The Ethyl conflict & the media

By Bill Kovarik
Paper to the AEJMC, April 1994. 

Introduction

According to conventional wisdom, developments in science and technology have gone “largely unquestioned” until the late 20th century.[1] The publication of  Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring,  is said to have marked the beginning of environmental controversy.[2]    Recent historical reseach indicates, however, that freeswinging controversies over public health, land use and the regulation of technology are ubiquitous in history and are not recent or isolated phenomena.

Among the most misunderstood environmental disputes in history was the 1920s Ethyl controversy,  which occurred after General Motors and Standard Oil introduced a type of higher-octane gasoline with lead. After hundreds of refinery workers suffered lead poisoning, and after at least  17 died “violently insane,” public health experts from Harvard and Yale universites sharply condemned the use of leaded gasoline. The controversy was the subject of about 124 daily newspaper articles in the New York City news media between 1924 and 1926 and many hundreds of wire service reprints around the country.

By many historical  accounts this news coverage was a textbook case of sensationalism and negativity about a promising new technology.  Industry historians especially have accused the news media of “sensational publicity” and  “wild stories”  which caused “panic.” The news media indulged in printing “lurid details,” and “shocking cartoons depicting Ethyl … squeezing blood from an innocent public.” In addition, the news media was presumed to have  “invented” the term “loony gas”  for leaded gasoline. In the absence of other historical interpretations, many mainstream historians have accepted the industry perspective. However, these interpretations are not substantiated by any actual study of the news media. In fact, there were no cartoons of Ethyl putting on the squeeze and no evidence of “panic” or “wild stories.”

Research for this paper and related work[3] began as a case study of sensationalism at its worst in daily newspapers of the 1920s.  What was found instead was a news media fully aware of the importance of scientific and technological developments and greatly interested in (although not always capable of) accurate and balanced reporting of the public health questions surrounding the controversy.

This paper gives an account of the controversy as reported by the daily newspapers of New York City,  examines what historians have had to say about the role of the news media, and then provides a content analysis of the source reliance by seven major daily newspapers of New York City.  The conclusion briefly notes that the stereotypes of sensationalism have obscured the reality of how dedicated editors such as Walter Lippmann and Carr van Anda attempted to approach controversial scientific issues.

The Ethyl Controversy in the New York City News Media

Reporters could hardly have missed the chain of events occurring at the Standard Oil refinery in Bayway, N.J. in October, 1924,  just across New York harbor from what was then the world”s largest and most competitive newspaper market.  The story, as an unpublished du Pont  Corp. report said, was a “natural.” [4]

Five men who worked at the Standard refinery suddenly, one by one, went violently insane and were hospitalized.  The first  died Saturday, Oct. 25,  and the county coroner who investigated the case called the district attorney’s office.  New Jersey officials told reporters  they had never seen anything like it., and although it had something to do with the refinery, Standard Oil refused to discuss it with them.  Reporters tracked down the chief chemist of the Bayway  refinery works,  Dr. Matthew  D. Mann, who provided the following statement:  “These men probably went insane because they worked too hard.” The World noted that Mann wrote the statement after 15 minutes of deliberation;  the Times found it so extraordinary that Mann was quoted in a secondary headline on the front page.[5]  W.G. Thompson, Standard”s  consulting physician at the company’s headquarters in Manhattan, claimed that he had no knowledge of what had happened. He also insisted: “Nothing ought to be said about this matter in the public interest.”[6]

Times  and World reporters also found that workers were well aware of the danger at the Bayway plant.  Those who volunteered for higher paying jobs in the leaded gasoline works were given mock farewells and funerals. The workers (not the press)  called the leaded gasoline additive “loony gas” because it caused hallucinations and delusions of persecution.

Headlines from the first reports on Monday, Oct. 27, 1924 reflected a high level of alarm and yet did not stray from facts.  “Odd Gas Kills One, Makes Four Insane,” said the top  Times headline.The Times interviewed workers, relatives, state officials, Mann and Standard’s physician.  “Gas Madness Stalks Plant; 2 Die, 3 Crazed,” read the headline in the World, which scooped the Times on the second worker’s death. The Herald Tribune headlined a story “Mystery Gas Crazes 12 in Laboratory,” following up on the new additions to the hospital sick list that the Times and World missed.

Aside from Mann and Thompson, Standard officials wouldn’t discuss the mystery gas, and the news media reflected great uncertainty. New Jersey  officials were quoted as saying the poison was “ethylene” and “ethyl chlorid.”  The Times double checked this information and cautioned that ethylene gas was an unlikely poison as it had been proven safe as an anaesthetic. This attention to scientific detail is consistent with Times managing editor Carr Van Anda”s reputation as an expert in scientific affairs. The World and most other newspapers simply reported “ethylene” gas was the cause of the “gas madness.” The Herald Tribune came the closest, reporting “ethylchlorid” as the cause. [7]

On Monday, Oct. 28, 1924, the second day of the controversy, Thompson continued to be the only Standard spokesman. At a press conference at Standard”s headquarters at 26 Broadway,   Thompson confirmed that two men were dead and five others seriously ill as a result of chemical “experiments” at Bayway.  He said that the chemical poison was some kind of gasoline additive, be said he could not tell reporters its exact nature, nor could Standard tell local physicians. Thompson also said  Standard “has given a great deal of attention to safety measures and no expense has ever been spared to safeguard employees against illness or accidents.”[8]  Although Thompson feigned ignorance, he knew all about the additive. He was  the chairman of a committee of company doctors from Standard, du Pont  Corp. and General Motors specifically charged with investigating previous deaths at G.M.”s  Dayton, Ohio plant and du Pont”s Deepwater, New Jersey plants.[9]

Thompson’s stonewalling approach contradicted the public information model known to have been advocated by Standard public relations consultant Ivy L. Lee.[10] It also backfired the same day,  as newspapers heard from Yendall Henderson, a Yale University professor who identified the compound as tetraethyl lead, a gasoline additive being widely sold under the brand name “Ethyl.” Henderson was acknowledged as a leading scientific expert on respiration, auto exhaust and gas poisoning. In a telegram made public by the Workers Health Bureau, Henderson said that the mystery gas was “one of the most dangerous things in the country today.”  A car with problems on Fifth Avenue could “…cause gas poisoning and mania to persons along the avenue.”  Someone exposed to the gas would not know it from the odor, and “the damage may take place later,” Henderson said.[11]

In the initial confusion, Henderson had believed that the public would be exposed to  full-strength tetraethyl lead, which had driven refinery workers violently insane, instead of a blend diluted 1,000 to one in gasoline.  This inaccurate view had been formed two years earlier, when Henderson had learned about  G.M.’s  plans to market tetraethyl lead. In discussions about consulting work which never panned out, G.M. officials had told Henderson in 1922 that they were going to use full strength tetraethyl lead in a second gas tank to be installed in every car.[12]  Henderson realized his mistake a few days after the first news articles came out and sent another telegram revising his view of the immediate danger. The  World quoted him saying that if all cars used leaded gasoline, a ton of lead powder would be discharged on Fifth Avenue per day. This alone would create slow lead poisoning and represented a grave threat to public health, he insisted.

With Standard stonewalling, one newspaper turned to published scientific information. On Tuesday, October 28, the Herald Tribune noted that, some 10 months beforehand, G.M. “s Thomas Midgley had presented an American Chemical Society paper on the novel dangers and benefits of tetraethyl lead. “He said at the time that the dipping of one”s finger into … tetraethyl lead brought on insomnia and  loss of appetite, and its further seeping into the body produced wild hallucinations of persecution, the nature of which never varied.”[13] This was the only time  that newspapers consulted scientific papers during the 1924 – 1926 controversy.

The next day,  Wednesday,  October  29,  1924, the Herald Tribune reported that local authorities were beginning to figure out what had happened even though Standard would not speak with them.  “Little by little the Union County (N.J.) officials are picking their way through the maze of heretofore contradictory assertions that followed the disclosures of the wholesale poisoning,” the Herald Tribune said.[14]    Lead poisoning from tetraethyl lead remained the leading suspect in the search for chemical culprits, although the local New Jersey medical examiner told several reporters he had never known lead poisoning to act so violently.   Meanwhile, victims had been rushed to Reconstruction Hospital and put under Thompson”s care in a closed-off ward. No information about the ward was ever printed, except for official statements about treatments being attempted to clean the lead out of the workers’ blood. There were no “lurid details” of life on the wards in any of the news accounts. Nor was there any follow up, then or in months to come, on the condition of the 44 Bayway men who survived but who may have endured life-long brain damage.

One reason for Standard’s silence was that its board of directors was frozen in fear.  “They were in a blue funk over the whole thing, and the directors were very much afraid about it,” recalled automotive inventor Charles F. Kettering 30 years later. “They didn’t know what was going to happen to them.”[15]  As research director for General Motors, Ketting and his assistant Thomas Midgley had invented tetraethyl lead in 1921 as a way to raise the anti-knock quality (octane rating) of gasoline.  Kettering was in Europe searching for sources of bromide and considering less toxic alternatives to leaded gasoline when the controversy broke out in New York.  As it was impossible for him to return quickly, he insisted that Midgley go to New York City to face the press.  Authorities in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and New England were in the process of banning leaded gasoline.  The  bright future for G.M. “s  new invention lay in ruins, and five men were known to be dead.  The effect was “disaster — sudden, swift and complete,” said du Pont’s unpublished report.[16]

Midgley rushed to New York and on Thursday, October 30, he was introduced to a press conference at Standard’s headquarters. One of the first things Midgley did was to pour a thick stream of a clear liquid over his hands and then rubbed the excess off with a handkerchief, according to the Times.[17]  Then he held a bottle of liquid under his nose “for more than a minute,” the Herald Tribune said, and “insisted that the fumes could have no such effect as was observed in the victims if inhaled only a short time.” Midgley insisted the injuries were “caused by the heedlessness of workers in failing to follow instructions” rather than by the danger of the poison itself.[18]  Of course, if Midgley’s ACS paper was accurate, he would have known better than to pour the substance over his hands. Quite possibly, he was using pure glycerine rather than tetraethyl lead.

Reporters asked Midgley whether it was true that other workers had been hospitalized and had died in Dayton, Ohio. He acknowledged that two deaths had occurred in April, 1924,  and that over 50 G.M. workers had been “under observation” for the effects of lead poisoning. (He did not say that he had been one of them).  He also acknowledged that the du Pont corporation had also had “similar problems.”  Standard’s Thompson was also present at the press conference and pointed out that tetraethyl lead was used only in diluted amounts in gasoline, and could not have the same effects on motorists as it did on refinery workers. Historians later believed this point to have been in dispute, but it was apparently obvious at the time.   Standard”s formal statement that day read:

Tetraethyl lead is a substance first known to chemists in 1854. Since that time it frequently has been experimented with in chemical laboratories where it was known to be, in concentrated form, poison. It is a compound of metallic lead and one of the alcohol chemical series. Its recently discovered use for greatly promoting the efficiency of gasoline engines has let to its manufacture on a commercial scale through processes still more or less in a stage of development. This has occasioned unforeseen accidents which as processes and apparatus are further perfected should be avoidable in the future.

One of these has been the sudden escape of fumes from large retorts and the inhalation of such fumes gives rise to acute symptoms, particularly congestion of the brain, producing a condition not unlike delirium tremens. Although there is lead in the compound, these acute symptoms are wholly unlike those of chronic lead poisoning such as painters often have.

There is no obscurity whatsoever about the effects of the poison, and characterizing the substance as “mystery gas” or “insanity gas” is grossly misleading… It should be emphasized that the product as destined for final use in gasoline engines has to be greatly diluted, usually with 1,000 parts of gasoline. This extremely dilute product has been for more than a year in public use in over 10,000 filling stations and garages and no ill effects thus far have been reported.”[19]

The statement did little to allay suspicion.  The mystery surrounding the gas was, after all, a result of the company’s own failure to communicate, not only with the press, but with public health officials, doctors and other state and local New Jersey officials. There were other minor discrepancies; for example, tetraethyl lead was not the subject of previous experiments  — it was considered to be a scientific curiosity.[20] More importantly, there was a strange discrepancy between  Midgley inhaling tetraethyl lead fumes and the statement in the press release about “the sudden escape of fumes from large retorts.” If the fumes were not harmful enough to suddenly poison Midgley at the press conference,  then there must have been not one but many “sudden escapes” of fumes.[21]  Reporters may have wondered at the contradiction, but their skepticism emerged obliquely. For example, the Herald Tribune quoted Reconstruction Hospital doctors saying “the violent insanity and nervousness that gripped the sufferers (was) brought on by the gradual infiltration of lead into their systems.”

In fact, later documents show that workers were consistently exposed to heavy lead fumes throughout their work shifts because of the way Standard’s Bayway process was designed. Du Pont engineers who had visited the Bayway refinery in September, 1924 were  “greatly shocked at the manifest danger of the equipment and methods [and] at inadequate safety precautions.”  Although they protested that Standard’s safety precautions were “grossly inadequate,”  the du Pont engineer’s warnings were “waved aside.” [22]  Later, in a 1950s anti-trust suit, a General Motors attorney would summarize the roles of Standard Oil and the news media in the Ethyl  controversy:

“They [Standard] put up a plant that lasted two months and killed five people and practically wiped out the rest of the plant…. The furor over it was so great that the newspapers took it up, and they misrepresented it, and instead of realizing that the danger was in the manufacture, they got to thinking that the danger was exposure of the public in the use of it, and the criticism of its use was so great that it was banned in many cities and they had to close down the manufacture and sale of Ethyl….  [23]

While Henderson initially misunderstood the hazardous nature of the fuel being used by consumers, as noted above, it is not at all true that the danger of manufacturing was consistently misrepresented as a danger to the public. Scientists were concerned that  diluted lead in gasoline would pose a cumulative threat, as is noted below.

The news media usually took statements by any scientist at face value. When controversy arose, the usual method was to report, without comment or contradiction, one side’s claims and the other side’s responses.  When When Standard and G.M. scientists claimed that every precaution had been taken to protect workers, journalists reported it. When industry spokesmen said that the “mystery gas” was merely “Ethyl,” which was nothing new to science; that it was safe for motorists; and that Standard, G.M. and du Pont were simply trying to improve the efficiency of automobiles, it was dutifully reported.

By the same token,  most New York newspapers provided some space for critics of Standard, G.M. and Ethyl. For example, most carried some coverage of  a speech by Yandell Henderson in late April, 1925. The issue, Henderson said, was that  “breathing day by day of the fine dust from automobiles will produce chronic lead poisoning on a large scale…” The problem was “… the greatest single question in the field of public health which has ever faced the American public,” Henderson said. “Perhaps if leaded gasoline kills enough people soon enough to impress the public, we may get from Congress a much needed law and appropriation for control of harmful substances other than foods….”  The question, Henderson said, was whether “commercial interests are to be allowed to subordinate every other consideration to that of profit. It is not a matter of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars, but literally billions.”[24]

G.M.’s Midgley challenged the idea that commercial interests were all that was at stake in the fight over leaded gasoline, and the news media again dutifully reported his comments. Leaded gasoline had been developed after seven years of scientific work on the problem of engine knock.  “Knock is the one important thing which has for a generation past prevented the building of more important automotive engines,” Midgley said.[25]   In a speech to chemists a few weeks before, he had insisted that  G.M.’s invention was indispensible. “So far as science knows at the present time, tetraethyl lead is the only material available  which can bring about these [anti-knock] results, which are of vital importance to the continued economical use by the general public of all automotive equipment… [26]

The conclusions from scientists on both sides of the spectrum were never challenged or weighed in any substantial sense. Although the World ran an large editorial feature on May 3, 1925, considering the various arguments, it was based on interviews with Henderson and Midgley, and not on any deeper research into the scientific questions.  It quoted Henderson as calculating that with cars burning two gallons of fuel per hour, the deposit of lead on a New York street would be in about a pound per hour per block. The dusty rain of lead on Fifth Avenue alone, Henderson said, would be 300 pounds per day. Midley did not dispute the assertion, but said the dust would be washed away.   The article also gave readers background on the two protagonists, noting for example that  Midley was a chemist and that Henderson  had reluctantly helped develop poison gas in World War I.[27] However, it did not give readers any way to seriously consider the technological problem or the alternatives.

While the World made sure that critics were given ample space for their views, the

Times  kept track of the details of the controversy,  printing far more basic factual information than any other newspaper. Yet the Times also made sure that supporters of Ethyl leaded gasoline in the industry had their say, and printedfar more information from industry.

The continual point – counterpoint journalism in the Times and World was evidence that tremendous uncertainty surrounded the leaded gasoline issue. Because of the uncertainty, the U.S. Surgeon General called a conference on May 20, 1925 in Washington, D.C. to hear from all parties to the dispute. Present in a federal auditorium several blocks southeast of the capitol were representatives of universities, labor groups, consumer groups, the oil industry, the auto industry,  and government agencies.  Also crowding into the auditorium were a dozen news reporters. The news peg of most articles focused on the announcement that the Surgeon General would form an investigating committee, but as might be expected, each newspaper had a different view of what was significant.  The Times attempted to quote from many different points of view, noting an especially dramatic confrontation between Frank Howard of Standard Oil and Grace Burnham of the Workers Health Bureau.  As the Times reported it, Howard said: “Present day civilization rests on oil and motors… We do not feel justified in giving up what has come to the industry like a gift from heaven on the possibility that a hazard may be involved in it…”  A few moments later, Grace Burnham stood up said: “It was no gift of heaven for the 11 who were killed by it and the 149 who were injured.” (Actually, 17 men had been killed and many more had been injured).  The  Times also briefly took notice of Alice Hamilton who “urged the men connected with the industry to put aside the lead compound entirely and try to find something else to get rid of the knock.”[28]

The World’s May 21 story described the decision to name a committee and discussed the “attack” on “doped fuel.”  The story did not include the Howard – Burnham confrontation over the “gift of heaven,” and unlike the Times, the World did not attempt to provide an overview of the conference. It merely piled up facts about one aspect of the event — the “damning” evidence from the Columbia University study that was presented at the conference. In its next story, on May 22, the World emphasized the search for a substitute to tetraethyl lead, quoting Alice Hamilton: “It would be foolish to talk of the industrial value of tetraethyl lead, when there is a health hazard involved. Men who could discover the fuel value of tetraethyl certainly could invent or discover something equally efficient and in no way dangerous. American chemists can do it if they will.”  Hamilton’s idea that substitutes could be found flatly contradicted Midgley’s  assertion that there were no substitutes for tetraethyl lead. Readers of the era never learned which side was telling the truth about this vital point.

News coverage fell off substantially after the Surgeon General’s conference, and a few articles in January, 1926 noted that the Public Health Service had found “no good reason” for prohibiting Ethyl leaded gasoline.  The articles reported a cautionary note by members of the committee of experts about the need for more research, but the committee’s internal controversy over the methods and conclusions in its report never surfaced.

Portrayal of the News Media in Histories of  the Ethyl Controversy

The oil and automotive industry’s uniformly negative views of the news media’s role in the Ethyl controversy have been repeated so frequently that they may have influenced mainstream and labor historians. Similar phrases and patterns seem to have been adopted from one work to the next without benefit of research, giving the overall impression of a textbook case of newspaper sensationalism when this was clearly not the case.

Leaded gasoline became phenomenally successful in the 1930s and 40s, appearing in virtually all major brand gasoline sold in the U.S. In the early 1940s, on the crest of this success, memoirs about discovery of Ethyl gasoline began to be written.  In 1943, Thomas A. Boyd, a lab assistant to Midgley, wrote   “The Early History of Ethyl Gasoline,” an extensive overview of the research and development efforts beginning in 1916 and continuing through the 1920s. [29]   It is  highly defensive about the question of safety precautions for workers, claiming that all efforts were made to warn and guard against poisoning.[30] Boyd also dealt extensively with the public side of the controversy:

There was front page publicity in the New York papers and in almost every newspaper in the country. A story in the New York Times was headlined:  ‘Odd Gas Kills One, Makes Four Insane’ …  Some more expressive writer in another paper dubbed the stuff “looney gas…” In contrast to the criticism and adverse propaganda in the popular press, the technical journals almost universally took an impartial or unprejudiced position. Dr. H.E. Howe, editor of Industrial and Chemical Engineering, for instance, published in the Dec. 1924 issue of that journal a fine editorial on the subject. Also, Dr. H.C. Parmelee, editor of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, tried to help calm the hysteria of the moment about Ethyl Gasoline. But nevertheless, the propaganda continued, fostered chiefly in the press by the New York World, but also by some labor union publications… So great was the effect of the events and of the flood of propaganda upon the public and upon the boards of health that in May, 1925, Surgeon General Cumming felt compelled to call a conference …

Note that Boyd said that the conference was a result of both the “effect of events” and the “flood of propaganda.” Later industry-oriented accounts would omit the former and emphasize the latter.   From the drafts and papers assembled for the memoirs, Ethyl and General Motors public relations staff began assembling a compilation called the “Green Book” and entitled “Historical Summary: Ethyl Corporation, 1923 -48.”  It was never printed, but the assertion that GM and Ethyl were under attack by the press  shows up several times.  “Many outsiders freely predicted that the tragedy meant the end of the company,” said one version. “The New York World conducted a campaign of publicity against the public sale of gasoline containing the company”s antiknock compound and labelled it  ‘loony gas.’” [31]

The controversy was also downplayed in scientific circles.   Ethyl chemist Graham Edgar noted in a 1951 American Chemical Society paper: “At one time, many doubts existed over the safety even of gasoline containing [lead], but 25 years of extensive study and experience have proven [it]… safe as normally used.[32]

The first short public account of the discovery of Ethyl in the years following the controversy was written  Boyd and appeared in 1950 in a Society of Automotive Engineers paper entitled “Pathfinding in Fuels and Engines.”[33] Soon afterward, a pamphlet entitled “The Trail of the Arbutus,”[34]  highlighted the heroic view of the discovery of leaded gasoline, beginning with the first discussions about engine knock in 1916 between Kettering and Midgley and culminating with the discovery itself.

A second and somewhat more detailed account of the discovery of Ethyl was written by G.M. public relations staff writer Stanton P. Nickerson in 1954. The history brought to light many of the positive details that had not been known about Ethyl, including the collaboration of chemists at MIT, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and others, and the investigation of alternatives such as an unnamed “synthetic knock-free fuel from cellulose.” Like many others in Ethyl, Standard and GM, Nickerson took a dim view of the news media.

Newspaper publicity in May of 1925 focused public attention on several deaths caused by lead poisoning among those exposed to tetraethyl lead during its manufacture and handling… [Quoting Dr. Robert A. Kehoe, a physician consulting for Ethyl] “the major significance of the events of May, 1925 lay in the fact that they created in the public mind an apprehension concerning hazards associated with the distribution and use of leaded gasoline which, while wholly unjustified, was so great and so widespread as to require official action on the part of the health authorities of the U.S. government.”[35]

Many company officials sincerely believed that they were under attack by the news media.  At one point, for example,  Irenee du Pont told a federal court in 1952: “The newspaper accounts got a lot of people stirred up and confused over the danger.” [36]   Earl W. Webb, president of Ethyl Corp., had the following exchange with an attorney at the same anti-trust suit on April 9, 1953:  [37]

Q:  Mr. Webb, on assuming  presidency of Ethyl Gasoline Corp. [in 1925]   you realized the most important problem was the health situation.

A:  There had been unfavorable publicity about it.

Q: They called it “loony gas,” did they not?

A: The New York World did.

Clearly, corporate executives and public relations writers felt that the press in general and the World in particular had treated them unfairly, and that their “health situation” was the creation of the unfavorable publicity.  They also believed that the New York World had coined the term “loony gas” when in fact, workers had invented the term and it first appeared in the New York Times.  (The term was used in only 12 of 124 headlines studied during this period, only two of which were in the World).

The first biography  of Charles F. Kettering, written in 1957 by T.A. Boyd, was called  Professional Amateur.  Boyd based the work on the series of unpublished memoirs   and his own memories, capturing some of Kettering’s jocularity and the sense of adventure he brought to his scientific research. Boyd gave a very brief account of the  controversy, reducing it to  “concerns of doctors” that were met by “a long and thorough investigation.”[38]

In a 1961, a  biography of Charles F. Kettering, Boss Ket was written by his niece, Rosamond Young.  The biography included a lengthy account of the discovery of Ethyl gasoline, building on the memoirs and public relations accounts at General Motors and Ethyl Corp. The biography echoed the romantic and heroic view of the discovery along with a disdain for the role of the press:

News of the deaths spread through the country like lightning. Everywhere people who had used Ethyl gasoline in their automobiles became frightened. Further hysteria was created when the fact was published that deaths from lead poisoning had occurred earlier at Dayton and at the du Pont Deepwater plant…. Dr. Yandell Henderson, a Yale University expert, declared that breathing exhaust fumes from Ethyl gasoline attacked the brain and nerves, causing delirium, paralysis and death. “Loony gas” as the papers labeled it, became notorious overnight… Midge [Thomas Midgley] made a trip to New York during the investigations. Although he demonstrated that Henderson”s statements were false by washing his hands in tetraethyl lead in the presence of reporters, the wild stories continued. It was useless for him to point out that the fatalities had been caused by heedlessness of the workers and that ethyl was harmless when properly handled. [39]

Young provides no evidence of frightened people or of hysteria, and does not say exactly which “wild stories” continued or even why she considered them to be wild. It is also interesting that she blames workers for “heedlessness” to workplace hazards.

Boss Ket was published the same year as the definitive and ostensibly scholarly industry history of oil, Williamson and Daum”s The American Petroleum Industry. The work  is exhaustive in many details; but dealing with the Ethyl controversy, it merely notes that tetraethyl lead sales had been halted in 1925.  Again, no description of “panic” is given, and the history is flatly inaccurate regarding the number of workers who died:

The immediate cause [of the halt in sales] was a report of 45 cases of lead poisoning, with four fatalities, at Jersey Standard”s pilot plant for the ethyl chloride process at its Bayway refinery. The subsequent publication of findings by the Bureau of Mines from extensive tests that no health hazard existed from the exhaust of leaded gasoline did not curb the panic. Investigations by a committee appointed by Surgeon General Hugh S. Cumming finally cleared the way to resumption of sales a year later…” (after handling precautions were developed).[40]

Perhaps the first serious account of the incident is found in Gerald Zilg’s 1974  history of E.I. du Pont de Nemours; but Zilg was less than accurate in considering the news media and public reaction. He claimed that workers died from a lead compound that “newspapers promptly condemned as ‘loony gas.’”  Zilg also said “the country was in a furor” and that “federal intervention was necessary to avoid a national panic.”[41]

Joseph Pratt noted in a 1980 paper that environmental discussions of the 1970s about water pollution, leaded gasoline and refinery safety were taking place without reference to their long history. He described the events leading up to the leaded gasoline controversy:

A series of accidents involving tetraethyl lead catapulted debate over the new product from the internal correspondence of government agencies onto the front pages of newspapers throughout the nation… As the incident at Three Mile Island altered the context of debates on nuclear safety in 1979, so the highly publicized accident at Bayway pushed the discussion of the possible health effects of tetraethyl lead into a broader, more public forum, giving the opponents of the product added ammunition for renewed attack. The publicity created by newspaper headlines such as “Tetraethyl lead in victim”s brain:” and by magazine articles such as the Nation”s  “Standard Oil”s Death Factories” and the Literary Digest”s  ”Insanity Gas” helped create a national concern over leaded gasoline. [42]

Althought Pratt’s history is generally insightful,  the  New York Times November 13, 1924 story about lead found in the brain at an autopsy is hardly representative of Times coverage; nor are the other headlines representative of general trends.  Pratt also takes a politically utilitarian and relatively shallow view of the news media in that it “gave” opponents ammunition. Didn’t the news media also “give” proponents ammunition?

A  history of Ethyl Corp. written in 1983 by Joseph C. Robert  focused in part on the discovery of Ethyl leaded gasoline by Charles Kettering and  researchers T.A. Boyd and Thomas Midgley. Robert discussed the technical problem behind finding and developing anti-knock gasolines, adding very little not already available in Boyd and Young”s biographies.  Like them, Robert also blamed journalists for fanning the flames of controversy:

The tragedies [of the dead workers] provided the journalists covering the event with an excuse for coining the phrase “looney gas” which for a long time clung to gasoline containing the new additive. Newspapers in the U.S. and abroad gave sensational publicity to the Bayway story, picturing in lurid detail the agonies of the ill and dying.[43]

Another important account written the same year was Stuart Leslie’s 1983 biography  Boss Kettering, which  devoted a chapter to Kettering’s study of anti-knock fuels. Leslie focused primarily on the discovery of leaded gasoline and its context in the general fear of an oil shortage and associated long-range automotive engineering decisions. The story of the discovery followed the “trail of the arbutus” saga in greater detail than had been available before and mentioned alternatives to Ethyl leaded gasoline for the first time in any history. Also, Leslie used publicity as a signifier of the controversy’s  depth and vigor.  “Headlines dubbed leaded gasoline as “Looney Gas” and shocking cartoons depicted Ethyl as a greedy giant squeezing blood from an innocent public.”[44]  Although Leslie’s biography  is exemplary in many respects, the description of the public controversy is  impressionistic, not factual. Moreover, the cartoons in question have not been located.[45]    David Hounshell and John Smith”s 1988 book about the du Pont Corp., Science and Corporate Strategy, briefly mentioned the public controversy, inaccurately stating that health authorities only considered banning tetraethyl lead:

Newspapers across the country, but particularly the New York World, detailed the horrible effects of loony gas. Public health authorities in several states considered banning the use of tetraethyl lead. Deaths had occurred earlier, but none had received the publicity of the Standard (Bayway) incident… [46]

A labor history that paid more attention to the public controversy was David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz” 1989 book Dying for Work, that contained two chapters on the Ethyl imbroglio. Although generally accurate and relatively well informed about the performance of the news media, Dying for Work did repeat the canard that the poisonings were “due to what the newspapers called “loony gas.”" The authors also accepted the premise that the elimination of engine knock with tetraethyl lead “allowed for the development of the automobile essentially as we know it today.”[47]  (In fact, alternatives were available).

In a 1992 Mother Jones article on the modern impacts of the Ethyl Corp., journalist Nicholas Regush recalled the 1924 controversy as leaving “at least five dead and 35 others suffering from tremors, palsies and hallucinations … The press soon dubbed the substance ‘loony gas.’” [48]

From this summary, it should be clear that historians have been reading from the same script when it comes to the news media’s reports about this environmental controversy.  Even the Ethyl Corp.’s worst critics have been deeply affected by the industry view of its history. It is important to emphasize that, aside from the contemporary media, the above histories are all that existed, and until very recently, the company viewpoint about the Ethyl controversy was the only viewpoint available in print.  Perhaps as a result, a spate of  critical histories about the oil industry  written in the 1970s and 1980s completely missed the Ethyl controversy. At a time when interest in the oil industry was resurgent and when the public health problems of leaded gasoline were again being debated,  an historical vacuum prevailed.  Carl Solberg”s  Oil Power, a highly critical history of oil industry manipulation of politics, economics and foreign policy,  described Ethyl  as “Kettering”s magic antiknock fluid” and followed Young”s account of the controversy to the letter .[49] The Ethyl controversy is not even mentioned in  The Control of Oil by U.S. Senate staff attorney John M. Blair, nor does it appear in  Anthony Sampson”s The Seven Sisters,  James Ridgeway”s Powering Civilization or, surprisingly,  Daniel Yergin”s Pulitzer prize-winning history,  The Prize.[50]

This brief historiography demonstrates two things:  First, industries have tremendous power to shape their own histories, and often the contemporary news media is the only source of an alternative perspective. Secondly, the history of the news media’s performance in early environmental controversies can be easily misunderstood if casual stereotypes of sensationalism are accepted and real research is not performed.

Content Analysis of News about the Ethyl Controversy

>We have seen that news coverage of the Ethyl controversy in the leading newspapers of New York city — the Times , the World\,  the Herald Tribune, the Journal and the the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, presented both the industry and the public health side of the story. Yale professor Yandell Henderson,  recognized as an expert by industry scientists and public health scientists,  had seen a potential danger to the public. For the news media to ignore his views and print nothing in the “public interest” (as a Standard Oil spokesman requested) would have been unthinkable and irresponsible. Certainly, all industry spokesmen had a chance to present their side of the story, and in all but the World newspaper, they successfully obtained the largest portion of the copy.

Industrialists, historians and editors at the World itself all concluded that the  World played a leading role in “crusading” against Ethyl gasoline. Yet  its news accounts were accurate, factually oriented and “objective,” in that they did not reflect outright personal biases of the writer or the editor.  Certainly differences in tone, style, source selection and basic political orientation were visible between the World and the  Times.  Also, the World  occasionally used the term “crusade” to describe its approach to the Ethyl controversy, although this may have been something of an anachronism since none of the articles had an editorial tone.  Generally speaking,  both newspapers approached the issue with a basic commitment to fairness and the public interest.

Perhaps most irritating to industry,  the World gave dissident scientific voices far more credibility and viewed industry scientists more skeptically than the Times.  The difference can be graphically demonstrated through a simple exercise in  content analysis of source reliance in the Ethyl controversy.   The selection of sources is one way that the news media “wield enormous gatekeeping responsibility,” said one researcher in a review of sources quoted about the 1987 Wall Street financial crash.[51] Source selectivity has also been used to evaluate news coverage about illegal drugs in the 1970s.[52] Despite its potential usefulness, it has not been widely employed for historical content analysis.

The seven newspapers considered in this analysis represent the broad spectrum of the New York city press in the 1920s era. The New York Times, stolid and ostensibly dispassionate; the World, a liberal intellectual newspaper without much depth in science; the  New York Journal , which along with the American was William Randolph Hearst”s sensational subway tabloid newspaper; the Herald-Tribune, the recently merged and still-shaky partnership of Horace Greeley”s Tribune and James Gordon Bennett”s Herald; the Sun, an aging relic of the 19th century; the Daily News, more concerned with beauty pageants and murders than scientific controversies; and the small but fiesty Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Specialized daily newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Worker were omitted from the content analysis. The New York Daily Graphic and the American were the only major daily newspapers not studied because no archives of the papers exist for the time period in question.[53]

The content analysis included 124 articles printed about the Ethyl controversy during the 15-month period of October  27, 1924 through Jan 20, 1926. The Times alone printed 51 articles, by far the largest number of articles; the  World printed 24 articles, the Journal 15 articles, and the others covered only highlights of the news, printing six to 12 articles each. Although the World printed fewer articles than the Times,  they tended to be twice as long, resulting in about the same amount of coverage between the two papers.

Methodology

Three independent coders measured the text of the articles and noted the apparent source of the information in inches or halves of inches.  For example, if the article quoted an official of the New Jersey health department, it was assumed that the official was the source, and the source was noted as such. In only one case was this problematic: the Journal  plagiarized large volumes of its material verbatim from the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. For the purposes of a content analysis it is best to conclude that the Journal editor”s source reliance is reflected in the copy  as it is, notwithstanding wholesale plagiarism.

Coders were instructed to measure the text  of the article with a ruler and to note the column inches of copy provided to categories of sources. For example,   industry affiliated sources included General Motors, du Pont, Standard Oil and Ethyl Corp., while university sources included  Yandell Henderson of Yale; Alice Hamilton, Cecil Drinker and David Edsall of Harvard; Frederick Flynn and others from Columbia. If no source was apparent, the information was attributed to background / unknown. The measurement for column inches was converted into a figure for total number of words by adjusting for the number of words found in a representative column inch. This  adjustment allowed an equal comparison despite differences between the typesetting styles of the seven newspapers. It was also necessary in order to adjust for the various magnifications with which copies of microfilmed articles were made in various archives.

The measurement for inter-coder reliability followed standard procedures.  Each coder measured at least 20 articles that had been measured by other coders, for a total overlap of over 30 percent.  The sums of the differences between coders in assigning adjusted column inches to categories were divided by the number of  inches measured by both coders. The inter-coder reliability factor of 84.4 percent and 85.9 percent was within the acceptable range.

Findings of the Content Analysis

The most striking result of the content analysis involves the difference between the investment of credibility in scientific sources between the Times and the World. The volume of coverage by the two newspapers is similar, but the frequency of publication and distribution of source reliance is remarkable different. While the Times printed 51 articles during the crisis period, the articles averaged 6.3 inches in length, while the World printed 24 articles with average lengths of over 15 inches.

The  charts show the contrast between the source reliance of the newspapers.  Charts No. 1 and No. 2 show that the Times relied most heavily on industry sources, devoting almost 7,000 words to information from General Motors, du Pont, Standard Oil Co. and Ethyl Corp, for a total of 36 percent of all coverage.  The Times also relied heavily on state and local government sources, giving them over 5000 words, for a total of 26 percent of coverage.  University scientists were given a smaller amount of space, amounting to about 3,000 words or about 17 percent of the total.   In contrast, the World relied quite heavily on university scientists, citing them in over 9,000 words of coverage, or 42 percent, while giving industry only 5000 words (26 percent) and government only 3,000 words (19 percent).  Thus, the Times provided readers with far more industry-sourced information than the World, but  the World included much more university-derived information than the Times.

Chart No. 2 shows the percentage of each paper”s coverage and compares it to an overall average. Clearly, the highest industry source reliance was found at the Times, with the lowest reliance on university sources at the Herald Tribune.

Chart No. 3 (not available here) is simply another cut at the information in Chart No. 1, taking the categories of sources in comparison. Chart No. 3 also isolates federal officials from state and local government officials. Again, there is a striking contrast between the coverage of the New York Times and the New York World in terms of source reliance.

In summary, the World gave university scientists three times more space than did the New York Times and far more than the other newspapers. The World’s  articles were longer and much more likely to provide detailed information on the university public health experts’ views of leaded gasoline.  Other newspapers, such as the Sun and the Daily Eagle, attempted to balance industry and university sources, but the Herald Tribune virtually ignored the university sources and relied heavily on industry and medical officials.

Conclusion

Industry historians who have accused the New York World of sensationalism in this early environmental controversy have omitted even the most rudimentary historical research.  As a result,  they have inadvertantly misrepresented the nature of this early environmental controversy.  There were no bloody cartoons or “lurid details.”  However, there was a newspaper which gave industry critics a prominent position on the news agenda.  That industry historians have passed along unfounded charges of sensationalism for so long demonstrates how easily the press can be scapegoated.

Several years after the Ethyl controversy faded, Walter Lippmann wrote to Alice Hamilton about another brewing environmental controversy, this one involving female  workers exposed to radium.  “We would be able to do something effective only if we were supplied with the necessary technical information of which we have none, of course, ourselves.”[54]   Lippmann’s virtual abdication of expertise is problematic. There were resources in the public library that could have helped reporters understand such controversies. In the Ethyl controversy, there were Midgley or Kettering’s published scientific papers,  General Motors’ patents, Scientific American articles on fuels other than gasoline. Thus, instead of quoting industry officials claiming there were no substitutes, and balancing with the claim by public health scientists that there must be some substitute, the debate could have been broadened by checking books and technical journals held in any major library.[55]

The Ethyl controversy was a case where the news media mistakenly believed that the issues had become too complex for their resources. As a result, they surrendered their independent perspective to the presumed safety of a false balance between conflicting points of view.  Each newspaper attempted the balance by its own political guidelines.  The conservative Times printed more from sources within industry; the liberal World printed more from university based public health scientists. Yet the agendas were narrowly focused because both newspapers lacked even a modest amount of expertise in the scientific fields in question and relied on outside expertise to frame the issues. Both newspapers accepted their subordinate expertise and the premise that industrial progress could not be halted on sentimental grounds. When they both accepted the idea that Ethyl was the only available anti-knock additive, and did no research on competing products,  the case was prematurely closed.  It would take another 50 years for leaded gasoline’s impact on public health to once again become controversial and find its place on the national policy agenda.

References

[1]  Dorothy Nelkin,  ed., Controversy: Politics of Technical Decisions (London: Sage Publications, 1979), p. 9.

[2]  Nelson Smith and Leonard J. Theberge, Energy Coverage Media Panic (New York: Longman, 1983), p. 142. Also, see ; Edith Efron,  The Apocalyptics  (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), p. 30; Rothman, S., and Lichter, R., “The Media, Elite Conflict and Risk Perception in Nuclear Energy Policy,” American Political Science Association (Washington, D.C., Aug. 1986), p. 1.

[3] Bill Kovarik, “The Ethyl Controversy: the News Media and the Public Health Debate over Leaded Gasoline,” 1924 to 1926, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Maryland, 1993.

[4] N. P. Wescott, Origins and Early History of the Tetraethyl Lead Business, June 9, 1936,  Du Pont Corp. Report No. D-1013, Longwood MS Group 10, Series A, 418-426, G. M. Anti-Trust Suit,  Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, Del.,  p. 22. (Hereafter cited as Wescott, Origins and Early History).

[5] The reporters may not have known that Mann was also suffering a milder form of the same insanity. “Chief Chemist Escapes As ‘Loony Gas’ Victim,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle November  2, 1924,  p. 1.  The article simply  says that Mann had been among those hospitalized but was by then probably out of danger from the most acute stage of lead poisoning.  Since Mann must have been poisoned before the plant closed,  he must have been suffering lead intoxication at the time of the interview.

[6] “Odd Gas Kills One, Makes Four Insane,” N.Y. Times, Oct. 27, 1924,  p. 1.

[7] In fact, it was ethyl anti-knock compounds being made by a Standard process using chloride, which was Standard”s patented improvement over the General Motors bromide process. This improvement was Standard”s rationale for entering the  manufacturing operation and insisting that General Motors work with it, according to Wescott’s  Origin and Early History, pp. 3 – 6.

[8] “Company Denies Negligence Led to Gas Deaths,” New York Sun, Oct. 27, 1924, p. 1. This was contrary to facts, as later documents would show

[9] Wescott, Origins and Early History, p. B-3.

[10] Ray Hiebert, Courtier to the Crowd: The Story of Ivy Lee and the Development of Public Relations (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1966).

[11] “Another Man Dies from Insanity Gas,” New York Times, Oct. 28, 1924,  p. 1.

[12]  General Motors abandoned this plan sometime in late 1922 after facing several serious impracticalities,  not the least of which was the pure consumer inconvenience of having two fuel tanks.  Henderson had been in touch with GM in 1922 and 1923, before it was decided to use the “ethylizer” at the service station pump. By late 1924,  the Ethyl Gasoline Corp. ordered the mixing to be done higher up the fuel stream at bulk distribution plants.  That Henderson had heard about ethylizers is noted in a Science Service article “Ethyl Gasoline” in the monthly supplement in Science magazine of December 1924.

[13] Although the paper which Midgley presented is not in the archives, this account is consistent with the fact that he had rather freely informed fellow scientists of his case of lead poisoning.  He turned down at least three speaking engagements to take time off in Florida to recuperate from lead poisoning in February, 1923.  Midgley to H.N. Gilbert, January 19, 1923, unprocessed Midgley papers, GMI , Flint, Mich. Also see Midgley to G.A. Round, Vacuum Oil Co. [later Mobil],  Feb. 14,  1923, unprocessed Midgley papers, GMI.  Also see Stuart Leslie, Boss Kettering (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) p. 165.

[14] “Ethyl Gas Sale Stopped Today by Standard Oil,” Herald Tribune, Oct. 28, 1924, p. 1.

[15] Trial testimony, p. 2169, United States v. du Pont, US District Court, Chicago Ill., Nov. 18,  1952,  126 F. Supp. 235.  (Hereafter cited as US v. du Pont).The implication seems to have been that they may have feared criminal prosecution for their role in the disaster.

[16] Wescott,  Origins and Early History,  p. 22.

[17] “Bar Ethyl Gasoline as 5th Victim Dies,” New York Times, Oct. 31, 1924, p. 22.

[18] “Bar Death Gas in City as 5th Victim Dies,” Herald Tribune, Oct. 31, 1924, p. 1.

[19] “Use of Ethylated Gasoline Barred Pending Inquiry,” The World, October 31, 1924, p. 1; also see the New York Times, the Sun, and the Herald Tribune  of the same date; all four carried the statement verbatim.

[20] T.A. Boyd notes that “no such compound was in existence” when Midgley first decided to try tetraethyl  lead in Dayton in November, 1921, and it took three weeks to produce it in the Dayton lab. Boyd, Professional Amateur,  (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1957) p. 145.

[21] Kettering later insisted that the Bayway refinery had experienced an “explosion.”  U.S. v.  du Pont, transcript. p. 3578.

[22]  Wescott,  “Origins and Early History,” p. 21.

[23] Ferris Hurd, attorney for General Motors, closing statement, US v du Pont, trial transcript p. 7986.

[24] “Sees Deadly Gas A Peril in Streets / Dr. Henderson Warns Public Against Auto Exhaust of Tetraethyl Lead / Worse than Tuberculosis,” New York Times, April 22, 1925, p. 1.

[25] “Ethyl Gas Official Denies Monopoly,” New York Times, April 23, 1925.

[26] “Radium Derivative $5,000,000 an Ounce; Ethyl Gasoline Defended,” New York Times, April 7, 1925, p. 23.

[27] “Will Ethyl Gasoline Poison Us All? Scientists Disagree,” The World, May 3, 1925,

[28] “Shift Ethyl Inquiry to Surgeon General,” New York Times, May 21, 1925.  It is interesting that the New York Times account does not correspond with the Public Health Service stenographic record. Howard and Burnham  referred to a “Gift of God” according to the PHS, instead of (as the Times reported) a “gift from heaven.”
[29]  T. A. Boyd,  The Early History of Ethyl Gasoline, Report OC-83, Project # 11-3, Research Laboratory Division, GM Corp., Detroit Michigan, (unpublished) June 8, 1943, GMI, Flint, Mich., p. 2. (Hereafter cited as Boyd, Early History).

[30] Ibid, p. 164.

[31] Historical Summary Ethyl Corp. 1923 – 1948,  Ralph C. Champlin, Ethyl Corp. Public Relations Dept., 1951, Third Draft. p. 47; GMI, Flint, Mich.

[32] Graham Edgar, “Tetraethyl Lead,” paper to the American Chemical Society, New York, Sept. 3-7, 1951, Reprinted by the Ethyl Corp.

[33] T.A. Boyd, “Pathfinding in Fuels and Engines,” Society of Automotive Engineers Transactions, (April 1950), pp. 182-183.

[34] “The Trail of the Arbutus,” probably published either by Ethyl Corp. or General Motors, Aug. 29, 1951,  unprocessed Midgley files, GMI.

[35] Stanton P. Nickerson, “Tetraethyl Lead: A Product of American Research,” Journal of Chemical Education 31, (Nov. 1954), p. 567.

[36] Testimony of Irenee Du Pont,  p. 2169, US v. du Pont .

[37] Testimony of Earl Webb, p. 3646, US v E.I. du Pont .

[38]  T.A. Boyd, Professional Amateur (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1957).

[39] Rosamond Young, Boss Ket: A Life of Charles Kettering, (New York: Longmans Green & Co., 1961), p. 162.

[40]  Harold Williamson, et al., The American Petroleum Industry, The Age of Energy, 1899-1959 (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University, 1963), p. 414. Du Pont put the official death toll at 16 in its corporate history, with one suicide probably linked, for a total of 17.

[41] Gerard Colby Zilg, DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain (Englewood Cliffs., N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1974), pp. 214, 217.

[42] Joseph A. Pratt, “Letting the Grandchildren do it: Environmental Planning During the Ascent of Oil as a Major Energy Source,” The Public Historian, Vol. 2 No. 4, 1980, p. 46.

[43] Joseph C. Robert, Ethyl, A History of the Corporation and the People Who Made It (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1983), p. 122.

[44] Leslie, Boss Kettering, p. 166.

[45] Personal conversation with Bill Leslie, Jan. 14, 1992; a search of  files at the GMI  collection July 7 – July 11, 1992 did not turn up any greedy giants squeezing blood; it is likely that this is hyperbole.  No editorial cartoons about the incident are available except for the Journal”s Hal Coffman series depicting insane people in straitjackets and a May 4, 1925 New York World cartoon depicting a “Manufacturer” at the gas pump “Not Waiting for an Investigation.” Both are reproduced in the appendix.  It is interesting to note that the Daily Worker often used the “greedy giant squeezing blood” motif to protest capitalism”s various insults to workers; however, not even the Daily Worker used such a cartoon in the Ethyl case.

[46] David Hounshell and John Smith, Science and Corporate Strategy: du Pont R&D, 1902-1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 154. Note the major source cited was the du Pont 1936 history and other papers in the anti-trust suit for which the history was prepared.

[47] David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, “A Gift of God? The Public Health Controversy Over Leaded Gasoline during the 1920s,” Dying for Work: Workers Safety and Health in Twentieth Century America, (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 125.  The contention assumes that no alternatives were available or were employed in automotive history, which is not the case.

[48] Nicholas Regush, “MMT,” Mother Jones, May/June 1992, p. 24.

[49] Carl Solberg, Oil Power (NY: New American Library, 1976).

[50] John M. Blair, The Control of Oil (NY: Vintage Books, 1978); Anthony Sampson, The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped (NY: Viking, 1975); James Ridgeway: Powering Civilization; the Complete Energy Reader (NY: Pantheon, 1982); Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1991).

[51] Dominic L. Lasorsa and Stephen D. Reese, “News Source Use in the Crash of 1987: A Study of Four National Media,” Journalism Quarterly, 67, No. 1, (Spring 1990), pp. 60 -71.

[52] R. Gordon Shepherd, “Selectivity of Sources: Reporting the Marijuana Controversy,” Journal of Communication 31, No. 2, (Spring, 1981), p. 135.

[53] Also, the extensive clipping files of the Public Health Service and the GMI  library do not contain any Graphic or American clips.  In the case of the American we can assume that virtually everything in the Journal was also carried there. The Graphic, like the Daily News, was probably disinterested in all but the surface of the controversy. Thus, the content analysis can be said to cover all general circulation daily newspapers in the city for which archives are available, and those for which archives are not available are incidental.

[54] Lippmann to Hamilton, June 25, 1928,   Box 12 Folder 496, Lippmann collection,  Yale University Library, New Haven, Ct

[55]  Among many publications available at the time were:   Charles Simmonds, Alcohol: Its Production, Properties and Applications (London: Macmillan & Co., 1919); Boverton Redwood et al, “The Production of Alcohol for Power,” Chemical Age, 1919, cited in Chemical Abstracts, 13:2271; many articles in  Scientific American, especially  Dec. 4, 1920, p. 570.;  Stanwood  Sparrow et al., “Alcogas as Aviation Fuel Compared with Export Grade Gasoline,” SAE Journal, June 1920, p.397; H.R. Ricardo, “The Influence of Various Fuels on Engine Performance,” Automobile Engineer, Feb., 1921; Thomas A. Midgely and T.A. Boyd, “The Application of Chemistry to the Conservation of Motor Fuels,” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, Sept. 1922, p. 850;  Thomas A. Midgley and T.A. Boyd, “Detonation Characteristics of Some Blended Motor Fuels,” SAE Journal, June 1922, p. 450; U.S. Dept. of Commerce,  World Trade in Gasoline, Bureau of Domestic & Foreign Commerce,  Dept. of Commerce  Trade Promotion Series No. 20, May 15, 1925. Anon.,  “Liquid Fuels of the Future,” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, Vol. 17, No. 6,  April 1925, p.334; Anon., “Power Alcohol from Tubers and Roots, SAE Journal, May, 1925, p. 546; E.C. Freeland and W.G. Harry, “Alcohol Motor Fuel from Molasses,”   Industrial and Chemical Engineering News,  Part I, June 1925; Part II, July 1925.