Dishwasher PatentJosephine Cochran was issued Patent No. 355,139 on December 28,1886 for a dish washing machine. Cochran was a wealthy woman in Illinois who frequently hosted dinner parties. She became frustrated when her servants would chip or break her heirloom china so she began washing her own dishes. She was upset with the indignity of having to wash her own dishes and decided that there must be a better way. Since no one else had invented something, she was going to do it herself.

Cochran set to work on her design, staying home from a vacation with her ailing husband. She began by measuring the dishes. She then built wire compartments to fit either cups, plates or saucers. The compartments were placed on a wheel which was turned by a motor inside a watertight metal box. Hot soapy water squirted up in and rained down on the dishes cleaning them. Continue reading “Famous Women Inventors: Josephine Cochran – Dishwasher Patent”

Harry Houdini PatentHarry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary, to a Jewish family. Houdini began his career as a trapeze artist and was later renowned as a magician and an escape artist. He astonished audiences by escaping from handcuffs, straitjackets, and prison cells.

Houdini also held a patent for a style of diving suit. The innovation was granted U.S. Patent Number 1,370,316 on March 1, 1921. The object of Houdini’s diving suit was to allow a diver to get out of the suit while submerged. This helped the diver swiftly and safely escape and reach the surface of the water. It also allowed a diver to don his suit without assistance. This was accomplished by being formed in two halves, with a locking joint in the middle. The diver could reach this joint and release it, and then escape from the suit. Continue reading “Making History: Harry Houdini Patents a Diving Suit”

Flexible FlyerThe Flexible Flyer was invented over 100 years ago by a farm equipment manufacturer. Looking to provide year round employment for his workers, Samuel Leeds Allen began trying to invent a sled in the 1880’s. Coasting, as sledding was then known, was very popular and Allen was hoping to capitalize on this.

Allen’s first attempts at developing a sled were tested by the children at Westtown School in Pennsylvania. The predecessor of the Flexible Flyer was the Fairy Coaster which was a double-runner or bobsled which held three or four adults. Runners were made of steel and seats of a plush fabric. This entire sled could be folded into a small package for easy transportation on a streetcar or train. The problem with this first sled was a retail price of $50.00. This expensive price tag made it impossible to sell in quantity. A smaller cheaper version of this sled was designed but testing proved it to be too small and not have enough runner for proper steering. Eventually the entire production line for the Fairy Coaster was sold at auction. Continue reading “Making History: Invention of the Flexible Flyer”

Lego BoxOn January 28, 1958 at 1:58 pm Godtfred Kirk Christiansen submitted the patent application for the improved Lego brick and building system in Copenhagen, Denmark. Today, the thousands of different shapes, sizes and colors of Legos are all designed to connect with the original brick from the Danish patent. All 2×4 Legos made since 1958 have been manufactured to the exact same measurements as the version outlined in the original patent.

Legos began in the workshop of a carpenter from Billund, Denmark. Ole Kirk Christiansen was a carpenter who made his living building houses and furniture for farmers. A fire in his workshop and the Great Depression ultimately led Christiansen to begin producing wooden toys including piggy banks, cars and trucks in 1932. The name Lego was given to the business in 1934. The word is a self-made contraction of the Danish words leg and godt which mean play well. Det beste er ikke for godt which roughly translates to mean “Not even the best is good enough” was the Lego motto. Continue reading “Fun, Stackable Bricks? The Invention of Legos”

Along with cookouts and hotdogs, fireworks are part of Fourth of July festivities.  Fireworks made of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal, were first used in China in the ninth century A.D.

The Chinese invented gunpowder about 2000 years ago. A Chinese monk named Li Tian produced firecrackers later. The first firecrackers were bamboo shoots filled with gunpowder which were exploded at the commencement of the New Year to scare away evil spirits. The Chinese still celebrate the invention of the firecracker every April 18 by offering sacrifices to Li Tian. Continue reading “Invention of Fireworks – Made in China”

PEZThe first US patent for PEZ,  #2,620,061, was issued December 2, 1952 for a Pocket Article Dispensing Container. This patent was for the original design of the PEZ dispenser which was meant to look like a cigarette lighter.

PEZ was invented in 1927 by Austrian food company executive Edward Haas III. The original sugar tablet flavored with peppermint oil was marketed as an alternative to smoking. These candies were sold in tins until 1948 when the first dispensers were introduced. The dispenser shaped like a cigarette lighter was meant to appeal to adult smokers. The name PEZ was derived from the letters at the start, the middle and the end of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz, the first PEZ flavor.

Continue reading “Quitting Cold Turkey: The Invention of PEZ Candy Dispensers”

Velcro HooksThe idea for Velcro came to George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, after returning from a walk in the Alps with his dogs. He examined the burrs stuck to both his jacket and the dogs’ fur under a microscope.  The principal, he discovered, was simple. The burr was made of hundreds of hooks that would catch on anything with a loop such as cloth, animal fur or hair. De Mestral saw that this design could be used as a new type of fastener if he could duplicate the hooks and loops. Continue reading “Hooks and Loops: Who Invented Velcro?”