City of the Saints Historical Note #4

The inventors in City of the Saints deserve a short note.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel built railways, bridges, tunnels, and the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship.  In 2002, he came second to Sir Winston Churchill in an extended survey to find the greatest Briton ever.  Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, one of the key advances in the industrial revolution, which also had the effect of strengthening the economic basis of slavery.  I don’t think Whitney, a Massachusetts man, intended that outcome, so in City of the Saints I instead made him the inventor of the clocksprung technology that ended slavery and resulted in Harriet Tubman’s exodus to Mexico.  Hiram Stevens Maxim did invent the first silencer; he also invented the first portable, fully automatic machine gun, which inspired Hilaire Belloc’s famous couplet Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not.  Sam Colt manufactured the first commercially viable mass-produced revolver.  Horace Hunley was a New Orleans lawyer who built hand-powered submarines for the Confederates during the American Civil War.  His invention career and legal practice both terminated when he personally took command of one of his ships during a routine exercise and it sank.  Orson Pratt was a mathematician and astronomer.  He was also one of the inventors of a primitive odometer that the Mormons attached to the hub of a wagon wheel to measure miles traveled as they crossed the plains westward.  John Moses Browning, finally, was an Ogden kid and son of a gunsmith who became arguably the most influential gun designer ever.  His M1911 pistol was the standard-issue sidearm for American armed forces from 1911 to 1985, and is still widely popular today.

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