Some of the first books I remember reading as a boy were from the new Tom Swift series, about the adventures of Tom Swift, Jr., written by the pseudonymous Victor Appleton. You can still find them for sale on eBay but I’m not aware of many similar books written for the boys and young men of today.
In the earlier years of the 20th century, books like those from the original Tom Swift series and magazines like Everyday Engineering, focused on the idea of learning about the technologies of the day and using that new found knowledge to build new inventions with useful functions. It was a positive, optimistic, constructive attitude that seems to have slipped away from the normal run of activities we now see. Today’s computer games seem a waste of time by comparison and how many boys could even put together a chemistry lab at home without arousing the suspicion of security conscious neighbors?
Think about the years when electricity and then wireless communications were just taking off, it was exciting and lots of boys wanted to be a part of it. Airplanes were just flying into the skies and the automobile was beginning to roll down city streets and rough country roads. The possibilities were endless and the rush was on to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Self study and correspondence schools were promoted as a low cost way to get a start in these technical fields and you could find books and courses on almost anything as quickly as some new invention popped up.
The magazine’s name, Everyday Engineering, also refers to the everyman aspect of the articles and projects, it was not written for corporate business interests but was instead aimed at young men at home, with a desire to learn and get their hands dirty. The projects were educational, technical and practical.
The overall thrust of all of this was simply to get off your backside and do something and the feeling of accomplishment would keep driving you forward. If you get someone hooked on the accomplishment high there’s no telling where the momentum will take them. Wouldn’t it be nice to see more of that feeling today?
The articles from the pages of Everyday Engineering are a step back in time but the do it yourself attitude is still as fresh as ever. I hope you enjoy this chance to revisit the past as much as I enjoy bringing it to you. Let’s get started.