I feel the earth move under my feet

In the 1930s, what did honest, depression-blighted Americans do when the quaking earth threatened to suck their homes from the very earth?

They improvised, dash it.

That’s right, Martin G Murray built an observatory — looking, I might add, both upwards and down — from sproggets, gibbets, and old bits of lozenge.

Reporting these new realms of human ingenuity, Popular Science also purveyed some of the finest sentences ever committed to the presses.

This one sounds like the introduction to a superhero adventure cartoon:

“Upon the black drum of a home-constructed seismograph, [the earthquake] swung a needle giving it’s builder Martin G Murray a record of the disaster.”

Further down:

“Murray’s homemade seismograph was built from an old clockworks, a coffee can, a metal beam, a ten pound weight, two hacksaw blades, and odds and ends.”

And he also built:

“A sundial with a plum bob and correction curve gives him exact astronomical time. A hygrometer contrived from four horsehairs whose structure actuates a pointer on a protractor scale measures the moisture in the air. The largest instrument is a twelve-foot telescope with handground mirror…”

… which he used for solving space crimes.

The earthquake the article’s referring to, by the way is the 1933 Long Beach quake. Here’s a good fact about the 1933 Long Beach quake:

It hit the film set where W.C Fields was filming his new movie International Beach, and news reels around the world ran footage of the hotel set trembling and the chandeliers swinging, only – forty years later – for the director A Edward Sutherland to admit that he and Fields had faked the whole thing with wires and a shaky camera. What a wheeze.

Wouldn’t have fooled Martin G Murray though.

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~ by David Thorley on February 11, 2011.

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