Museum of Texas Tech University, History Division
To collect, preserve, document, and interpret the material culture of Lubbock and the South Plains, and its adjacent West Texas regions.

To collect, preserve, document, and interpret the material culture of Lubbock and the South Plains, and its adjacent West Texas regions.

 
 
 

State of the Art

State of the Art contains a world of invention from the mundane to the extraordinary. It is a world of competitive spirit, undying resolve, controversy, and of course curiosity. "State of the Art" brings to you, the engaged participant, the opportunity to understand the underbelly of what it means to be technology's best. Desired, valued, often steeped in controversy, and always in competition, these objects were truly significant.

Boston Wire Stitcher

Airway Vacuum Cleaner

Kodak Colorburst 50 Camera

Chewing Gum: Wrapper & Box

Machine Gun

Rem-Sho Typewriter

Gray Pay Telephone

National Cash Register

Atwater Kent Radio

New Model Army Revolver

 

Boston Wire Stitcher

Beyond the Paper Clip

The 19th century saw the rise of stapler technology. Though they didn't invent the stapler, it was the Boston Wire Stitcher Company who revolutionized the technology. Wire binding, more properly known as wire stitching, had been the dominant process of the 19th century. This process typically utilized expensive and cumbersome machinery. It was in the 1890s that the Boston Wire Stitcher would make it much smaller!

Boston Wire Stitcher, later Boston Stitcher, and ultimately Bostitch, a well known name in the industry today, would add the foot peddle to allow easy stapling. Now it was designed so well for use by a single person, that they are still in used today in some print shops. The Boston Wire Stitching Machine seen here was the pinnacle of "small" commercial stapling in its day. The next stage in evolution would be even more drastic. Bostitch, in 1914, would introduce the desk stapler we know today!

 
early stitcher adOriginal advertiser: Complete with guarantees.
Title of ImageBoston Wire Stitcher press plate: New technology for a new century.

Airway Sanitary System

Competition Brings a Brand New Bag

Sleek and stylish does not only apply to fast cars and cell phones. It also applies to vacuum cleaners! The 1920s saw the design and application of a brand new technology. While the vacuum cleaner had its origin with the Hoover in 1908, it hadn’t become sexy yet. Lightweight, stylish and complete with a swivel-joint for getting to those hard to reach places was just the touch for the roaring 20s.

This vacuum cleaner had another major advantage. The brand new bag! It featured as one recent author put it, “the world’s first, patented, cellulose, 14 layer, micro filtration disposable dust container.” This bag, specially made by Daniel Replogle, the supposed inventor of the vacuum cleaner for Airway, was clog-resistant and didn’t have open pores for materials and germs to get through. Considering this was still the “glory days” of many viruses, including Tuberculosis, this was a major breakthrough. Producing and selling this technology on the cheap was another major advantage to this product. The combination of a quality vacuum cleaner and low cost bags forced the Hoover product to adapt and by 1929 they had created their own disposable bag. Unfortunately for them, the Air-Way patent hadn’t expired yet and Hoover was forced to wait a few more years for its use.

 
airway logoAirway logo: Looking at a main access.
patentsPatent plate: Linking this technologoical design to the Airway Electrical Applicance Corporation of Toledo, Ohio.

Kodak Colorburst 50 Camera

High Tech Paperweight

You want instant access to a photograph? Digital cameras and cell phone cameras make this easy and instantaneous. We can photograph whatever we want, wherever we want, and whenever we want. This wasn’t always the case. Nor was the choice of technology always so varied.

Instant photograph cameras were introduced to the world in 1948 by Edwin Land in his Polaroid camera and film. The pinnacle of “instant camera” tech would come in the 1970s. Kodak would enhance the competition and unveil ten different models by the end of the decade. The 1980s would bring the litigation. Originally Kodak attempted to settle by offering compensation directly to camera owners, litigation would quickly change that. By the time the air cleared in the early 1990s, Kodak would pay over $900 million to Polaroid for patent infringement. Kodak would also exit from the instant camera industry including all its support products. The title of ultimate tech in the Kodak line of instant camera was a tie between two models, the Kodamatic and the Colorburst, developed throughout the early 1980s. Once high tech, the Colorburst 50 seen here featured motorized film ejection and flash. Today, it is still rare indeed, as many equate this high technology with paperweight status!

 
patents1979 Sears catalog image: In the lower left the Colorburst 50 can be seen.
colorburstColorburst 50: Once used by the museum, the legal issues behind this technology moved it to the History Division shelves before its time.

Chewing Gum: Wrapper and Box

From Extraordinary Beginning to Commonplace Product

Chewing gum has one curious origin story in the United States. General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a former Mexican general and president, had come to New York City by 1869 following unsuccessful attempts at rebellion in Mexico. Thomas Adams, an inventor and former military photographer, would, by chance and mutual friend, meet Santa Anna in New York in 1869. Santa Anna was in search of ways to raise funds for another army of liberation in Mexico and thought that perhaps, by selling a chewy substance like chicle, he could make this happen. Santa Anna told Adams of the popularity of chewing chicle, a longstanding tradition of the Maya, amidst his troops in prior military engagements. Adams was intrigued and had a quantity of the chicle, or latex, sent to him in New York, from there chewing gum was born.

Even though it was State of the Art in its own right, advertising the gum would prove to be a key technological advancement employed in building the items popularity. From early traveling advertisement, to a new promotion based on sex appeal and health benefits, this product we think of as commonplace today, became an American icon. Brands like "Kiss-Me" would certainly emphasize this, but advertising would quickly move past the subtle, and turn to the use of engaging young women. The Dental Chewing Gum Box highlights both health benefits, emphasized under its lid, and the pretty girl on the cover. The Pepsin Gum Wrapper demonstrates this too in a small easily shareable size.

 
gum wrapperGum Wrapper: Displays a pretty young lady to entice the consumer.
Title of ImageUnder the lid of the gum box: Improving dental health.

German Maxim Heavy Machine Gun Model 1908

The Making of Trench Warfare

This fully automatic machine gun fired at a cyclic rate of around 600 rounds per minute. Built upon earlier stylings of Hiram S. Maxim, in the form of the 1884 Maxim machine gun, the Maschinengewehr 08, or MG 08 as it is also known, quickly became the State of the Art weapon technology of WWI. Its special design featured a water jacket which was used for cooling the barrel during its use. This in turn, ensured its efficiency and effectiveness. In 1914, the Western Front of WWI saw about 12,000 of these weapons take the field. This was one of the technological advances that made Trench warfare what it was. If there is one piece of technology that truly models the best in a given technology, at a singular point in time, this piece of hardware is it.

 
mg08 machine guneMaschinengewehr 08: A shot down the barrel.
Title of ImageMunitions depot stamping: Straight from the factories of Germany.

Rem-Sho Typewriter

Who sold what? To whom?

Much like the light bulb, the typewriter owes its “invention” to dogged determination. Christopher Sholes worked out over 50 different models before creating a machine that could write faster than skilled people. He was just one of many working on this solution in the same year of his invention 1873, though he would be the first to patent it.

Christopher Sholes sold his typewriter patent to a competitor in technology, E. Remington and Sons. Companies like E. Remington and Sons were very special players in the industrial revolution in America. Due to the interconnected nature of the machines being produced, and the skill sets necessary to build them, companies which made weapons could also produce sewing machines and typewriters. E. Remington and Sons would go on to sell its typewriter division, however, to Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict in 1886. In doing so, they passed along all the rights to the “Remington Standard” typewriter, the evolution of their earlier acquisition.

When a patent changes hands there is obvious potential for litigation. In 1892, the son of Christopher Sholes, Z.G. Sholes, worked to create his own version of his father’s typewriter. Finding financial difficulty in 1893, he quickly sold out to the sons of the president of E. Remington and Sons beginning a debate. Now, two generations of Sholes and Remington were in the business. The later company would pass on to a man named Fay, later of the Fay-Sholes Company. Confused yet? In the end, the United States Supreme Court would decide that two separate lines had been established and promoted individually, despite the confusion over which product belonged to whom. The “Remington Standard” was to be sold by Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict, and the “Remington-Sholes” or “Rem-Sho” typewriter would be sold and distributed by Fay-Sholes of Chicago. This seemingly simple piece of technology before you, represents a descendent of this feud, and a symbol of the true impact the search for technology’s best can have.

rem ad1876 Advertisement
Title of ImageComparative advertising for the E. Remington and Sons Company: Another of their products, the new army model revolver can be seen below.

Gray Pay Telephone

Paying Your Phone Bill in Style

Advertising that they were the very first to make a commercially available device for the collection of calling charges, the Gray Telephone Pay Station Company was the very first to collect phone call charges without a person present to do the collecting. In their catalogue, they emphasized this fact. The catalog also noted that in order to stay competitive the company would like to stress their devotion of “our energies and experience gained in over a quarter of a century’s study in the development and manufacture of telephone tool equipment to the betterment of our product.” Fully engaged in keeping their product marketable, the payphone would now also offer aesthetic choice to their commercial customer. One of the more top-of-the-line models was the new Cabinet Pay Station demonstrated by the company’s catalog in 1912, the 22nd catalog of the company. The display piece shown below, an earlier model of what appeared in that catalog, is a prime example of this State of the Art technology at work in the American marketplace of the early 1900s.

rem adFull view: Angled perspective on an early payphone.
Title of ImageStep right up, step right up: Insert your coin and make a phone call.

National Cash Register

More than Just the Best

In 1884, the National Cash Register Company was founded by John Patterson, the creator of the first mechanical cash registers. By 1906, the National Cash Register Company was producing the very first electric registers. The success of this company over the competition was apparent early on. By 1914, they were already producing over 110,000 cash registers per year. This early success provided benefit to those who worked for Patterson too. He would provide women workers with lunch, he offered machine operators chairs over stools, and Patterson would even go so far as to provide indoor bathrooms and a ventilation system to clean the air his workers were breathing. There was even a doctor’s office to treat on-site injuries quickly. Each of these actions were representative of major advancements in labor relations of the day. Machines, like this register patented in 1904, would have provided the source of profit to finance such progressive reforms.

rem adNational Cash Register: Marble slab included.
Title of ImagePress plate reads: "THE NATIONAL CASH REGISTER CO; DAYTON, OHIO, U.S.A.; 1295 PATENTS 23,000 PATENT CLAIMS; SEE SPECIAL PATENT; LIST ON CASH DRAWER"

Atwater Kent Radio

Cruising the Airwaves in Style

The 1920s were the heyday of Atwater Kent, a manufacturer of radio technology. The roaring twenties meant a whole lot to the Atwater Kent brand name. As a high-end manufacturer, this decade provided a wealthy market for this device. Despite missing the corresponding Model H horn-type attachment, the Atwater Kent Model 20C manufactured in 1925, as seen here, was absolutely State of the Art. In 1936, however, the Great Depression suppressed the waves this device was riding on. Atwater Kent went out of business that year, but the radio receiver would see numerous advancements and is still available widely today in many forms.

rem adAtwater Kent Radio: Model 20.
Title of ImageEarly catalog page: Even Rockwell had one!

New Model 1863 Remington .44 Caliber Revolver

Colt and Remington Go to War

The New Model Army Revolver was considered by both sides as one of the finest firearms of the Civil War. It was so popular in fact that between 1863 and 1875 over 130,000 pieces of this model were purchased. The New Model was ever popular, due in no small part to its innovative designs. These innovations came in the nick of time for Remington as they were steeped in strong competition with Colt to design the best firearms of the day.

Due to a single piece framework around the cylinder, the Remington was stronger and more accurate over time. Where several pieces could cause uneven heating during firing, a singular framework design eliminated this issue. Another feature much preferred by customers, was the resting position of the hammer. The enhancement of added safety notches, or grooves, on the rear of the cylinders would make a big difference. In this new design, the hammer would rest on the trigger groove in the cylinder making it much safer as opposed to allowing the hammer to rest directly on the loaded chamber in the Colt. This reduced the chance of misfire, always a desired quality. Finally, the removable cylinder provided a third favorable advantage. The new cylinder could quickly be taken out and replaced with a fully loaded cylinder. Noting these advantages, the New Model was the obvious choice for the best civil war revolver that technology had to offer.

rem ad1873 catalog page: Pricing included.
Title of ImagePatent Drawing: introduced in 1863.