It is April, 1949, in West Berlin. Western Allied soldiers walk the streets, there are military checkpoints to get in or out of the city, and the Berlin Airlift is at its peak. Every 45 seconds, the roar of a U.S. Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster is heard flying over apartments. Food, coal, diesel, and petrol is being delivered to the city by U.S. and U.K. pilots. The 2.5 million residents of West Berlin will survive another day.

The Blockade Begins

Following World War II, Germany was split between the Allied powers. Berlin was in the Soviet occupation zone, but the city itself was split into Soviet controlled East Berlin and Western Allied controlled West Berlin. On June 24, 1948, Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. The supply chain for food and coal for electricity was cut off. It was estimated that West Berlin had food to last 36 days and only 45 days worth of coal. Something had to be done fast if the Allies wanted to sustain the population.

The Berlin Airlift

U.S. General Lucius D. Clay suggested an Allied airlift operation to supply West Berliners. And just two days later, on June 26, 1948, the United States launched “Operation Vittles.” The United Kingdom joined the effort with “Operation Plainfare” on June 28th. This was the beginning of The Berlin Airlift.

Incredible Facts About The Berlin Airlift:

  • In the beginning, the goal was to bring in 3,475 tons of supplies every day. However, it took time to ramp up to that goal. In the first week of the airlift, 90 tons of supplies were delivered every day. By the second week, 1,000 tons were delivered daily. By the spring of 1949, that original goal was smashed because 12,941 tons of supplies were being delivered daily.
  • To save time, many flights didn’t even land. They would air drop supplies into the airfields using parachutes.
  • The flights that landed flew out of West Berlin with manufactured goods.
  • American C-47 and C-54 aircraft flew over 92,000,000 miles. That’s only a million miles short of the average distance to the sun!
  • Operation Little Vittles: On July 17, 1948, U.S. pilot Lieutenant Gail “The Candy Bomber” Halvorsen flew to Tempelhof Airport on his day off. He offered his only two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum to a crowd of children at the end of the runway. He promised that when he returned, he would bring more. When asked how the children would know it was him, he replied, “I’ll wiggle my wings.” The next day when flying into Tempelhof, he rocked his wings and dropped chocolate bars attached to handkerchief parachutes to the children waiting below. Soon after, mail arrived at the base addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” “The Chocolate Uncle,” and “The Chocolate Flier.” Maj. Gen. William H Tunner, who was in command of the airlift, expanded the effort into “Operation Little Vittles.” Other pilots started dropping candy, children in the U.S. sent candy to help, and major candy manufacturers joined in, too. German children called the aircraft “raisin bombers” or “candy bombers.” Over 23 tons of candy were dropped using more than 250,000 parachutes.
  • Throughout the operation, a total of 2,334,374 tons of supplies were delivered to West Berlin. The U.S. Air Force delivered 1,783,573 tons and the RAF delivered 541,937 tons.

On May 12, 1949, the blockade was lifted. Supply convoys were allowed to resume on the ground through the Soviet controlled sector. The airlift continued until September 30, 1949, out of fear that the blockade could be reinstated. The Berlin Airlift successfully sustained West Berlin for 15 straight months.

The Cost

The operation was a success, but everything has a cost. Over the course of the operation, 17 American and 8 British aircraft crashed. Sadly, there were 101 fatalities associated with The Berlin Airlift, mostly due to non-flying accidents. That included 31 Americans and 40 Britons who lost their lives to help save West Berlin.

What Can We Learn?

Supply chains can be shaken by events out of our control. The Soviet blockade in 1948 stopped the supply chain of food and supplies into West Berlin. A global pandemic and some bad driving in the Suez Canal caused the global supply chain to faulter, and for a couple weeks we didn’t even have toilet paper on shelves at the store.

Fortunately, humans and industry take on challenges and find solutions. In the aftermath of COVID-19, companies around the world are re-building their supply chains to be more resilient. Many U.S. companies are bringing their critical manufacturing infrastructure closer to home. There is a growing need for skilled trades people in all industries.

At FlexTrades, we do our best to live up to amazing examples of urgent problem solving, like the Western Allies throughout The Berlin Airlift. We work with companies across the country to solve their manufacturing headaches and employ hundreds of the most skilled and professional trades people in every discipline. Check out to learn more about what we can do for your company or for your career.

There were too many amazing stories, characters, and facts to include in one blog. Read more about the Berlin Airlift in these websites I used while researching this topic:

FlexTrades is all about manufacturing, and this industry is all about making things. However, we try to remember the people doing the making, and all the things that are important to them. Our families, careers, and histories deserve recognition beyond what we do when we’re “on the clock.” In that light, this article will gladly answer a question that we are hearing more and more often…

What is Juneteenth?

We’re thrilled to see awareness around this holiday grow every single year, and we’re very happy to answer the question above.

Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19th and has been since 1865. It began in Galveston, Texas, following the Civil War, as African American Emancipation Day. In the 156 years since, the celebration has grown and spread beyond the United States and, sometimes, beyond the date. Today, Juneteenth is a day, a week, and in some areas even a month that commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.


Juneteenth originated  when Major General Gordon Granger landed with his regiment and brought news to Texas of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and General Robert E. Lee’s April 1865 surrender. This announcement “officially” freed the enslaved population of Texas with Granger’s General Order Number 3.

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Why Is Juneteenth Important Today?

Juneteenth today celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. But, as historian Henry Gates Jr says, today the day is “not only an opportunity to celebrate, but to speak out.”

As the holiday grows in a national — and even global — perspective, Juneteenth is becoming an increasingly symbolic event to not only recognize the achievements of the past but to also advocate for societal improvements in the future. In essence, we’re all collectively remembering where we came from while recommitting to what we want our future to be. How can you not celebrate that?

How Can I Celebrate?

In the Workplace:

Recognizing Juneteenth in the workplace doesn’t just support corporate diversity; it shows a true commitment to creating a diverse workforce and recognition of an increasingly diverse society. There are many ways this can be done, but bringing in a guest speaker is a great one.

In the Community:

If your community doesn’t already have a Juneteenth committee, forming one is a great first step. However, if it does, participating in events is all you really need to do. Whether attending a block party, hosting guest speakers, or watching a parade; the aim of the day is to remember, celebrate, encourage, and support freedom, unity, and improvement among all of us. There isn’t a wrong way to participate in that!

In the Home:

Plan a special meal and gather the family together to acknowledge Juneteenth. Decorate your table and/or door with a Juneteenth theme and discuss what the celebration of the day means. Emphasize the mandates of responsibility and striving to be the best you can be. Make specific pledges for the remainder of the year, ask for support in accomplishing your goals, and commit to supporting the goals of another.

Additional Resources

We hope this FAQ didn’t just answer your question but inspires you to more actively engage with Juneteenth this year. If you still have questions, there’s a lot more to learn about the holiday. You can always get other answers from us too. Just send your questions to our Writing Team and keep an eye out for future FAQ’s. We can’t wait to share our next answer with you!

As wild as it seems, we can trace back the invention of jet engines to 150 BC with the development of the aeolipile. And it is truly the aeolipile’s technology that allowed Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle to invent the jet engine as we know it today, albeit it separately and unbeknownst to each other. Additionally, it was Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine that provided the United States of America the initial technology to build their own jet engines.

Sir Frank Whittle was an English aviation engineer as well as a test pilot in the Royal Air Force. It was in 1930 that he received his first patent on turbojet propulsion and, in just ten short years, he was able to construct, prove out, and secure his first contract of purchase for what was then called the W1 Whittle engine. It was May 1941 when the first historic flight with this new technology occurred.

This leads us to the fall of 1941 when a group of GE engineers in Lynn, Massachusetts received a secret present from King George VI via wooden crates on aircraft, as part of a contract from the U.S. War Department. Inside of the crates were parts of the first jet engine ever flown by the allies; a Whittle engine. The goal of this gift? To improve the handmade engine, bring it to mass production and help win the war.

Over 1000 people worked on the clandestine project, but only a select few knew the goal and what was being built. Those that did know were told they couldn’t talk to anyone about the work being performed. If they did, the consequence was death. As a result, they were called the “Hush-Hush Boys.

With a timeline of 6 months, the team of engineers and technicians were tasked with redesigning the jet engine for commercialization. The accomplishment was completed in five months and in the fall of 1942, the first official aircraft flight occurred, powered by two jet engines, producing a total of 2,600 pounds of thrust. 

Interested in learning more? I highly recommend the following.

  • Read here about Joseph Sorota, the last of the Hush-Hush boys and a key player in this engineering feat.
  • Find an image of the first US Jet Engine here as well as a magnificent video made by GE.

The Jet Story:


The manufacturing industry is one of America’s great invisible strengths. They keep our stores stocked, our transportation systems running, and our people employed. And while this entire industry could use better recognition, today’s article will focus solely on Black Owned Manufacturing Companies that are experiencing tremendous growth.

Electro Soft Inc

Located in Pennsylvania, this family-owned manufacturer has over 35 years of experience creating customized electronics for a variety of industries including aviation, defense, and transit. They offer a plethora of services such as custom panel builds, cable assembly, wire harness assembly, PCB builds, and military electronics. They do all of this while highlighting Just In Time (JIT) Delivery to increase productivity.

James Wallace became an innovator at a young age after inventing his own air conditioner. How did he do it? He utilized his existing fridge and converted it into an air conditioner. Later in life, he pursued an engineering degree at Penn State and created his first design debugging secure communications equipment for the National Security Agency. His daughter also started her career at an early age. Karla would cut wires at home, making ten cents an hour, and later in life she worked at every business location her family opened. She graduated college with a focus on business, shipping operations, and logistics. The family legacy continued onward and is still expanding today. They are known for their specialty services and quality production.

Find out more about their history here.

Maroon Sausage Company

This gem is right in the heart of Brooklyn, New York.

Howard Allen founded Maroon Sausage Company when he fell in love with the diverse populations surrounding him. As a result, he drafted a dream plan for the company to begin. His desire to bring Jamaican food to the local market while also offering it to surrounding markets online. To do just that, he created the perfect product… Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sausage.

Brooklyn has jerk chicken everywhere – the environment made it accessible, but Howard and his friend created the idea of having a mobile food business. The only requirement? It had to be sausage. They knew of a similar company, but they also knew they could take it to a whole new level. In 2014, the project became solely Howard’s as his friend stopped the project to follow a new path. Daily, Howard still tried to curate the beloved recipe they have on the market today. The esteemed judges (his children and mother-in-law) became quality testers until he took his product to the streets by hosting tables at local markets.

Did he have a cooking background? Nope, this creative director took his marketing skills to a new level by creating a holistic project. They held fundraisers during food truck events in support of halting human trafficking, and this turned into a weekly partnership as his company grew in the city.

Get ahold of some sausage of your own here.

Nerrido Foods

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about the Nigerian delight of Nerrido foods. Ufuoma Okharedia, a mother and wife, is the CEO and Founder of Nerrido. When she left Nigeria, she realized there was a gap with availability to traditional African meals. She sought to create accessible authentic African foods and sourced authentic ingredients locally. As a result, she shared her joy of cooking online while also selling blends of tomato stew for jollof rice. This sauce is all in one: pasta, curry, pizza, jollof rice, you name it!

Not only did she share her joy of cooking, but she also began to teach others how to make traditional and authentic dishes. This enabled her to bring the Nigerian tradition overseas while creating access for others to do the same. Ufuoma aims to inspire others to cook with confidence.

Shop online here.


Manufacturing is truly for everyone, whether you start with an idea sketched onto a napkin or pursued a technical degree. As a society, we need to do a better job of acknowledging how greatly this industry affects each of us. Without modern manufacturing, our technology, education, and scientific knowledge would stall completely, our daily lives would look vastly different, and we wouldn’t be as connected as we are today.

Don’t be afraid to get started in the skilled trades world. Not sure where to start? Connect with us, and we’ll help get you there.

Other Honorable Mentions

Ten years ago, in 2012, the Fabricators and Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) founded Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). MFG Day is a national movement to show the public (students, parents, and all others) just what modern manufacturing is all about, because as they say, “It’s not your father’s machine shop anymore”.  MFG Day is always the first Friday in October. This year we are celebrating all things manufacturing on October 7th, 2022. In addition to MFG Day, many states and manufacturing associations (including the International Trade Administration) consider the first week in October National Manufacturing Week or the entire month of October Manufacturing Month. But it doesn’t stop there for FlexTrades. We celebrate manufacturing all year long and hope you will too. Below are ways in which you can do so!  


  1. Open your manufacturing doors to the public. You can find tips and tricks to do here. 
  2. If you’re an employee, encourage your employer to open their doors!  
  3. Partake in trade shows as a visitor or manufacturer. Here’s a list of 2022/2023 tradeshows to get you started!  
  4. Visit or participate in a tour (or two) of manufacturing facilities. Find events to attend or ways to host an event at  
  5. Know the industrial revolutions to see how manufacturing has changed and why it’s so great!  
  6. Talk to the kids you know and tell them what it’s like, share your knowledge of manufacturing and discuss the vast opportunities within a manufacturing career. Show them some of these great How It’s Made videos so they get time on their electronics and they’re learning!   
  7. Share positive messages about manufacturing to your social media accounts. 
  8. Follow and reshare positive messages from manufacturers and those in manufacturing on your social media accounts.  
  9. Shop and buy American made products. 
  10. Donate or volunteer to the Nuts and Bolts Foundation (also known as Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs ® – NBT). NBT is on a mission to bridge the skills gap in manufacturing, keep American manufacturing alive and strong, and provide students the opportunity to learn how they can do great things by working in manufacturing.  
  11. Donate your time and knowledge by visiting technical or trade schools to spread awareness about manufacturing and opportunities in manufacturing. Bring brochures with you (here’s an example). 
  12. Encourage your coworkers or employees to share their own stories with each other.  
  13. Curate an Employee Appreciation Day – managers can genuinely thank their workforce, provide pizza for lunch, or organize a cookout, send thank you cards, give gift cards, sponsor a team outing, or film a video of thanks.  


And as you celebrate, keep in mind the words of Alan Mulally, an American aerospace engineer and manufacturing executive, former executive vice president of Boeing, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and former President and Chief Executive Office of the Ford Motor Company, Alan is well versed in manufacturing and once said:   


“No country is very successful in the long term…without a really strong and vibrant manufacturing base”.  


Happy MFG Day (or week or month)! 

On September 11th, 2001, the unthinkable happened when four airplanes were hijacked by militants associated with the extremist group al Qaeda. Of the four planes, two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Almost 3,000 people were killed during these terrorist attacks resulting in not only major US initiatives to fight terrorism but also paths of grief for all Americans. To recognize that grief and commemorate the victims of these 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS New York (LPD-21), one of six Navy ships with New York in the name. This ship was different though. This ship, the USS New York (LPD-21) is a massive ship with 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center and Ground Zero. The steel is forged into its bow of the ship which is significant. It symbolizes the strength and resiliency of citizens as the ship sails forward, around the world. In fact, the motto of the USS New York (LPD-21) is “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”  

Although named after New York, the USS New York (LPD-21) was not constructed there. This mighty ship was constructed at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems/Avondale Shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.

Avondale Shipyard sold, now called Avondale Marine | WorkBoat 

The steel from Ground Zero was melted down at Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, Louisiana. Not only was Amite Foundry and Machine close to the shipyard, they also had the capacity to do a job of this size. You could say the foundry specializes in jobs of this size. They’ve been known to turn down molding jobs for product weighing less than 1,000 pounds and are also known to make mold products that weigh as much 119,000 pounds. Depending upon the economy, Amite Foundry and Machine has a goal of producing 24 million pounds of metal per year. How did they make the bow stem? By melting a total of 24 tons of steel (7.5 tons of that being from Ground Zero) and molding it into the bow stem. With the bow being front and center of the ship, the steel from Ground Zero will lead the way everywhere it goes.  

With the bow completed, the rest of the ship was constructed. To construct a ship, the process starts with steel plates longer and wider than an average bus. These plates are cut into panels, bent on hydraulic presses to match the shape of the ship (or rolled to form the needed contour). Once formed, these panels are painted then welded together to form sub-assemblies of the ship. Once complete, the sub-assemblies are moved by large cranes and transport vehicles across the shipyard to the final build location of the ship. While all of this is occurring, the ship is also built out with internal mechanisms, equipment, cabling, etc. You can find a great video of this process (and really understand the sheer size of the process) here. Once the ship is close to being completed, it will be launched into the ocean where the final touches are added internally and it’s prepped to start sail.  

Final touches include:  

  • A New York City subway sign from the station beneath the World Trade Center  
  • A display case of hats and uniforms from first responders (including a firefighter’s helmet) 
  • A mural of the twin towers with the words Never Forget 
  • A banner with the many  names of the victims of 9/11 

A general timeline of the USS New York (LPD-21) is as follows:  

  1. August 2002: New York’s Governor (George e. Pataki) receive approval for his request that a United States surface warship bestow the name of New York to honor the victims of 9/11. 
  2. August 2003: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is awarded the contract to build the USS New York (LPD-21). 
  3. September 2003: Amite Foundry and Machine melted steel down to form the bow stem of the ship.   
  4. March 2008: the USS New York (LPD-21) was christened in a ceremony at shipyard. 
  5. August 2009: the ship was delivered to the Navy. 
  6. October 2009: the ship set sail for Norfolk, Virginia.  
  7. November 2009: the ship passed the World Trade Center site for the first time. 
  8. November 2009: a commissioning ceremony took place in New York City.

From the very beginning to the very end, it took 7 years to build out this magnificent ship. There were many hands involved in the process including those who poured the metal at an unheard-of foundry in Louisiana to every welder who brought the plates together down to the last crew member to board the ship. This 9/11, let’s remember those who made this memorial ship possible in addition to the first. 


This week Americans celebrated the 246th birthday of our country. We wanted to pile on by celebrating the 10 greatest inventions our nation has contributed to the world in that time. Some are big and some are small, but life changed for us all after these 10 ideas (in no particular order) hit the mainstream! 

  1. Bread Slicing Machine 
    1. America may not have invented sliced bread but the bread slicing machine was invented by an Iowan. Otto Frederick Rodwedder was a jeweler by trade but an inventor at heart. It took him more than a decade to perfect his invention, but it eventually went into commercial use in 1928 and quickly took the world by storm. Today, the merits of all subsequent inventions are compared against it as we continue to look for “the best thing since sliced bread.” 
  2.  The Internet
    1. The IT Crowd the Internet JenIn 1969, researchers working for the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency sent the first host-to-host message between laboratories at UCLA and Stanford. This marked the birth of the internet as we know it, but it still took decades for it to become commonplace. Once it did though, it took off in a big way! Today more than half of Earth’s total population is online, and the Internet contributes TRILLIONS of dollars to the global economy. 
  3.  Global Positioning System (GPS) 
    1. In 1973 the United States Department of Defense approved a project to synthesize the best aspects of various satellite navigation programs already in existence. The result of this effort was the Global Positioning System as we know it today. GPS may not have changed the world when it reached fully operational status in 1993 but it has continued to change the way we navigate it via land, sea, and air ever since! 
  4. Post-It Notes 
    1. Romy and Michelle Post-it notes3M chemist, Spencer Silver, stumbled upon a revolutionary type of adhesive during research that could stick and re-stick without leaving residue behind. But he didn’t know what to do with it until inspiration struck his colleague, Art Fry, while struggling through a choir practice with bookmarks that wouldn’t “stick”. By 1974 the Post-It Note hit the market. Offices, calendars, and refrigerator doors have never been the same. 
  5.  The Telephone 
    1. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland, and many scientists worked to develop technology for transmitting sound. But it was Bell, already living and working in Massachusetts at the time, who was first awarded a patent for the electric telephone on March 7, 1876. It was also Bell who first made his device produce intelligible speech when he called his assistant, Thomas Watson, three days later on March 10 to complete the first ever phone call. “Mr. Watson – come here – I want you.”, were the words that brought Watson from the next room and made the world a little smaller for the rest of history. 
  6.  The Airplane 
    1. Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle mechanics who became intrigued by the concept of aeronautics in 1899. Despite struggles and setbacks their experiments led to the first successful flight of a powered aircraft in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. The basic design elements of the 1903 Wright Flyer have been incorporated in ALL successful aircraft since produced.  
  7. The Light Bulb  
    1. Few things are more disputed than the credit Thomas Edison receives for inventing the light bulb. While it’s true that many inventors were essential to developing the technology, Edison’s contributions are generally seen as primary. This consideration is due mainly to the fact that he created a fully functioning system, rather than just components, as well as the first commercially successful carbon filament bulb in 1879. This invention didn’t just light up the night, it actually changed sleep patterns for most of humankind! 
  8.  Interchangeable Parts 
    1. Henry Ford gets more credit for creating the moving assembly line, but it was Eli Whitney’s practical application of the concept of interchangeable parts that made “Fordism” possible. While others went on to perfect the concept, Whitney did it on a large scale first when he accepted (and eventually delivered on) a contract with the U.S. Congress for 10,000 muskets in the early 1800s. This changed the world, effectively eradicating the skilled artisan class, AND how the world makes things. 
  9. Plastic 
    1. Early plastics were invented in Europe but it was an American, Charles Goodyear, who invented the vulcanization process that made commercial plastics truly possible. After receiving a patent for his process in 1844, Goodyear went on to spend most of the rest of his life (and fortune) fighting patent infringement cases in various courts. Commercial plastics, on the other hand, went on to change or affect every industry we now know today. 
  10.  Moving Pictures 
    1. The Kinetograph, an early motion picture camera, was first introduced by William Dickson in 1890. Dickson was the British assistant of Thomas Edison but he developed the Kinetograph with Edison in New York City. In 1892, he announced the Kinetoscope (the first movie projector) and two years after that Edison started public film screenings in his new “Kinetograph Parlors”. This began America’s reign as the Motion Picture Capital of the World and forever changed how the world tells and consumes stories. 

This history of Memorial Day is long but not complicated and dates back to the Civil War. The Civil War ended on April 5th, 1865, but the suffering and the pain of loss didn’t end, even in 1868. The Civil War left the US with a high number of casualty rates for soldiers not provided personal identification which left family members without any idea of what happened to their loved ones. As a result, former U.S. Army Major General John A. Logan (also an Illinois congressional representative and the commander-in-chief for the GAR – Grand Army of the Republic – the nation’s largest organization of Union veterans) designated May 30th as a day of national remembrance and called it “Decoration Day”.  

Shortly after, in 1873, construction of an amphitheater was completed near the Arlington House with its intended use for Decoration Day remembrance and commemoration. This amphitheater drew in large crowds every year resulting in a 1903 proposal by Judge Ivory Kimball (also a civil war veteran) to expand the amphitheater. The expansion was approved in 1913 with construction beginning in 1915. In 1920, the Memorial Amphitheater was formally dedicated and opened to the public. Over the years changes have been made to the amphitheater and Decoration Day has become better known as Memorial Day but the purpose is still the same, a space given to share in the reflection of the lives given by Americans at wartime and to grieve for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  

Located in the Memorial Amphitheater is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb is located atop a hill and is nearly perfectly geographically centered in the Arlington National Cemetery. This majestic marble tomb dates back to December of 1920, when New York Congressman and World War I veteran Hamilton Fish Jr. proposed legislation that would provide a place of rest for one Unknown American Soldier from World War I, in the plaza at Arlington National Cemetery.  This idea was likely based off France and Great Britain’s Armistice Day (November 11, 1921) in which one unknown warrior was buried at the Arc de Triomphe and another inside Westminster Abbey. Congress moved forward with the legislation and an Unknown Soldier was buried in memorial, in the plaza, on November 11, 1921.  

That wasn’t enough though, it was always meant that the memorial be larger than it already was. As a result, the United States congress held a design competition. This competition delivered 73 total applicants with the wining designers being Architect Lorimer Rich and Sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones.  

Lorimer Rich’s design was approved and shortly thereafter, the search for marble began. It was a long process to find the perfect marble but when found, it came from the Colorado Yule Marble Quarry and the Vermont Marble company quarried it with the help of 75 men. Fun fact: this quarry is the same quarry that provided the marble for the Lincoln Memorial and due to metamorphic factors geographically in the area, this quarry created some of the best marble in the country. 

To pull this block of marble from a quarry 10,000 feet above sea level would be complicated today, let alone in 1931. The pure white marble block when pulled from the mountain weighted 124tons and was cut down with a wire saw to a weight of 56 tons.  

Once quarried, the marble was sent to the marble mill in the town of Marble, Colorado which although only 2.8 miles away took an entirety of 4 days to complete. The marble mill crated the block and then shipped it to Procter, Vermont. Upon arrival in Vermont, the architect, sculptor, a representative from the Quartermaster General’s Department, and a contractor inspected the piece and approved that work could begin. 

The tomb was partially sculpted in Procter, Virginia by Thomas Hudson Jones. From Procter, it was shipped by rail to the Arlington National Cemetery for final sculpting. In all, it was a total of seven months to move the marble from the quarry and land it in its final resting place. The last of the sculpting was completed onsite by the Piccirilli Brothers under the direction of Thomas Jones. Fun fact: the Piccirilli brothers also carved the Abraham Lincoln statue as well as the lions you see outside of the New York Public Library.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier early in the morning at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, August 7, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

About The Tomb

  • A formal ceremony was held on April 9, 1932, to commemorate the finished tomb.  
  • The tomb honors and remembers those who died at war without any witnesses beared. 
  • The tomb has four levels (cap, die, base, and sub-base) with the die being the largest block of marble and in which you can see the design. It is 11’ high, 8’ wide at the base, 6’8” wide at the top, with a total length of 13’11” at the base and 12’7” at the top.  
  • The North and South panels are sculpted with inverted wreaths. These wreathes represent a “World of Memories”. Each wreath has 38 leaves and 12 berries.  
  • The East Panel has three Greek figures sculpted which represent Peace, Victory, and Valor. 
    • The female figure of Peace is holding a dove to symbolize peace and friendship. 
    • The center figure is that of Victory, who is extending an olive branch towards the male figure while holding the hand of Peace.  
    • The male figure on the right is holding a broken sword and represents Valor. 
  • The budget for the tomb was approved at $50,000 but in the end, it was completed for $48,000. That’s approximately $860,000 in today’s money. 
  • It was Mr. Jones who sculpted the wreaths and the Greek figures while the Piccirilli brothers completed all other sculpting tasks.  
  • The memorial is placed in such a place that a visitor’s first view is from 20’ below, which is considered to be the most impressive angle. 
  • Every president since 1921 has stood in this spot to commemorate Memorial Day.  
  • There has been a total of four unknown soldiers buried at the tomb, all from different wars. World War I, World War II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War.  
    • The last soldier buried at the tomb (from the Vietnam War) was disinterred from the tomb in 1998 and his identity was determined with help of a DNA test. Where this soldier used to be, there is now a crypt cover inscribed with “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Serviceman 1958-1975”.  
  • Over 250,000 US flags adorn the Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, with one small flag at each headstone and along the bottom row. This takes 4 hours to accomplish. 
  • Since April 6, 1948, the tomb has been guarded by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) for 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, with absolutely no exceptions. These military members are called The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and undergo extensive interviews, trainings, and tests.  
    • This regiment is called The Old Guard because it is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the nation since 1784. 
    • All Sentinels must be in “ superb physical condition” and be within a certain heights  
      • Men: 5’10” – 6’4”  
      • Women: 5’8” and 6’2” 

May is the month of flowers, endless blooms in a multitude of colors delivering on all the promises made by April’s showers during grayer days. With that in mind, it’s hard not to appreciate a beautiful blossom this time of year. Many places around the world, think Holland and tulips, are famous for their flowers. But here in Minnesota a different kind of flour put us on the world map. We’d like to celebrate this May by taking a deeper look at the history of flour milling – worldwide and in the home state of PMG. 

First Seeds 

Archeologists can date the first tools used by man as far back as 250,000 years ago but those tools were primarily weapons used for hunting and protection. History didn’t see humans turn their tool-crafting talents towards agriculture until relatively recently, 10 to 15 thousand years ago. This transition in tooling, and the many conveniences of grain compared to “fresher” fare, led to commerce and that led to the first form of city living as we know it today. 

Many advances in tool technology focused on planting, reaping, and threshing crops. But the ability to mill, and continued improvement of this ability, is what really unlocked the power of grain – by making it easier to swallow.  

The point of milling has always been the separation of the outer parts (bran and germ) from the more digestible inner parts (endosperm) of the wheat berry. This happens through grinding between hard surfaces. The earliest examples were simply two stones that ground kernels into flour between them. Even the oldest villages excavated show, through dental records, that people dating back to 6,700 BC already knew to use stones to mill wheat. 

Early Advances in Milling 

Early Egyptians used saddle stones to grind flour. Later millers added levers to their millstones to create greater power which allowed them to grind greater quantities of wheat. The Greeks created the “hourglass mill” by extending the top stone to make a hopper to hold extra grain. Fabric or mesh was used to sift, in combination with grinding, to produce white flour. Milling has operated essentially unchanged in principle for thousands of years since, other than being continuously modified to harness ever-increasing power (men, animals, wind, and water) to turn the stones. It’s believed that the Romans were the first to use waterpower for milling around 100 B.C. Ancient Turkish water mill for grinding, flour grinding device, Rize, Turkey

By the 19th century industrial development made possible the invention of machines, like reapers and threshers, that greatly increased production of grains like wheat. This industrial revolution was also reflected in the design and construction of mills themselves. Shafts, belts, and gears helped carry more power farther from sources than ever before, allowing greater amounts of flour to be milled faster than ever. Next, stones were replaced by rollers in many mills. An American millwright named Oliver Evans then introduced screw conveyors to move grain and flour horizontally and bucket elevators for vertical movement. He assembled these machines, together with sifters or bolters, into the first continuous system in which wheat was milled into flour as a single uninterrupted operation. Equipment to clean the wheat to produce purer flour were also added and, with it, American milling was set to boom again. 

Mid-Century Milling 

The advances brought about by such industrial techniques, coupled with improvements in barge and rail transportation, as well as the westward expansion of wheat lands, forced milling centers to shift west as well. The center of milling is represented by the place that produces the largest output of flour. Continuous change in the cost of transportation for product and power for milling meant that the center of milling moved often to wherever wheat was most readily available, and shipment of finished flour was most economical. Following this equation, the center of milling migrated west from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and St. Louis before eventually landing in Minneapolis in the late 19th Century. 

This shifting prominence occurred at the same time a “New Process” was becoming standard in milling. This process used a harder wheat from Canada, slower milling speeds, and wider spacing of mill stones. These advancements, coupled together, created a finer quality flour that could be produced much more efficiently. By 1870, the average mill employed fewer than three people and could achieve extraction rates of 72% flour compared to 28% millfeed. This dramatic improvement in process made milling not only one of the oldest industries in history but also the first to be fully automated! 

What really made the “New Process” of milling able to exceed the quality standards of the best European flours though was the invention of a Minnesota man. In 1865, Edmund La Croix constructed his first middlings purifier which greatly improved the typical yields of “highest grade” flour. This allowed for the continuous improvement of the flour stream all the way through the mill to final product and set the stage for advancements throughout the second half of the 1800s. This made possible the modern mill as we know it today. 

Minneapolis Millers 

The many technological advancements in mill technology, partnered with a convenient location relative to America’s heartland and its emerging position as a rail hub, allowed Minneapolis to surpass St. Louis as the nation’s center of milling by 1880. That year the city produced 2 million barrels of flour. By 1910, production had risen to 15.4 million barrels and Minneapolis had ascended to “Flour-Milling Capital of the World.”Minneapolis, MN - June 2, 2019: Mill Ruins Park in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District in downtown Minneapolis

World War I caused a spike in demand that peaked in 1916 when Minneapolis mills produced 18.5 million barrels – representing more than 20% of America’s total flour output. 90% of daily milling capacity was controlled by just three firms. They were the Washburn-Crosby Company (eight mills and 37,300 barrels), the Pillsbury Company (six mills and 29,300 barrels), and the Northwestern Consolidated Milling Company (six mills and 15,960 barrels). Pillsbury’s “A” Mill – the world’s largest – boasted a daily capacity of 12,000 barrels! 

This capacity for quality and quantity led to Minneapolis being known as the “Mill City”, a boom in state industrial wealth, and the rise of several large companies that still dominate the industry today. Washburn-Crosby was best known for it’s Gold Medal Flour brand, a name that is still eponymous to Minnesotans. By 1921, Washburn-Crosby introduced the Betty Crocker brand and, in 1928, they combined with 28 other mills to form General Mills. In 2001, General Mills acquired Pillsbury and finally united Minnesota’s two largest and best-known flour producers. 

Today’s Breadwinners 

The original Washburn Mill was destroyed in an explosion in 1878. You can still see the ruins of that mill, and the famous Gold Medal Flour sign on the “new” mill (built in 1880) if you visit Minneapolis today. But the Mill City is no longer tops in flour production. China, India, and Russia all produce more wheat annually than the United States. America is also beat when it comes to milled flour exports, finishing in fourth behind Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Germany. 

If this blog gave you something to chew on, and you’d like to learn more about how things are made, check out our article about how fireworks are made. Or you can watch this great video showing the process of modern flour production. And remember, the next time you cook up a question, we’re always happy to answer those too! Just send them to our writing team and we’ll try our best to answer them in a future blog.

April is the month of showers, they bring May flowers. We all know that, but how much thought do you give to the showers that keep us smelling flowery all year round? Approximately 2 out of 3 Americans shower daily but that wasn’t always the case. 

While early peoples cleansed themselves in streams, pools, waterfalls, or even rain as necessary (and when available) fledgling societies continued to improve upon nature. The ancient Egyptians invented ceramic jugs to create the “portable” effect of a waterfall. The Greeks contributed piping systems and the Romans spread the concept of cleanliness (and its importance) throughout their empire. 

However, with the collapse of the Roman’s empire came the Dark Ages and the rise of Christianity across most of medieval Europe. Contrary to popular belief, interest in sanitation didn’t wane but access to public bathhouses did and the sophisticated water systems of the Romans were lost. 

This stalled the advancement of shower technology for several centuries, but it didn’t halt completely. By the 18th century interest in personal hygiene had rebounded and a stove maker from London decided to capitalize. William Feetham did this by patenting the first shower (at least as we’d recognize it today) in 1767. 

Historical Moments for Showers  

This first shower pumped water to a basin above the user’s head but was still limited to cold water (and reusing the same dirty liquid during each session). By 1810 heated water had been added and reliable plumbing was “rediscovered” by 1850 to eliminate the need to reuse fluid. 

For the next century, showers would grow in popularity through the US and England, but they still wouldn’t overtake the popularity of the more common tub until the 1980s. It was during this decade that the variety of options for shower heads, lights, and body jets began to explode. The choices for customization continue to multiply to this day, as does the popularity in showering. History of showers infographic

Showers Today 

Today, the global market for bath and shower products is worth almost $50 billion annually. This growing market hasn’t just benefited from the change in personal attitudes worldwide towards personal hygiene either. The increased importance many individuals place on environmental responsibility has led to advancements in efficiency as well. A 10-minute shower today, with modern equipment, can require almost four times less water than taking a bath. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our article on the history of foundries. Or you can watch this great video showing the mass production of showerheads and hoses to see how far we’ve come from ceramic jugs. And remember, the next time you have a question in the shower, we’re always happy to answer those too! Just send them to our writing team and we’ll try our best to answer them in a future blog.