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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Mr. Funnel: 1923

Mr. Funnel: 1923

March 9, 1923. Washington, D.C. "H.S. Spelman." No other clues as to who this is or what he's doing. Who will be the first to rescue Mr. S from utter obscurity? National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

A Basket Case

Fluid Pint versus a Basket Dry Pint.

For what it's worth, a 16-ounce dry pint, say a pint of blueberries, has 17% more volume than a fluid 16-ounce pint. But they're both still pints.

I learned this when figuring out how to compare prices of pints of fresh blueberries with prices of 12-ounce packages of frozen blueberries.

Dept of Ag

Looking at other photos in the Herbert French collection dated from the same day (and with similar themes), I was able to find that Merton L. Corey and Elmer S. Landes (aka Sanders), also pictured, had been named co-directors of the federal farm loan board by President Harding just that week. I also found Emil Boerner and Barrett Nally (named in other photos) in the censuses listed as Grain Specialist and Scientific Assistant in the US Department of Agriculture. Alas, no "Mr. Funnel" to be found. However, there was a William Spillman listed as an Agricultural Expert with the government. Perhaps this is he?

Testing and measuring

If he is testing basket volume, why not just one or two? Why hundreds? And why not just measure the basket (with the ruler) and calculate the volume? It takes no genius to do that. Cleaner, cheaper, smarter.

[Statistics 101. If you're testing for accurate measure of the average berry basket (or of any container, for that matter), you'd want to test lots of baskets, or at least have a large sample to choose from. - Dave]

Look, isn't that old Mister Spelman? (shhhh)

Indeed, page 52 of the NBS handbook details the procedure in the photo. The "bevel-edged" ruler is used to level the top.

Also, I'm pretty sure H. S. is the boss, and doesn't get out on the floor much.

What it is

Clearly, here is a man troubled by the frivolous and freewheeling tenor of the times, what with your flappers and your bathtub gin.

So, he took it upon himself to invent the device pictured above -- a machine capable of sucking the fun out of any social gathering within a ten-mile radius.

Sadly, before he could market his idea, Mr.Spelman was killed when he got into an argument with his upstairs neighbors, the Fitzgeralds, and Zelda did the Charleston on his throat.

National Bureau of Standards

He's testing berry baskets for volume. See Berry Basket Capacity of Measure.

On Reflection

Check Mr Spelman's buttons - they're on the wrong side. Reversing the image gives us a clear '514' on the hopper, which of course explains everything.

I think he's adding sand to pre-packed beach picnics.

[An excellent observation! I wonder if his name is really Namleps. - Dave]

Basket Testing

It appears this photograph was leaked from the WBB. The Woven Basket Bureau was created during the great basket shortage in 1922. Operating under the cover of creating jobs for Basket Weavers, the WBB was secretly determining if woven baskets were the actual size their makers claimed them to be. The large funnel like device is adjustable to specific heights of baskets. Material used to test the basket is returned to the hopper for checking the next size basket. Given the number of baskets in the photo, and the rate of flow for the material going into the baskets, it would appear Mr. Spelman's job was secure for many years.

REALITY Check: There does not appear to be any spillage. Part of my story above does guess the material is returned to the hopper. It might well be that Mr. Spelman is testing the actual hopper, not the baskets. If one was trying to determine how to manufacture a hopper to fill a variety of containers, that might require a variance in the height of the funnel, to test spillage. Really interested in what others might think!

Birth of the funnel cake

"Having been put out of business a few years ago by the pesky Volstad Act, Mr. H.S. Spelman modifies his basic recipe and creates a new fairground favorite."

My roses are huge!

This man has found a way to turn Govt red tape into powdered manure so that it can be put into baskets and sold to flower shops all over DC.

I think I know

Pouring some stuff from one thing into another thing?

Mr. S

Looks like he's invented the Mr. Coffee! Or maybe it's a Mister Tea.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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