Author Archives: Hannah K.

What Was It Used For? 5 Strange Inventions From The Turn-of-the-Century

Can You Guess What These Turn-Of-The-Century Inventions Are For?

Below are five inventions that were filed with the U.S. Patent Office between 1899 – 1904.

As we noted in our other story regarding bra patents, Americans are innovative and resourceful. When opportunity knocks they will be there to answer. All of these people thought their inventions would take off. None of them did.

Originally the patent office required you to build a model of your invention. Eventually they dropped that requirement. When you see the words no model, it means a prototype was not presented. After you discover what the invention is you will understand why some of these never had a model built.

So what are they?

Invention #1 Patented by Frank May 1904

patent by Frank May

#1 patented by Frank May 1904 US793004

Invention #2 patented by Monroe Griffith 1900

patent Monroe Griffith 1900 US666605

#2 patented by Monroe Griffith 1900

Invention #3 patented by Samuel McHatton 1899

patent Samuel McHatton 1899 US628111

#3 patented by Samuel McHatton 1899

Invention #4 patented by Henry Ullrich 1900

Patent Henry Ullrich 1900 US640837

#4 patented by Henry Ullrich 1900

Invention #5 patented by Joseph Karwowski 1903

patent Joseph Karwowski 1903 US748284

#5 patented by Joseph Karwowski 1903

Here are the answers with the patent inventor’s edited description:

This innocuous looking machine was electrified and quite honestly sounds extremely dangerous if used as intended.

patent by Frank May

#1 patent Frank May 1904 US793004

#1 EYE-MASSAGE MACHINE

Be it known that I, Frank Howard May a citizen of the United States, residing at Birmingham, in the county of Jefferson and State of Alabama, have invented a new and useful Improvement in eye massage machines, of which the following a specification.

My invention is in the nature. of an eye massage machine in which mechanical vibrations are imparted to the eye through an electrically-operated vibrator and which is so constructed also as to permit the direct application of either primary or Faradaic currents to the eye. Continue reading

Early 20th Century Brassieres From The U.S. Patent Office

Innovative(?) Women’s Brassieres From The 1890s – 1910s

bra design 1914

Bra device designed by Mary Jacob from the U.S. Patent Office 1914

What’s the old saying? “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” The American Patent Office is filled with ideas, some practical, some brilliant, some completely off the wall.

These inventors from the early 1900s focused on one item of apparel – the brassiere. From squeezing to pushing, each of these inventors believed they had discovered the secret to enhancing a woman’s figure. Continue reading

Semi-Nude Women In Late 19th & Early 20th Century Advertising

Using Semi-Clad Women To Sell Products At The Turn-Of-The-Century

Ads That Wouldn’t Cut It Today

Clysmic table water- will….bring you to climax?

Pretty women sell products or so it seems. Since the dawn of advertising alluring images of women have been used to attract potential customers. Many times the image has absolutely nothing to do with the product being offered. That hasn’t changed in the 21st century, just look at any perfume ad.

Though they were not considered unusual at the time they originally appeared, here are some semi-nude advertisements featuring women that would probably cause outrage among the sensitive and hyper-politically correct today.

SuNude women Willow Creek Distillery adWhat this advertisement really says about Sunny Brook and Willow Creek Distillery is open to debate. But I guess we all know that any group of women after drinking rye whiskies will strip and go skinny dipping in a lake.

Brotherhood overalls adBrotherhood Overalls of course?  Did Levi Strauss take this company as a serious competitor? This look apparently never caught on in the 1910s. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #78 – Marilyn Monroe and Alan Ladd

Marilyn Monroe’s First Public Appearance In Hollywood After Her Marriage To Joe DiMaggio – 1954

Alan Ladd Marilyn Monroe

Hollywood – March 9 – Marilyn Wows Movie Crowd – Marilyn Monroe made her first public appearance in Hollywood last night since her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and her trip to Japan and Korea, and promptly stole the show. She showed up with a new platinum-blonde hairdo and wearing a low-cut white satin sheath gown. The occasion was Photoplay magazine’s annual awards dinner at which she and Alan Ladd, with whom she’s pictured, were named Hollywood’s most popular actress and actor. (AP wirephoto 1954)

Marilyn Monroe and Alan Ladd may have been Hollywood’s most popular actress and actor, yet neither was ever nominated for an Academy Award. Continue reading

In 1915, Bestiality, Sex With The Dead And Homosexuality Could Get You The Same Prison Sentence

In 1915 “Crimes Against Nature” In New York City Included Sex With The Dead, Bestiality & Homosexuality

If Convicted Of Crimes Against Nature, You Could Receive A 20 Year Prison Sentence

What has transpired in the last 100 years when it comes to sexual permissiveness in society?

Looking at New York City sex laws from 1915, the world today seems to have done a complete 180 at least in terms of same sex coupling.

While copulating with a corpse or any animal is still considered off limits, Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #77 – Margaret Sullavan, Ernst Lubitsch & James Stewart – 1939

Margaret Sullavan, Ernst Lubitsch & James Stewart On The Set of The Shop Around The Corner – 1939

James Stewart Margaret Sullavan Ernst Lubitsch on set Shop Around The Corner 1939

The Shop Around The Corner wasn’t a very big hit for James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan when it was released in 1940. The “Lubitsch Touch,” director Ernst Lubitsch’s flare for sophisticated comedy, did not translate to a box office smash, domestically grossing $2.4 million ($76.9 million adjusted) according to Continue reading

The Beatles Leave London To Invade The U.S.A. – February 7, 1964

It Was 55 Years Ago Today – The Beatles Came to The USA

beatles feb 7 1964

Feb 7, 1964 – The Beatles Leave London For New York – The Beatles singing group is shown at London airport this morning prior to departing for appearances in New York. From left are Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon. AP wirephoto via cable from London

Our headline (thank you, Sgt. Pepper) points out that remarkably it has been 55 years, not 20 years ago today that the Beatles left London for New York City. The British Invasion was underway. The world would never be the same, not just musically, but in fashion and pop culture.

If you want to get a sense of what Beatlemania was like when the Fab Four first arrived in New York, there is a forgotten little film Continue reading

College Tuition In The 1920s – The Low Cost Of Getting Higher Education

Harvard, Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Bates, & Colgate All Cost Under $250 Per Year in 1920

There is no need to go on a diatribe about the rising cost of college tuition. Instead, let’s go back to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper from nearly 100 years ago (August 25, 1921). The headline read. Demand For Higher Education Increases in Face of Higher Cost of Tuition and a Slackening Demand For Help.

What exactly were those higher costs?

College           1921 Tuition
University of Georgia  FREE
University of South Carolina $40
William and Mary College $50
Clark University $100
Bates College $125
Bowdoin College $150
Johns Hopkins University $150-250
Dickinson College $160
University of Vermont $175
Colgate University $180
Boston University $225
Dartmouth College $250
Harvard University $250
Tufts College $250

To give some scale to these tuition costs, the average annual salary of a civil service employee was $1,220 (male), $1,047 (female). Ranges for clothing workers were between $1,100 – $2,500 per year. Rectors and ministers were paid about $2,300 per year. A locomotive engineer made about $3,300 per year. A buyer for a major department store could make as little as $1,000 and as much as $15,000 per year, but the majority made between $5,000-$10,000.

Today college costs have grown to a point that they are completely out of whack with the rest of the economy. Top private colleges charge between $45,000 – $55,000 per year and that does not include room, board, books and other fees. Continue reading

A Progressive New York City Hotel In 1929 Hired Women Bellhops

In 1929 The Almanac Hotel In New York City Became The First Hotel In The Country To Hire Women Bellhops

Hotel Almanac girl bell-hops

New York Hotel Using Girl Bell-Hops

The newest wrinkle in hotel service these days is girl bell-hops. The Almanac Hotel, New York City, is probably the first hotel in the country to use girls for bell-hop service. Hotel customers say they give “real service” too. Here are three of them standing by while a patron registers. The girls are, left to right: Eleanor Julin, Mildred Wilson and Edith Gillin. – Associated Press Photo 11/13/1929

Only at the high class hotels do you still find bell-hops. Until the 1970s, almost all hotels had them.

The Almanac Hotel, (aka Hotel Almanac), was being “progressive” at the time, by hiring female bell-hops, in what was traditionally a male occupation. Or were they? Continue reading

New York City Used To Kill Its Stray Dogs By Drowning Them

How A Merciless City Dealt With Its Unwanted Dogs

In 19th Century New York, You Had 24 Hours To Retrieve Your Lost Dog

Unclaimed Dogs Were Drowned In The East River

The dog catcher in New York City & the dogs fate- drowned in cages in the East River – illustration Harper’s Weekly

The Dog Dilemma

What happens today when animal shelters are filled to capacity? Sometimes cats and dogs are humanely euthanized, if there is such a thing as being humanely euthanized.

Canine population control in 19th century New York was much harsher. Beginning in 1855 a new and brutal method of putting down dogs was instituted – drowning.

Some editors and citizens actually attached the word “humane” to this new way of disposal.

Before that time, wandering dogs were considered pests and usually killed on the spot, in the street. The fear of rabies and mad dogs was used as a justification for the wanton killing.

The New York Times wrote, “One thing, however, is certain: dogs are useless animals in cities, and are a nuisance, independent of their habit of occasionally running mad; and the best dog law would be one that imposed so high a tax on the owners of curs that few people would care to keep them, and those who did would see to it that the animals did not run at large, muzzled or unmuzzled.” Continue reading