Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun With Illuminating Gas

One of the books that got me interested in science as a child was the Boys' Home Book of Science & Construction, by Alfred P. Morgan. It was published in 1921, and a note on the front page shows it was a Christmas gift from Aunt Helen to my grandfather in 1928. This was an old book when I was reading it 35 years ago. Today, a better word for it would be "quaint".

Even the cover of this book is amusing. Did boys in 1921 always put on a tie before playing with their homemade telegraph sets, or only when they were having their picture drawn?

As I was thumbing through this book today, I realized I was holding in my hands the original Dangerous Book for Boys. Below is a great example. It explains how you can fill soap bubbles with "illuminating gas", and then blow them up "with a flash and a report". My grandfather's house actually had gas jets like the one in the drawing, although by the time I saw them as a child the house had been electrified and the gas jets shut off.

And not to worry, you country folk with "no illuminating gas in your house", the next page gives you the recipe for homemade hydrogen gas. This book was written 16 years before the Hindenburg disaster, so they have an excuse for encouraging boys to play with hydrogen bubbles.


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