Visit to the Peed, II

An update on family resemblances: OSR is no longer merely short and fat. His defining feature is now a big head, which I would wager makes him more of a Rose than a Strassel.

I say this having just read the first few chapters of my grandfatherÌs PhD thesis, which was self-published in 1979 as: “Fusible Interlinings: Origins & Technology.” With such a catchy title, it’s a mystery to me why it’s languishing in the basement of Amazon’s ratings at 3,594,593 (at last look).

In Rose Family lore, there are a great many things my grandfather was supposed to have invented. Some of the stories are actually true. He played a role in designing prefab housing after World War Two, and true to his roots as an unreconstructed Fabian, told a reporter from the London Times he didn’t understand “why we don’t make similar buildings today for the homeless.” As a kid, every time I traveled on an airplane, one parent or other would mention that Papa had some role in making the black squishy resin that glued the slabs of concrete together to form runways. This is unverified and probably apocryphal, but I promise to ask next time we talk.

His other great breakthrough in the world of applied chemistry was the development of fusible interlinings, a manufacturing process that allowed apparel makers to glue garments’ interior linings to their exterior fabric, obviating the need for skilled craftsmen to stitch the pieces together. Faithless to his roots as an unreconstructed Fabian, he transformed the schmatte business by allowing companies to fire lots of people and move their operations to Bangalore.

Stripping away the jargon in “Fusible Interlinings: Origins & Technology,”1 a picture emerges of a compulsive tinkerer. For his first set of experiments, he used unperforated toilet paper as a substitute for fabric (regular TP tore), four six-inch strips from a Meccano kit, two bulldog clips, two swizzle sticks and something left over from his photography darkroom. Later, he added an Aladdin heater, which if the apology to my grandmother contained in the acknowledgements is to be believed, he subsequently ruined.

At the same time, what also appears is someone in the thrall of Cranial Encephalopathy, or a swelling of the head. Dr. Rose opens his preface with the following words:

It must be exceptional for one person to have the opportunity of participating in the inception of a new technology and to remain responsible for its development and its fullest maturation over a period of twenty five years.

Indeed, it must. No one who knows my grandfather, who is probably more argumentative in his 93rd year as he ever was2, would accuse him of being overly modest. A few paragraphs later, he explains why there are no references to anyone who competed against Staflex, the name of his company, in the book’s 410 pages (including appendices). The bottom line: no one else did anything of note.

While I have referred to individuals, patents and companies who made incidental contributions to one technique or another, I had little occasion to refer to any basic contributions made by competitors, for the simple reason that no innovative product materialised from outside sources…With a few notable exceptions, the history of Staflex is, to all intents and purposes, the history of fusible interlinings.3

1“Instead, a series of experiments were set up to devise a form of chemical finish which would partially block the interstices of the base cloth without stiffening it, and, at the same time, would reduce the wicking effect of the yarn fibrils, which otherwise removed the water from the resin emulsion preferentially.” (Page 28.) (Back)

2One recent ferocious debate: Is it better to press handkerchiefs, all of which contain nylon stitching at the edge, with a regular or steam iron? (Back)

3If anyone’s on the edge of their seat wondering what happens in the history of fusible interlinings, or has questions about the difference between producing resin granules by wet methods and by hot compounding methods, or the importance of the Solidot process (Very Important) or the fate of Staflex (A Sad Story), you’ll have to wait until IÌve finished the book. (Back)

4 thoughts on “Visit to the Peed, II”

  1. One thing you’ve certainly inherited from your grandfather — beside the big head, of course — is atrocious spelling (cf his “intends and purposes”). One thing you haven’t inherited is much in the way of Jewishness. Schmutter??? Do you mean schmatte, perchance?

  2. Hm. The first one is probably a misstype on my part. As for the second, I will allow you to draw your own conclusions. Both fixed now.

  3. “intends and purposes” is not a spelling mistake. A spelling mistake is when you misspell a word. You spell “intends” properly. Nor is it a typo. the D and T are not next to each other on the keyboard. No, this is a symptom of a deeper affliction, something Matthew probably calls a male proprism.

  4. My personal memories relate to the school holidays I spent mixing the ingredients for a range of formulas my Uncle Harry had devised for a non-hardening sealant (later used for airport runways and greenhouse windows, I believe). Each sample was put on a tray and exposed to the elements on the roof of the garden shed. The best part was being paid 10 shillings (50p) a week – a princely sum in 1948. His wife banished him from their kitchen following the Kenwood mixer episode, so he resorted to using my mother’s twin-tub washing machine to make a kind of paper mache from newspapers. It took quite a while to get the newsprint out of our bed linen!

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