29 June 2010

Swimming Appliances Through the Ages

1. Apparatus for Teaching the Art of Swimming
Inventor: William Redfearn, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date: March 31, 1874
U.S. Patent Number: 149,249

Description: Device for facilitating the teaching of swimming by accustoming the limbs of the learner to the several movements required, so that upon taking to the water, the learner will instinctively make the same movements, and will be enabled to swim perfectly after comparatively little practice.

2. Swimming Apparatus
Inventor: William Beeson, Dillon, Montana Territory
Date: July 5, 1881
U.S. Patent Number: 243,834

Description: A detachable suit provided with pockets or receptacles for the body and limbs, with a web portion between the pockets for the limbs, which acts like wings or fins, which, from the movement of the legs and arms, effect a propulsion through the water.

3. Swimming Appliance
Inventor: Joel R. Heminger, Akron, Ohio
Date: March 24, 1925
U.S. Patent Number: 1,530,560

Description: A light and effecient appliance which can readily be attached to the swimmer, which has a tail portion adapted to be moved from side to side to simulate the movement of a fish and thus propel the swimmer forward.

4. Swimming Appliance
Inventor: Nickolas Meroussis, New York, New York
Date: January 5, 1932
U.S. Patent Number: 1,839,489

Description: A device which will make swimming more enjoyable to those who wear it. Includes triangular webs positioned between the legs and arms, secured by means of buckles.

Initiation and Worshipping Devices

1. Initiation Apparatus
Inventor: John Milton Seibert, Pekin, Illinois
Date: May 8, 1906
U.S. Patent Number: 819,814

Description: Initiation apparatus designed for use in lodges and secret societies, for initiating a candidate into the secrets and forms of the order. The invention contemplates a simple and practical form of apparatus entirely harmless in its action and results, while at the same time producing an amusing and entertaining effect. The invention essentially consists of a pair of guiding-conductors and a pair of walking electrodes. The electrodes are worn by the subject and designed to be carried over and in contact with the conductors. The conductors are in the form of metallic rails arranged in a track and secured to the floor so the subject may walk upon them. The guiding conductors are included in an electrical generator-circuit, designed for shocking the subject when the subject closes the circuit while walking on the conductors.

2. Worshipping System
Inventor: George Yamagata, Chiba, Japan
Date: April 26, 1988
U.S. Patent Number: 4,739,595

Description: A worshipping room with an altar, an area for storing cenerary urns, visible means for visually suggesting the movement of the spirits from cinerary urns to the altar, and control means for actuating the said visible means. When necessary, codes for the number of family members or deceased are input into the control unit, and the visible means simulates the transfer of the spirit of the deceased from the cinerary urn to the worshipped object. This causes the worshippers of their ancestors to feel that the spirit in the cinerary urn has been united to the worshipped object.

16 June 2010

Pat On The Back Apparatus

Inventor: Ralph R. Piro, Lindenhurst, New York
Date: September 2, 1986
U.S. Patent Number: 4,608,967

Description: "A self-congratulatory apparatus having a simulated human hand carried on a pivoting arm suspended from shoulder supported member. The hand is manually swingable into and out of contact with the user's back to give an amusing or an important pat-on-the-back."

Baby Patting Machine

Inventor: Thomas V. Zelenka, Hanford, California
Date: January 5, 1971
U.S. Patent Number: 3,552,388

Description: "A device for patting a baby to sleep by means of periodic pats upon the rump or hind part of the baby, the device comprising a bracket supporting a motor having pulley on the motor shaft, and the pulley supporting an arm having a soft pad at one end which pats the baby."

Device For Producing Dimples

Inventor: Martin Goetze, a subject of the King of Prussia
Date: May 19, 1896
U.S. Patent Number: 560,351

Description: Device which serves either to produce artistic dimples on the human body or to nurture and maintain dimples already existing by means of massage.

Eyebrow Shield

Inventor: C. M. Brennan, Chicago, Illinois
Date: March 11, 1913
U.S. Patent Number: 1,055,382

Description: "It has been discovered that eye-brows, more particularly the side portions thereof, are worn away by rubbing against the pillows while the person is sleeping, and particularly when patients are confined in bed for an extended period. This wearing away is believed by many to affect the appearance of the person, and the present invention designs to provide a simple device whereby this wearing away may be effectively prevented and whereby also, the eye-brows may be treated with a chemical for the purpose of developing them. The invention also designs to provide eye-brow shields which may be conveniently worn while the wearer is asleep and which will effectively prevent eye-brows from being worn away, and whereby a chemical may be applied to the eye-brows, and which are adjustable so as to fit eye-brows of different persons."

13 June 2010

Hypodermic Syringes and Attachments Thereto Pleasing to Children

Inventor: R. L. Smeton, Twentynine Palms, California
Date: Jan. 24, 1967
U.S. Patent Number: 3,299,891

Description: "As physicians and dentists well know, it is important to prevent fear of injections by hypodermic syringes on the part of patients, especially children. Preventing such fear or apprehension will elevate the standards and quality of work of the medical and dental fields, thereby improving the overall health standards of our nation. To help avoid such fear and apprehension in patients from a hypodermic syringe, my invention involves redesigning a disposable type hypodermic syringe by forming the casing or barrel of the syringe into the shape and appearance of an attractive object or animal pleasing to children. Proper use of these improvements will materially decrease fear or apprehension of hypodermic syringes on the part of children."

10 June 2010

Grave Alarm

Inventor: August Lindquist, Chariton, Iowa
Date: June 20, 1893
US Patent Number: 500,072

Description: An improvement to grave alarms, whereby persons who are prematurely buried can sound an alarm, thus notifying cemetary officials of their unfortunate condition. In addition, fresh air is supplied to the person prematurely buried until help arrives.

09 June 2010

Automobile Protector

Inventor: William Spencer, Los Angeles, California
Date: Jan. 3, 1978
US Patent Number: 4,154,254

Description: A cover which may be removably installed over a vehicle including a shroud mounted on an umbrella-like frame which fits in close relationship to a vehicle to be covered.

R.I.P. Edward D. O'Brien

I do not know much about Edward D. O'Brien (Attorney at Law in Patent, trademark & Related matters, deceased), but I do know that like me, he was a connoisseur of weirdness.  

I'd been first in line at his estate sale, intent on scooping up a trove of free energy, borderland science, occult and psychic healing books for my online bookselling business. When I got home, a document fell out of a book entitled, "Exotic Patents." It was a letter, dated 1991, from the newly retired Edward D. O'Brien to the publisher of the book. In the letter, Mr. O'Brien explained that From Jan. 1, 1955 to the late 1980s, he had accumulated a series of patent collections and that he had given the collections the following titles:

1. Historical
2. Hysterical
3. Mechanical Perpetual Motion
4. Magnetic Perpetual Motion Type Motors
5. Unapproved Medical
6. Psychographs
7. Miscellaneous Borderline Subject Matter

He wondered whether the publisher was interested in the book he was in the process of writing. (From all indications, this book was never completed.)

At the sale, I had viewed a shelf full of notebooks about which I was told erroneous information, and in my purchasing frenzy was unable to discern their import. But upon reading the letter, I knew I had to return to the sale the next day (when everything would be half-off) and get my hands on the notebooks, which I now realized were part of the patent collection. I couldn't help myself. Hence, I am now in possession of a large plastic tub crammed full of unusual patents photocopies, a partial manuscript, and miscellaneous patent-related papers and articles. 

The patents date all the way back to the late-1800s, and up to the 1980s. In perusing the papers, I've already noticed a late-19th century/early 20th century obsession with electricity. Nothing, it seems, was exempt from electrification back then.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My plan is to expose the most hysterical of the patents, little by little, in these pages, as time permits. Please stay tuned.