“What’s this Gadget?”: More Mystery Photos

If you enjoy a good mystery, get ready to start sleuthing! This Friday, we will be adding a new group of mystery photos to the Library of Congress Flickr account. A portion of the glass negatives in the Harris & Ewing Collection came to us with no captions, providing many challenging photo mysteries to solve.

The newest additions to the Flickr Mystery Photos album have a theme, in that each image contains an unidentified gadget. The “gadgets” range in size from large machines to handheld instruments. The two photos below didn’t make it into the new set, but I’m still wondering: “What’s this Gadget?” (And should that toddler be touching it?)

[See Update below for more on this object.]

No caption. Photo by Harris & Ewing, circa 1940. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.28724

No caption. (See update below!) Photo by Harris & Ewing, circa 1940. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.28724

And what’s this? A camera, a telescope, some other device?

NO CAPTION. Photo by Harris & Ewing, circa 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.26282

No caption. Photo by Harris & Ewing, circa 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.26282

If you figure these mysteries out, feel free to sing out in the comments. Otherwise, use the links below to dive into the newest pool of mystery photos in the Library of Congress Flickr account on Friday!

Update: Thank you for the rapid response! Several people identified the item in the first photograph as a radial aircraft engine, and one commenter speculated it might be from the Pratt & Whitney R1830 Twin Wasp. The flying eagle logo just below center does confirm it’s a Pratt & Whitney, but I think we’re looking at the P&W R-1535 Twin Wasp, Jr. engine, based on this entry on the Pratt & Whitney website, and other photos of the engine online. Enjoy other photos in our collections related to Pratt & Whitney production.

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  1. Gene McAvoy
    October 1, 2015 at 9:27 am

    This one was incredibly obvious. It’s a 14 cyl aircraft engine. Google it and you’ll see dozens of similar pictures. Thanks for the interesting pics!

    October 1, 2015 at 9:45 am

    The first photo appears to be an airplane engine cowling.

  3. Jonathan E-W
    October 1, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I would guess that the top image is the front half of an air-cooled radial engine, commonly used on aircraft in the 1940s.

    Not an expert, but that seems very similar to a Pratt & Whitney R1830 Twin Wasp, which served on US Navy aircraft of that time period.


  4. Matvey Davidovich
    October 1, 2015 at 10:18 am

    The one on the top is almost certainly a radial engine from an aircraft. Your friends over at Air and Space will be able to give you the exact model.

  5. miki pfeffer
    October 1, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I love this! What a smart way to solve these “mysteries.”

  6. edmundo llopis
    October 1, 2015 at 11:05 am

    1st picture looks like an airplane propeller.
    2nd picture looks like a spotlight.

  7. Voxphoto
    October 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

    The squeeze bulb in the second photo suggests an astronomical camera of some kind. Could that be Henri Chr├ętien?

  8. Jay Hulbert
    October 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

    The second picture is of course the Coates-Smyth death ray developed at Oxford. Both the inventor and the only prototype were destroyed in the tragic accident that occured the second time the device was tested, and it’s never been recreated. Maybe for the best.

  9. Scott Peden
    October 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Top is a rotary aircraft engine
    bottom is a mirror telescope.

  10. michael vivian
    October 1, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    the top photo is certainly a RADIAL aircraft engine. the toddler is touching an oil transfer tube located between the Push rod tubes located between two of the cylinders. the second photo is a tough one, I suspect it’s a telescope.

  11. zal latskovich
    October 7, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    top is an obvious motor for propeller.
    Second is probably a telescope.

  12. Dalia
    May 13, 2021 at 10:37 am

    hello, I remember this small gadget that the beach people would go around and ask beach customers to pose for a picture and then the picture would be put into this tiny gadget and when you looked into it you could see the picture inside and it would be magnified. what was that little gadget called and why isn’t it still around. this was back in the year 1960’s

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