LSE Library Archives 2002-11-25

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Arrived at the reading room slightly later than usual because of a railway SNAFU--apparently a train had derailed late last night at Ealing Broadway, so there was no direct fast train from Oxford to London Paddington and it was necessary to transfer from a fast train, headlined for Paddington but terminating at Reading, to another fast train between Reading and Paddington. Both trains WERE fast, but transferring at Reading added about 15 minutes to the journey.

Decided to take a break from the series 14 files, especially since they were not volunteered. Requested files 8/53, 8/54, and 8/55. It is not worthwhile to make a comprehensive contents listing. So only salient points are noted.

8/53

Much of this is correspondence connected with a trip RJ made to continental Europe in 1927, with his main destination being Germany but also involving a transit through France. The file contains an AA horsepower certificate which RJ had to take with him to France in order to get a temporary French road license for his Jewett motor-car. Apparently France had a horsepower tax as well, calculated on a notional (financial) rather than actual basis, and the AA certificate gives piston diameter AND stroke length--it's apparent the tax was calculated taking in more parameters than the RAC horsepower formula. Certificate and RJ's question-answer sheet re French road tax requirements are worth P.

8/54

This contains miscellaneous correspondence and reports from US visits between 1925 (?) and 1933. There are three reports by EW James, having to do with traffic engineering and planning; several make reference to the MUTCD, and one describes Chicago as having only five roads in and out--"like a walled city"--and stresses the benefits of a high-quality interregional highway system. EW James' articles are worth P. 29 pp. total.

8/55

This file contains correspondence regarding RJ's visit to America in ca. 1931 to attend the IRC in Washington, DC. It becomes apparent that RJ combined this visit with a trip all over the US to examine road conditions, and that his stops included California (where he met CH Purcell, SV Cortelyou, and RE Pierce--District X Engineer). Much of the correspondence contained within this file has to do with RJ's problems with prohibition. RJ tried to get an exception allowing him to bring in 24 bottles (2 cases) of brandy, claiming a weak heart and advice from his London physician. This was not accepted for purposes of granting an exemption and RJ was apparently forced to go to an US doctor, get an US prescription, and get the brandy from a pharmacist, following the US legal procedure for getting "medicinal" alcohol. RJ claimed the brandy thus obtained was grossly inferior to the French brandy he was used to. (He tried not to whine in his letters, but his appeal to the overarching concept of "hospitality" grates. And the introductory paragraphs of the Prohibition letters are also more obviously window-dressing for the requests for special favors than is the case for other letters RJ wrote.) SEveral govt departments became involved in RJ's request for medicinal brandy and he even wrote direct to the President's private secretary, Henry Stimson (then Sec'y of State?), Charles Upham (chairman of ARBA?), Thos H MacDonald, Customs, the American consul-general in London, the British ambassador in WAshington, etc.

Nothing P. in these files.

Must request the 1931 journals.

Details recalled from last visit to the archives:

  • The committee requested details on vehicle taxation in NYC. The NYC city engineer wrote to RJ to tell him that vehicle tax had two components: one was loosely 'ad valorem', based on the recency and cost of the car, and the other was based on horsepower. It is not clear but this seems to be the manufacturer's rated horsepower (used for advertising purposes) rather than notional horsepower calculated from a selection of engine internal dimensions.
  • Committee realized that the existing (wartime?--not clear from sequencing whether this applies to the horsepower tax introduced in 1920, or to a proposed revision of the taxation structure discussed in 1922 but never implemented) horsepower tax had had distortionary effects on car manufacturing by encouraging development of narrow-bore, long-stroke engines, but considered (incorrectly, as it turned out) that this distortionary tax had gone as far as it could in stimulating this technological development. Engine revving levels notionally increased through the 1920's and 1930's, presumably due in part to advances in metallurgy, and so the ratio between actual and taxable horsepower continued to increase through the 1930's, tho' possibly at the expense of rising peak horsepower RPMs. There is no evidence that the committee considered this effect except to say that, in spite of the rising bench power output of engines, the RAC horsepower formula still broadly corresponded to the horsepower ordinarily likely to be used by the vast majority of drivers on the public roads.
  • Curiously, in its position papers on the horsepower tax, the SMMT was a very lukewarm advocate for use taxation. They paid only lip service to the concept, quickly abandoned it (possibly in response to Geddes' vocal opposition to a recommendation in favor of petrol taxation, though there is no "smoking gun" to establish a causal relationship here), and their representative RJ--though initially and in TKH a strong advocate for petrol taxation as the most effective method of taxing according to use--eventually led the capitulation to horsepower taxation. There may be several reasons for the motor manufacturers' apparently counterintuitive stance on vehicle taxation. (1) Motor vehicles were still a luxury good, so cars would remain affordable to their main consumers although this customer base was unlikely to expand (Morris not yet pushing the envelope with a near-Fordist strategy of producing for the common man); (2) they had (possibly?) already tooled up to produce horsepower-minimizing car engines in response to a predecessor of the horsepower tax introduced during the war (this was probably the case, since the RAC horsepower formula was developed in 1912, long before the classic £1-per-HP tax was introduced); and (3) spurious refutations of the idea that petrol taxed according to use were circulating, the classic example being a comparison between two men in the same motor car, one driving sedately and producing little road wear, and the other driving like a madman and producing massive and expensive road damage, and both consuming the same amount of petrol (if this was ever close to being true, it was only because of a combination of weak road structure and inherent engine inefficiency which obscured the more commanding role of AXLE WEIGHT in determining road wear rates) (these reasons started to erode/vanish when roads began to be designed and constructed according to design loads and knowledge of road wear/damage behavior derived from Bates, WASHO, and AASHO road tests, and RRL pavement research--RRL was not even founded to look at the wear and finance problems until 1930, 10 years after the horsepower tax introduced).

Went ahead and requested the additional files.

8/38

This is an utter fraud--contains not "books and reports" from RJ's 1930-31 trip to the US and NZ, but rather LISTS of books and reports. Nothing P!!! Perhaps the books can be accessed somewhere, at the LSE library or somesuch. Check via COPAC, LSE library catalogue, AIM25.

8/36

This is the travel journal for RJ's 1930-31 trip to Canada, the US, and NZ. Very thick and interesting, but as a whole not P. HOwever, following quote is of interest, and may be suitable for use somewhere.

Tuesday Oct. 28

Fords sent a car to bring me to their works. Received by J. Ruseell Grau, secretary to C.E. Sorenson who is Ford's factotum at Detroit. Met him for a few moments. Of Swedish descent (originally I was told a Patternmaker). Impossible to get close in a few moments--gave the superficial impression of capacity, hardness and concentration. Grau took me to the room where the heads of Departments lunch and afterwards showed me over the plant. (The public are shown over the plant daily by authorized guides.) What impressed me most was the huge plant which has been built for dealing with scrap. Originally designed for melting down the battleships which Ford had bought from the Government, it is now also used for melting down old cars. Ford will buy any old motor car for $20 (it must be able to be driven), then themagneto and a few special parts are taken off, and the rest, frame, wings, seats, everything are lifted on to trolleys which run back and forward to the mouthof the furnace. The furance doors are opened, the trolley pushes the worn-out car into the fiery furnace, the doors close, the trolley backs on its rails. The worn car reduced in the flames to molten metal and to dross, the molten metal runs out at one end--one can see it come out and shaped and beaten into steel bars, and the waste products are pushed out elsewhere to be turned into cement. Of all the things I have seen in America this impressed my imagination most (the Grand Canyon subsequently impressed me to the same high degree in another way). It seemed tome that Ford had carried out the great scheme of creation in the material sphere. Mankind will likewise be reduced in the fiery furnace, thehigher to be remodelled and the lower to be utilized in fresh combinations for constructive purposes.

Other observations.

RJ was born on 1 December--turned 59 on this trip.

Sunday Dec. 7

Mr. C.H. Wilson called for me and we drove to Ardmore to the formal opening as an all weather concrete highway of the Great North and South Road through the State. Both the new (W.H. Murray) and the retiring (W. Holloway) Governors were at this function and I was introduced to them at the Barbecue luncheon which preceded the opening. Murray referred to me in his speech, in the open air in the centre of the town. The stream of oratory went on for hours. I listened for about 3/4 hour and then escaped, went to the hotel for a cup of tea and left the town with Mr. Wilson before the speaking was finished. The oratory was preceded by a procession in which pioneers of the State took part, dressed in the costumes of pioneers on horseback and in the wagons in which the early settlers entered the State. I also met Mr. Wentz, Mr. Boswell and Mr. ----- the HIghway Commissioners and many others.

(Ardmore is on US 77--so it would seem that US 77 was the great N/S road RJ talks about. And it seems that he followed the US 66 corridor through SW MO, OK, TX, and NM.)

And:

Thursday Dec. 18

Mr. M.H. Hasler, Bridge Engineer, Arizona; Mr. R.C. Perkins, Construction Engineer, who had arrived in Winslow the night before by direction of Mr. W.W. Lane, the State Engineer of Arizona, embarked us and our belongings on two cars. E. joined Mr. Hasler, a young keen engineer who had spent two years in France during the war. A married man, with two small children living and owning a farm outside Phoenix. His whole heart and soul in his job as a road engineer, particularly from the point of view of inventing machinery and using it in any way to decrease the use of manual labour in every possible way. He was able to tell interesting stories of early road making in the west throughprimeval forest (these men still wore riding breeches and garters as they did when they were worn as a protection against snakes in the undergrowth) and the heartbreak of surveying a road up an unexplored mountain to find there was no possible way of taking it down the other side.

Mr. Perkins was older and also interesting, owning a citrus farm near Phoenix which we visited later meeting his wife. I drove with him on his two-seater. We passed through Flagstaff, a picturesquely situated town at a high altitude through which the road has to be kept clear of snow during the winter. Lunched at the Harvey House, Williams, [RJ learned all about Fred Harvey and his hotel chain, operated in cooperation with the ATSF RR and providing access to national parks.] Williams is both the road and rail junction for the Grand Canyon. We drove to the National Park, a distance from Williams of 59 miles, making with the 97 miles from Winslow to Williams a total of 156 miles. The top of the Grand Canyon is 7075 ft. above sea level. A new road has been built by the Bureau of Public Roads for the National Parks from Williams to the Grand Canyon. Evidently it had been done cheaply for I was not impressed by its construction. The "borrow" had been taken too closely from the soil immediately adjoining the carriageway, spoiling the amenities and making the road unnecessarily dangerous.

At El Tovar we were joined by Mr. Tillotson, the Supt. of the National Park and taken over the beautiful roads in the Park to a recently opened tea house (Fountain House) at the edge of the Canyon at "Desert View." From there we saw a wonderful panorama with the Painted Desert stretching away to the right, the Vermilion Cliffs to our left, the deep drop of the Canyon below. No artist in colour or in words can depict the glory of such a scene. The Painted Desert alone is unique. It is on the northern side of the Canyon. Looking across from this height over the flat desert country, every colour shimmered in lines though the prevailing colour effect was orange and red, the colours of the desert and in the Canyon were changing momentarily. In its beauty and colour and greatness of outline, it justified the claim made for it of the greatest natural wonder of the world. The effect of the view of the desert is greatly increased if the head is bent and the desert looked at sideways. After a cup of tea we retraced our tracks but left the main road again to "Grandview" another point of vantage to see the Canyon where it is alleged the Indians established their Look-out or Sentry Point. The eye is not trained to grasp the fact that the Canyon varies in width from 10 to 20 miles (I believe the distance from rim to rim opposite El Tovar Hotel is about 12 or 13 miles) that it is between 6,000 to 8,000 ft deep and some hundreds of miles long that the points rising from the body of the Canyon upon which you gaze down are veritable mountains. What the eye does perhaps take in is the coloring. Clour here is God, or shall we say that God has expressed himself in colour.

The northern rim was closed for the season when we visited the Canyon. Stretching along its edge and forming part of the Park system is the Kaibab National Forest. During the season the journey is made from rim to rim by way of a steel suspension bridge near the foot of the Canyon across the Colorado River and up the Bright Angel Canyon to Grand Canyon Lodge on the Northern Rim. There is drinking water on the northern side but none on the Southern side and it is brought in by steam railway from Flagstaff daily some 85 miles distant. It is a long and difficult approach to the northern rim from the northern side, roads and railways being few and in the winter the roads are impassable.

In the evening the party was completed by the arrival of Mr. Tillotson's daughter from boarding school. She and her mother joined us for dinner at the hotel making an interesting party of 7. The hotel which belonged to the Harvey group was decorated with many fine heads of bison, deer and other animals. A picture gallery with paintings by artists who had tried to put on canvas some idea of the coloour and grandeur of the Canyon opposite the hotel is a Hopi Indian house, pueblo style. In the season the Indians give dances for the amusement of visitors. Later I went with the Tillotsons to their house, originally a log cabin this cabin is now the chief room of the house but it was added to by Mr. Crosby when he was in charge of the Park. Mrs. Tillotson asked me to sign her Visitors book and showed me the names of some who had already done so. These included Hoover and the late Ambassador of Gt. Britain who had insisted on descending per mule to the bottom of the Canyon.

[Dec. 21. Road between PHoenix and Tempe is just now being rebuilt, and the two are SEPARATE communities!]

[Dec. 26. Mr. Lane lets RJ know that he personally set out the Apache Trail road to Roosevelt Dam.]

[Dec. 28. US 80 doglegs between Buckeye and Gila Bend. Also, a difficult fruit inspection, and they wound up at El Centro after having passed within the old Plank Road corridor. Spade carried in Mr. Lane's car to dig out cars which had been forced off the road into the sand: it was very narrow concrete.]

[Dec. 29-30. RJ hears about the Coronado Bridge, then proposed (he's staying at the Coronado Hotel), from Col. Crosby, who was the consulting engineer on the bridge proposal.]