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10 Henry Ford Facts (That Have Almost Nothing to Do With Cars)

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If Henry Ford were still around for his 150th birthday (July 30), he'd probably be exhausted of people talking about the Model T or his development of the assembly line. So, in honor of the inventor hitting the century-and-a-half mark, here are some lesser-known facts about one of the most recognizable names in the automobile industry. 

1. When he a young man, Ford repaired watches for his friends and family—and he made his own tools to do it. He used a filed shingle nail as a screwdriver and a corset stay as tweezers.

2. Ford became Chief Engineer of the Edision Illuminating Company's main plant in 1893, and was on-call 24 hours a day to keep Detroit's electricity running. He left the position 6 years later—with Edison's encouragement to work on his plans for a gasoline automobile.

3. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson convinced Ford to run for a seat on the Senate as a Democrat. Ford obliged, sending a letter to the President saying, “If they want to elect me let them do so, but I won't make a penny's investment." He didn’t spend a cent campaigning and still only lost by 4500 votes.

4. Long before Colonial Williamsburg, Ford tried to turn Sudbury, Massachusetts' Wayside Inn—where Longfellow penned Tales of a Wayside Inn—into a living museum of American history. He purchased the Inn, and 3000 surrounding acres, in 1923, and built eight buildings on it including a working grist mill.

5. In 1926, Henry Ford bought the Redstone School House in Sterling, Massachusetts. Ford claimed the school house was the one mentioned in nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and moved the building to his property in Sudbury.

6. Ford backed up his claims that the school house was the real deal by publishing a book: The Story of Mary and Her Little Lamb and Ford Ideals. Ford converted the building, which was being used for storage, back into a proper school: Classes were taught at the Redstone School House until 1951.

7. During a 1928 interview with the Detroit Times’ George Sylvester Viereck, Ford expanded on his religious thoughts, owing his strokes of brilliance to a “Master Mind”: “Somewhere is a Master Mind sending brain wave messages to us. There is a Great Spirit. I never did anything by my own volition. I was pushed by invisible forces within and without me.”

8 Using wood scraps from his plants, Ford found he could make charcoal briquettes. When Ford’s brother-in-law E.G. Kingsford brokered the site selection for Ford’s charcoal manufacturing plant, Ford named the company Kingsford Charcoal in his honor.

9. During World War I, Ford tried his hand in the aviation business and started the Ford Airplane Company. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission recognized Ford as a pioneer of aviation in 2002, but the Ford Airplane Division shut down in 1933 due to lackluster sales.

10. In Aldous Huxley's dystopian society of Brave New World, the world dates its years as Annum Fordum, or "Year of Our Ford." Huxley's characters also use Henry's name as "Our Ford" instead of "Our Lord."

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London Unveils New Electric-Powered Black Cabs
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Black taxi cabs (or Hackney carriages, as they're often called) have been a fixture on London's streets for decades. A redesign from the London Taxi Company should ensure they stay that way well into the future. As The Guardian reports, the newly unveiled model of the city's black cab runs on gasoline and electric batteries.

The cabs most Londoners are used to hailing are currently powered by diesel fuel, which releases much more toxic emissions than regular gas. With London facing deadly air pollution levels, city officials are pushing to replace the smog-producers with cleaner modes of transport.

The new cab runs on an electric battery for the first 70 miles of its journey before switching to a fuel reserve for the next 400. (The average cab travels about 120 miles a day.) The London Taxi Company, which will soon rebrand as the London Electric Vehicle Company, plans to have as many as 150 cabs on the road by next year, with the first vehicles debuting in November.

Starting January 1, 2018, Transport for London will require all new taxis in London to be electric or have zero-emissions capabilities. Diesel cabs introduced before the cut-off will be allowed to stay, but after turning 15 they will need to be retired—therefore, the city should be completely diesel-free by 2032.

The black cab isn't the first four-wheeled London icon to receive an earth-friendly update. In 2016, Transport for London launched its inaugural fleet of all-electric double-decker buses, vehicles the agency claimed were the first of their kind.

[h/t The Guardian]

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The Reason Police Officers Tap Your Taillight When They Pull You Over
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Asking a driver for their license and registration is common procedure from police officers during traffic stops. There’s another practice that was once standard across the force but is more of a mystery to the people being pulled over: While approaching a driver’s window, officers will sometimes touch a car's taillight. It's a behavior that dates back decades, though there's no reason to be concerned if it happens at your next traffic stop.

Before cameras were installed on the dashboards of most police cars, tapping the taillight was an inconspicuous way for officers to leave behind evidence of the encounter, according to The Law Dictionary. If something were to happen to the officer during the traffic stop, their interaction with the driver could be traced back to the fingerprints left on the vehicle. This would help other police officers track down a missing member of the force even without video proof of a crime.

The action also started as a way for officers to spook drivers before reaching their window. A pulled-over motorist with a car full of illegal drugs or weapons might scramble to hide any incriminating materials before the officer arrives. The surprise of hearing a knock on their taillight might disrupt this process, increasing their likelihood of getting caught.

Today the risks of this strategy are thought to outweigh the benefits. Touching a taillight poses an unnecessary distraction for officers, not to mention it can give away their position, making them more vulnerable to foul play. And with dash cams now standard in most squad cars, documenting each incident with fingerprints isn’t as necessary as it once was. It’s for these reasons that some police agencies now discourage taillight tapping. But if you see it at your next traffic stop, that doesn’t mean the officer is extra suspicious of you—just that it’s a hard habit to break.

[h/t The Law Dictionary]

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