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History Book - Chevrolet gets its start


WORLD Radio - History Book - Chevrolet gets its start

Plus: Ansel Adams takes his best-known photograph, and the Day of Seven Billion

A 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air is displayed in the exhibit "Cuba!" at the American Museum of Natural History, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in New York. Mark Lennihan/Associated Press Photo

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, November 1st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up: The WORLD History Book. Today, a population breakthrough, a photography lens view, and a carmaker’s debut. Here’s senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.

KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali. The Sharks versus the Jets. Ford versus…

ANNOUNCER: Prescription for travel: The new motoramic Chevrolet. More than a new car, a new concept of low-cost motoring…

That 1955 Chevy commercial showcases a dusty blue, sleek sedan cruising down a mid-century American, tree-lined road. But decades before Chevy carved out a place in Americana, the Chevrolet Motor Company set out to challenge the Ford Motor Company.

While Chevy’s first car, the Series C Classic Six, wasn’t commercially available until 1913, its founders formed the company November 3rd, 1911. The company counted on a battle of the brands, planning to steal market share from the popular Ford Model T.

Louis Chevrolet was a Swiss-born American race car driver-turned-automotive engineer. Pinky Randall is a Chevrolet historian who talked to Discovery about the company’s namesake.

RANDALL: Louis was a natural mechanic. Just a natural. And he got into racing, and he got very popular, and he was good. And he attracted the attention of Billy Durant, the founder of the General Motors Corporation.

But GM fired Durant, so with a few other investors—and Louis—he co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Company in Motor City, Detroit. Ever the marketer, Durant planned to use Louis’ reputation as a racer as the new automobile company’s foundation.


By 1929, Chevy had overtaken Ford as the best-selling vehicle in the United States. Today, the two brands’ sales figures are pretty neck-and-neck.

And now we’ll move from a timeless brand to a moment captured in time.

SONG: “Moonlight Sonata,” Beethoven

Eighty years ago, Ansel Adams photographed a moonrise over the town of Hernandez, New Mexico. That image—taken on November 1st, 1941—would become one of the most famous images in photography history.

He titled it Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. It’s a high-contrast photo—the bright white, waxing moon above and slightly to the left of a few buildings, a cemetery in the forefront. Mountains sit at the back of the landscape, with reflective, flat clouds overhead.

The Ansel Adams Gallery created a reenactment of the photographer recalling snapping the striking photo.

GALLERY: We were returning to Santa Fe from a long picture day in the Chama River Valley in Northern New Mexico. I observed a fantastic scene as we approached the village Hernandez. The moon was about two days before full, and the buildings and crosses were illuminated by a gentle, diffuse sunlight, coming through the clouds of a clearing storm.

The scene stunned Adams. He had been traveling with his 8-year-old son and an assistant.

GALLERY: I almost drove my car into a ditch, and emerged in a state of intense excitement, commanding my companions to get my tripod and camera case!

But, he couldn’t find his exposure meter. With some quick thinking, he calculated the moon’s light-per-square-foot and estimated the exposure, creating a single negative before the light changed.

He developed the image in silver gelatin, the most common chemical process for black-and-white photography. It took him more than 30 years to preserve the image to his satisfaction, though. He made 1300 prints of the photo a few years before his death, in 1984, at age 82.

And for our final entry, we’ll move from a sleepy town to the great big world.

SONG: “Wild World,” Cat Steven

The worldwide human population reached 7 billion on October 31st, 2011.

Demographers and earth scientists sounded alarm bells over the milestone at the time. Lester Brown founded the Earth Policy Center. He spoke to the Associated Press in October 2011, predicting an increase in food and water scarcity in developing countries as the population grows.

BROWN: This has been going on for decades. At some point, adding this many people every day, having to produce this much more food every day, begins to stress the earth’s land and water resources, and that’s what we’re seeing.

On the other hand, other data scientists point to increasing longevity as a reason for population growth. And as Swedish physician and academic Hans Rosling pointed out in a video for his Gapminder Foundation, that’s something to celebrate.

ROSLING: People in the past never lived in ecological balance with nature; they died in ecological balance with nature! It was utterly tragic! But with the industrial revolution, this changed. Better wages, more food, tap water, better sanitation, soap, medical advances…

The world had already reached a population of 5 billion on July 11th, 1987. Twelve years later, we were at 6 billion.

SONG: “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” Johnny Cash, Eddie Albert, Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Reed

And we seem to be keeping a pace of adding another billion about every 12 years. Population analysts say we can expect to reach 8 billion in 2023.

That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.

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