Tag Archives: inventions

‘Phenakistoscope’ a popular Victorian Toy, 1833.

phenakistoscope_houseThe Phenakistoscope — a popular Victorian parlour toy, generally marketed for children — is widely considered to be among the earliest forms of animation and the precursor to modern cinema.
The device was operated by spinning the cardboard disc, and viewing the reflection of the image in a mirror through a series of moving slits. Through the distortion and flicker, the disc created the illusion that the image was moving.
Women danced, men bowed, and animals leapt in short, repeating animations.
Many scientists of the era had been experimenting with optical illusions, photography, and image projections, and there was something inevitable about the creation of this device, having been simultaneously invented in 1832, by Joseph Plateau in Brussels and by Simon von Stampfer in Berlin.
Plateau was a physicist, but his father had been a painter and illustrator who had enrolled his son at the Academy of Design in Brussels. Although Plateau eventually ended up pursuing science instead, he retained an interest in art and design that proved useful when creating the prototype Phenakistoscope.
Plateau’s original designs were hand-painted by himself, an example of the frequent intersection of Victorian artistry with experimental scientific media that defined the period.
Only weeks later, unaware of Plateau’s creation, von Stampfer, a mathematician, developed a near-identical device that he named the Stroboscope.
The device proved popular, and was soon mass-produced and marketed under some more easily-pronounceable names, including Phantasmascope, Fantoscope, and even the prosaic “Magic Wheel”.
Read further via Phenakistoscopes (1833) | The Public Domain Review

The Daddy Long Legs of Brighton.

Daddylonglegs_poster

The Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway was a unique coastline railway in Brighton, England that ran through the shallow waters of the English Channel between 1896 and 1901.
Magnus Volk, its owner, designer and engineer, had already been successful with the more conventional Volk’s Electric Railway, which had then not been extended east of Paston Place.
Facing unfavourable geography, Volk decided to construct a line through the surf from a pier at Paston Place to one at Rottingdean.
Daddylonglegs1
The tracks were laid on concrete sleepers mortised into the bedrock, and the single car used on the railway, a huge pier-like building which stood on four 23 ft (7.0 m)-long legs, was propelled by electric motor.
It was officially named Pioneer, but many called it Daddy Long-Legs.
Construction took two years from 1894 to 1896. The railway officially opened 28 November 1896, but was nearly destroyed by a storm the night of 4 December.
Volk immediately set to rebuilding the railway including the Pioneer, which had been knocked on its side, and it reopened in July 1897.
In 1900 the council decided to build a beach protection barrier, which unfortunately required Volk to divert his line around the barrier.
Without funds to do so, Volk closed the railway. A model of the railway car is on display (along with a poster for the railway) in the foyer of the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. (Text from Wikipedia.)
Daddylonglegs6
via The Daddy Long Legs of Brighton | The Public Domain Review.

Henry McGill’s popular Stapler, 1879.

McGill_Staplerby Colin Bisset
A stapler is a very satisfying object, securely attaching paper with a pleasing crunch.
Small wonder that it is so often a child’s favourite stationery item. The emergence of the stapler reflects a rise in the use of paper within offices during the 19th century.
Previously, sheets of paper had been held together by pins or string or, in the case of legal documents, red tape. It is often reported that in the 18th century France’s King Louis XVI used the very first, suitably ornate stapler, but there is no evidence to support this.
Not everyone liked the idea of a metal fixing. In the early 1900s, several devices were invented which punched through and then wove the papers together in one action, but the idea never really took off.
The notion of creating a more secure fastening, however, was given a boost when Philadelphian Henry Heyl patented a stapling device in 1877 which could attach and fasten papers in one action.
Heyls’ invention was closely followed in 1879 by fellow American George McGill’s commercially available stapler, which drove a 12 millimetre length of wire through papers and then folded its ends when the top of the machine was thumped down with a single-stroke, rather like a test-your-strength game at a fairground.
This was simplicity itself; the key to any good stapler is the ability for one hand to hold the papers while the other operates the stapler.
It was first displayed in Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and is a heavy object that looks a little like a Singer sewing machine.
This eventually led to smaller and lighter staplers, and magazines that held up to 200 staples were commonplace by the 1920s.
Not everyone liked the idea of a metal fixing, however.
In the early 1900s, several devices were invented which punched through and then wove papers together in one action, but the idea never really took off.
READ ON via From offices to hospitals, the history of the stapler ABC Radio National

Unusual Old Typewriters.

r4e5et544t4t4tArticle by M. Christian and A. Abrams
Horse and buggies, hoop skirts, steam engines, bustles … oh, yes, life around the turn of the previous century was a delight of simplicity and workmanship. But that doesn’t mean that the artisans and engineers of way-back-when didn’t at least have their hearts and minds in the right place.
Linear Index Typewriters and “Typewritors”
One of the earliest of those bright bulbs was William Austin Burt who, in 1829, created what he called a ‘typewritor.’
If Burt’s machine was, in fact, the first is a matter of much debate – as another, similar, machine had also been built by Pellegrino Turri around the same time. Some even say the crown of ‘first’ should go to Henry Mill, who created a writing machine way back in 1714.
All of these devices represented just baby steps: more potential than actual ability to help with clear, concise and fast writing. There were a lot of others after these early pioneers, but none of them were ever a real commercial success.
Looking at them you can see why: in many of these very early models – called ‘index typewriters,’ by the way – the typing was done by selecting the letter to be used on a slider and then pressing it against the paper.
To call these early monsters ‘slow’ is being kind.
Changing the alphabetical slider to a disc version helped a bit but not enough to make any of these machines easy or popular.
Here is a “Linear Typewriter”: one look at this machine and you can see why it was never a big hit. Just think about transcribing anything on this beast:
456re5yer5y
5e6urthrehth
via Dark Roasted Blend: Hansen’s Writing Ball & Other Unusual Typewriters.

The Rowing-Bath (1916).

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Touted as the “newest contribution to the enjoyment of living”, news of the ingenious “rowing-bath” comes to us from the pages of a 1916 edition of The Popular Science Monthly.
Consisting of what amounts to some sort of a metal dustpan tied by a rubber cord to the taps, the device promises to secure “the zest which accompanies the pleasant pastime of buffeting surf”.
It seems, however, that the general public did not quite share the excitement of the article, or the ecstatic model it depicts, as nothing much more is heard of the invention again (although we did find mention of a similarly named device from 1904).
Source: The Rowing-Bath (1916) | The Public Domain Review

Laszlo Biro & the Birth of the Ballpoint Pen.

Lazlo-BiroThe Hungarian Laszlo Biro (above), a magazine publisher, noticed, during a visit to a printer, how quickly the printer’s ink dried. It occurred to him that this fast-drying ink would work well in a fountain pen. This dense ink, however, would not flow through a pen.
Therefore, Biro decided to replace the metal writing nib of his pen with a slim ball bearing.
As the pen moved across the paper, the ball turned and suctioned ink from the reservoir, which then transferred it to the paper.
This principle of the ballpoint pen was not, however, a new one. It had been patented in the year 1888 by John J. Loud, but had not been used commercially.
Biro first patented his pen in the year 1938. In 1940 he and his brother ran away from Hungary to Argentina.

mmmmmm

There, on the 10 June 1943, he patented his pen again. A clerk of the British government, Henry Martin, who was, by chance, at that time in Argentina, was interested in the fact that Biro’s pen wrote at any altitude above sea level, and therefore because it was not affected by air pressure or other atmospheric conditions.
It immediately occurred to him to make it available to navigators in airplanes. The British government bought the patent and in 1944 a pen under the brand name Biro was produced for the Royal Air Force.
In 1950 Marcel Bich  who had acquired the rights to the pen began to sell his French pen and in 1953 he founded the BiC company (using an abbreviation of his name).
In subsequent years its subsidiaries, BIC Italy, BIC LAFREST Spain, BIC Brazil and CIRO Swan Ltd England, were founded.
By the end of the 1950s it controlled 70% of the European market and in 1960 it became the owner of the Waterman Pen Company in New York and it sold its pens on the North American markets for 29 to 69 cents per unit.
BiC completely controlled the market. Parker and other companies had to rest satisfied with a small market for fountain pens and more expensive models of ballpoints.
Today the modern version of Biro’s pen, under the brand name BiC Cristal, sells 20 million pens throughout the world every day.
via The Ballpoint Pen..

Joseph Gayetty – Inventor of Toilet Paper.

The first mentions of toilet paper were found in the Chinese 5th century writings and during the 14th century.
They even started regular mass production of such paper in the amounts of over 10 million sheets in only one province.
Wealthy citizens and the royal family in Beijing even had access to the several types of soft, stylized and perfumed toilet paper.
In the others parts of the world, use of paper as a cleansing accessory was almost unheard of.
There are several reasons for that – inability to produce massive and affordable quantities, inefficient or nonexistent toilet plumbing network, and more.
After centuries of using water, rags, sticks, sand, leaves, corncobs, animal furs, finally American inventor Joseph Gayetty came to his invention – commercial toilet paper!
Gayetty was born in Massachusetts USA, and worked in New York where he came to the idea of toilet paper in 1857.
His product was marketed and intended to be used as a medical accessory, but it was later remembered as a commercial disaster (although this product remained in licensed use until the late 1920s).
It was sold in a package of 500 papers (scented and watermarked with the manufacturer’s name) and was advertised as a help for people who had troubles with haemorrhoids.
Following Gayetti’s commercial disaster, several other inventors tried to create successful products.
Most notably Englishman Walter Alcock created paper in a roll (again unsuccessfully), and in 1867 brothers Thomas, Edward and Clarence Scott managed to successfully market their toilet paper.
From that point on, use of toilet papers became widespread in the entire world.
Source: Joseph Gayetty – Inventor of Toilet Paper

Vintage 19th Century Washing Machine.

A Compressed-air washing machine (manufactured in the late 19th century) by Friedrich Wolter & Hans Echberg.
Image Credit: Photograph by Benjamin Healley.
Source: Museums Victoria, Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)
Source: Washing Machines Collection

The Early Hair Dryers from Hell, c.1930s.

Before the invention of hair dryers, women would often attach hoses to the exhaust ends of vacuum cleaners to blow-dry their hair.
vintage hair dryers (1)A woman sits under a chrome-plated hair dryer, 1928. (Keystone-France/Getty Images)c. vintage hair dryers (2)
1928 (Corbis)
vintage hair dryers (3)
A stylist uses a freestanding dryer to blow dry a client’s hair with controlled precision at the Hairdressing Fair of Fashion in London, 1929. (Puttnam /Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The girl using a heat lamp and hairdrier made of hot glass. (Photo by Ralph Royle/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

See more Images vintage everyday: Vintage Beauty Salons – Hilarious Photos of the Early Hair Dryers from between the 1920s and 1940s

1928: The Birth of Sliced Bread, Missouri.

bread-slicer

Sliced bread and its inventor, Otto Rohwedder, have both celebrated a birthday. Rohwedder was born on July 7, 1880, and the first sliced loaves were sold on July 7, 1928.
Every invention that makes life easier is now deemed “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” (or if you live in Australia, ‘the greatest thing since canned piss’) but the idea of presliced bread actually took a while to catch on.
Rohwedder spent over 10 years trying to get a bakery to try out his machine. Bakers thought that their customers simply wouldn’t be impressed and wouldn’t care if their bread was presliced or not.
Skeptics were also worried that the presliced bread would become stale faster or would crumble and fall apart during the slicing, according to the Constitution-Tribune.
However, once Rohwedder got his foot in the door, it didn’t take long for the invention to catch on.
The small town of Chillicothe in northwest Missouri became the first place where sliced loaves were sold to the public. The news even made the front page of the local paper.
mural13_bPhoto: Chillocothe, Missouri.
While there’s no proof, it’s likely that the phrase, “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” came from the advertisement that ran on the back page of the paper, which called the sliced loaves “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.”
Just two years after it was introduced, use of the slicing machine spread across the country, and the company Wonder Bread began building its own bread slicers and mass-producing the presliced loaves.
During World War II, the government banned sliced bread in order to put more resources into weapons production rather than bread-slicing-machine production.
The ban only lasted two months because of the strong backlash, not just from bread companies, but also from consumers who had grown used to the presliced bread and were outraged at the idea of having to slice it themselves, according to the Kansas City Star.
Rohwedder’s original machine includes multiple steel blades that chop the loaves into slices just under 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) wide and then stuffs them into a heavy waxed paper wrapping.
Read on via Sliced Bread: The ‘Greatest Thing’ Turns 86.