I don’t how many times I have walked by the large set of back volumes containing every issues of Design News since Nov., 1946, our first year. For fun, I thought I’d pick the month when I was born to see what was hot in the design engineering world when I entered the world. Since I was born late in the evening of Aug. 31, 1949, I chose the September, 1949 issue.
First, the cover was the same from month to month , only the color was different. In September, 1949, it was solid green – no picture – and it was also used on the inside and back covers. After the banner, only an engineer’s compass (AKA, divider) was shown, each sharp end pointing to the magazine’s tagline: “The news magazine of design engineering and product development.” The issue was 126 pages which is about the same as today although it was printed on much heavier and higher-quality stock. Rogers Publishing Co of Detroit owned the magazine. Rogers in 1971 was purchased by our predecessor, Cahners Publishing Co., and Design News was its premier property!
That’s where any similarities to today’s magazine ended, showing we’ve come a long way in 58 years! Every story was short and was about a new product w/o the long in-depth features packages we run today. The sections were mundanely named, the “Modern Design Section (the most interesting)” or the New Design Data Section. It also showed that the design world was still largely mechanical and metal-based with an emerging “electrical” component (electronics were just emerging).
Of course, the biggest difference is there were no web sites to maintain and computers. It’s hard to imagine that the staff only had to fill the print vessel every month. What’s more design tools were rudimentary if not crude compared to today’s CAD software. And the volume of products is much greater, even if many of them are made in China.
Here’s a breakdown:
Modern Design Section: a new twin-hulled ship and an all-electric Illinois Central RR dining car.
In New Data Design, a chart laid out the physical properties of common plastics such as nylon, polystyrene, vinyl and acrylic.
New products featured a magnetic drum to remove “tramp iron” from scrap and a two cycle 4 HP engine from Homelite.
New mechanical parts highlighted nuts, bolts, motors, reduction gears and high temperature piston rings (bronze or steel).
New electrical parts featured relays, capacitors, welders and even a lamp socket. An ad from Holtzer-Cabot trumpeted a precision motor. I found some interesting history on Holtzer-Cabot. It was founded in 1870 in Boston, sold to Eastern Air Products in 1971 which appears now to be part of ElectroCraft of Gallipolis, Ohio.
Another beefy section was the New Engineering Dept. equipment. A handheld AC ammeter and voltmeter got some play as did steel ball penetrators for hardness testing. A 5,000 pound compression tester, a briefcase-size tachometer for motor testing and a shearing machine rounded out the section.
New Finishes and New materials were each two page sections carrying stories about machine coatings, solvents, paint, extruded tungsten, fiberglas insulated tubing and something I’d stay away from, asbestos-lined electrical tubing.