Category Archives: History

The USIS was Established 85 Years Ago Today

On November 17, 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6433-A and created the National Emergency Council (NEC), sing an appropriation authorized by Section 220 of the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933, in response to the declaration by the Congress of the United States of the existence of an acute national economic emergency which affects the national public interest and welfare.

The NEC was deemed created for the purpose of coordinating and making more efficient and productive the work of the numerous field agencies of the Government established under, and for the purpose of carrying into, effect, the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Federal Emergency Relief Act that were all signed into law in 1933 in response to the Great Depression.

Six months later, Clara M. Edmunds, head librarian of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public information service, opened the U.S. Information Services library, which was designed to be the comprehensive collection of relevant government documents, updated regularly to record every development in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government. This library, which centralized information about federal rules, regulations, and administrative orders for the public, was the first one-stop-shop for government information until 1948. In 1945, Truman, who had no interest in funding it, took office. In 1946, the USIS was put under the state department and had its funding reduced. And in 1948, the Smith-Mundt Act, which focussed on the creation of an information service to disseminate information abroad about the United States (instead of to its own citizens) put the final nail in the USIS coffin. (One account of the United States Information Service Libraries can be found in the online archive of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library Science. Information can also be found in A Timeline of Events in the History of Libraries.)

It may have only lasted 15 years, but it was a revolution in government information management and deserves to be remembered.

One Hundred and Thirty Seven Years Ago Today …

The first electric trams in Britain made their first run in East London.

We need to return to trams not only in London, but all over the world. Since trams can be powered by electricity, they can be powered by grids that primarily use renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and water.

Trams were common in many places in the middle of the twentieth century, but then many cities replaced them with buses in the latter half. This was a dumb move. London abolished its Trams in 1952, but brought them back in 2000.


One Hundred and Ten Years Ago Today …

Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London by way of an eight-minute short filmed in Brighton titled A Visit to the Seaside.

This revolutionary technology was invented by George Albert Smith and launched by Urban Trading Co. of London and used commercially for 6 years. It was a two-colour additive colour process that involved photographing and projecting a black and white film behind alternating red and green filters at a rate of thirty-two images per second on panchromatic film.

Motion was a bit blurry, and color was a bit off, but it gave color to a world without any. It was revolutionary. And a mere 110 years later we can scan in Colortrac and capture 281,474,976,710,656 different colors (using 48-bit deep color), process it through ATI FireGL 3D Workstation Graphics Accelerators which can process 48-bit color, and display it on a HDR*1-enabled LCD*2 flat-screen display.

But still, a mere 110 years ago, this image of a 1911 Kinimacolor recreated from original materials, and found on Wikipedia, was revolutionary!

*1 High Dynamic Range
*2 Liquid Crystal Display

Sixty Five Years Ago Today …

…when Russia, not Mexico, was the enemy, the United States and Canada agreed to construct the Distant Early Warning Line (and, unknowingly, inspire one of Canada’s classic rock anthems that would be released thirty years later).

Thus began a system of radar systems in the far northern Arctic region of Canada with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, as well as placements on, or near, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. There was no way Soviet Bombers were going to sneak up on us over the pole or send a land and/or sea invasion using the arctic route!

And while the application was defence, it spurred a lot of investment in radar technology, that our modern control towers rely on, as the project was given a priority rush status and completed in less than 3 years, at a latitude that could only be reached by ships during the summer months, which also resulted in advancements in cross-border and joint logistical operations.

One Hundred and Forty Years Ago Today …

Sir Sandford Fleming first proposes adoption of Universal Standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute and gives the world a way to plan and execute global communication and scheduling on a reliable basis and revolutionizes the measurement of time for the modern age. (In stark comparison to George Hudson who proposed Daylight Savings Time 16 years later in an attempt to take the world back to the Dark Ages. How good can an idea be if its primary proponents ended up being the German Nazis???)

And while the global community is still arguing over the best implementation of UST– whether UT0, UT1, UT1R, UT2, or UTC is best — the simple fact of the matter is that UT1 is good enough, and thus UTC is good enough, and the world should just adopt it and quote all times in UTC.