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Joseph Bombardier: A True Canadian Inventor

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Essay title: Joseph Bombardier: A True Canadian Inventor

Born in 1907 in Valcourt, Quebйc, Joseph Armand Bombardier was the eldest of Anna Gravel and Alfred Bombardier’s eight children. From an early age, Joseph combined a talent for tinkering with a zeal for machinery. At the age of thirteen, he created one of his first motorized toys: a miniature locomotive that was powered by a clock mechanism. He ended up painting intricate designs on the train, which emphasized his sense of both the technological and aesthetic sides of invention. Bombardier bought the clock mechanisms for his toys from the village jeweller, using money he earned serving mass to the local parish. In 1929, Bombardier married Yvonne Labrecque, and together they had six children.

Bombardier’s journey as the inventor of the snowmobile truly began in 1922, at the age of fifteen. Working out of a garage on his father’s farm, he designed, built, and tested his first snow vehicle. Over the next few years, he improved the design, and started work on a variety of other models. The first of these snow vehicles were designed primarily for professional use; vehicles for the postal service, taxis, and school buses. With the outbreak of World War II, Bombardier turned his snowmobile focus to military applications. The Allies wanted a means of transportation that would allow soldiers to traverse snow-covered battlefields. So along came Bombardier’s new snowmobile design, the “Kaki”. Later known as “Penguins”, over nineteen hundred of these vehicles were built for the military. By 1948, Bombardier’s company had sales totaling $2.3 million, and by 1958, they had reached $3.5 million. In 1959, the first model of the Ski-Doo appeared on the market. This launched a whole new industry. In northern Canada, the Inuit people took advantage of this new technology; they now had far wider freedom of travel. Canadians in the south enjoyed the Ski-Doo in a different way: a thrilling new winter sport evolved. People’s enthusiasm for Ski-Doos soon spread throughout all of Canada and into the United States. A mere five years later, in 1964, the total annual sales of Bombardier’s company reached $10 million. The Ski-Doo’s reliability was demonstrated in a 1968 expedition to the North Pole. Bombardier’s small, home-grown invention had generated a million-dollar industry, and the legacy of his snowmobiles lives on today.

In 1970, six years after Bombardier passed away, the “Musйe J. Armand Bombardier” opened in Valcourt, to conserve elements from the life and achievements of the man. The museum illustrates the world of snowmobiles, with a collection of all of Bombardier’s designs. Each stage of the company’s development is also included. This museum allows visitors to learn

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