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This Month: July

On July 14, 1868, the design of a spring measuring tape in a circular case was patented by a man named, Alvin Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut. Although this was the first United States patent for a spring tape measure, Fellows’ patent was actually an improvement to an earlier design. The invention was originally patented in Sheffield, England by a man named James Chesterman in 1829.

Chesterman was in the business of making “flat wire” for the fashion industry. Dressmakers used loops of it to hold the shape of the crinoline hoop skirts that were trending at the time. A fluffed-out, layered hoop skirt could use as much as 180 feet of the wire. Chesterman had developed a heat-treating process that made the flat wire stronger and easier to produce in continuous, unbroken lengths. But as fashion trends change, the hoop skirts were soon out of style, which left the Chesterman with a large surplus of metal tape. Chesterman decided to put graduated marks on very long steel tapes so he could market them to surveyors as a lightweight “Steel Band Measuring Chain.” In contrast to heavy, bulky surveyors’ chains, he said that his product “has equal strength, greater correctness, is easier to clean, and to coil and uncoil, and is very much lighter and more compact.” Lightweight or not, Chesterman’s tapes had a hefty price. They sold in the United States for $17 — about $300 in today’s money.

Fellows’ improvement to it was a new way to attach the spring clip, allowing the tape to be locked in any position until the clip was released. Because it was expensive, this type of measuring tape did not immediately replace folding wooden rulers but it was the basis for the locking steel tape measures used today. Even so, the click-spring, steel tape measure did not attain immediate widespread use. The carpenter's folding wooden ruler remained the most popular collapsible measuring device in the United States until at least the 1940s.

You can join this month's challenge and help bring the WeRelate pages related to these two little known inventors to life.

Last Month: June

Touted as America's favorite pastime, baseball is considered the national sport in the U.S. by a significant number of people. Its start can be traced back to 1791. This easily recognizable Major League Baseball logo was created 50 years ago to celebrate that patriotic reputation, notoriety and longevity. That year, in 1968, two of its legendary pitching stars, Don Drysdale with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally with the Baltimore Orioles, were among baseball's greatest talent. This month's WeRelate Crowdsourcing Challenge highlights these two players.

Don Drysdale set Major League records with six consecutive shutouts and over 58 consecutive scoreless innings in 1968. He ended his career the following year due to a chronically sore shoulder with 209 wins, 2486 strikeouts, 167 complete games, and 49 shutouts. At the time of his retirement, Drysdale was the last remaining player on the Dodgers who had played for Brooklyn. After his playing career ended, he became a radio and television broadcaster. Drysdale was 56 when he died.

Dave McNally, a personal baseball idol of mine when I was in high school, won more than 20 games in the 1968 season, and repeated that achievement for the three consecutive seasons following that year. After winning the last two decisions of the 1968 season, he opened 1969 with a 15–0 record; his first loss of the season came in early August, and he ended the regular season at 20–7. He is the only pitcher in major league history to hit a grand slam in a World Series (in 1970). He was one of four 20-game winners for the 1971 Orioles. After gracefully retiring in 1975, he returned to live in his hometown of Billings, Montana, where he opened and operated a car dealership. McNally died at age 60.

The impact that Don Drysdale and Dave McNally had on the game was memorable and lasting, both on and off the field. In 1966, both pitchers faced each other in the fourth game of the World Series, and became part of baseball history pitching against each other. In a dramatic pitching duel, they matched four-hitters, but a fourth-inning home run by Frank Robinson gave the Orioles all they needed for a 1–0 victory, and they swept the defending champion Dodgers by winning the World Series championship in four games. Both players left their mark off the field as well. Drysdale took part in a famous salary holdout in the spring of 1966, signing his contract just before the season opened, and the resulting contract made him one the first pitchers to earn more than $100,000 a year. That holdout was the beginning of collective bargaining in baseball. Nine years later, McNally too impacted management and player contracts. He played a key role in the historic 1975 Seitz decision which led to the downfall of major league baseball's reserve clause and ushered in the current era of free agency. McNally and Andy Messersmith were the only two players in 1975 playing on the one-year reserve clause in effect at the time. Neither had signed a contract but both were held with their team under the rule. The two challenged the rule and won their free agency.

Congratulations to User:Sorghumgrass who wins the Challenge this month for both pitchers. User:Delijim and User:Acurley, who were players in this month's Challenge, both made valuable additions for the family and ancestry pages of Don Drysdale.