Timeline, September 1926
In 1926, the pop-up toaster is introduced in the United States; The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, is the first talking motion picture; Robert H. Goddard launches the first liquid-fuel-propelled rocket; Harry Houdini dies on Halloween night; Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
"Latest Planes Herald New Era of Safety: With Inventors' Producing Foolproof, Nonsmashable Aircraft, Experts Say We'll All Fly Our Own Machines Soon," read the headline and sub-headline of our November 1926 story. Well, in more than 125 years of publishing, a prediction or two just has to fall short of the mark. Nobody's perfect.
Within this story, however, lies another tale. It's signaled by a photograph of Henry Ford showing off the machine that is his latest pride and joy. And no, it's not a car. Ford has just unveiled the "sky flivver," a tiny, 350-pound, single-seat monoplane.
Our report also subtly refers to Ford's interest in the "plane-car." "Mark my word. A combination airplane and motor car is coming. You may smile. But it will come," the great automotive pioneer is reputed to have been still predicting in 1940.
But Ford's own flivver never saw production, even though at least three distinct versions of the craft were flown. When one model crashed in 1928, killing pilot Harry Brooks, Ford soured on the project. He did later establish an aviation division that produced the highly successful Ford Trimotor and, during World War II, the B-24 bomber. The "flying car" he predicted saw partial fruition in the efforts of innovators like Robert Edison Fulton Jr. (the Airphibian) ("The Plane That Drove," March 2000) and Moulton Taylor (the Aerocar), but never achieved anything like the popularity Ford foresaw.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.