Daily Almanac for Tuesday, January 17, 2023

On this date in 1949, The first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States from Germany. Volkswagen Beetle 1966 photo. By Vwexport1300 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org


The Volkswagen Beetle—officially the Volkswagen Type 1, informally in German der Käfer (meaning “beetle“), in parts of the English-speaking world the Bug, and known by many other nicknames in other languages—is a two-door, rear-engine economy car, intended for five occupants (later, Beetles were restricted to four people in some countries), that was manufactured and marketed by German automaker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003.

The need for a people’s car (Volkswagen in German), its concept and its functional objectives were formulated by the leader of Nazi GermanyAdolf Hitler, who wanted a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for his country’s new road network (Reichsautobahn). Members of the National Socialist party, with an additional dues surcharge, were promised the first production, but the Spanish Civil War shifted most production resources to military vehicles to support the Nationalists under Francisco Franco.

Lead engineer Ferdinand Porsche and his team took until 1938 to finalise the design. Béla Barényi is credited with conceiving the original basic design for this car in 1925, notably by Mercedes-Benz, on their website, including his original technical drawing, five years before Porsche claimed to have done his initial version. The influence on Porsche’s design of other contemporary cars, such as the Tatra V570, and the work of Josef Ganz remains a subject of dispute. The result was the first Volkswagen, and one of the first rear-engined cars since the Brass Era. With 21,529,464 produced, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single platform ever made.

Although designed in the 1930s, due to World War II, civilian Beetles only began to be produced in significant numbers by the end of the 1940s. The car was then internally designated the Volkswagen Type 1, and marketed simply as the Volkswagen. Later models were designated Volkswagen 1200, 1300, 1500, 1302, or 1303, the first three indicating engine displacement, the last two derived from the model number.

The car became widely known in its home country as the Käfer (German for “beetle“, cognate with English chafer) and was later marketed under that name in Germany, and as the Volkswagen in other countries. For example, in France it was known as the Coccinelle (French for ladybug).

The original 25 hp (18.6 kW) Beetle was designed for a top speed around 100 km/h (62 mph), which would be a viable cruising speed on the Reichsautobahn system. As Autobahn speeds increased in the postwar years, its output was boosted to 36, then 40 hp (26.8, then 29.8 kW), the configuration that lasted through 1966 and became the “classic” Volkswagen motor. The Beetle gave rise to multiple variants: mainly the 1950 Type 2 ‘Bus’, the 1955 Karmann Ghia, as well as the 1961 Type 3 ‘Ponton’ and the 1968 Type 4 (411/412) family cars, ultimately forming the basis of an entirely rear-engined VW product range.

The Beetle marked a significant trend, led by Volkswagen, and then by Fiat and Renault, whereby the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout increased from 2.6 percent of continental Western Europe’s car production in 1946 to 26.6 percent in 1956. In 1959 even General Motors launched an air-cooled, rear-engined car, the Chevrolet Corvair—which also shared the Beetle’s flat engine and swing axle architecture.

Over time, front-wheel drive, and frequently hatchback-bodied cars would come to dominate the European small-car market. In 1974, Volkswagen’s own front-wheel drive Golf hatchback succeeded the Beetle. In 1994, Volkswagen unveiled the Concept One, a “retro”-themed concept car with a resemblance to the original Beetle, and in 1998 introduced the “New Beetle“, built on the contemporary Golf platform with styling recalling the original Type 1. It remained in production through 2010, and was succeeded in 2011 by the Beetle (A5), the last variant of the Beetle, which was also more reminiscent of the original Beetle. Production ceased altogether by 2019.

In the 1999 Car of the Century competition, to determine the world’s most influential car in the 20th century, the Type 1 came fourth, after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroën DS.


Benjamin Franklin’s Birthday

Benjamin Franklin, born on January 17, 1706, not only was a world-renowned statesman, inventor, and scientist, but also was fascinated by agriculture. To demonstrate the value of gypsum as fertilizer, he applied it to a field in a pattern that spelled out, “This land has been plastered.” Sure enough, clover in the fertilized area exhibited more vigorous growth.

Question of the Day

Is it true that Benjamin Franklin invented an odometer?

Yes. While Franklin (1706-90) was postmaster in Philadelphia, he created an odometer to measure postal route distances and attached the contraption to his carriage. However, other inventors preceded him.

Roman engineer Vitruvius (1st century B.C.) once described an odometer. He is generally credited as the first inventor, although some historians believe that the actual creator was Greek scientist Archimedes (c.287-212 B.C.). 1st century Greek scientist Heron (aka Hero) of Alexandria also described an odometer in his work Dioptra. Chinese scholar Zhang (aka Chang) Heng (78-139 A.D.), invented an odometer, as well. French scientist Blaise Pascal (1623-62) came up with an odometer prototype called the Pascaline, and English engineer Thomas Savery (c.1650-1715) invented an odometer for ships.

Advice of the Day

When men speak ill of thee, live so as nobody will believe them. —The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1832

Home Hint of the Day

You can protect barn boards or any other rough-finish paneling from the drying effects of a wood stove by applying a coat of equal parts boiled linseed oil and turpentine. Apply the mixture with a paintbrush.

Word of the Day


A part of the ocean near the equator, abounding in calms, squalls, and light, baffling winds, which sometimes prevent all progress for weeks; — so called by sailors. To be in the doldrums, to be in a state of listlessness ennui, or tedium.

Puzzle of the Day

When is a clock guilty of a misdemeanor?

When it strikes one.


  • Benjamin Franklin (U.S. statesman ) – 1706
  • James Madison Randolph (grandson of Thomas Jefferson; first baby born in the White House) – 1806
  • Anne Brontë (novelist) – 1820
  • Al Capone (gangster) – 1899
  • Betty White (actress) – 1922
  • Eartha Kitt (American singer ) – 1927
  • James Earl Jones (actor) – 1931
  • Shari Lewis (actress and puppeteer, best know for Lamb Chop) – 1933
  • Maury Povich (talk show host) – 1939
  • Muhammad Ali (boxer) – 1942
  • Mick Taylor (musician) – 1948
  • Andy Kaufman (comedian & actor) – 1949
  • Jim Carrey (actor) – 1962
  • Michelle Obama (U.S. First Lady) – 1964


  • Thomas Lincoln (father of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln) – 1851
  • John Baker (Canada’s last ex-slave) – 1871
  • Chang and Eng Bunker (Siamese twins) – 1874
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (19th U.S. president) – 1893
  • Camilo Jose Cela (won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature for works such as The Family of Pascual Duarte) – 2002
  • Harvey Matusow (former aide to Sen. McCarthy who was imprisoned for lying before the House of Un-American Activities) – 2002
  • Norman Kay (dubbed the Babe Ruth of bridge”“) – 2002
  • Gertrude Janeway (the last widow of a Union veteran from the Civil War) – 2003
  • Noble Willingham (actor) – 2004
  • Virginia Mayo (actress) – 2005
  • Art Buchwald (humorist) – 2007
  • Bobby Fischer (champion chess player) – 2008
  • Johnny Otis (musician; known as the godfather of R&B) – 2012


  • Andrew S. Hallidie received a patent for a cable car system– 1871
  • Meeting held to form the Professional Golfers Association– 1916
  • The first Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the United States from Germany– 1949
  • President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address on television– 1961
  • Simon and Garfunkel released their album, Sounds of Silence– 1966
  • Gary Gilmore was the first person legally executed in the U.S. after the death penalty was reinstated– 1977
  • British Telecom announced the retirement of Britain’s red telephone boxes– 1985
  • 6.7 earthquake occurred in Northridge, California– 1994


  • St. Elmo’s fire occurred in the Connecticut River Valley– 1817
  • Seventeen degrees below zero F, Millsboro, Delaware– 1893
  • Washington, D.C., had a temperature of -5 degrees F– 1982
  • Chicago, Illinois, had a temperature of -23 degrees F– 1982
  • Boulder, Colorado, had wind gusts up to 135 mph– 1982
  • Snow and hail fell in Los Angeles and Malibu, California– 2007
  • St. John’s, Newfoundland, recorded new record for most snow in one day with 30 inches (76.2 centimeter) – 2020

COURTESY www.almanac.com