Friday, July 5, 2024



A pat on the back for Volvo:

Volvo proudly proclaim that: “few people have saved as many lives as Nils Bohlin.” And they are right. Nils Bohlin is the little-known Volvo engineer who invented the V-type three-point safety belt in 1959, and saw his innovation through to universal adoption across the motor industry. His new cross-strap design made seat belts much easier to use, and much safer too. It is hard now to imagine cars without them.

Volvo’s president at the time was Gunnar Engellau, an engineer himself, who had suffered direct personal loss from a road traffic accident. A relative had died, partly because of shortcomings in the two-point belt design—which was not even standard feature in cars at the time. This personal tragedy encouraged Engellau to find a better solution, poaching Nils Bohlin from rival firm Saab, and setting about this problem as a matter of urgency. Volvo would invent a better solution, and be the first car maker to standardise it.

There were two major problems with the historic 2-point belt design, which crosses the lap only. Firstly, the human pelvis is hinged. A single strap doesn’t restrain the torso, leaving passengers vulnerable to severe head, chest and spinal injuries in a collision. Positioned badly, the belt can crush your internal organs on impact. They don't work very well. Secondly, people don’t want to wear them. Until Bohlin’s commission, mid-century seat belts were clumsy and uncomfortable.

Even with the new design improvements, it took six years of promotion to persuade a minority of Swedes to use the new design. Volvo refused to give up and continued marketing and promotion.

Volvo patented the designs to protect their investment from copy-cats and immediately made Bohlin's patent immediately available to all. Having sponsored the R&D, they gifted their designs to competitors, to encourage mass adoption and to save lives.

The 3-point safety belt has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. It has prevented or reduced the severity of injuries for millions of people, making Bohlin’s three-point safety belt among the most important innovations in the automobile's 130-year history.



Three point seat belt,

Nils Bohlin (1920-2002)

Gunnar Engellau (1907-1988), pictured in 1956

By the way:

Australia was the first country in the world to legislate compulsory seatbelt wearing in front and back seats.

2022 was the 50th anniversary of the seatbelt laws nationwide, in Victoria the law came into effect as early as December 1970 making the state the first place in the world to make seatbelts mandatory. NSW followed and legislated it by November 1971, followed by all other Australian states by January 1, 1972.

Road fatalities had peaked in NSW at around 1300 in 1970, and it was increasing rapidly. Following the introduction of the mandatory seatbelt laws, those numbers began to decrease. In 2020, 284 lives were lost on NSW roads, which is a 78% reduction compared to 1970's figures.



A pat on the back for Al Capone:

Yes, that’s right, for the mafia head.

American gangster Al Capone fought to have expiration, or “sell by,” dates put on milk bottles, supposedly after one of his relatives became sick from drinking milk that had expired. But his grandniece gave us a more likely reason: Al Capone was looking for a legitimate business that could fund his lifestyle after the end of Prohibition.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Al Capone ran the Chicago Outfit, also known as the Chicago Mafia, when gangs battled for control of illegal alcohol distribution during Prohibition. According to Capone’s grandniece, Deirdre Marie Capone, her Uncle Al made over $100 million per year from bootlegging. As Prohibition was nearing its end, Capone needed to find another way to fund his grand lifestyle. But he was tired of the mortal danger that came with his illegal business activities.

Shortly after, Capone thought of milk. It fit his criteria for a legitimate business that could make a lot of money. Almost everyone uses milk every day, especially families with kids. The markup on milk was greater than that of alcohol. Best of all, the Chicago Outfit already controlled bottling facilities for illegal alcohol distribution, which could be adapted for milk.

Some reports say that Al Capone got into the milk business after one of his relatives got sick from drinking milk that had expired. Either way, the lack of regulations on milk production provided Capone with an opportunity to corner the market. He had already developed a reputation for being something of a latter-day Robin Hood in Chicago. During the Depression, Capone opened the first soup kitchen, offering three meals daily to financially struggling individuals and their families. The soup kitchen was so popular that he opened more. But Capone went beyond spending money to help people. He actually went to the soup kitchens and served meals himself. So it seemed in character for him to lobby the Chicago City Council for a law to stamp expiration, or “sell by,” dates on milk bottles to protect the city’s children from harm.

After Chicago passed the law mandating visible expiration dates on all milk bottles, Capone had the ability to effectively control the local milk market.

Three months after his milk business opened, Capone was imprisoned.

Even though Capone went away, milk expiration dates stayed.


By the way:

The law finally got Capone for tax evasion.

The government charged Capone with evasion of $215,000 in taxes on a total income of $1,038,654, during the five-year period. Capone was convicted on five counts of income tax evasion on October 17, 1931 and was sentenced a week later to 11 years in federal prison, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes.

Due to his good behavior, Capone was permitted to play banjo in the Alcatraz prison band, the Rock Islanders, which gave regular Sunday concerts for other inmates

At Alcatraz, Capone's decline became increasingly evident, as neurosyphilis progressively eroded his mental faculties; his formal diagnosis of syphilis of the brain was made in February 1938. He spent the last year of his Alcatraz sentence in the hospital section, confused and disoriented. Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California to serve out his sentence for contempt of court. He was paroled on November 16, 1939, after his wife Mae appealed to the court, based on his reduced mental capabilities.

In 1942, after mass production of penicillin was started in the United States, Capone was one of the first American patients treated by the new drug. Though it was too late for him to reverse the damage to his brain, it did slow down the progression of the disease.

In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist examined him and concluded that Capone had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. He spent the last years of his life at his Palm Island mansion, spending time with his wife and grandchildren. On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve, but contracted bronchopneumonia. He suffered a cardiac arrest on January 22, and on January 25, surrounded by his family in his home, died after his heart failed as a result of apoplexy.


Al Capone (1899 – 1947)


A pat on the back for the Fedele family:

During World War 2, eight of the eleven sons of Philip and Angelina Fedele enlisted and saw action. This was the record for the most men from one family to serve in a foreign war at the same time.

The brothers, ranging in age from 17 to 37, served in nearly every branch of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Marines and Air Corps. They served in Africa, Europe and the Pacific. For their service, they won many ribbons, citations and medals including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. One brother was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked; and oddly, a few of the brothers ran into each other during the war. One pair met in Africa and the other pair on Iwo Jima. Remarkably, all of the brothers returned home alive and well; although, one was wounded by machine-gun fire on Okinawa and another one suffered injury in an airplane crash during training.

While eight sons of Philip and Angelina Fedele left home to serve their country, two others worked defense related jobs. The youngest, only 14 at the time, later served in the Korean War along with two of his older World War II brothers.

Their mother, Angelina, passed away years before WW2 began, leaving their father Philip to raise their eleven sons and three daughters. As was typical in post-depression American, the children took on great responsibility. The daughters helped raise their brothers, while the brothers went off to work at young ages. Not having eight of them around was a huge blow to the family both emotionally and financially, but was a sacrifice they were all happy to make for their country.

Sons and where they served:

Anthony R. Fedele (Marine Corps, b. 1920)—Cpl. Anthony Fedele served as an anti-aircraft machine gunner. He was a witness to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and took part in the battles for Tulagi, Guadalcanal, and Midway.

Generino A. Fedele (Marine Corps, b. 1925)—Aircraft Mechanic Pfc. Generino Fedele participated in the Philippines Island Campaign (1944-45), as well as in the capture and occupation of Peleliu.

Frank A. Fedele (Army, b. 1912)—T/4 Frank Fedele served as a cook in the Southern Philippines with the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion.

Nunzio C. Fedele (Army, b. 1917)—Pfc. Nunzio Fedele served as a demolition specialist with the highly active and decorated 1st Infantry Division from Algeria, Sicily and Tunisia, to the Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland campaigns.

Patrick J. Fedele (Army, b. 1923)—Pvt. Patrick Fedele served for 28 months. Due to an injury stemming from a plane crash during training, Patrick was never sent overseas.

Vincent L. Fedele (Army Air Corps, b. 1919)—Sgt. Vincent Fedele served with the Headquarters Detachment of the 81st Fighter Group which flew P-39’s in the Mediterranean Theater, playing a role in the Anzio landings, as well as in India and China.

Joseph P. Fedele (Navy, b. 1908)—S 1/c Joseph Fedele served with the 14th Naval Construction Battalion, better known as the Seabees, for two years. Joseph was the only brother to be wounded, hit by machine gun fire on Okinawa in 1945 for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.

Salvatore L. Fedele (Navy, b. 1926)—S 2/c Salvatore Fedele served in the Navy from August 1944 to June 1946, and took part in the Liberation and Occupation of the Philippines.

In 2012 the family was inducted into the New York Veterans Hall of Fame.


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