Rising Above

https://www.google.com/patents/US270295

This is rather unpleasant. In 1883 John Fleck patented a “life-saving apparatus for privy-vaults,” “to provide a means of escape from the vaults should a person by accident fall therein.”

Apparently this was a problem. “In various sections of the United States deep vaults are commonly used, generally constructed of masonry, and, as is often the case, they are but imperfectly covered or otherwise protected at the top to guard against persons falling therein.”

Fleck’s solution is basically a ladder set into the wall of the vault. Good for him, I guess. I hope he wasn’t inspired by some personal tragedy.

Likeness

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Quincy_Adams_by_GPA_Healy,_1858.jpg

At left is the official White House portrait of John Quincy Adams, painted by George Peter Alexander Healy. At right is a daguerreotype of Adams in 1843, when he became the first president to be photographed.

In a diary entry for Aug. 1, 1843, Adams noted that four daguerreotypes had been taken and pronounced them “all hideous.” Three more were taken the following day, but he found them “no better than those of yesterday. They are all too true to the original.”

That raises an interesting question: Which of these images is the more revealing record of the man? In Puzzles About Art, philosopher Matthew Lipman asks, “Which would we rather have, a portrait of Socrates by Rembrandt or a photograph of Socrates?”

Eternal Repose

https://www.google.com/patents/US964439

Angelo Lerro hated the thought of a body mouldering in a traditional casket, so in 1910 he offered this tidy alternative: The body is embalmed and arranged in a natural posture in a hermetically sealed glass bell filled with a preservative gas. This way the survivors can view the deceased without distress, and entire graveyards can be filled with sealed bells to keep soil and watercourses clean. (I suppose it will also keep down the vampire population.)

An even more permanent solution.

Box Scores

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_watching_television_1958.jpg

“It is probable that television drama of high caliber and produced by first-rate artists will materially raise the level of dramatic taste of the nation.” — RCA president David Sarnoff, 1939

“Television? The word is half Greek and half Latin. No good can come of it.” — Manchester Guardian editor C.P. Scott, 1928

“Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.” — Rex Lambert, The Listener, 1936

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — movie producer Darryl Zanuck, 1946

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — BBC school broadcasting director Mary Somerville, 1948

“How can you put out a meaningful drama or documentary that is adult, incisive, probing, when every fifteen minutes the proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper?” — Rod Serling, 1974

“I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.” — Orson Welles, 1956

Rise or Fall

https://www.google.com/patents/US325437

Here’s an old-timey way to prevent oversleeping, patented by A.J. Nordmann in 1885. Set your alarm clock as normal but attach it to a lever on Nordmann’s “alarm and waking bed.” Now if you don’t turn off the alarm in time, the head of the bedframe will drop to the floor.

“Thus a person sleeping is awakened as the alarm sounds, and should he fail to rise he is immediately dropped down with the head portion of the mattress F, which then has its bearing upon the springs H.”

I suppose that really chronic oversleepers could remove the springs, to make the jolt even more jarring.

Inside Job

https://www.google.com/patents/US754217

Viennese inventor Adolf Herz patented this “portable bath or sack for washing or bathing purposes” in 1904. Fill it with “bathing agent or fluid,” step in, and close the upper end around your neck, and draw your soap, sponge, and towel from pockets in the interior.

Bathing or washing can be effected in the sack with every convenience. Splashing of water and wetting of the floor is thus entirely prevented. Also by means of the sack the evaporation of the water on the body otherwise taking place in bathing and washing is prevented, whereby the catching of colds is avoided. The bathing and washing can therefore be done in cool places. Also radiation of the heat of the body is considerably reduced, whereby a very agreeable sensation is produced when using the sack.

Afterward you can drain it through a runoff pipe. “After the sack has been emptied it can be folded together, so as to occupy a very small space, and then, if desired, tied or fastened together and kept in a bag, satchel, knapsack, or the like.”

The Bat Bomb

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bat_Bomb_Canister.jpg

Pennsylvania dentist Lytle S. Adams had a bright idea in 1942: Since Japanese cities were largely built of paper, bamboo, and other flammable materials, they could be disrupted effectively with fire. And a novel way to spread fire in public buildings would be to release bats bearing incendiary devices. Rigged bats dropped over an industrial city would roost in the buildings as living time bombs, and the resulting fires would spread chaos over a wide area.

Surprisingly, the government liked the idea, and it set about designing a bomblike canister in which a thousand bats could be dropped from an altitude of 5,000 feet. At 1,000 feet the container would open, releasing the bats over a wide area. Ten bombers carrying 100 canisters each could unleash a million intelligent bombs over the industrial cities of Osaka Bay.

Preliminary tests were encouraging, even setting a New Mexico air base accidentally ablaze, but the project evolved too slowly and was eventually eclipsed by the atom bomb. In a way that’s a shame: “Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of 40 miles in diameter for every bomb dropped,” Adams had said. “Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life.”

Dairy Carry

https://www.google.com/patents/US359921

Allen Cowan patented this portable milking stool in 1887. From the look of the abstract, he had tested it extensively in actual practice:

In operation, the wearer buckles the waist strap around his or her waist, for this stool is peculiarly adapted for use by women, the stool hanging down behind out of the way, as shown in Fig. l of the drawings, leaving both hands free to carry two pails. As soon as the wearer is ready to sit down to milk, by merely leaning slightly forward, as one sits, the stool swings directly underneath the person, and one can sit down upon it without touching it with the hand.

“If the cow should move away a few feet or commence to kick,” he adds, “the person milking can get up quickly, and catch up the buckets with both hands without paying any attention to the stool, and follow up the cow, sitting down as before.”

Misc

  • What time is it at the North Pole?
  • The shortest three-syllable word in English is W.
  • After the revolution, the French frigate Carmagnole used a guillotine as its figurehead.
  • 823502 + 381252 = 8235038125
  • PRICES: CRIPES!
  • “Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.” — Martial

When Montenegro declared independence from Yugoslavia, its top-level domain changed from .yu to .me.

Self-Regard

https://www.google.com/patents/US2598291

Edward O’Brien patented this “body-attached rearview mirror” in 1905 “to facilitate the dressing of the hair and the inspection of the back of the head and head dress.” Essentially it’s a harness that bears three mirrors and an illuminating bulb, replacing a bothersome hand mirror.

“By this means, both hands of the wearer are free to properly arrange the head dress, brush the hair and the like, without disturbing the adjustment of the mirror and illuminating means.”

Just remember to take it off afterward …