This week’s lesson: The research librarian is your friend. That’s not news to me; I’m married to one.
But as part of my research into the back story of the creation of Bubble Wrap, I needed to connect the dots of how the two inventors met. I had a good timeline with documentation for Marc Chavannes, but not enough on my own father, Alfred Fielding.
To connect the dots, I needed to find out what he did after graduating from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1939. I knew Chavannes entered the U.S. from Switzerland that same year. And I knew that my father continued to teach at Stevens as an instructor until he earned his master’s degree in 1943.
I needed to fill in the dots between that year and 1950, when he formed the Fielding Machine Company and started designing and building the machines for Chavannes. Sealed Air Corporation, the company they founded, had no records from before the founding. Our family papers had nothing from that period. If he took any documents when my parents divorced in the 1970s, they were probably lost when his widow died two years ago.
On the off chance that my father or his wife might have left his papers to Stevens, I contacted Leah Loscutoff, Head of Archives & Special Collections at the Samuel C. Williams Library at Stevens.
On the job
As it turns out, no, his alma mater doesn’t have my father’s personal or professional papers. But they did have his master’s thesis. (Fielding, Alfred William. 1943. “A Case Study of Production Control in a Job Shop.” Dissertation.)
A job shop is a business that operates machine shops to manufacture parts to order. A versatile production work force operates the machines, with a larger number of engineers, designers, and planners to take the orders, reconfigure the machines, and turn the jobs around quickly. He based his thesis on his experience in a variety of positions at a growing job shop where he was promoted to head the new planning department.
The author was fortunate in having a large share in installing the present control system. After serving in various technical capacities in both the shop and engineering departments he was made head of the newly created Planning Department, with instructions to develop systems necessary for control. How this was done is described in the following pages.Fielding, Alfred William, “A Case Study of Production Control in a Job Shop.”
The Stevens archives also contained his alumni file from 1970, in which he outlined his curriculum vitae. He left the job shop in 1943 and went to work for an engineering firm until 1947, when he opened a machine shop with a partner. He bought out the partner in 1950 and renamed the business the Fielding Machine Company.
I will post more about my father and Marc Chavannes working together on the products leading up to Bubble Wrap. Meanwhile, this was enough to answer some questions about how the two met. And I found it at the library!
In addition to the Stevens research, this week I continued writing the Chavannes story. It’s almost complete to the point of the big bubble breakthrough in the 1950s, but it’s getting long. I’ll probably break it into two, perhaps three, separate posts in the coming weeks.
I also continued re-reading and excerpting my journals from 1978, which include some turning points in my path to a writing career. Those will turn up here in the coming month in the hope they’ll give some insight or inspiration to aspiring writers. And as a pre-Thanksgiving treat, we’ll look at the Mayflower Compact, the first agreement to form a “body politic” and to abide by the laws that would be established for the “general good of the colony.”
See you then!
In case you missed it …
Cowardice or practicality, 1979
Reading Time: 2 minutes As every captain must decide whether to head in to port or continue the mission, I had to choose to limp home or explore strange new worlds.
A bargain I cannot afford, 1979
Reading Time: 2 minutes The Riverside was a popular place for cheap diner food. Even so, eating out is more expensive than cooking at home, and always has been.
… Garp! 1979
Reading Time: 3 minutes I was reading the book from a single-minded, new writer point of view, not as literature, so bear with me if 24-year-old me sounds naïve.
Potential for collaboration, 1979
Reading Time: 2 minutes Perhaps this was another lost opportunity. Not all ideas are good ideas, but if they’re good enough to write down, they’re worth following up on.