Pity the Poor Pickpocket?


One of my favorite history blogs to follow is Ephemeral New York which has fascinating  posts related to how that great city has evolved in numerous ways over the years. Today they had one titled Whatever happened to New York’s pickpockets? This immediately made me think of a Connecticut invention I discovered a few years back that is not only unusual, but has a great drawing as part of its patent application.

The invention, titled “Pocket Alarm”, was granted a patent on November 1st 1859. The inventors were Isaac Goodspeed of Norwich, Connecticut and George Mansfield of Boston, Massachusetts. Basically the “Pocket Alarm” was a small device that could fit in a persons pocket and if that pocket was being picked by some neer-do-well an alarm would go off both warning the victim and scaring the you know what out of the attacker.

Pocket Alarm

What kind of alarm? Well, nothing less than a percussion cap located within the alarm itself. The same thing used on revolvers and rifles in that time to fire a bullet out of a gun! So yes, basically you would have a small explosion go off in your backside if someone tried to rob you…..According to the patent application ” no sooner does the thief pull on the pocket book than the alarm explodes and thus gives prompt notice to the intended victim…”

Of course the alarm could also be used on a hotel door or the like, but the image of some guy wearing one of these, walking down the street of New York City, and suddenly having a small, smoky explosion coming from his back side just strikes me as funny. Maybe this is why pickpocketing has dwindled in the city?


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