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A Brief History of the Goodyear Blimp

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If you tuned in to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series last night, you were treated to spectacular aerial views of Dodger Stadium and greater Los Angeles courtesy of one of Goodyear's blimps. America's most recognizable airships, the tire and rubber company's "Aerial Ambassadors," travel more than 100,000 miles each year to cover more than 80 sporting events. Here's a brief history of how Goodyear's blimps have evolved.

What's a Blimp?

A blimp is simply a balloon filled with nonflammable helium and propelled by an engine. Goodyear blimps are powered by two aircraft engines. Lt. A.D. Cunningham of Great Britain's Royal Navy Air Service is often credited with coining the term "blimp." As the story goes, Cunningham, who commanded an air station in England during World War I, plucked the material of His Majesty's Airship SS-12 and it made a strange sound. "Blimp," is how Cunningham supposedly described it.

The Goodyear Blimp's Origins

pilgrim-blimpGoodyear has manufactured over 300 airships since the company was founded in 1898. In March 1917, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels awarded contracts to four American firms for the construction of 16 non-rigid airships, of which nine were to be produced by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Two years later, a Goodyear-owned airship being tested for future passenger service caught fire and crashed through the glass roof of a Chicago building, killing 11 people. Determined to maintain its position as America's leading manufacturer of airships, Goodyear purchased the rights and patents to build zeppelin-style airships in 1924. One year later, Goodyear launched the Pilgrim, the first commercial non-rigid airship flown using helium.

World War II and Beyond

Goodyear provided at least two different types of airships for the Navy during World War II. The first airships were rigid and served as airborne aircraft carriers, but proved difficult to handle in certain conditions and were destroyed. Goodyear later provided non-rigid airships capable of aerial surveillance, which the Navy made use of until 1962. Today, Goodyear operates three non-rigid airships, or blimps: the Spirit of Goodyear (based in Akron, Ohio), the Spirit of America (Carson, Calif.), and the Spirit of Innovation (Pompano Beach, Fla.). The Spirit of Innovation, which was christened in 2006 and is filled with 20,000 cubic feet of helium, is the newest blimp in the fleet and the first to be named by the public in a "name-the-blimp" contest.

Goodyear Enters the Sports Arena

Two years before the Navy discontinued its blimp program, Goodyear pioneered the use of blimps to provide aerial coverage at sporting events.

In 1960, the first images from a camera installed on one of Goodyear's blimps were broadcast on national television from Miami's Orange Bowl.

The technology has improved dramatically since then, including the introduction of gyrostabilized camera mounts in 1984. All three blimps in Goodyear's current fleet feature electronic sign technology and can display text, animation, and video. Cruising high above the action at Super Bowls, playoff games, NASCAR and horse races, and golf tournaments, the Goodyear blimp's purpose is to see and be seen, and not only by the fans in attendance. If the Goodyear blimp is at an event that you're watching on television, you'll know it, and not only because of its distinctive shots. At some point during the game, the broadcasters will announce that aerial coverage has been provided by Goodyear, and they might even mention the name of the blimp's pilot. The recognition accomplishes the same goal as a 30-second commercial for Goodyear, which will receive a lot of airtime in the coming weeks. "I'd say baseball is where we receive the most recognition," Goodyear public relations manager Jerry Jenkins told FoxSportsBiz.com in 2000. "During the baseball playoffs in October, our fleet of three blimps can be on the air for as many as 12 to 15 days in the month."

The Goodyear Blimp on the Big Screen

black-sunday
The tagline for John Frankenheimer's 1977 film, Black Sunday, sounds like it's straight out of Beyond Balderdash: "Members of the Black September terrorist group plot to kill thousands of Americans at the Super Bowl in Miami by using a specially designed dart-gun in a hijacked Goodyear blimp."


The movie was based on Thomas Harris's best-selling novel and filmed at the Orange Bowl before and during Super Bowl X between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. An actual Goodyear blimp was used for some of the scenes, while the nose of a blimp was recreated and supported by a crane for the scene in which the blimp enters the stadium.

Other Blimps

While Goodyear's are the most iconic, other companies, including Budweiser, Fuji Film and MetLife, have advertised with their own blimps over the years. MetLife has brought attention to itself since 1987 via the Snoopy One and Snoopy Two blimps, which provide aerial coverage of more than 60 events each year. Tomorrow, MetLife-owned blimps will hover above the Cotton Bowl for the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas, and be in South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame plays host to USC. The Fuji Film blimp was used by the New York Police Department to assist in patrolling Madison Square Garden during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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Supermarket Introduces 'Quiet Hour' to Help Customers With Autism Feel at Ease
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For some people on the autism spectrum, a routine trip to the supermarket can quickly morph into a nightmare. It’s not just the crowds and commotion that trigger feelings of panic—sounds that many shoppers have learned to tune out, like intercom announcements or beeps from the checkout scanner, can all add up to cause sensory overload. But grocery stores don’t have to be a source of dread for people with such sensitivities. By turning down the volume for one hour each day, one supermarket is making itself more inclusive to a greater number of customers.

As Mashable reports, Australian grocery store chain Coles is partnering with the Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) organization to roll out "quiet hour" in two of its stores. From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., the lights will be dimmed by 50 percent, the radio and register sounds will be turned down to their lowest volumes, and cart collection and non-emergency PA announcements will be put on hold. The changes are meant to accommodate shoppers with autism and their families, but all shoppers are welcome.

The initiative is based on research conducted by Aspect on people on the autism spectrum and those who care for them. In addition to modifying the atmosphere, Coles has taken steps to educate its staff. If someone does start to feel overwhelmed in a Coles stores, employees trained in understanding and dealing with autism symptoms will be on hand to assist them.

Coles is following the lead of several chains that have made themselves more inviting to shoppers on the spectrum. Last year, British supermarket chain Asda introduced its own quiet hour, and Toys "R" US implemented something similar in its UK stores for the holiday season.

The Coles initiative is just a trial run for now, but if the customer reaction is positive enough it may be here to stay. Visitors to their Ringwood and Balwyn East stores in Victoria will have a chance to experience it now through the end of October.

[h/t Mashable]

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10 of the Worst Jobs in the Victorian Era
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Next time you complain about your boring desk job, think back to Victorian times—an era before the concept of occupational health and safety rules—and count yourself lucky. Back then, people were forced to think of some imaginative ways to earn a living, from seeking out treasure in the sewers to literally selling excrement.

1. LEECH COLLECTOR

Leeches were once a useful commodity, with both doctors and quacks using the blood-sucking creatures to treat a number of ailments, ranging from headaches to "hysteria." But pity the poor leech collector who had to use themselves as a human trap. The job usually fell to poor country women, who would wade into dirty ponds in the hope of attracting a host of leeches. Once the critters attached to the leech collector’s legs, the individual would prise them off and collect them in a box or pot. Leeches can survive for up to a year with no food, so they could be stored at the pharmacy to be dished out as required. Unsurprisingly, leech collectors were in danger of suffering from excess blood loss and infectious diseases.

2. PURE FINDER

Despite the clean-sounding name, this job actually involved collecting dog feces from the streets of London to sell to tanners, who used it in the leather-making process. Dog poop was known as "pure" because it was used to purify the leather and make it more flexible [PDF]. Leather was in great demand in Victorian times, as it was used not only as tack for horses but for shoes, boots, bags, and in bookbinding. Pure collectors haunted the streets where stray dogs amassed, scooping up the poop and keeping it in a covered bucket before selling it on to the tanners. Some collectors wore a black glove to protect their scooping hand, but others considered it harder to keep a glove clean than a hand and eschewed the protection altogether.

3. TOSHER

A Victorian illustration of a tosher, or sewer collector
An 1851 illustration of a sewer-hunter or "tosher."
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Victorian London had a huge network of over-worked sewers under the city, washing away the effluence of the crowded metropolis. Toshers made their living down in the dark sewers, sifting through raw sewage to find any valuables that had fallen down the drain. It was extremely dangerous work: Noxious fumes formed deadly pockets, the tunnels frequently crumbled, there were swarms of rats, and at any moment the sluices might be opened and a tide of filthy water might wash the toshers away. As a result of these dangers, toshers generally worked in groups, instantly recognizable in their canvas trousers, aprons with many large pockets (in which to stash their booty), and lanterns strapped to their chests. Most toshers also carried a long pole with a hoe at the end to investigate piles of human waste for dropped treasures, or with which to steady themselves if they stumbled in the gloom. After 1840 it became illegal to enter the sewers without permission and so toshers began working late at night or early in the morning to avoid detection. Despite the stinking and dangerous conditions, it was a lucrative business for the working classes, with many a coin or silver spoon sloshing about in the quagmire.

4. MATCHSTICK MAKERS

Matchsticks are made by cutting wood into thin sticks and then dipping the ends into white phosphorus—a highly toxic chemical. In the Victorian era, this work was mainly performed by teenage girls who worked in terrible conditions, often for between 12 and 16 hours a day with few breaks. The girls were forced to eat at their work stations, meaning the toxic phosphorus got into their food, leading to some developing the dreadful condition known as “phossy jaw”—whereby the jawbone becomes infected, leading to severe disfigurement.

5. MUDLARK

Like the toshers, these workers made their meagre money from dredging through the gloop looking for items of value to sell, although in this case they were plying their messy trade on the shores of the Thames instead of mostly in the sewers. Seen as a step down from a tosher, the mudlarks were usually children, who collected anything that could be sold, including rags (for making paper), driftwood (dried out for firewood) and any coins or treasure that might find its way into the river. Not only was it a filthy job, but it was also very dangerous, since the tidal nature of the Thames meant it was easy for children to be washed away or become stuck in the soft mud.

6. CHIMNEY SWEEP

A photograph of a very happy chimney sweep
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Tiny children as young as four years old were employed as chimney sweeps, their small stature making them the perfect size to scale up the brick chimneys. All the climbing in the claustrophobic space of a chimney meant many sweeps’ elbows and knees were scraped raw, until repeated climbing covered them with calluses. Inhaling the dust and smoke from chimneys meant many chimney sweeps suffered irreversible lung damage. Smaller sweeps were the most sought-after, so many were deliberately underfed to stunt their growth and most had outgrown the profession by the age of 10. Some poor children became stuck in the chimneys or were unwilling to make the climb, and anecdotal evidence suggests their bosses might light a fire underneath to inspire the poor mite to find their way out at the top of the chimney. Fortunately, an 1840 law made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to climb and clean a chimney, though some unscrupulous fellows still continued the practice.

7. FUNERAL MUTE

Anyone familiar with Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist will remember that one of the orphan’s hated early jobs was as a mute for undertaker Mr. Sowerberry. A component of the extremely complex (and lucrative) Victorian funeral practices, mutes were required to dress all in black with a sash (usually also black, but white for children), while carrying a long cloth-covered stick and standing mournfully and silently at the door of the deceased’s house before leading the coffin on its processional route to the graveyard.

8. RAT CATCHER

An illustration of a group of Victorian men watching rat-baiting.
Getty Images/Rischgitz

Rat catchers usually employed a small dog or ferret to search out the rats that infested the streets and houses of Victorian Britain. They frequently caught the rats alive, as they could sell the animal to “ratters,” who put the rats into a pit and set a terrier loose upon them while onlookers made bets about how long it would take for the dog to kill them all. Catching rats was a dangerous business—not only did the vermin harbor disease, but their bites could cause terrible infections. One of the most famous Victorian rat catchers was Jack Black, who worked for Queen Victoria herself. Black was interviewed for Henry Mayhew’s seminal tome on Britain’s working classes, London Labour and the London Poor (1851) in which he revealed that he used a cage which could store up to 1000 live rats at a time. The rats could be stored like this for days as long as Black fed them—if he forgot, the rats would begin fighting and eating each other, ruining his spoils.

9. CROSSING SWEEPER

The “job” of crossing sweeper reveals the entrepreneurial spirit of the Victorian poor. These children would claim an area of the street as their patch, and when a rich man or woman wished to exit their carriage and walk across the filth-strewn street, the sweeper would walk before them clearing the detritus from their path, ensuring their patron’s clothes and shoes stayed clean. Crossing sweepers were regarded as just a step up from beggars, and worked in the hopes of receiving a tip. Their services were no doubt sometimes appreciated: The streets during this period were mud-soaked and piled with horse manure. The poor sweepers not only had to endure the dismal conditions whatever the weather, but were also constantly dodging speeding horse-drawn cabs and omnibuses.

10. RESURRECTIONISTS

An 1840 drawing of a group of resurrectionists at work
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In the early 19th century the only cadavers available to medical schools and anatomists were those of criminals who had been sentenced to death, leading to a severe shortage of bodies to dissect. Medical schools paid a handsome fee to those delivering a body in good condition, and as a result many wily Victorians saw an opportunity to make some money by robbing recently dug graves. The problem became so severe that family members took to guarding the graves of the recently deceased to prevent the resurrectionists sneaking in and unearthing their dearly departed.

The "profession" was taken to an extreme by William Burke and William Hare who were thought to have murdered 16 unfortunates between 1827 and 1828. The pair enticed victims to their boarding house, plied them with alcohol and then suffocated them, ensuring the body stayed in good enough condition to earn the fee paid by Edinburgh University medical school for corpses. After the crimes of Burke and Hare were discovered, the Anatomy Act of 1832 finally helped bring an end to the grisly resurrectionist trade by giving doctors and anatomists greater access to cadavers and allowing people to leave their bodies to medical science.

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