Saturday, January 05, 2013


Something I learned just now: a guy got a patent on the design for the highway cloverleaf.  So I learn in Earl Swift's Big Roads (Kindle  page 101), a history of the Interstate highway system.  Per Swift, the patent-holder was "a Maryland engineer named 'Arthur Hale" and so far I've been unable to learn anything else about him; seems like after his moment of notoriety he retired behind his Steelcase desk with his slide rule and never troubled history again.

What I'd like to know is whether Hale ever got any return on his investment.  Apparently Hale had his lightbulb moment in 1916; the first actual cloverleaf wasn't actually completed in the U.S. until 1928, i.e., a year after Mort Dixon and Harry M. Wood inflicted on us published "I'm Looking Over a Four-leafed Clover," that most pestiferous of all musical mind viruses.  Swift says the designer (of the interchange, not the song) got his idea from a magazine cover showing such a novelty in Argentina.  Did the builders learn about  Hale?  Did he learn about them?   Was he still alive?

Apparently there is general agreement that the cloverleaf is outmoded today--an assertion that would surely win assent from anyone who held his heart in  his throat while trying to squeeze into the right-hand exit lane as some hotrod came shooting out of his turn behind you.   Must have been a simpler time, 1928.

The other thing I'd like to know is more about the cloverleaf as it relates to the roundabout, so far as I can tell, the dominant mode of traffic intersection control in Britain; rare in the US though we have a few in Palookaville.  Wiki has an instructive discussion, though it is a bit shy on precise dates; no patent-holder is mentioned.

And here's what must be the weirdest piece of cloverhood in human history:


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