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”

Coca-Cola logoWould you believe the world’s best known brand got its name from a bookkeeper?

Frank M. Robinson, an accountant and partner in what would come to be an iconic soft drink, not only suggested the name Coca Cola; he designed the logo, too. The name was derived from the two main ingredients in the product: cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine came from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola. The K in kola was turned to a C for marketing purposes. Continue reading “What’s in a Name? Coca-Cola Trademark”

Neon PatentIn 1915, a U.S. Patent No. 1,125,476 was issued to George Claude of Paris for a “System of Illuminating by Luminescent Tubes.” This patent was the basis for the neon sign. Claude, an engineer, chemist and inventor was the first person to create a lamp by applying an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon. By mixing other gases with the neon, Claude was able to produce the light in many different colors. He, also, discovered that the tubes holding the gas mixture could be bent and twisted. This allowed him to produce the letters and shapes that are the signature of a neon sign.

Claude first displayed this invention that revolutionized sign making at the1910 Paris Expo. In 1923, under the company Claude’s Neon, he introduced neon signs to the United States. Continue reading “The Invention of the Neon Sign: Changing the American Landscape”

Eddie Bauer PatentOn February 20, 1940, Eddie Bauer received Design Patent Number 119,122 for a jacket. Bauer caught hypothermia while fishing in the cold, rainy Washington winter in 1936. After his near death experience, he began attempting to develop alternative outdoor wear.

The wool garments worn by him and other outdoorsmen at the time were very heavy and did little to protect against the rain. Bauer remembered the jacket his uncle, a Russian soldier, had worn. A light but warm goose down filled jacket had help to keep him warm in the below zero temperatures of the Russian winters. Eddie Bauer designed and sewed a quilted goose down jacket for himself. Bauer wore this jacket out into the elements and discovered that it was indeed very warm. His friends began asking him to sew jackets for them too. Continue reading “Making History: Eddie Bauer Patents Weather Resistant Jacket”

Carver PatentOn January 6, 1925, George Washington Carver was granted patent #1,522,176 for a cosmetic and processing of producing the same. This cosmetic was a cream made from peanuts. In the patent, Carver describes this as a “vanishing cream of any desired or usual tint.”

Carver has been credited with discovering over three hundred different uses for peanuts and hundreds of different uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. His discoveries include bleach, fuel briquettes, instant coffee, synthetic rubber and wood stain. Despite all of these inventions, Carver only applied for and was granted three patents. His other two patents were #1,541,478, granted on July 9, 1925 and #1,632,365 granted on July 14, 1927 for paints and stains produced from clay. Continue reading “Who Received a Patent For Cosmetics Made Out Of Peanuts?”

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”

Johnson Christmas Tree

It has always been tradition to light up the Christmas tree with some kind of lights. Despite the danger of fire, candles had been used to light up the Christmas tree. In 1882, Edward Johnson demonstrated a new way to light up the tree. Johnson created the first string of electric Christmas lights. He hand wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and strung them on his tree in New York City.
The event was reported by a visiting journalist from the Detroit Post and Tribune.

“Last evening I walked over beyond Fifth Avenue and called at the residence of Edward H. Johnson, vice-president of Edison’s electric company. There, at the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect. It was brilliantly lighted with many colored globes about as large as an English walnut and was turning some six times a minute on a little pine box. There were eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs, and about equally divided between white, red and blue. As the tree turned, the colors alternated, all the lamps going out and being relit at every revolution. The result was a continuous twinkling of dancing colors, red, white, blue, white, red, blue—all evening.
I need not tell you that the scintillating evergreen was a pretty sight—one can hardly imagine anything prettier. The ceiling was crossed obliquely with two wires on which hung 28 more of the tiny lights; and all the lights and the fantastic tree itself with its starry fruit were kept going by the slight electric current brought from the main office on a filmy wire. The tree was kept revolving by a little hidden crank below the floor which was turned by electricity.  It was a superb exhibition.” Continue reading “Brightening the Holidays: The Invention of Christmas Lights”

Teflon PatentTeflon is yet another product invented entirely by mistake.  Roy Plunkett, a research chemist at Dupont, was experimenting with synthesizing new types of refrigerant gas when he accidentally produced Teflon.

On the morning of April 6, 1938, Plunkett and his technician assistant, Jack Rebok, were setting up for an experiment with the refrigerant gas tetrafluoroethylene (TFE). Plunkett hoped to make a refrigerant by reacting hydrochloric acid with TFE. Plunkett had made a hundred pounds of the gas, to be sure to have enough for all his chemical tests, and for toxicological tests as well. He stored the gas in metal cans with a valve release. Plunkett kept the cans on dry ice, to cool and liquefy the TFE gas. One of the pressurized cylinders of TFE that they had filled failed to discharge when its valve was opened.  They weighed the tank to see if the gas had leaked out but it was still full. They tried to unclog the valve but still nothing came out. Rebok suggested sawing the tank in half to see what had gone wrong. Despite the danger of explosion, Plunkett agreed. Inside the cylinder they found a white power. The gas had solidified through polymerization. Continue reading “Non-stick for your Morning Breakfast: The Invention of Teflon”