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January 8, 2012

When herdics roamed the streets of Washington, D.C.

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What's a herdic, you ask?

You've come to the right place. 

Washington Post columnist John Kelly in today's paper answered the following question from reader Mary Root of Remington, Virginia: 

"I found an old ticket [above and below], good for one fare on the Metropolitan Coach Co., Washington, D.C. I can't seem to find any information on this company, so I'm turning to you for help."

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Kelly's reply follows.

Metropolitan Coach ran a line of herdics in Washington. You are excused if you have no idea what a "herdic" is. Until just the other day, Answer Man didn't, either.

Today, we would call a herdic a bus. In 1881, when the herdic was patented, it was a horse-powered carriage [top]. It takes its name from the man who invented it: Peter Herdic, the kind of up-from-his-bootstraps character who makes you proud to be an American.

Herdic was born in 1824 in Fort Plain, Pa. His father died soon after, and his mother moved the family to Ithaca, N.Y. By age 10, Peter was cutting a cord of wood a day. To raise extra money, he snared rabbits and quail.

When he was 13, the family moved to Bradford County, Pa. Peter and his brother cleared the 50 acres their widowed mother had bought. She told Peter that when he turned 20 he could take over the farm. "No, mother," our hero said, "let Ben have it, and I'll go and care for myself."

This he did. Herdic worked in a sawmill. With the money he saved, he bought an interest in a shingle-making business. With that money, he bought a farm in Lycoming County, Pa., and went into lumber. It was his idea to float pine logs down the Susquehanna. He made a fortune. He became Williamsport's mayor. He bought the gas works and built a water works. He discovered hot springs on his property and built a hotel on top of them. He founded a bank; built rubber, brush and nail factories; owned an opera house; and spent $60,000 to build an Episcopal church, which he then gave to the congregation. He was active in Republican politics.

In 1878, the economy tanked. Herdic lost $2 million and went bankrupt. But he clawed back, turning his mind to improving the horse-drawn conveyances that moved people through cities. His eponymous invention boasted two or four wheels and had improved springs and an innovative system to connect axles, shaft, springs and body. Passengers entered from the back and sat in seats along the side.

Herdics became popular in many cities, but nowhere more than in Washington. They were an improvement over the District’s horse-drawn omnibuses, which the late D.C. streetcar historian LeRoy O. King described as "nothing more than urban stagecoaches."

Metropolitan Coach was a descendant of the Herdic Phaeton Co. Its main route was up and down 16th Street NW. While there eventually was a streetcar line on Connecticut Avenue and one on 14th Street, there was no line between them, in the most densely populated part of the city, and the herdics served that area.

However, the Metropolitan herdics eventually became pretty ratty. In 1904, hack inspector A.R. Lamb noted that the company’s coaches were "in such a dilapidated, unsightly and unsanitary condition as to be absolutely unfit for use .... The wheels are in such a condition that they are likely at any time to collapse and some of these vehicles have holes broken through the panels. They have not been painted for years, and are, altogether, a disgrace to the city."

In 1908, the city forced Metropolitan to replace its four-legged fleet with motor buses, also called herdics. (The company's president at the time was S. Dana Lincoln, a developer of Garrett Park.) The company doesn’t seem to have been run much better. Part of the problem may have been disputes over transfers: Almost every bus and streetcar line was run by a separate company, and they didn't always honor one another's transfers.

But the main problem was the undependability of the herdics. As the Washington Times wrote in 1911, when the city government was trying yet again to regulate the coaches, "The herdics are practically useless now because nobody knows when they will arrive or depart."

The ramshackle buses inspired a wag to compose this poem:

How dear to the heart is the 16th Street Herdic

When rounding the corner it rolls into view;

Its battered old sides and its windows all broken

It still is a haven of refuge to you.

How oft have you tackled that lumbering wagon,

That jolting contraption, that motor car freak?

The 16th Street Herdic, the tumble-down Herdic,

The rattle-trap Herdic that runs once a week.

Metropolitan Coach went out of business in 1915.

Have a question of your own?

Email Kelly: answerman@washpost.com.

January 8, 2012 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Telescoping Pen

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From the website:

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We've seen some key ring pens in our time (and who hasn't?) but they tend to be tiny Lilliputian affairs that are almost impossible to write legibly with. 

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Not so the Telescopic Pen. 

The designers have kept the handy pocket size of most key ring pens and added a cunning twist — this pen telescopes.

No larger than a door key when closed, the pen really is quite discreet, but once unscrewed from your key ring and fully extended you'll have a full-sized pen at your disposal. 

Surrounded by pens and keyboards at work, you know from experience that once you're out and about, pens are like hens'  teeth. 

Now you'll always have a pen at your fingertips, one that you won't have left in your other coat/bag/trousers and that won't get half-inched by some wandering scribe. 

Always be prepared, no matter where you are.

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Features:

  • Three black refills included
  • Attaches easily to key ring
  • Open: 11.5 x 0.5 cm Ø
  • Closed: 5 x 0.5cm Ø
  • Stainless steel

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$6.99.

January 8, 2012 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Experts' Expert: David Chang's top sushi restaurant in Tokyo

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In today's New York Times Travel section the great chef and owner of Momofuku Restaurant Group spills the beans:

I've eaten sushi around the world, and the best in Tokyo is at Sushi Sawada. In the kitchen, it's just the chef, Koji Sawada [top], and his wife. And there's nothing there except charcoal and a box of rice. As old-school as you can get. I found it to be a breath of fresh air.

January 8, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Instant Inflatable Fire Hydrant — Parking Place Protector

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"Fun and functional, with a built-in sand pouch so it won't blow away."

$5.73.

January 8, 2012 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

High-Speed Water Drop Photography by Heinz Maier

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From DeMilked:

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"Heinz Maier started photography only about a year ago,

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but his high-speed water drop photos

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have already become an sensation."

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For more,

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visit the photographer's flickr and website,

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which has details about the equipment he uses.

January 8, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Anchor Ring

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Adjustable.

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65 kr.

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[via

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Fancy]

January 8, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" — BBC Audio Dramatization

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From Open Culture:

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Between 1951 and 1953, Isaac Asimov published three books that formed the now legendary "Foundation Trilogy." Many considered it a masterwork in science fiction, and that view became official doctrine in 1966 when the trilogy received a special Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, notably beating out Tolkien's  "The Lord of the Rings."

Eventually, the BBC decided to adapt Asimov's trilogy to the radio, dramatizing the series in eight one-hour episodes that aired between May and June 1973.

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You can buy the radio drama on iTunes for $9.99.

Or you can download the radio drama for free (the way we like it) from the Internet Archive.

Click the links below to stream the individual episodes, or download the full program as a zip file.

Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3| Part 5 |MP3| Part 6 |MP3| Part 7 |MP3| Part 8 |MP3|

The Internet Archive gives you more download options here.

January 8, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Write-On LED Message Board

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Pretty cool.

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From the website:

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Are you tired of misplaced messages and lists?

Write notes and friendly reminders to your family or roommates in style with this LED Writing Board.

Your messages will illuminate in low light and jump off the board.

No one will miss these vibrant eye-catching messages.

Features:

• Writing area decorated with spiral notebook-and-pen etching

• Fluorescent marker clips to back of board for easy storage

• Overall board dimensions: 8.8" x 7.9" x 1"

• Writing area dimensions: 6.6" x 7.2"

• Uses 3 AA batteries (not included)

• 5 super-bright LED lights

• Collapsible leg stand

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$19.99.

[via 7gadgets]

January 8, 2012 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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