August 28, 2011

A compendium of ‘useful intelligence’

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:31 am
Tags: ,

In 1841, Rufus Porter – scientist, inventor and painter of more than a hundred murals – bought a weekly

Rufus Porter

magazine called the New York mechanic.  He moved it to Boston and renamed it the American mechanic and published articles mostly on his own inventions and advertised the patent agency he’d started.  The mechanic lasted for 102 issues and then closed.

But in 1845, Porter started a new magazine that promised

“Each number will be furnished with from two to five original Engravings, many of them elegant, and illustrative of New Inventions, Scientific Principles, and Curious Works; and will contain, in addition to the most interesting news of passing events, general notices of progress of Mechanical and other Scientific Improvements; American and Foreign. Improvements and Inventions; Catalogues of American Patents; Scientific Essays, illustrative of the principles of the sciences of Mechanics, Chemistry, and Architecture: useful information and instruction in various Arts and Trades; Curious Philosophical Experiments; Miscellaneous Intelligence, Music and Poetry. This paper is especially entitled to the patronage of Mechanics and Manufactures, being the only paper in America, devoted to the interest of those classes; but is particularly useful to farmers, as it will not only appraise them of improvements in agriculture implements, But instruct them in various mechanical trades, and guard them against impositions. As a family newspaper, it will convey more useful intelligence to children and young people, than five times its cost in school instruction…”

Porter called it Scientific American and 166 years later it is still providing useful information.

Within six months, however, Porter sold the magazine to two businessmen who made it a financial success while he stayed on as editor.  During his 92 years, Porter invented clocks, railway signals, a distance measuring appliance, a horsepower mechanism, a churn, a life preserver, a cheese press, and a revolving rifle. He was another one of those enterprising 19th century Americans for whom all things were possible – he even offered tickets – for $200 – on his prospective steam-powered airship which nearly, but not quite, got off the ground.  In 1849.

Happy anniversary to SciAm.



  1. Ditto : Happy anniversary to SciAm. When would I ever find out about things written here! I think you are replacing 60 minutes for me.


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — August 28, 2011 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  2. What wonderful motives this man had and how well they turned out. He’d of loved to had a blog, wouldn’t he?


    Comment by Carol — August 28, 2011 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

    • yes! he’d have been an early adopter of everything…


      Comment by jchatoff — August 28, 2011 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  3. who knew ? it’s a gift each time i open my e-mail. thanks. ursel


    Comment by ursel — August 29, 2011 @ 6:27 am | Reply

  4. I have had subscription to that mag my self love it love the telling of the start.


    Comment by avery — September 3, 2011 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

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