Centrifugal Machines


I don’t know much about William Bock or Bock Laundry Machine Company, but I do know that I need to learn more about both. Mr. Bock appears to have worked with Michael Owens in bringing his first fully automated bottle making machine to life. Bock Laundry Machine Company appears to have been quite successful, too, and is known in legal circles for a Supreme Court case from the 1980s relating to impeachment of a civil witness with evidence of prior felony convictions regardless of any unfair prejudice that may result. Mr. Bock’s earliest patents relate to glass-blowing machines. Bock and Owens both have multiple patents from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are assigned to the Toledo Glass Company, but Bock’s name never seems to be mentioned in the popular history of industrial glass-making in Toledo.

Aerial Photography Apparatus


The drawings in this patent for an early aerial photography system are relatively simple, and even seem a bit silly with a camera suspended from a kite string. But looks can be deceiving. Turns out, Mr. Eddy was famous for his photographic and meteorological experiments with kites. In fact, on May 30, 1895, Eddy took the first kite-based photograph in the Americas (seven years after the first ever kite-based photographs, taken by Arthur Batut). Mr. Eddy professionally as an accountant and journalist, but it’s clear his passion was in science and technology…and inventing. Ironically, it’s difficult to find the early Eddy kite photographs online.

Hammock Stretcher


This is the last, I believe, of the Victor Travers hammock patents, ending a period of about fourteen years of hammock-related invention and innovation by Mr. Travers and his company. Perhaps reflective of the ending of that period, this patent is directed at something that is, at best, an incremental improvement on a Travers application filed just over a week before the application underlying this patent. In his 492,852 patent, Mr. Travers describes a spreader that can be folder, and illustrates a spreader having a series of segments attached at pivot points. Here, he shows an alternative arrangement of spreader segments…and attaches a canopy to the spreader. He even reused the main drawing from that earlier patent, although the female figure is reading a different book in the figure in this patent (it actually has a title, where the book in the figure of the earlier patent does not). And the title of that book is one of my favorite historical patent puzzles. What is it? Is it a real book? My best guess at the title is, in Latin, Mars Pre Ut Vivas, which roughly (and perhaps not accurately) translates to “May you live dancing.”

Hammock Stretcher


This patent is directed to a hammock spreader that can be “readily folded for packing and other purposes.” It is notable for its intricate main drawing, which is reminiscent of an image of a woman lounging on a hammock that the Travers Brothers Company used in its corporate letterhead.

Hammock Spreader


This patent for a hammock spreader shows a bit of patent strategy, as the underlying application was filed on the same date as the application that produced U.S. patent no. 381,864 for Mr. Travers, which issued on the same date as this patent. This patent appears to illustrate the holder claimed in the other patent, although it is difficult to tell if all details are included here. To avoid any prior art effect of the disclosure in this application on claims for the holder in the other application, Mr. Travers and his attorney filed both applications on the same day, a strategy (and legal necessity) that is still used today.

Hammock Holder for Supporting Ropes


This patent for a holder reflects a bit of a departure from the holder disclosed in U.S. patent no. 240,866, an earlier patent of Mr. Travers. The holder of the earlier patent was actually manufactured (I have one), but I have not seen any evidence that the holder of this application was ever made. Also interesting, this patent shows a bit of patent strategy. Mr. Travers filed two applications on December 12, 1887 - the application underlying this patent and the application underlying U.S. patent No. 381,863, which issued alongside this patent on April 24, 1888. This patent claims the holder that appears to be shown in the other patent, although it is difficult to tell if all details of the holder are included in the other patent. To avoid any prior art effect of the disclosure in that application on claims for the holder in this application, Mr. Travers and his attorney filed both applications on the same day, a strategy (and legal necessity) that is still used today.

Hammock Chair


According to the inventor, this patent provides a cheap, comfortable, and durable hammock chair. The gentleman in the drawing certainly looks comfortable. The innovation here appears to be the automatic placement of the foot rest “into position when a person enters the hammock” in response to the person’s weight acting on the cords and bars of the hammock.

Hammock Support


This patent is quite interesting when viewed in context with some of the later Travers hammock-related patents, particularly those directed at cinches for tightening ropes that secure a hammock to a support, such as a tree. The invention here seems anything but secure: ‘The suspension of a hammock from the backs of ordinary chairs, so that a hammock or a hammock-bed may be readily put up…without the use of permanent fastenings.’ I don’t think I’ve ever had the urge, or need, to suspend a hammock from ordinary chairs and, even if I had the particular chairs illustrated in FIG. 1, I doubt I’d give it a try. I wonder if Mr. Travers had some stories to tell about his development efforts with this invention. Perhaps he even had some bruises to show folks.



This is the first patent of Vincent Travers of New York, before he turned his inventive efforts to hammocks and their interaction with…ropes.



Victor Travers criticized one of his prior patents in describing the need for his invention described in this patent, the simple idea of attaching the headrest to the spreader instead of securing it to the body of the hammock.



This appears to be the first patent hammock-related patent application of Victor Travers. Here, the body of the hammock is relatively intricate while the connectors between the suspension ropes and the rope tied to the trees is just a simple loop. Some of his later patents focus on tighteners for the ropes used to tie the hammock to trees instead of the hammock body.

Clasp for Adjusting Hammocks


This patent is memorable for the idyllic image of a hammock strung between two trees and flapping in the breeze. The inventor’s company made a product marked with the patent, too, with minor adjustments. Travers Brothers branded hammock clasps actually looked like boat anchors.

Service Portion Gatherer


This is the last of Sherman Kelly’s ice cream scoop patents.

Tool for Handling Congealed Materials


This is the second of Sherman Kelly’s ice cream scoop patents. Visually, it represents a dramatic shift from the scoop illustrated in his earlier patent, eliminating the plug-in heating element and taking on the easy to recognize appearance of his world famous Zeroll scoop. Functionally, though, it’s similar to the scoop of his earlier patent, with a handle that provides a bit of heat to the ice cream while scooping and releasing a roll of ice cream. The difference? The scoop described in this patent includes a heat conducting liquid stored in the handle in place of the plug-in heating element.

Gathering Tool for Congealed Material


This is the first of Sherman Kelly’s patents related to ice cream scoops. While the invention described and illustrated in this patent looks nothing like his world famous Zeroll ice cream scoop, which would come later, it does show Kelly’s inventive roots in electrical engineering.

Fluting Iron


This patent is directed to the Geneva Hand Fluter, which was manufactured by W. H. Howell Co. of Geneva, IL during the late 1800s. Fluting clothing was, apparently, quite fashionable at the time.

Street Washer


This patent issued a few months after the Civil War started and was reissued a couple months after the war ended. It’s interesting to think that patenting activity continued while the war divided the nation.

Pressure Gage

mechanical automotive

Twitchell’s second tire gauge patent, with his positive lock improvement.

Pressure Gage for Pneumatic Tires

mechanical automotive

This is Twitchell’s first tire gauge patent. His improvement patent had the lasting impact.

Hard Hat Air Curtain

mechanical safety

Coal miner PPE technology included personal air curtains as early as 1975. Originally designed to prevent black lung disease, you’ve got to wonder if the technology could be made effective against virus transmission. A personal air curtain, perhaps on a baseball cap, might be an interesting product right now as we navigate the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

Machine for Sewing Hooks and Eyes on Cards


This pointed me to the story of Waterbury, Connecticut. The city is known as the Brass Capital of the World even though the brass industry has largely disappeared. American Pin introduced some automation innovations that disrupted the pin market, dating back to the civil war. This patent shows an evolution in the company as pin manufacturing became a smaller part of its business and new areas developed.

Electric Baseball Register

mechanical electrical sports baseball

Missed calls remain a problem in baseball today, even with the relatively recent addition of limited instant replay. Humphreys’ patent shows us that the problem of missed calls - “a feature of the game which is a great defect,” as he characterizes it, has been around for some time. His invention is relatively complex and I’ve not be able to locate any evidence of successful use of the technology. It’s interesting to note that Humphreys hails from Canada.

Cash Register

mechanical retail

Great example of NCR innovation, and how Dayton was close to inventing the computer. Also, this is a good patent for exploring Kettering, one of the most under-rated American inventors and innovators.

Sap Collecting Apparatus

mechanical food

George Soule was known as the Maple Syrup King. He introduced many innovations in taps, collectors, and evaporators.

Folding Bed


Frank Potter was not the first inventor to patent a folding bed, nor was he the last. Indeed, several patents for the technology issued in the late 1800s and several companies manufactured the beds at that time, including at least four located in “Furniture City” - Grand Rapids, Michigan. Yet, I’ve never heard of a “Potter Bed.” Have you? Somehow, the Murphy Bed came to be the defining brand in the space despite that fact that William Murphy doesn’t appear to have filed his first patent application for a folding bed invention until the early 1900s. A cursory review of the history suggests some companies focused on technology that lead to roll-away and sleeper sofa beds, while others, including The Murphy Wall Bed Company, focused on the technology behind pull-down beds, now known, generically, as Murphy beds.


mechanical toy

This patent is from a Japanese inventor living in the Territory of Hawaii. The application was filed during World War I and during a time of great unease in the Japanese community in Hawaii, with confusing levels of patriotism to Japan and the United States. Against that backdrop, the images selected for the puzzles depicted in the Figures are quite interesting. She could have selected any series of related images to illustrate her invention. Why did she select the American flag, the colonial flag, and the Spirit of ‘76 image? Did the inventor make these puzzles as an effort to demonstrate loyalty to the United States? Or was she simply capitalizing on demand at the time?

Safety Pin

mechanical detroit st. louis

The ‘845 patent is one of my favorite examples of the value of an improvement on an existing product. Andresen didn’t invent the safety pin, but he did contribute a significant improvement to the field with his addition of a locking feature to the pin. He secured several patents relating to safety pins and their manufacture. Indeed, his contribution is so significant that the locking design, I believe, is the one most people visualize then they think of a safety pin. Despite this technical advance, Andresen’s business struggled. The National Pin Company of Detroit purchased its assets under foreclosure in 1910, marking the end of Lock Safety Pin Company.

Floor Construction

mechanical construction detroit san francisco earthquake

Julius Kahn founded Trussed Concrete Steel Company in Detroit in the early 1900s. The company played an important role in rebuilding San Francisco after the earthquake when it was realized that buildings built with its construction survived the quake.

Improvement in Spring Balances


I’m not sure what became of D. Clinton Laurence, or his spring scales for that matter. But, I recognized the name of the Assignee of the ‘125 patent, which caused me to dig into this patent a bit. Alfred E. Beach was the son of the Moses Beach, who was the publisher of the New York Sun and founder of the Associated Press. Moses Beach is credited with originating print syndication. Alfred Beach followed in his fasther’s footsteps as a publisher. He purchased Scientific American shortly after it began publication. As a patent attorney, he leveraged Scientific American to grow his legal practice, which included several famous clients, including Thomas Edison. Also like his father, Alfred Beach was an inventor, too. In fact, he is credited with inventing…and illegally installing…the first subway in New York City, the Beach Pneumatic Transit.

Ice Machine

mechanical refrigeration ice

This patent brings together two giants in artificial ice. Thomas Rankin is one of the pioneers of artificial ice-making machinery. He installed the first indoor ice rink in the United States, in New York City. He also created a ice-lined roller coaster ride that premiered at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Jacob Skinkle, the assignee, was President of the Boyle Ice Machine Company, the first company to successfully build and commercialize ice making and refrigerating machinery in the United States.

Coffee Percolator

mechanical beverage

John Houck received several patents for coffee-making devices, including this patent, which appears to be his first. After moving from Toledo, OH, Houck manufactured and sold his percolators under the “PEERLESS” brand. Advertisements even positioned Houck as “The man that revolutionized coffee making.” He may have viewed himself as a revolutionary, but history doesn’t seem to have the same impression. The record of his success, and that of his percolators, is quite thin.

Hair Clipper

mechanical personal

The Oster hair clipper, still a prominent brand in the market today, started as a parting of ways between partners. Matthew Andis Sr. entered the nascent clipper market in the early 1920s, with partners John Oster and Henry Meltzer. The partners split, leading to the formation of two of today’s prominent clipper brands - Andis and Oster. Leo Wahl invented the first electric clipper before Andis, Oster, and Meltzer. Notably, Wahl also remains a prominent brand in the market.

Skeleton Tower

mechanical detroit

This is the eighth of eight John Adams patents that issued to The Detoit Iron Tower Company on April 22, 1884.

Electric Light Tower

mechanical detroit

The story behind this patent is not the inventor-he’s not founding father and President John Adams. No, for me, the story of the ‘332 patent is one of time and place. In the late 1800s, many municipalities were trying to figure out the best way to use electric lights to illuminate public spaces. Debate raged between “low lights” (lights on poles) and “tower lights.” Modern public lighting gives insight as to which technology ultimately won this battle. But, history tells us that tower lighting was considered more desirable for a time. And a company from Detroit led the charge as many towns and cities across the country installed large towers to light public spaces from above.


mechanical flying

Everyone knows the role the Wright brothers played in aviation history. But, without Thomas Scott Baldwin and the invention protected by this patent, the Wright Brothers may never have flown. Earlier in life, Baldwin worked as a tightripe walker, a trapeze artist, and a parachutest. His interest in hot air balloons led him to design a steerable balloon - a dirigible. He completed his first airship in 1904 in San Francisco, naming it the California Arrow and filing this patent application to protect it. Baldwin and his pilot, Roy Knabenshue from Toledo, OH, won a contest at the 1904 World’s Fair with California Arrow and quickly became national heroes. He helped the Wright brothers as they progressed on their airplane, and even went on to design and test dirigibles for the U.S. Army, earning the nickname “Father of the American Dirigible.”

Package Sealing Machine

mechanical packaging

Beech-Nut traces its roots back to 1891 with the founding of The Imperial Packing Co., which focused on the smoked hams of one of the founder’s father. The namesake company was founded in 1899 and focused on ham and bacon in its early years. Today, Beech-Nut is focused on baby food, which it began making in 1931. Its engineers have been recognized for several key food packing related innovations over the years, including the first vacuum jar and automated packaging machinery, like the invention described in this patent.

Improvement in Metallic Paper Fasteners

mechanical office

McGill is credited by many as inventing the precursor to the modern stapler. This patent is directed to an improvement in his fasteners, which were manufactured exclusively by Holmes, Booth, and Haydens of Connecticut. The ‘183 patent is one of two that issued on April 20, 1875 for McGill’s fasteners (the other is US 162,182).

Improvement in Paper Fasteners

mechanical office

McGill is credited by many as inventing the precursor to the modern stapler. This patent is directed to an improvement in his fasteners, which were manufactured exclusively by Holmes, Booth, and Haydens of Connecticut. The ‘182 patent is one of two that issued on April 20, 1875 for McGill’s fasteners (the other is US 162,183).

Metal Wheel


None provided.

Apparatus for Aerial Navigation


At first glance, this patent appears a bit goofy. Note the birds on the side of the platform beneath the balloon. Appreciation of the inventor’s background, though, allows you to appreciate the invention. Blaise Bontems, by all accounts, was a mechanical genius known the world over for his automaton birds and the realistic birdsongs they produced. With this context, it seems his invention is intended for use in the robotic birds his company produced and not necessarily for actual flying. But, you’ve got to wonder if he ever tried to get this off the ground.

Pleasure Canal

mechanical entertainment

Boyton is credited with opening the first amusement park. This might be the first patent for a water ride. He was an accomplished swimmer and exhibitionist before starting his amusement parks.

Sterilizable Surgical Liquid Dispenser

mechanical medical

This is probably the grandfather of the modern contactless hand sanitizer dispenser. Replace the foot pedal with a motion sensor and I think you’ve got it.

Double Walled Vessel


This is one of two patents filed during the year in which The American Thermos Bottle Company, the foundational entity behind Thermos brand products, was formed.

Fountain Pen

mechanical writing instrument

The Conklin Pen Manufacturing Company made Toledo, Ohio the center of the fountain pain universe for a brief moment in time. This patent, I believe, is directed to their crescent line of pens.

Combined Spoon and Fork


Not the spork, but an earlier combination spoon and fork utensil.

Copy Holder

mechanical office

None provided.

Dispensing Apparatus

mechanical beverage

This patent, along with other Luellen patents, formed the basis of what became the Dixie cup products.

Type-Writing Machine

mechanical office equipment

Alfred Kurowski was one of the most prolific inventors for the Underwood Typewriter Company, which launched the modern typewrite in the first decade of the 1900s. The company manufactured guns for the government during World War II.


mechanical hardware fastener

This patent is directed to the Pond carriage bolt, which is characterized by sharp corners at the ends of the squared portion. The patent issued two days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox, virtually ending the Civil War, and on the day Lincoln delivered what would become his final public address. One of the Assignees, Lamson, used the patent in forming an entity that evolved into Lamson & Sessions, a Cleveland-based manufacturer still operating today.



mechanical stove

None provided.


mechanical stove

The Griswold Manufacturing Company has an interesting story. Its founder and namesake was a Congressman, an inventor, and an entrepreneur. I’m not sure how many members of Congress have patents issued in their name, but I’m certain it’s a pretty small list.

Device for Filing and Binding Papers

mechanical office stapler

Heysinger appears to have been a prolific inventor in the office equipment space. I also looks like he published a few books. Potentially an interesting story here.

Street Washing Plug


This is the reissue of Joshua Regester’s earlier Street Washer patent.

Garment Packaging Device


The inventor on this patent caught my eye as I was researching the Blessing fruit extractor. Is this the same inventor? A son?

Fruit Juice Extractor

food beverage

This is Blessing’s first generation extractor.

Lemon Squeezer

food beverage

This patent issued just before the California Citrus Growers started its coordinated effort to increase consumption of oranges through orange juice. The inventor here, addressing the problem of the day, limited his efforts to lemons.

Fruit Juice Extractor

food beverage

None provided.

Fruit Juice Extractor

food beverage

This patent is directed to the improved version of Blessing’s extractor and represents the version he sold or licensed to the California Fruit Growers Exchange, which leveraged it to increase sales of oranges, and likely lemons, throughout the United States.

Container Opener

mechanical can opener

American Can Company was an early producer of tin cans used in packaging beer post-prohibition. Employees Sampson and Hothersall invented the “punch opener” for punching holes in the flat tops of the newly emerging metal can beverage packaging. Vaughan Novelty MFG Co. produced the openers, presumably under a license.

Bottle Opener

mechanical bottle opener

This is the patent for the Vaughan Over the Top brand bottle opener, a hand-held opener that set a point on the top of the cap and, effectively, pulled the cap over the top of the bottle to remove it.


mechanical bottle opener

This is the patent for the Vaughan Never-Chip brand bottle opener, a flexible opener that would be mounted to a wall, post, or other surface.

Bottle Opener

mechanical bottle opener

This is the patent for the Vaughan Nifty brand bottle opener, which is a combination bottle cap lifter and corkscrew.