's look at the Old Vinyl Factory, currently employing 10,000 people, and threatened with a shutdown due to lack of coal.

Aviation, January 1946

Line Editorial

James H. McGraw’s monthly editorial insert somehow ended up in the middle of the paper, and looks more than usual like an amateur production. Not surprisingly, considering that the title is “The Closed Shop: Key to Labour Monopoly,” and the subject is getting rid of the “closed shop,” in which everyone working in a given facility must be a member of a union, or the union.  Mr. McGraw thinks that such agreements were needed in the old days, with predatory employers exploiting weak employees and imposing “yellow dog” contracts,” but, nowadays, in our modern world we do not need them any more, because peace and light and understanding prevail.

Aviation Editorials

“Cold Realism for 1947” The Government needs to buy more warplanes, because it would be good for the industry, and also WWIII.
Underground factory under construction in Sweden.

“Microscope Those Markets” The plight of the personal plane makers is the result of their failure to know their markets. If only they had “microscoped” their potential markets, instead of, oh, say, taking the aviation press at its word, they wouldn't have lost their shirt on small civil aircraft.

The paper then bulks out the editorial content with a few pages of new products –so, ads between the ads.

Aviation News

Through October, the American industry produced 31,013 aircraft, as against a predicted 35,000, and sold them for $300 million, a much more serious disappointment, since it was hoping for a billion-dollar year, 60% military, 40% civilian. The largest contract went to Republic, for 500 P-84s. Development-wise, the year saw two new jet fighters, North American’s XFJ-1 and the Chance Vought XF6U-1,

Another example of "honeycomb" construction as they understood it in 1947.

while there was one new bomber, Martin’s XP4M-1 four engine jet-reciprocating navy plane that uses a combination of the Wasp Major and I-40.
Interesting service history, to put it mildly. 

First deliveries of the Martin 202 are expected next month. Curtiss-Wright has announced a new cargo plane, the CW-32. The National Aviation Trades Association is reorganising again. The aviation industry has been given $70 million to work out a mass-mobilisation plan. The new Congress may insist that the Administration submit bilateral air traffic agreements to the Senate as treaties; and cut appropriations for the airport programme. NAA has awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy to Dr. Alvarez for the Ground Controlled Approach radar landing system. Interservice talks on cockpit standardisation is going ahead. The first XS-1 trial flight happened some more. Taylorcraft and Culver have applied for bankruptcy protection. A Swedish firm has paid CentralAircraft Corporation, of Yakima, Washington, $1 million for helicopters, the first quantity order for commercially-licensed helicopters. Sikorsky is working on its new S-52, and Wright Field is testing the German built Dobhoffjet-propelled helicopter, in which propulsion comes from jet nozzles at the tips of the rotors. Last year saw aircraft passenger deaths reach the lowest point since 1939, 1.2 per million miles. Canadian air transport reached 76,000 passengers per month last August, almost double a year earlier. Canadian domestic airlines now employ 455 pilots and co-pilots, 2,422 ground crew and administrative personnel. TCA is proud of its new “drydock” for servicing DC-4Ms.

“Design Details of the Martin 202” Details of auxiliaries aside (for example, new cabin heaters and provision for water-injection), the major improvement that jumps out at me here is the “honeycomb” construction of the fuselage floor and bulkheads. These are double-thickness large, flat surfaces, and instead of being solid (or, alternatively, hollow), they are filled with a “honeycomb” of strengtheners which might be anything from fiberglass to linen. Anti-icing is with piped hot air, and there is an automatic stabiliser on the flaps.

John Shesta, Director of Research and Engineering, Reaction Motors, Inc., “RMI’s Rocket Engine Which Powers Supersonic XS-1” RMI has an impressive name, but sounds like a very small company. Mr. Shesta is the treasurer, as well as Director of Research. (The rest of the board consists of Lovell Lawrence, H. Franklin Pierce and James H.Wyld.) Their 6000C4  is a “liquid propellant regenerative rocket engine.” It is regenerative because the fuel (kerosene and liquid oxygen(!)) is piped around the combustion chamber. This vaporises it, drawing heat from the combustion chamber walls, and then returning the energy to the motor.

Stanley A. Hall, Northrop Aircraft, Inc., “Towards Better Cockpits: An Engineering Approach” Dr. E. F. DuBois, of the National Research Council on Aviation Medicine, has analysed cockpit control elements as “an extension of the pilot’s nervous system,” and come up with various numbers that calculate . . something. Then he turns it into a formula, and the formula infallibly tells him where all the controls go. I am not sure how it adds in all the new controls that people keep introducing, but perhaps now that the war is over they will stop introducing new ones.

James G. Ray, Vice-President, Southwest Airways, Co., “Rotative Flight Brake Proposed to Moderate Landing Speeds” I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Mr. Ray is one of those vice-presidents who become vice-presidents on the strength of their investment in the company, and not their grasp of the business.


The English transonic research test rockets exist more. In France, the Leduc 6-10 was tested for the first time. Russia will begin flying a four-engined transport[?] between Vladivostok and Moscow in 1948. An Indian firm is interested in building the Cheslea Ace.

Landing Gear Pre-Rotator Housed Within Wheel” Pre-rotating the landing wheels up to speed greatly reduces thestress on the undercarriage. In this gear, which is to be tested on the Lockheed Constitution, a self-contained electric motor in the landing gear does all the work.

“Aircraft Engine Plant Goes Underground” The Swedes have built a complete, underground engine factory. Full details are not available, but it seems that the halls radiate from a central hub. It was built in two years, and there is another one near Stockholm. It has air purification filters, and can be cut off from the outside for as long as 34 hours in the event of atomic or poison gas attack.

Ernest G. Stout, “Static Stability Analysis for Flying Boats and Seaplanes, Part II”

John E. McDonald, “Practical Engineering of Rotary-Winged Aircraft, Part VII” Between them, Mr. McDonald and Mr. Stout have written about half the content in Aviation over the last year, thanks to his exhaustive discussion of how floats work. No-one cares, but either the paper paid him a lot of money back when it was flush, or he is doing it a huge favour in the way of putting words between ads. 

“Bell XS-1 Readied for Supersonic Trials” After you’ve read the trade press for a while, you get used to these endlessly repetitive articles. The Bell XS-1 is a rocket research plane designed to go up and fly very fast and see what happens. (Hopefully, it doesn’t turn out to be, “The pilot dies.”) It will be lifted by a B-29. It has a rocket motor. Etc.

“Two New All-Jet Fighters Join Navy’s Air Arm” Speaking of repetitive. Although this feature has pictures of the new North American and Vought jet planes. The Vought looks particularly squat and ugly.

Convair Producing All-metal L-13Liaison” It is an “XL-13,” because it is an experimental type, but it’s just a tiny little high-wing personal plane. The novelty, such as it is, is that they’ve gotten rid of residual bits of fabric that often show up on the control surfaces of other planes of its type. That will be a huge advantage for maintenance. I’m not clear how they handle the weight, although I do notice that they’ve put a 245 hp Franklin engine, which is very large compared with rivals. The Taylorcraft Auster, for example, has a 130hp engine.

Cmdr Thomas D. Davies, USN, and Lt. Hugh L. Hanson, “Design Key to Turtle’s Trick” When the Navy introduced land-based maritime patrol planes, it soon found that Army planes weren’t suitable without what amounted to a complete redesign. So why not design a new one from the ground up? The chosen aircraft was a development of the Lockheed twin line, most notably the “Hudson,” or A-20 in American use. The aerodynamic design is not particularly innovative, but it does have a large dedicated volume for fuel. For the record flight, tanks were added in place of the original package of 6 20mm cannons in the nose, and in the bomb bay in the fuselage, giving a total capacity of 8,600 gallons. The plane was optimised for cruising altitudes, which meant that it needed a 6000ft run to get off the ground in Australia, and booster rockets. The cruise fell short of its original objective, Bermuda, which would have taken it the long-dreamed-of twelve thousand miles, but it did set a record.

Michael Marsh, McGraw-Hill World News, “French Plane Industry Accents Variety” The company’s French stringer goes to some factories and takes photos of the S0-6000 under construction to go with press releases about current and future offerings.

Grumman’s New Mallard Has Novel Refinements, Part I” The Mallard is Grumman’s new “feederline” amphibian. The novel refinements are mainly cabin furniture, although the strut that lifts the wheels out of the water is very neat and compact.

Hagan L. Jackson, Engineering Department, Industrial Electronics Department, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Baltimore, “New Instrument System Proposed for Flight and Landing Safety” Small radio beacons along cross-country pathways and at smaller airports substitute for onboard radar. CRTS show results.

Fred W. Zellmer, Southwest Airmotive Co., Maintenance Coordinator, “Southwest Airmotive Builds on War-Acquired Tooling” You might think that it was naked boosterism for the head of a maintenance company’s maintenance division to publish an “article” about how wonderful the company’s maintenance practices are, but you are not an editor desperate for cheap editorial content and advertising.

Fortune, January 1947


“The Promise of the Republican Return” The paper is happy that the GOP is back, and upset that the New Republic is so worked up about it. The paper would like to fit in with the best society of papers. It isn't at all like those Republicans, after all. Although it then launches into “free enterprise,” and “liberty,” free trade, “China” and the needs of defence, and the “overreach” of labour, suggesting that The New Republic isn't necessarily completely wrong about "those" Republicans being back.

Fortune Survey

This month’s survey tests American commitment to the “American credo.” That is, the idea that our futures will be better than the past, and that our sons (“asked of men only”) will have a higher station in life. The answer is that more believe this than in 1940 (two-thirds of respondents), and that people are less likely to believe it, the poorer they are. Since poorness coincides with working union jobs in factories, the paper draws the obvious conclusion –that mass-production dulls ambition!

Not surprisingly, it then goes on to ask whether respondents are thinking about starting their own business. The answer is that rich people and Coloured people do, and poorer, white labourers do not.  People are more willing to take a chance on uncertain employment, want more money, and, by a “bare majority” of 56.4%, don’t expect WWIII within ten years.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “The Supreme Court: 1947” I can’t for the life of me see why you would care about the Supreme Court. It does rule on business cases, but no-one ever cares about that.

“The Housing Mess: As Thousand of Veterans Failed to Cheer, The Building Boys Huffed and Puffed and Blew in Mr. Wyatt’s Housing Programme” Wyatt’s programme aimed at starting more homes in 1946 than were built in the whole of the 1930s, which is remarkable, and 1.2 million homes, which is also remarkable, but not in a good way, since it is less than one house for every hundred persons over an entire decade! I don’t remember that way –and then I recall that pursed lip look of our elders  In talking ( Judith and Wong Lee are particularly good at it), and get some vague sense of how much they sacrificed to shelter us from it. The President called upon him to “make no little plans,” and delegated war powers to him. Mr. Wyatt compared it to Roosevelt’s 50,000 aircraft plan. The initial response was enthusiastic, with 884,00 starts in the first eight months of 1946, more than any full year since 1925. This was compensated in part for a rapid decline in non-residential construction; but there were also major increases in production of housing materials. Yet, in the next eight months after, much of this building stalled. Shortages from plumbing fixtures to water pipes to electrical switchboxes held up completion. In San Francisco, the Chamber of Commerce identified a need for 41,500 new units, 2500 were started, and only 300 completed. In Detroit, where need was 100,000, starts were 50,000, and completions 3000, the last number was less than in 1939, 1940 and 1941. So much for an emergency building programme!

In Buffalo, which has seen little development within 6 miles of the centre of the city since the 1850s, a pre-war slum clearance that built 2270 public housing units in four federal projects to replace shocking slums, [Buffalo slum explosion 1936] was the only significant effort before the war, which saw a net population growth from 858,000 to 909,000 (including 100,000 going off to war). The city has held this gain since the peace, since although the two Curtiss-Wright plants, Bell Aircraft plants, and Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant are no longer building for the war, Westinghouse has bought the new Curtiss plant and Western Electric has leased the old one. Thirty-four new businesses are looking to open in Buffalo; the veterans have returned, and no-one knows how the city accommodated its population gains of the war period, never mind how it will accommodate new workers on top of the veterans. The vacancy rate is under one-half of one percent, and families are living in rented rooms, trailer and tourist cabins. Fourteen thousand new units are needed. Families looking to buy can afford $5600, or $45/month in rent; while families looking to rent can afford $40. That’s not very much! Very few new homes are selling for less than $6000, or renting for less than $50. Wage increases are being eaten up by higher builders’ costs, which seem to be necessary to get the homes started. (For it looks as though 1946 will be a record year, after all.

Although private builders are upset about price ceilings, construction material priority schedules and the usual “government red tape,” they are most upset about the “coddling” of prefabricators, who are allegedly getting more than their share of raw materials. Continuing its focus on the Buffalo area, the paper sends a reporter to interview Melvin H. Baker, President of National Gypsum Company. Its complaint is that it  has been forced to produce board rather than the more salable lathe. The National Housing Administration points out that this has more to do with the lack of wire than its priorities, to which Mr. Baker replies that he is being squeezed by the high price for wire offered by Sewell Avery’s U.S. Gypsum, and he will not go higher. He also tells the story of how, during the meat shortage, when cattle hooves disappeared from the market, he substituted chicken feathers in plaster production. After a week, his workforce broke out in rashes, and he had to abandon the new material. AT Dohm, Field and Company, one of the city’s largest lumber yards, President Oliver J Veling pointed out that while the lumber industry was all jumbled up by price ceilings, which allowed too-generous profits and thereby led to lumber mills buying lumber yards and lumber yards buying mills, the real problem was that greedy builders started far more houses than there were materials in sight to build.

At this point, the paper throws in a conclusion, that the Wyatt programme was derailed more by people being sick and tired of controls than by the effects of the controls themselves. (At the actual end, it notices that the wyatt programme was a “private enterprise” programme, and that entrepreneurs made a great deal of money on it, and that the only problem was that it was not as much as they wanted.) Unfortunately, it is difficult to put a conclusion in the middle of an article, so it goes on to notice the controversy over Lustron’s attempted toakeover of the Detroit Arsenal, funded by a $52 million government line of credit and $36,000 of Lustron money. Wyatt’s handling of that affair is what most people think led to his resignation.

However, it is still not time for a conclusion, so the paper goes on to discuss “industrialised,” as opposed to “prefab” housing. Industrialised housing is not mass-produced in factory, but mass-housing-estate-ised in large blocks of land. Once again, there is a story about new materials. If we see, in the future, 100,000 aluminum houses and 100,000 steel to 150,000 wood and plywood structures, the “long-awaited home-building revolution” will finally be here.

Fiberglas: Owens-Corning Has Had Monopolies on the Prospects and Problems of a Versatile New Raw Material: Competitors Will Soon Share Both” Owens-Corning has its origins in Mike Owens, who created the first mechanical bottlemaker. This led, in some obscure fashion, to the modern fiberglas business, on which Owens-Corning has an American “product monopoly,” created by a combination of patents and capital investment. Although a true, woven fabric, fiberglas is not suitable for clothes, much as Barbara Stanwyck wants a Fiberglas bathing suit. This sounds like a promotion to me, as actual Fiberglas production was minimal before the war. It has exploded since then, because it is good, cheap insulation. Postwar, Owens-Corning is caught between fears that if it goes into mass production, it will compete with other products, such as rock wool, for a too-small market, and that, if it doesn’t, it will see competitors take its place.
I have no idea what the deal is with a "Fiberglas bathing suit," but I suspect that it would be awfully itchy.

“The Trouble with U.S. Wool” This is, or ought to be, dear to the family. Our forebears invested heavily in the western sheep-farming business as the San Francisco tallow trade died away after the Gold Rush. The truth is, our lands can’t even compete with Wyoming and Utah, never mind Australia and New Zealand. Wyoming’s senators have been successful in winning generous subsidies for American wool, but even at that, a combination of high labour and production costs and poor quality fails to make up the ground in competition with empire cloth. The future for American woolgrowing is probably confined to low-quality ranch land in Texas and Utah that’s not good for anything else.
Sheep in Australia

“Wool in Australia” How to the Australians do it? Three million square miles, seven million people, 205 million sheep; what they lost per sheep, they make up on volume! Or, more seriously, they have lower labour costs. The paper cites the 900,000-acre ranch of Haddon Rigg, 240 miles northwest of Sydney, where G. R. Faulkiner produces a clip of 1000 bales a year, carefully graded at “the station” into sixty different types.
The caption I couldn't help cutting says, "Graded and stamped." It looks like the Australian advantage is labour costs?

“The Watch” The paper’s readers like expensive  watches. I like expensive watches, too!
Tiny, cute little machine tools!

“Hamilton Watch” Hamilton Watch makes nice, expensive watches.

“The Furniture Industry” The furniture industry is very local, because it is expensive to ship long distances. Here are pictures of many nice pieces, and some words to go with them. I won’t bother you with the words, as we’re not investing in furniture!

“Astrophysics: In Thirty Years, Man’s Concept of the Universe Has Undergone Enormous Expansion The New Year May Bring a New Milestone” We are also not investing in the Palomar Observatory, but its enormous new telescope will bring us new revelations about the nature of our universe. Perhaps. It will certainly bring work to optical scientists and specialist camera-makers. (Of course, as we know from my father-in-law, there is a good, solid basis of business for camera-makers in the trade that dare not speak its name. I notice that there is also a resurgence of “solar” astronomy, or looking at the Sun, and I suppose that that is not unrelated to our search for Sun-like conditions here on Earth, in the form of nuclear test explosions of suspiciously communistic politics.)

“The Universe: Expanding or Oscillating, Finite or Infinite, It is Vast and Unstable” It is pretty clear now that the universe is expanding, but not in the sense that it is flying apart, but that space itself is expanding(!) Whether this continues, or it begins to shrink, we do not know; but it is probably finite, since the “boundary conditions” of a closed universe make more sense than an open one. Ahem. Upon rereading that, I can see why my father-in-law keeps telling me to tone it down. I've cut a very long lecture about light speed and redshifts and galaxies. Do let me know if you want to hear more, sweet cousin!

“Is There a German Policy?” The paper is asking, because it really wants to know.

“The Great Throat: Bing Crosby: First on Films, First on the Air, and First on the Phonographs of His Countrymen” When I am being coy, I talk about the grandson of Bing Choy and the Reverend Crosby as “Uncle George’s friend.” It makes us sound almost possessive, and we did do him a good turn a few years ago. If  you think about it, his marriage to a white woman is technically illegal under California law, and his network was inclined to hold this over his head when he was trying to get out of his radio performance contract. It didn’t help that he made the mistake of not rushing back to his house when it caught fire in 1943, with all those subpoenaeble documents inside. We suppressed some evidence that came up in the matter; not the first favour we have done to his clan, nor the first that his has done for us. Now we have taken a share in Philco, his new sponsor, and a much greater one in the companies that aim to provide him with new recording equipment. That’s our share in a virtual, one-man industry. Somehow, we have managed not to be involved in his other major business enterprise, frozen orange juice concentrate.

Crosby sold twelve million records last year. He makes movies, and has a half-hour radio show every Wednesday night. He won the Academy Award for best actor in 1944, and continues to act. So much for the revenue stream. This puts money in hand for other business. He earns $20,000 per year from his investments exclusive of royalties, and his sons may each earn a bit more from an investment company set up in their name in 1942. The conclusion from that is that he has to keep on working, until his investment income exceeds a million a year! That may not be as far away as the numbers suggest. Mr. Crosby takes in $7500/week out of a total Philco budget of $22,500. Philco makes much of it back with subsidised ad buys from local Philco dealers in the towns where radio stations use the transcribed show instead of expensive network “live” broadcast. The paper notes that he sold his interest in the Del Mar race track for $481,000, and took 14% in the Pittsburgh Pirates for $215,000; and took a six year lease on a 30,000 acre ranch in southern California at $35,000 a year. I think the idea here is that the ranch makes him money on top of the lease, although I have a feeling he is paying for privacy.
The Palomar 200" telescope doesn't belong here, but it does break up the wall of text. 

His show will probably lead to more “transcribed” radio shows, much to the upset of the networks, which have built their business on live broadcasts. I’ve also heard it said that the transcribed shows do not always have good sound quality due to poor handing of the master record discs. That day will come to an end when all local radio stations have tape-recorder-players, which day cannot come soon enough for Mr. Crosby, Philco or silent partners. (Us!) And, just think had it not been for their mistake of supporting the losing side in a world war, it could have been Deutsche Gramophone, instead.

“Uncommonly Scarce: The Common Nail”

It takes 400lb of nails to build a conventional house. 350,000 tons of nails were projected in 1945 under the NHA emergency programme. Nail prices were frozen in 19441 at $51/ton. IN May of 1945, the price was increased by $7/ton, and another $10/ton in June, at which point the country had a 45-day supply on hand. This brought production up to 63,000tons per month in September, well short of the 74,000 tons per month target. Steel companies do not like to overinvest in nails, which are a boom-and-bust proposition. The same steels can go into springs and wire, which are more stable.  Priorities under the plan led to a black market, which ended with the end of price ceilings in November, but not the nail shortage, which is now a major factor in holding back construction.
So the Hale Telescope discovered quasars

Shorts and Faces

“Liquidation of the Middle Brows” The paper shows that, statistically, everyone making “$5000 or more a year” has seen a decline in his income since 1940 after taxes and a 20% reduction in purchasing power due to a rising cost of living. That is, if their income has been constant over that time! The idea of the “liquidation of the middle class” is widely peddled, but, as the paper points out, all Americans think that they are in the middle class, which is why it prefers “Middle Brows.” This is why everyone hopes that the Republicans will slash income taxes. Somewhat facetiously, I think, the paper adds that “But one practical manifestation of the general unrest is already in evidence: expense accounts and entertainment budgets have burgeoned with unprecedented splendour.”

This looks pretty devastating until you realise that no-one living off salaried income had a static wage between 1940 and 1946. It is a revelation that even in 1946 the party of fiscal responsibility wanted to lead with tax cuts for the wealthy, but I'm not sure why I would be surprised. 

This feature usually has brief stories about companies, focussing on their presidents, rather than news bits like the one above. Uncle George used to joke that the choices for this section were determined by which parties Mr. Luce wanted to be invited to, than anything the companies had actually accomplished. That isn’t always fair, but it does make a good short-hand, since the companies often haven’t anything much new to offer, and even when they are successful, it is far too late to “get in on the ground floor” by the time they make the pages of Fortune! For example, there’s more than a page devoted to Jamison Handy, “President of the Jam Handy Organisation,” which seems to offer mostly promotional services to Detroit-area manufacturers. After-dinner speeches, charts, models, slide-films, and even an artificial cow model for Purina Chow. Also, Wendell Willkie’s billion-dollar utility holding company, Commonwealth and Southern, has recently been revealed on Wall Street as a hollow shell, likely worth closer to 91 cents a share than $5. The company disagrees with the SEC on the matter, and various legal manoeuvres are underway. Also, Pepsi is being squeezed by the rising price of sugar, but trying to hold the line against Coca-Cola in hopes that the price of sugar will begin to fall soon.  

It turns out that there's dozens of Jam Handy short films on Youtube.

 The Farm Column

“City Farmers and Their Clubs” “City farmers” might be dilettantes farming some small portion of an estate otherwise rented out, or, conversely, people who only have time for a spread that is too small to be economical by itself. Either way, they live in cities, and some of them have clubs. How many? Who knows, but it is winter, and Ladd Haystead, the author of this column, always has trouble filling it out in mid-winter, and farmers who take the paper are probably very interested in this kind of club. At least, I hope they are, because Ladd spends his entire column on them. I used to make fun of Mr. Haystead. Now I am more worried about his health and his job. 
Business Abroad

The first managing director of theIMF will be Camille Gutt, of Belgium a famed “hard money man.” The paper points out that while the political delegations to the great meetings that set up the postwar financial order were preoccupied with the threat of a postwar depression and currency depreciation to keep exports going, “hard-headed bankers” expected inflation, on the contrary. Now, the bankers have been proven right. The money supply is increasing in country after country, prices are rising, exports are becoming more difficult, and imports can only be financed by borrowing.

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