Exhibit / July 24, 2017
Southern California-based Revell started as a plastics company in 1941, established by Lewis Glaser only weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After a series of British-made “Highway Pioneer” replicas (including the Ford Model T) sold well in 1950, Glaser decided to try his hand at plastic model kits—soon-to-be competitor Monogram had been doing the same since 1945—and Revell’s first mold was 1953’s USS Missouri, the battleship on which the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed.
Over the next seven years, as the hobby took hold—over 80% of boys were model builders by 1956, claimed Boy’s Life—Revell produced commercial and jet aircraft models (leaning heavily toward the latter), military and sailing ships, rockets and guided missiles, “modern cars,” atomic power plants, and suburban homes, to name a few. Glaser promised “Authentic Kits,” and his engineers and sculptors could spend up to 7000 hours researching, testing, and molding the final result. The subjects on the covers of Revell’s distinctive boxes featured “what is historically important and what is exciting,” Glaser said. “It’s got to be both.”
In the fall of 1957, what is historically important changed dramatically: the Soviet Union showed up the United States by launching the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into low Earth orbit, and the Space Race was on. Revell responded with a series of speculative “near future” kits that became the pride of the line, and probably the most detailed and scientifically sound space kits ever made. Three of those models, the XSL-01 (XSL stood for Experimental Space Laboratory), the Moon Ship (the third or upper stage of the XSL-01 released separately), and the Space Station, were designed by Ellwyn E. Angle, an aerospace engineer who had worked on the experimental Bell X-1 and X-5 projects in the late 1940s and early 1950s, respectively. (The X-1 is what Chuck Yeager was flying when he became the first person to break the sound barrier on October 14, 1947).
The Space Shuttlecraft and Helios, the “nuclear powered lunar landing craft,” were the designs of Krafft Ehricke, a rocketry pioneer who was working at the General Dynamics Corporation at the time. Ehricke is most famous for developing the Centaur, the first rocket fueled by liquid hydrogen, but he later became a diligent if frustrated advocate for space colonization, and his philosophy is encompassed in the still unpublished The Extraterrestrial Terrestrial Imperative: From Closed to Open World: “Man is at the cutting edge of terrestrial life, and has no rational alternative but to expand the environmental and resource base beyond Earth.” Going to the stars, in Ehricke’s estimation, was the difference between internal collapse and the “preservation of civilization.”
The contributions of both Ehricke and Angle demonstrate that neither they nor Lewis Glaser saw the model kits seen above as “toys.” The sophistication of the designs, and the progressive and achievable concepts behind them, inspired a new generation of rocket scientists. Here’s William Dye, a retired aerospace engineer who led the team that launched the IKONOS satellite:
Models brought my awareness closer to my dream of flying, and maybe even to becoming a test pilot. The more models I bought and built, the closer I felt to airplanes. Models allow you to own a three-dimensional image of whatever you want around you. It’s almost like collecting the real thing…
Among the models named by Dye is the “speculative” XSL-01, Angle’s Space Station, and several other Revell exclusives.