Washington Crossing the Delaware – Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze
You already know about that revolution… but you may not know about this one.
In 1932, Doug Easton moved to Los Angeles, and began to experiment with aluminum as an arrow shaft, spurred by his frustration with the inconsistencies of wood.
He presented his first set of aluminum arrows to Larry Hughes, a local archery champion. Over the next two years, Hughes enjoyed strong results with Easton’s experimental arrows, culminating in his winning the 1941 National Championship.
Though the aluminum shaft encountered significant initial resistance, Easton eventually introduced the XX75, which would become the best selling arrow shaft in history.
These three quotes tell the tale:
“Jas. D. Easton Inc. began a revolution in the sporting goods industry by manufacturing the first aluminum arrow.”
H.G. Reza, Los Angeles Times, 1963
“When aluminum arrows were initially developed, some people believed them unfair. Some wanted aluminum arrow shafts outlawed.
They claimed that aluminum had no place in real archery.
But here we are some 50 years later, and in that time aluminum arrow shafts have proven a wonderful thing for millions of archers and for the sport.”
– Greg Easton, Salt Lake City, UT 2004
“I shot some wood arrows a couple of years ago when I first tried the traditional thing. They are definitely some of the nicest looking arrows when they are crested and fletched, but the things I didn’t like about them outweighed the “mystique” of shooting wood arrows.
I got them from a guy who makes them and sells them on-line. They were all well spined [consistent in stiffness] and were plus or minus eight grains. They flew like darts, but after being shot a lot they would lose their spine or bend.
I did not want to mess with straightening them and they soon became more trouble than they were worth.
I kept six to hunt with and managed to kill two deer with wood arrows.
I have to admit, walking up to a blood soaked wood arrow sticking out of the ground definitely had a more “traditional” feel to it, but I prefer the ease, consistency and cost of aluminum.”
– Brett, Elkville [really], IL 2008
As Greg Easton said, “Some people believed them unfair.”
Of course they were right.
Competing with aluminum arrows against even the finest cedar arrows was as unfair as competing in the pole vault with a flexible fiberglass pole against another athlete with a stiff metal pole.
Not. Fair. At. All.
So much so that, as Greg also says, “They claimed that aluminum had no place in real archery.”
Again, they were right, by their definition of “real archery.”
Just as fiberglass poles had no place in “real pole vaulting.”
Until. They. Did.
Long before Brett, from Elkville, and millions of others, declared that wooden arrows no longer belonged in their real archery, archery had been redefined.
Or had it?
Just as the goal in pole vaulting had always been to vault a high bar, so the goal of archery has always been to hit a distant target, using a bow and arrow.
Nothing essential had changed with either sport… except the form and process of accomplishing exactly the same goals.
So will be the case with Virtual Reality Archery, which will enlist all of the skills of Olympic archery, and more, in the service of the same objective:
Hitting a target with a bow and arrow.
Doug Easton’s revolution was monumental, and even more so when we consider the time that had passed from the ancient beginnings of archery with wooden arrows, until he had his idea.
“The oldest evidence of stone-tipped projectiles, which may or may not have been propelled by a bow, dating to 64,000 years ago, were found in Sibudu Cave, current South Africa.”
And the aluminum arrow has existed on Planet Earth for only about 75 years.
To put this in perspective, imagine that those 64,000 years are represented by the height of the Empire State Building, laid on its side. Then the length of time that the aluminum arrow has existed would be about 16 inches at the top of the building, about half the size of the most popular arrow shaft of all time: the Easton XX75.
Of course, Doug Easton could not have invented the aluminum arrow even 200 years ago. Aluminum metal did not exist until it was fabricated in 1824, exactly 100 years before Paris hosted the Olympic Games for the second time, and 100 years before she will host the Games for the third time, in 2024.
Even then, though, the fabrication method for aluminum was so costly that the metal was rarer – and its cost higher – than gold.
Then… another revolution, a French one. Chemist Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville announced an industrial method of aluminum production in 1854 at the Paris Academy of Sciences. And everything changed. From 1855 to 1859, aluminum’s quality increased dramatically, as its price dropped from US$500 per pound to $40 per pound.
By the Paris World’s Fair of 1878, aluminum had become a symbol of the future, just as did a later, also initially criticised, symbol of technological progress:
[The Eiffel Tower]
The same thing is now happening with another technology: Virtual Reality.
VR headsets used to be completely unaffordable. That was two years ago. Now the best ones are the cost of a decent smartphone. And every month they’re even less.
Like the smartphone, they are about to explode around the globe.
In a few years, it will be as difficult to remember what it was like before VR and AR were everywhere as it is now to remember what we did before smartphones.
And it will be hard to remember the “traditionalists” who said “VR has no place in real archery.”
How amazing that the revolution in aluminum that enabled Doug Easton’s aluminum arrows took place in Paris, in 1824.
And how amazing that the next revolution in archery can enter the world stage at the Olympic Games… exactly 200 years later… in 2024… in Paris.
Another French Revolution.
Liberty Leading the People – Eugène Delacroix