Connecticut Invention of the Day: “A Handy Invention”

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.

Connecticut Invention of the Day: A Sweetheart of a Toaster

The common American kitchen toaster. Found in many homes around the United States. Often tucked into a small spot on a counter, frequently used, but not often truly noticed and appreciated. Perhaps because today many toasters are bland, boring objects that invite anonymity. There was once a time though when kitchen toasters were something special, worthy of a design that has withstood the test of time with its beauty, style and panache……here’s a Connecticut example:

The “Sweetheart Toaster”. Officially known as the Model E-9410, made by Landers, Frary and Clark of New Britain Connecticut. A design patent was granted to George E. Curtiss in May of 1929 for this design which still charms today.

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The mechanicals of how it works are also something special. Press either button on the side of the unit and a cage swings out for you to put the bread in. Release the button and the cage swings back in to begin the toasting process. Simple, effective and even somewhat entertaining. We have a large collection of toasters here at the museum. This is one of my favorites… sweetheart you might say.


Connecticut Invention of the Day: Ahem



There’s a whole lot of coughing, throat clearing and the like going on. At least to my ears. Of course I spend a lot of time in elementary school classrooms where some strain of the common cold or  some allergy causing particles seem to be always floating through the air. My first act upon leaving a school is to douse myself in hand sanitizer……I keep a gallon jug of it in my trunk….of course it’s all in vain, eventually something will get you.

Perhaps if something “got you” back in 1889, a cough say, you could swill some of this Connecticut patented Cough Sirup (that’s the way it’s spelled on the application!) created by Francis M. Jaques of New London. Check out the list of ingredients. The usual ones are there including Hoarhound, Wild Cherry Bark and Licorice. My favorite though has to be a half pint of Rye Whiskey. Now that will certainly make you feel better!  Of course this recipe makes about 3 gallons of the sirup. This should be taken “three times a day after meals. In extreme cases the doses may be taken oftener.” Rye Whiskey, Cherry Bark, Rock Candy and Licorice? Ahem indeed!


Connecticut Invention of the Day: Happy National Ice Skating Month!


Apparently January is National Ice Skating Month. My Mom liked to ice skate and taught me early on how to lace up the skates and hit, (literally many times) the ice. The cold air, frozen ice and warm sunshine on a local pond is a beautiful thing. Pick up hockey games were a big part of my youth during cold Connecticut winters. I still skate occasionally in the winter if the weather cooperates. My son was asking us the other day to go skating here in Hartford at the outdoor rink in Bushnell Park. (which I think is one of the best things Hartford has done recently.)

To celebrate National Ice Skating Month here is a modern invention from Rowayton Connecticut for a “Traction Device to Walk on Ice While Wearing Ice Skate Scabbard“. The Patent Application was filed back in 2011. I don’t think it has been approved yet, so let’s hope that happens…..


Connecticut Patent of the Day: Happy Halloween!

Hopefully everyone is safe after yet another nasty Halloween time trick from Mother Nature. Fortunately my family is safe and sound and the kids are all set to go out trick or treating tonight. Captain America, Spider Man and the Pink Princess will hit the streets shortly after sunset. And after they go to bed, I’ll trick or treat through their stash of candy……….

With that in mind here’s a Halloween related patent from Middletown circa 1926:

Connecticut Patent of the Day: A Run Around Hartford

This Saturday is the ING Hartford Marathon. I’m running the half marathon for the first time. I’ve been running various other distances for 20 years, but never this far. And after this probably never this far again………So with that in mind here are a few Connecticut inventions that have summed up my many years of running the streets of Hartford and various other locations around the good old USA:

Before the race this weekend I will surely look for strength from wherever I can get it including from a higher power. Perhaps this Chaplet and Shrine of the Holy Rosary, invented in New Haven in 1908 would come in handy:

I’ve never spent much time on a treadmill. I can’t stand them actually, I get bored to tears, I need the streets, the activity. But for those who prefer the steady sameness of one here’s a version from James Morairty of Hartford in 1904:

Of course running on the streets has its pitfalls. I generally fall 3 or 4 times a year. Usually because I’m not paying attention to the road ahead. I’ve torn clothes, bruised knees, twisted ankles, shredded skin etc. And yes, been bitten by a dog or two. This invention of William Postings of Greenwich in 1929 would solve some of that problem:

Now there are of course other hazards a runner encounters. Drivers who are clueless, stupid or just plain inept. Bikers on sidewalks, (mainly adults) who won’t share the walk and just barrel ahead waiting for me to move over at the last second, other runners who run while tuned into their iPods, MP3’s or whatever. (Shut em off and listen to your body!!) I think this device, one of my all time favorites from CT, would come in handy as a stress reducer before, during or after a run. Or for that matter before, during or after family gatherings, holidays, work days etc. From the Mortimer Newman Company of New Haven in 1946:

At the end of every run I crave some simple things. First I just want to relax a bit. Give the knees, shins, ankles etc. a break. Here’s just the trick from John Collins of Norwich in 1895:

But most of all I crave liquid. Water, energy drinks, chocolate milk etc. But in the summer after a hot run there’s nothing better than an ice-cold beer…….with that wonderful thought in mind here is the aptly named Beer Drawing Apparatus from John Coit and John McNamara of Norwich in 1886:

All in all any run is a good run. Running is not always easy. It can hurt, get hot, cold, wet, exhausting. But like my all time favorite runner Steve Prefontaine said “You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement“. Lace ’em up, it’s time to run…..

Connecticut Patent of the Day: Damn Squirrels!

“Damn Squirrels!” Those words were muttered more than a few times yesterday. Actually much more colorful language was used, which can’t be repeated here. Though I do recall yelling ” I hope your mouth is on fire you son of a *#*&$!” (Wonder what my neighbors were thinking?)  Why such anger and hostility towards a little rodent that I usually find rather cute and entertaining? One word: Pumpkins.

Yesterday was the day my family and I went down the road to the local farmer to get pumpkins for decorating the house. (And as it turns out feeding the squirrels.) This is done every year and every year I have learned to coat the pumpkins with spray on shellac to keep critters away. It usually works for at least a few weeks. Not this time…….Within a 1/2 hour there was Mr. Squirrel with his head buried deep inside one of the pumpkins, fillin his little belly with pumpkin seeds…… cute….

My rage took about 3 seconds to boil over. My wife, equally enraged, assisted me in conjuring up a solution to spray on the pumpkins. The recipe? One part Lysol cleaner, one part water and one part Sriracha Hot Sauce. (Which I love and treat like liquid gold. So to waste it on a rodent really burns my arse.) I even dumped some of this stuff in the half eaten pumpkin…….Did it work? Yea. For like 3 minutes until Mr. Squirrel figured, “hmmm, those pumpkin seeds are might tasty with a bit of hot sauce on em…….”

Next came out the Chili powder, generously sprinkled all over the pumpkins. All this seemed to work on the uneaten pumpkins. The half eaten one? Heck no, it was an open buffet, even with straight hot sauce squeezed right in……All I know is if I ate that much of the sauce I would have one heck of windy night if you catch my drift…….

What’s next? Slingshot, BB gun, large cat allowed to roam outside? Maybe all of the above….In the meantime If I get my hands on the rodent I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a real life version of this Connecticut invention from 1896:

Whiting Jerome Wilcox, Cornwall CT, 1896

Connecticut Patent of the Day: Sweeeeet!

So today I made a discovery here in the museum that made my day a whole lot tastier. The snack vending machine which normally stocks snacks that border on the absurd has for some reason been stocked with my favorite and what I think is the best candy bar of all time. The Zero Bar.A candy bar that dates back to the 1920’s and normally found in old timey candy shops and what not. (Though I have found them on occasion in Walmart.) I literally was breezing by the machine when the familiar to me Zero wrapper caught my eye and stopped me mid step. Quickly I reached into my pocket to see if I have enough change to go get one after lunch. The Zero along with my Connecticut made Avery’s Soda Root Beer will make a sugary high for me that should at least last a half an hour…..I can’t wait!

So with that in mind here is a Connecticut invented “Wrapped Candy Doll” from 1921. (The 1920’s were a boom time for candy making in the U.S.) In the patent application the inventor, Adelaide M. Porter of Greenwich  describes the doll as both a toy and a candy: “The wrapped candy may be played with as a doll until it is desired to eat the candy.”  Frankly the drawing on this thing is kind of creepy looking, but I bet it sure tasted good! So while I go enjoy my Zero and Root Beer ponder to yourself how you would go about eating this sweet Connecticut invention……

Connecticut Patent of the Day: Let’s Play With Our Food!

The garden at  our house is in full swing this summer. Tomatoes are taller than my 6-year-old, cukes are climbing up the fence with too many blossoms to count, beans are especially tasty when grilled with a bit of olive oil and the taters are about the size of a golf ball and getting bigger by the day. This is the first year I put up a fence around the garden and it seems to have made all the difference in the world. No more midnight snacks for Peter Rottentail or old Mr. Woodchuck.  My posts are  made from left over tree debris from the October storm of last year and chicken wire fence. Looks rustic but does the job just fine.

My kids like to pick the veggies but not eat them too much yet. I won’t push them to eat the veggies though. Eventually they’ll figure out they taste pretty good. Heck, I used to have a rule that I never ate anything green unless it was a Shamrock Shake and I turned out pretty healthy….maybe if I can get them to play with their food that will make the veggies seem more appealing? Hmmm……maybe that’s what this Connecticut inventor had in mind.

Patented in 1928 I present you with Norwich inventor Zaida Webb’s “Garden Doll”:


Connecticut Patent of the Day: Happy Babe Ruth Day!

The Babe says good-bye.


Today is Babe Ruth Day. A day to remember, in my opinion, the greatest baseball player of them all: George Herman “Babe” Ruth. On this date in 1947 The Babe visited Yankee Stadium for the last time before succumbing to throat cancer a short time later.  Babe was more than a baseball player,  he was one of the first athletes to transcend sports in many different venues. He was in commercials, he was in movies, had his own line of  merchandise, heck even during World War II Japanese soldiers were reported to yell “To Hell with Babe Ruth” when they charged American soldiers  during battle. He was a symbol of America globally known before the age of  CNN, Twitter, Facebook etc.

There are of course many stories and quotes attributed to Babe. Some fit for this blog, some not, but they all make up his legend which is as strong today as it was 50 or 75 years ago.  How many people can you say that about? One of my favorite stories about him regards his love for food,  hot dogs in particular.  While playing for the Yankees,  during a double-header the Babe supposedly once ate 12 hot dogs & 8 bottles of soda between games ! He was reportedly rushed to the hospital after the game with a severe case of indigestion. Can’t imagine why?

So in honor of that and in honor of The Babe here is the patent of the day:  A “Food Article” from George Lyons of New Haven in 1925. Looks really similar to those mini hot dogs you might make around Christmas time! Ya know, the kind you stuff into your mouth 2 or 3 at a time? Maybe that’s just me though……of course I do it in honor of The Babe.