If you are one of those, who following the Thanksgiving Day food cram, delves into the Black Friday shopping fest this might be just the thing for you. A “Combined Shopping Bag and Skirt Holder” patented by Girolamo Comi of Cobalt back in 1906. According to the patent application the device is a ” skirt-holder in connection with a shopping bag, so that a woman’s skirt may be conveniently held up and released at will”. I will leave the phrase “released at will” open to interpretation by the reader…….Happy Thanksgiving!
Not really, but hey it’s apparently National Pickle Day today. So here’s an “Olive and Pickle Fork” patented by George J. Capewell of the Capewell Manufacturing Company of Hartford back in 1940…and a link to a story about Connecticut’s “Pickle Law”
I’m taking my annual trip to Newtown this week to speak to some 4th graders about Connecticut history. We’ll talk Charter Oak, Nutmeg, Constitution State etc. but I like to sprinkle in a bit of local history as well if I can. Something about Newtown that not many folks know is that back in the 19th century the town was a local hub of comb and button manufacturing.
The Newtown Historical Society website (which is quite informative) says this “Button and comb production was another thriving industry in 19th century Newtown. Since Newtown was primarily an agricultural town, it was natural that an industry that utilized a waste product from animal husbandry such as horn, bone, and hoof would develop and do very well here. At one time there were as many as 14 button shops in full production. After the Civil War, however, as plastics took over as the preferred material for both comb and button making, the shops began to close. By the beginning of the twentieth century just two of the button shops remained in business. One, S. Curtis and Co., survived by converting to the manufacturing of cardboard boxes and survives to this day as Curtis Packaging, Inc. The other suffered a disastrous fire in 1926 and closed for good. “
With this in mind here are a couple of Newtown patents related to the button and comb industry:
From 1854 a patent for “Manufacture of Wooden Buttons” granted to LL and AL Platt:
Next we have a Comb patented by Ammon Taylor in 1881:
Sometimes I run across an obscure Connecticut invention that seems like a good idea but I have no real way of testing it out. Not so with today’s find. This is a “Pen and Pencil Holder” patented by Frederick P. Peiter of Norwalk in 1886. A simple idea, have a writing implement literally at hand whenever you need it.
We don’t have any in our collections here so I built my own simple version with a pencil and a rubber band…..and you know what? It works pretty well. Maybe the inventor had some kind of similar version of his own before he patented the real thing.
October is National Popcorn month! Here’s a “Cooking Utensil” patented by Perl Butler of Weatogue Connecticut back in 1918. Maybe not as easy as sticking a bag in a microwave and walking away for two or three minutes, this tool simply requires you to place the unpopped kernels in the pan, close the lid then proceed to hold it “over the blaze” according to the patent application.
If that’s too much work for you there is Dague Popcorn a company in Connecticut that makes gourmet popcorn for you in some pretty tempting flavors….
A recent Museum acquisition peaked my interest as I walked by a table full of historical goodies destined for our collection. It’s an example of “The Delusion” Mouse Trap patented by John Best Cuzner of Bridgeport. The trap alone is interesting by its very look and an example of the over 4,000(!) that have been patented in the U.S. since the mid 19th century. (Including 13 here in Connecticut) But the real interesting part is the inventor himself….
John Cuzner enlisted as a “Mechanic” in the 16th Connecticut Infantry in 1862. Only 18 years old he fought in battles including Antietam and Fredricksburg and was taken as a prisoner in 1864. Cuzner was sent to Andersonville prison, one of the largest Confederate prisons of the Civil War. One of the deadliest too. Nearly 13,000 prisoners kept here died due to the deplorable conditions of the prison. Fortunately for him, Cuzner was paroled and released from Andersonville later in the year, weighing only 84 pounds.
Cuzner went on to live a long life after the war ended, passing away in 1926. He was granted patents for two other inventions besides this trap. A “Toy Horse and Carriage” in 1871 and an “Automatic Toy” in 1874.
In case you haven’t noticed (or jarringly felt it) we’ve entered pothole season here in New England. The constant swings in temperature and precipitation have left many roads looking and feeling like something one reads about in a novel about traveling through a third world country. But it’s nothing new, it happens every year and has been happening every year for decades. Of course repairing an aluminum rim from a car today might be a bit more costly than repairing a wooden wheel from a buckboard a 150 years ago….
Keeping our roads in good order is a constant battle. There are a number of Connecticut inventions from years gone by that have sought the best way to build and or repair roads:
James Brooks of Stafford Springs devised this “Road Scraper” in 1862:
Another “Road Scraper”, this from Wallingford and Marcus Cook dates to 1884:
Then from Thomas Barber of Hampton, circa 1865, we have the “Road Device”. A sort of all in one machine that digs, scrapes and crowns a road:
Now all these fancy tools can make the best roads in the world. But sometimes a driver needs a bit more help keeping his or her car on the path so to speak. John Lawson of West Haven thought he solved that by offering up the “Road Guard” back in 1923. Funny thing is this reminds me of my kids slot car racing sets that have those plastic barriers on the corners to keep their mini cars traveling down the road…..works for them, maybe not a bad idea after all.