Motoring the Globe in a New-fangled Way

It may come as no surprise that Hammacher Schlemmer was an early supporter of the drive toward the car culture. In 1902, when there were fewer than 600 cars in New York City and no gas stations, we introduced the first Auto Parts Department, selling parts and tools for the “horseless carriage” including a Motorist Touring Kit, which allowed drivers to fix a flat or blown gasket.

This was the age of the polished brass automobile—works of the machinist’s art and craft—years before “King Henry” punched out black tin Lizzies. These speed machines gleamed seductively with seats padded and sprung by coach builders, and looked much like The Stirling Engine 1900 Mercedes. In these bold, crazy days there were no helmets, no roll bar, and no air bags. Seatbelts? Paah! But now people had the speed to move and explore the planet.

To promote the future of the automobile, The New York Times challenged the French newspaper Le Matin to the most daunting race of the day: New York to Paris. Many thought this an impossible act of lunacy. Was the technology up to the ordeal? Were men brave and adventurous enough to stand up to the journey? It was the space program of the day.

It was winter, February 12th and a gold pistol shot marked the start of The Great 1908 New York to Paris automobile race. Six teams left New York. In the rural countryside, there were no snow plows and most roads were mud, gravel or dirt; asphalt wasn’t invented until 1910. Drivers had no benefit of The Stuck in Snow Extrication Kit.

The race promoters had the novel idea that the Bering Strait would be frozen and the cars could drive over it with tire chains like a land bridge. Melting ice made the whole notion impossible and was abandoned. The machines were shipped by sea first to Alaska and later back to Seattle and on to Japan.

The American auto in the race, piloted by George Schuster, was the sturdy and dashing Thomas Flyer, of the Thomas Motor Company, in Buffalo, NY. The Flyer had no enclosed cockpit, only overstuffed front and rear tonneau seats. There wasn’t even a windshield. All supplies and provisions had to be tied to the running boards or stored in foot wells. Planks were lashed to the sides to be used as traction boards on muddy permafrost roads. The cars were powered by 40-60 horsepower low compression 4-cylinder engines. Top speeds ranged from 40 to 70 mph.

Food was scarce along the way. No maps existed for many remote sections of the globe. A homemade sextant and brass compass were used to navigate through Siberia and Mongolia.

Three teams finished the race: the French, the Germans, and Schuster’s American Thomas Flyer, with Schuster the only competitor to complete the entire 22,000-mile journey. Even though the German team made it to Paris first, they took shortcuts along the way and didn’t follow the route. The French judges penalized them and declared Schuster’s American team the winner on this day, 105 years ago.

More than a century later, Schuster’s feat has never been equaled. The famous race heralded the start of a new era in transportation, but perhaps it’s time to recreate the race with today’s electric cars. The 120 MPH electric car would be our favored entrant. It can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds to a top speed of 120 mph in one gear with no shifting thanks to its two electric motors.

If you prefer to travel solo, look at The Electric One Person Car. This electric, highway-legal, three-wheeled, single passenger vehicle combines the functionality of an electric car with the maneuverability and scale of a motorcycle. With a range of 30 miles per charge, it operates with zero emissions and uses less than half the energy of even today’s most efficient hybrid vehicles.

How Hammacher Schlemmer Supported Those Who Served

Hammacher SchlemmerBy the time World War I, or the Great War as it was known before the second World War, began on this day in 1914, Hammacher Schlemmer had already been a supplier to the U.S. military for a decade.

In 1904, the U.S. Navy began using our catalog as an equipment manual – a relationship that endured for 67 years. It’s no surprise that we were able to supply the Navy with their needs…by 1912, we stocked over 100,000 items, the largest inventory of hardware on the East Coast. Our full catalog spanned 1,112 pages. To this day, one hardbound edition of that catalog remains housed in the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection.

In 1918, after the war had ended, Hammacher Schlemmer was commended for its service to munitions factories during the war. Our firm received a citation that read: “The War Department of the United States of America recognizes in this award for distinguished service the loyalty, energy and efficiency in the performance of the war work by which Hammacher Schlemmer Co. added materially in obtaining victory for the arms of the United States of America in the war with the Imperial German Government and the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government.”

A handful of years after the Great War ended, we moved to a new location (where our store still is today) on 57th St. in New York. Our new home put us closer to some of the city’s most well-heeled residents. They had an appetite for more luxury items, so our offerings began to expand from hardware to include The Best as well as The Unexpected.

Even today, we carry items that are currently used by the U.S. military. For example, The Military Mosquito Countermeasure is used by military personnel abroad and has been proven to be up to 98% effective in repelling mosquitoes in field tests conducted by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

We’ve weathered a lot of changes in society and around the country since World War I, but as we mark our 165th year in business, Hammacher Schlemmer remains committed to bringing you quality and innovative products that solve problems and bring enjoyment to your life.

A Crime with a Rhyme Leads to Hard Time

The robbers of today just don’t have style…at least not compared to the infamous Black Bart.

Charles Earl Bowles, known more commonly as Black Bart, held up over two dozen Wells Fargo stagecoaches in northern California between 1875 and 1883. He was very successful, making off with thousands of dollars a year.

What really sealed his notoriety, however, were the bits of poetry he left behind after two of his crimes. Thanks to these verses, he was forever known in history as having a higher level of style and sophistication than the average bandit. One of his poems, left behind at the site of a holdup in late July 1878 read:

“Here I lay me down to sleep To wait the coming morrow, Perhaps success, perhaps defeat, And everlasting sorrow. Let come what will, I’ll try it on, My condition can’t be worse; And if there’s money in that box ‘Tis munny in my purse.”

After several more successful heists, his career came to a halt after a Wells Fargo stagecoach robbery on this day in 1883. The strongbox holding the precious Wells Fargo cargo has been bolted to the coach’s wooden floor. It took Black Bart time to remove the security box. During this time, the stagecoach driver was Security Mailboxable to get a rifle from a nearby hunter and fired shots at Black Bart. He missed. The hunter reached the scene, took his rifle back and fired shots that found their target, wounding Black Bart as he ran for his escape.

If not for the that locked and bolted security mailbox, he likely would have gotten away with this heist. What lesson can be learned from this event? In the tradition of Black Bart, let’s explore the idea in verse:

Waiting for a supply of checks
can turn us into nervous wrecks,
or fearing a mail-ordered gift
becomes the prize a thief will lift.
When it comes to mail, no need to worry.
We have the answer, in a hurry.
For checks, Rx, credit cards and more
The Deadbolt Mailbox has a locking door!

This is the steel locking security mailbox that prevents theft by storing mail inside a dead-bolted vault. The 14-gauge, powder-coated steel mailbox’s door locks with two steel dead bolts and is only accessible when the correct code (one to eight digits) is entered on the electronic keypad.

Our security mailbox thwarts thieves from pilfering a box of checks, your mail-order prescriptions, birthday cards with cash from Aunt Sally and more.

What thwarted Black Bart 130 years ago was the bullet that injured his hand. Although he fled the scene, he left behind a handkerchief that bore a laundry marking. Investigators eventually traced the marking to a laundry in San Francisco, where they were able to identify the handkerchief as belonging to Black Bart. The outlaw was convicted and sentenced to six years in San Quentin prison.

While Black Bart targeted stagecoaches, today’s robbers prefer non-moving targets; according to recent FBI statistics, a burglary occurs every 14.4 seconds. That’s why we also offer other innovative ways to secure your valuables inside your home, to keep vital documents dry and safe in a flood, and even to deter thieves while you frolic outdoors.

The Digital Combination Lock Hotel Safe uses the same digital combination lock sought by hotels worldwide for securing guests’ valuables. The Waterproof Bolt Down Safe remains 100% waterproof—even when fully submerged—and bolts to a floor for optimal safekeeping of sensitive belongings. The Alarm Sounding Beach Safe sounds a piercing alarm when its security cable is cut, so you can store your valuables and enjoy the beach or pool without worry.

The Soaring Spirit of Amelia Earhart

Bomber JacketWhen Amelia Earhart was born in Kansas on this day in 1897, no one dreamed that someday trans-Atlantic flight would be not just possible, but a commonplace activity. During Amelia’s childhood, the Wright Brothers made their historic powered flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, and soon after, aviation grew through the use of planes in World War I.

The young Amelia, with a tomboy’s heart, was no stranger to challenging conventions on how a lady ought to behave. She was known for climbing trees, “belly-slamming” her sled on a snowy hill and hunting vermin with a .22 rifle. She even kept a scrapbook of newspaper stories about successful women in male-oriented fields, including engineering, law and management.

Nevertheless, she initially chose a traditional woman’s career of the day, working as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Toronto. During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic she contracted a severe case of pneumonia and chronic sinusitis, spending nearly a year recovering. It was during this time that she attended a flying exhibition. When a WWI flying ace put his plane in a dive from the sky toward Earhart and her friend, Amelia stood her ground. “I did not understand it at the time,” she said, “but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

Two years later, Earhart took her first flight and it changed her life forever. Almost immediately, she started taking flying lessons and within six months saved enough money to buy her first plane.

Knowing that as a female, other aviators would be judging her, she also purchased a leather bomber jacket so that her appearance would suit the role. Feeling the new jacket needed to look well-worn, she slept in it a number of nights to more quickly break it in.

We’ve replicated The Amelia Earhart Flight Jacket in every detail. Made by the same company that supplies leather jackets to the U.S. Air Force, this coat is a variation of the classic A-1 jacket made famous by pilots in the era of open-air cockpits. Many A-1s had collars that buttoned around the neck, but Earhart’s version introduced a brass-zippered, full-neck collar with knit trim, and added a side entry pocket to the two traditional button-up patch pockets. The outer shell of supple lambskin leather has been vegetable-tanned to reveal its natural grain, while the wrists and waist are soft knit. This is no ordinary women’s bomber jacket…it celebrates an American heroine, too.

As Earhart became further renown as an accomplished aviator, she set many records and firsts, not the least of which was to be the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic in 1928, and the first woman to do so on a solo flight in 1932.

Tragically, her career and her life came to an end in 1937 near the end of her attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2 of that year, she and her navigator were due to land on Howland Island when overcast skies and intermittent rain showers made celestial navigation difficult. It is known that Earhart’s plane was running low on fuel. The U.S. Coast Guard ship supporting her flight was able to hear her radio transmissions, but apparently the pilot could not hear the ship. After one last transmission, Earhart was never heard from again, though it was not until January 5, 1939, that she officially was declared dead.

Recently, photos taken of Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the mid-Pacific, suggested that Earhart and her navigator may not have crashed into the ocean, but instead made an emergency landing on the flat coral atoll. A group of researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery continues to search for clues that could reveal Earhart’s final resting place. Was she wearing her beautiful bomber jacket on that final flight? That’s a mystery the world may never know.

Sway Away Hammock Day in Comfort and Style

Petiole-HammockDuring these hottest days of summer, ambition doesn’t come for anything more strenuous than lazing away the afternoon, stretched out on a hammock.

It’s certainly no coincidence that every year, July 22 marks National Hammock Day. Are you prepared?

The modern-day hammock comes from a design originated by the Taino culture, Native Americans who inhabited the northern West Indies, especially the islands that today are Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. By suspending their beds above the ground, inhabitants were better able to avoid fungal infections, as well as snakes, scorpions, and other biting insects.

By the late 1500s, the hammock had been adopted for use on naval ships, particularly by sailors sleeping on gun decks where limited space prevented the installation of bunks. The hammocks also swayed right along with the motion of the ship, providing better comfort and safety in rough seas.

Today, we depend on the hammock for nothing more than sheer relaxation. If you don’t have the most basic of ingredients to celebrate National Hammock Day, take a look at The Pawleys Island Hammock. This is the sturdiest, most durable and well-made hammock available. It is handcrafted on Pawleys Island, South Carolina—the ancestral home of Captain Joshua Ward who designed the original in the late 1880s. Unlike ordinary hammocks, it is handwoven instead of knotted, using the highest grade, soft cotton twill rope. It contains twice as much rope as most comparable models. Ropes and chains for hanging are included, or you can mount your hammock with the stand and wheel kit.

Although this style of hammock has been around for hundreds of years, there is always a quest to improve on any classic design. We believe we have found the next thing in hammock design with The Petiole Hammock. Recipient of Les Découvertes award for innovation at the prestigious Maison & Objet design show, this is the handmade, self-suspended hammock. The culmination of 20 years of research and design, the hammock is made in Sweden by two artisans who painstakingly mold each piece during a process that requires four weeks to craft one hammock. White glove delivery of this very special item includes installation.

So mix up a pitcher of lemonade, grab your favorite snack and head to the back yard where you can enjoy the too-short summer as it’s meant to be: gently swaying in your own comfortable hammock.

Innovative transportation that hovers, flies, dives, drives, and more

When we first told you about the Golf Cart Hovercraft, little did we know it would make such a splash!The Golf Cart Hovercraft.

Actually, it doesn’t make a splash, and that’s no small part of the appeal…The Golf Cart Hovercraft can glide right over water hazards, literally floating on a cushion of air. It passes

over sensitive greens 9″ above the ground, without damaging a blade of grass. In a sand trap, it powers you right up to your ball with its 65-hp twin-cylinder Hirth engine and nine-blade axial-flow ducted fan.

Response to the cart has been amazing, but it is far from the first time we’ve embraced innovative modes of transportation. Indeed, it isn’t even our first hovercraft; in 1994,

The Flying Hovercraft.The four-Person Hovercraft made an appearance in our catalog, and we offer The Two Person 60 MPH Hovercraft and The Flying Hovercraft today.

Back on the ground, our history with the automobile dates to 1902, when there were fewer than 600 cars in New York City and no gas stations. That year, we introduced the first Auto Parts Department, selling parts and tools for the “horseless carriage” including a Motorist Touring Kit, which allowed drivers to fix a flat or blown gasket.

As the automobile came into more widespread use, we purchased our own auto to begin home-delivery parcel service—a novel idea in its day.

More than a century later, we’re still leading the way in ways to get around. Electric cars are now turning up in garages nationwide, but we put some acceleration behind the concept back in 2006 with The 120 MPH Electric Car. This vehicle accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds to a top speed of 120 mph in one gear with no shifting.  Its two electric motors—smaller versions of the same kind found in diesel-electric locomotives—combine to produce over 1,000 foot-pounds (lbf) of torque.

In 2009, we helped TV personality Boaz Frankel kick off his 70-day Un-Road Trip with our 13 mph cooler. But if you’d rather take your friends and your beverages with you, take a look at The Pedal Pub. This is the vehicle that accommodates up to 17 people who pedal, serve, drive, and imbibe as it travels.

Here’s something truly unique: The Motorized Monocycle. Drawing upon a robust history of development that began with an original design conceived in Marseilles, France in 1869, this is the motorized monocycle made in the Netherlands that propels a single rider up to 25 mph. The ingenious device is steered by leaning to one side or the other, and it can safely negotiate any dense surface such as pavement or grass.

The Killer Whale Submarine.

And if you’re really looking to get double-takes from beachgoers, may we suggest The Killer Whale Submarine. This is the streamlined, two-person watercraft that breaches and submerges just like the Orcinus orca after which it is designed. It jumps up to 16 feet and can hydroplane up to 50 mph over the water’s surface or cruise up to 25 mph while submerged.

Improve Your “Techno-etiquette” During Cell Phone Courtesy Month

We’ve all been there: enjoying a pleasant meal in a nice restaurant, when someone at the next table starts talking too loudly on a cell phone. Perhaps we’ve even been that other Bluetooth-Headsetperson a time or two.

In July 2002, business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore created National Cell Phone Courtesy Month to encourage us all to be more respectful of our surroundings when using our phones. Whitmore created eight tips to help us improve our cell phone savvy:

1. Let your voicemail take your calls when you’re in meetings, courtrooms, restaurants or other busy areas. If you must speak to the caller, use the e-mail or text messaging feature or excuse yourself and find a secluded area.

2. Speak in your regular conversational tone and don’t display anger during a public call. Speaking loudly or showing emotion may distract those around you.

3. Use your vibrate function or turn off your phone in public places such as movie theaters, concerts, religious services, medical and dental offices, restaurants, etc.

4. If you are expecting a call that can’t be postponed, alert your companions ahead of time and excuse yourself when the call comes in; the people you are with should take precedence over calls you want to make or receive.

5. Avoid interrupting meetings, social gatherings or personal conversations by answering your wireless phone, checking your voicemail, or texting someone. Discreetly excuse yourself if you must take a call.

6. Use discretion when discussing private matters or confidential information in front of others. You never know who is within hearing range.

7. When walking and talking on your wireless phone, be aware of your surroundings and remember to respect the rights of others.

8. Practice wireless responsibility while you’re driving. Place calls when your car is not moving. Don’t text or make or answer calls while in heavy traffic or in hazardous driving conditions. Use a Bluetooth headset type device whenever possible.

That last one goes without saying, of course, and many states have enacted legislation requiring motorists to make only hands-free calls. It’s always best to pull over before using your phone, but if you must keep driving, stay safe and comply with the law with The Superior Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headset. This headset produces clear, crisp conversations on a train, in a car, or in other noisy settings, without static. Unlike other Bluetooth headsets that are uncomfortable, this superior model has an ergonomic design and three different sized silicone ear fittings that provide customizable comfort.

Ultimately, when you’re in the company of friends, associates, or clients, put down that phone and be in the moment. Don’t be a smartphone abuser, be a smart phone user!

Tune In To The Radio’s Beginnings

First-RadioToday it’s all about wireless. Indeed, it seems to be the very definition of our current society. In reality, the wireless concept first transformed lives over 100 years ago with the invention of the radio.

Several scientists, engineers and physicists can be credited with developments that eventually lead to the radio as we know it today. Many would say that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi was the father of the device, and indeed he was the first person to demonstrate its success and use it commercially.

In the late 1890s, Nikola Tesla publicly demonstrated wireless communication devices and believed the technology could be used for power distribution in addition to communications. He was granted a number of patents, and quipped that when Marconi made the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission in 1901, he did it with 17 Tesla-held patents.

Thus began decades of legal battles over who held the patents for radio. Tesla’s patents were upheld by the courts in 1903, followed by a reversal in Marconi’s favor in 1904. Finally, in 1943 a Supreme Court ruling declared in favor of patents held by Tesla and others. The court noted that the decision had no bearing on Marconi’s claim of achieving the first radio transmission, but he could not claim the patents.

Regardless of the controversy on who truly invented the radio, upon Marconi’s death from a series of heart attacks in 1937, radio stations around the world observed two minutes of silence in his honor.

Today, of course, we follow prominent persons’ passings not just on the radio, but also on TV, the Internet and print media. Still, nothing beats the dependability of the radio for Best-Emergency-Radioportability and its ability to continue to operate after disasters such as tornadoes or wide-spread power outages.

Ensure you can receive radio broadcasts in any situation with The Best Emergency Radio. Along with a superior combination of sound quality, playback time and reception, The Best model’s superior features include an integrated LED flashlight, USB port for charging smartphones, mini-USB cable, and a built-in solar panel for supplemental power.

The Sky(lab) is Falling, the Sky(lab) is Falling!

In July 1979, the nation was obsessed with listening to cassette tapes on Sony’s new Walkman, watching the Wimbledon wins of Bjorn Borg and Martina Navratilova…and calculating the odds that space station Skylab might fall on our heads.

Sky LabUsing leftover hardware from the Apollo program, NASA created Skylab, the United States’ first manned space station, and launched the craft on May 14, 1973. For the next nine months, 2,000 hours of scientific and medical experiments were performed on board, collecting vast amounts of data and proving that humans could live and work in space for extended periods of time.

With every Skylab mission, a new record was set for time spent in space, with the third and final crew spending 84 days. NASA strived to offer a “highly satisfactory living and working environment for crews”, with room for personal privacy and recreational activities including books, music players, playing cards, and other games. However, it was a window with a view of Earth that was the favored means of relaxation for astronauts.

One additional mission was planned that would have deployed the Space Shuttle to move Skylab to a higher orbit, extending its life further through repairs by future Shuttle missions. However, development of the Shuttle was delayed and ultimately the Skylab was left in an orbit that was expected to last until at least the early 1980s.

Intense solar activity heated the outer layers of Earth’s atmosphere, causing Skylab’s orbit to decay faster than expected. Facing the inevitable, NASA made adjustments to reorient the space station in such a way that it would return to Earth over the ocean. Reentry began as predicted on July 11, 1979, but a miscalculation resulted in a 4% error, with the station burning up more slowly than expected. The largest pieces broke up in the atmosphere, but debris rained down on an area of Western Australia.

By this point, Skylab’s reentry had become an international event. Popular items for sale included hats and t-shirts sporting bulls eyes. Wagers were placed on the time and place the space station would hit.

The San Francisco Examiner even offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of Skylab delivered to its offices. Two dozen pieces were recovered by Stan Thornton, a 17-year-old from Esperance, southeast of Perth. A Philadelphia business man flew Stan and his family to San Francisco to collect the prize.

In a way, Skylab still survives today. Two flight-ready space stations were built, but only one was ever launched. The second craft, known as Skylab B, is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Woof Repairs: Keeping Your Dog’s House in Top Form

Seldom is found a more loyal friend than the family dog.

July is National Dog House Repairs Month, a greatSnoopy-Dog-House time to make sure Spot has a comfortable hang-out that will make him feel safe and loved when outdoors. Dogs are pack animals, so their favorite place is wherever you are, but if your pooch spends a substantial amount of time in the yard, you want to make sure the dog house offers both shade in the summer and adequate protection from cold in the winter.

When checking for necessary repairs, spray the dog house with a garden hose to ensure the roof doesn’t leak. Examine the interior for broken and loose boards and for nails sticking out that could cause injury to your pet. Some cities and towns have code standards for dog houses, so check with your municipality to ensure the structure is in compliance.

Once Fido’s house is up to snuff, we have some other suggestions to make the dog days of summer more enjoyable for both of you. If your pet doesn’t have a permanent structure for a house, The Dog Gazebo is an easy-to-set-up pen that will keep your canine contained while offering protection from the sun and rain. You can even create larger dog houses by connecting multiple gazebos.

Dogs love to play in the water on a hot summer day. Unlike thin-skinned kiddie pools, The Canine Splash Pool is made from heavy-gauge PVC material that can withstand a dog’s rough paws and sharp claws.

Proper hydration in the heat of summer is equally important for dogs as for their owners. The Dog Activated Outdoor Fountain attaches to a garden spigot and automatically dispenses a gentle stream of cool, fresh water when your dog is within 3 feet.

After a long hike or a day of play, your best friend may want a cooling shower as badly as you do. The Canine Shower Stall features 16 water-jet nozzles and a showerhead to wash and rinse Rover with vigorous streams of water in an enclosed space.

Whether you favorite pets have fur, feathers, or fins, we have even more ideas to keep these cherished members of the family happy and healthy.