30 results. Displaying results 1 - 30.
George May Phelps and the Magic of Smartphones
Are smartphones magic? As you hunch over your smart phone and scroll through your social media feed, do you ever stop for a moment and think just how in blue blazes does this thing work? Probably not. That is, until it *doesn’t* work.
Thanks to this job, I actually think about it a lot. As I continue opening boxes and cataloging the Rothschild patent model collection, each day I look at these steampunk-like contraptions and try to figure out how they work. I am constantly amazed by the genius of some of these men and women and the lasting impact of those old jumbles of wood and metal.
One of these “magicians” was George May Phelps. I recently discovered that Hagley owns the patent model for one of his most celebrated inventions, the Combination Printer. Not only is it the ancestor to that printer sitting there in your office, but many of the devices so critical to our Information Age owe a debt to its inventor—including that smartphone glued to your hand.
In the age of the telegraph, there were two ways to receive messages: write it down or connect the telegraph to a printer. Trouble was, both used Morse code. At least one trained operator was needed to send and another to translate the message. If the printer was used, another person called a “Grinder” turned a crank that powered the printer. The printers were complicated machines that often broke down, were difficult to repair, and slow and expensive to build.
Phelps fixed all that. An expert machinist that manufactured and assembled those ornery telegraph printers, Phelps was hired by The American Telegraph Company (later part of Western Union) in 1855. They recently bought the rights to a new type of printer and asked him to fix its problems. He took the best of the old machine, some of the new one, and added components of his own. In a rare moment of humility in the Age of Invention, he called it the “Combination” printer thereby recognizing how the other machines influenced his design.
Phelps’ improvements increased the speed, reliability, and durability of the machine. Best of all, no special operators were needed. Instead of Morse code, it used a lettered keyboard, printed in regular type, and its powerful electromagnets could be hooked up to any power source. It sent messages at about 60 words per minute on some of the highest traffic lines in the nation for decades. Even after printing over 5,000 miles of paper, the components showed little wear. One Phelps printer was still working into the 1920s! Do you expect *your* printer to work for 50-plus years?
Phelps is remembered as one of the leading inventors of early communications components. He worked closely with Thomas Edison—even going so far as to build some of his patent models. Besides the telegraph, Phelps’ designs ensured the success of the telephone and the stock ticker. Phelps even set New Yorker’s watches by creating a device that used a telegraph signal to drop a ball mounted on a pole high above the city skyline precisely at noon.
What The Ban-Lon?!
One of the craziest things about working in a museum is that you never quite know what you will be doing from one day to another. Sometimes this fact can be frustrating – like when you realize that there is water leaking somewhere where water should not be leaking. But, other times, it can be fascinating, and force you to learn about things you never knew you wanted to know about!
A month or so ago I received an email inquiring whether the museum would like to acquire a Ban-Lon men’s shirt. Some of my audience right now may already know about this material – and how I wish I could see your reactions through the screen! But if you are like me (a 30-year-old who had never heard of this product before) let me fill you in on Ban-Lon.
In 1954, Joseph Bancroft & Sons [Link](https://www.hagley.org/research/digital-exhibits/joseph-bancroft-sons) created a synthetic yarn, called Ban-Lon, by crimping yarn to Nylon. This created a fabric with a larger bulk than with just ordinary yarn alone. The synthetic fabric was used to make polos, sweaters, swimsuits, and even wedding gowns. Surface level, it seems like the most versatile product on the planet!
Hagley Library’s Digital Archives is a virtual treasure trove of advertisements for Ban-Lon. It was marketed to be as soft as a kitten and extremely flattering to the figure. [Link](https://digital.hagley.org/1972430_0574?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=72c5e374e866ce67890e&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=0)
Ban-Lon was popularized further when Joseph Bancroft & Sons sponsored the Miss America pageants from 1953 to 1957. During those years, the crowned Miss America promoted a variety of Ban-Lon pieces, like the lace pageant gown here: [Link](https://digital.hagley.org/1972430_0598?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=b3f07e9dd837cdcf704a&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=0)
However, people outside of the advertising and pageant world seem to have other, shall I say, strong opinions on the fabric. I have seen it called a hot, snagging, “evil material” that is wildly unforgiving. And, if you are a Seinfeld fan – you may remember a certain episode where Frank states, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in Banlon.” Kramer proceeds to simply shake his head at the very thought of it.
So, how do you remember Ban-Lon? A miracle or a misfortune?
Air Gas Machines
Of the hundred or so patent models I have cataloged, the most common type I encounter are carbureting or “air-gas machines”. What’s an air-gas machine and why were so many inventors submitting them for patents? Like many inventions, its genesis lies at that intersection of a public need, potential for profit, and making something out of some useless stuff just lying around.
For centuries, folks depended upon lamps and candles for illumination. These methods were dim, unreliable, and dangerous. As the industrial economy spurred the growth of factories and concentrated the population into cities, the need for artificial light skyrocketed. With such a demand, and big contracts to supply lighting to entire cities, inventors competed to find a better solution.
The original solution was gas (the kind you cook with). Factories called “gas works” burned coal in enclosed ovens to create “coal gas” or “town gas”. This illuminating gas was piped into street lamps and lighting devices in homes and businesses.
But building gas works and laying all the piping was slow and expensive. Highly-populated areas, business and shopping districts, and affluent neighborhoods were the first to receive gas service. What about working class neighborhoods, side streets, and rural areas outside the big cities? Inventors explored how to make gas cheaply in one stand-alone machine—sort of like a gas generator.
The first obstacle was finding a fuel source. Inventors could not scale down the process of burning coal to produce gas. They began experimenting with new and inexpensive alternatives.
By the 1860s, kerosene derived from oil recently discovered in Pennsylvania became widely used as a fuel for lamps and lanterns. But there were other distillates from the process of making kerosene for which no one could find a use. Two of these were naphtha and gasoline. If kerosene produced light, what about gasoline or naphtha?
This is where air-gas machines enter our story. Inventors discovered that if volatile liquids like naphtha or gasoline were mixed with air, the result was an illuminating gas. By the 1870s, over a hundred companies in America were working on bringing this process to the marketplace. The resulting technology provided artificial lighting for streets, buildings, and even some homes until electricity became widely available.
Of the handful of machines I cataloged, two stand out. They were submitted a year apart by Boston inventor Warren A. Simonds. And they are beautiful machines! One used rotating pierced metal globes to spray naphtha in the air. The other used tiny buckets attached to a rotating conveyor belt. Simonds must have believed his process would be highly profitable as he spared no expense in producing two attractive and elaborate models.
Who was the inventor known as the ‘Edison of Lancaster’?
This month we bring you back into the world of patent models with an inventor who has ties to a place many of Hagley’s visitors will be familiar with. Anthony Iske, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was a prolific inventor who didn’t seem to commit to one industry in particular. Rather, he held a variety of patents across multiple disciplines, totaling in over 200 patents! We are lucky enough to have one of his models in our collection.
This Improved Hospital-Bedstead (Patent No. 77,193) [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US77193A/en?oq=us77193) was patented by Iske on April 28, 1868. Iske states that “my invention consists in providing a means to enable an invalid to be relieved from the calls of nature without exertion on his part, and with ease to the attendant, and to facilitate the regulating or raising and lowering of the patient’s head and shoulders, and other minor additions and changes.”
Anthony Iske was born in Alsace, France on April 28, 1832 to a machinist father and a mother whose father was a cabinetmaker. After apprenticing in his grandfather’s cabinetmaking business, he assumed its management. One of his specialties was in the construction and decoration of altars. It seems as though Iske’s skills were well-known, even across the sea in the United States. In 1853, he received a letter from a priest suggesting that he come to Lancaster because a skilled craftsman was needed for the construction of a new church.
He obliged, and made his way to the United States. The letter had requested he come to Lancaster, New York. By mistake, Iske found himself in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Regardless, Iske’s skills made him invaluable, and he easily found work constructing altars and pulpits. He settled permanently in Lancaster, never exploring the original opportunity in New York.
Eventually, Iske put most of his focus on his inventions, the variety of which is truly astounding. He is most well-known for patenting the first meat cutter or slicer, as well as a widely-used fire extension ladder. Other inventions include a cigar press, a door bell, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US378317A/en?oq=us378317), motors, velocipedes, and fire alarms.
His son, Albert, was also included on a number of the patents. These included a milk-protector, a cork-driver, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US491052A/en?oq=us491052), a device for holding fire alarm keys, and a reversible window sash.
The patents listed above only skim the surface of what Anthony Iske achieved before his death in 1920. A quick Google search of Anthony and/or Albert Iske will retrieve pages and pages of results… It really is no wonder that Anthony Iske was known as the ‘Edison of Lancaster’.
Inventor Emily Evans Tassey and The Hunt for Red October
Skip Tyler: “This, this could be a caterpillar.”
Jack Ryan: “A what?”
Tyler: “A caterpillar drive. Magnetohydrodynamic propulsion. You follow?”
Tyler: “It’s like a, uh, jet engine for the water. Goes in the front, gets squirted out the back.”
That little exchange is from one of my favorite movies called *The Hunt for Red October*. Based upon a book by Tom Clancy, it features Alec Baldwin as a CIA analyst trying to locate a Russian nuclear submarine captained by Sean Connery. The sub’s engines, described above, sucks in water at the front and squirts it out the back making the sub so quiet that it is virtually undetectable by the US Navy. Little did I know that I would run across an invention by Emily Evans Tassey way back in 1876 that does the same thing! And Hagley holds not one, but two models, from this groundbreaking female inventor.
Born in 1823, Tassey’s father was a merchant who owned a textile mill as well as a general store and post office in the town of McKeesport near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Educated at Steubenville Seminary in Ohio, she taught school in her hometown and later at Pittsburgh High School. At age 21, she married lawyer William D. Tassey and had three children. William died unexpectedly while on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. A widower by age 34, she moved back to Pittsburgh and started teaching again to support her family.
By age 52 she returned to her hometown and began inventing. She did not have to wander far for inspiration. By then, McKeesport was one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country. The local steel mill, as well as the steel industry as a whole, was booming. Barges full of coal, ore, and finished steel products as well as steamboats carrying cargo and passengers plied the rivers around Pittsburgh. As the first dry-docks in the area were built in McKeesport in 1836, shipbuilding and repair also became important industries. In only four years, from 1876 to 1880, Tassey would earn five patents—all related to marine technology.
Like many women inventors, Tassey did not become rich or famous through her inventions. Sadly, she ran afoul of the law in her later years. By age 62, she was found guilty of erasing and changing figures in her brother’s account ledgers to keep from paying the store clerk his full salary. Later, she was charged with larceny and receiving stolen goods and paid a hefty settlement for violating a contract.
Still, Emily Tassey’s unique contributions to American innovation deserve respect and recognition. Who knows what other inventors looked at her ideas and found inspiration for their own? Visitors to Hagley’s exhibit, *Nation of Inventors*, will see Tassey’s model, learn her story, and perhaps find their own inspiration. Maybe the next Tom Clancy will be one of them!
A Mystery Box
When we acquire objects for the collection here at Hagley, we do so because they fit with our collecting priorities and support our mission, or if we’ll use them in upcoming exhibits. Occasionally, though, they are a little mysterious.
That’s the case with the latest addition to our collection. The object tells an interesting story and is perhaps connected to the du Pont family…perhaps.
This box may look like an ordinary box, but it’s actually a very rare object. This is a document box used by the Stockton Artillerists when they served in the [Mexican-American War](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican%E2%80%93American_War). In the box, was a tag with a note stating that it belong to the wife of Francis N. Buck, the mother of Gov. C. Douglass Buck of Delaware, and to Alice du Pont Buck, his wife.
But, who were the Stockton Artillerists?
The Stockton Artillerists were a Volunteer Militia Company from in Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania and named after Capt. [Robert F. Stockton](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_F._Stockton) of the U.S. Navy.
Volunteer Militia Companies were formed in response to the perceived ineffectiveness and vices of the regular militia in the early 19th century. Many of the semi-annual militia meetings, or musters, seemed to have turned into excuses to indulge in plenty of drinking and very little military training- parodies of them abounded.
The Volunteers were different, these groups incorporated themselves into companies, and provided themselves with uniforms, equipment and weapons. Hence, they often took their duties more seriously. Volunteer Militia Companies came to be very popular in Pennsylvania, New York and other states, and were a way for people to show-off their patriotism and civic or ethnic pride.
The Stockton Artillerists answered the call for volunteers to fight in the Mexican-American War on December 24th, 1846, and marched from Mauch Chunk to Philadelphia, then Baltimore, finally arriving in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day, 1847.
There, they were mustered into Federal service as Company K, 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers and would go on to serve with Gen. Winfield Scott’s army that besieged Veracruz, fighting in the Battles of Cerro Gordo and aiding in the assault on Chapultepec and marching into Mexico City.
So, how does it relate to Constance Margaret Douglass Buck?
Well, we don’t know. Looking at the rolls of the members of the Stockton Artillerists, we can’t seem to find anyone related to Constance, or her future husband, Francis N. Buck. So how did they come into possession of this box? We don’t know, but hopefully further research will illuminate the connection between the Stockton Artillerists and the du Pont Family.
Seth Green’s Patent Model Hatched a New Industry in North America
Cataloging the patent model collection continues to be an interesting journey. A remarkable object crossed my desk earlier this month: Seth Green’s patent model for a Device for Hatching the Spawn of Fishes. Excuse the pun (or don’t), but this model allowed me to dive head first into the world of *pisciculture*: the controlled breeding and rearing of fish.
Seth Green, known today as the “Father of fish culture in North America”, was born on March 19, 1817 in Rochester, New York. As a young man he struck up friendships with the nearby Seneca Native Americans, who taught him about hunting and fishing. With a profound respect for nature instilled in him, Green learned about the lifestyle of fish through diligent observation.
Through his observations, Green realized that fish were not a limitless resource. For this reason, he dedicated much of his life to ensuring the rivers of New York State were restocked with fish for market and sporting purposes. His first endeavor was a fish market in Rochester, which he stocked by fishing the shores of Lake Ontario. During these fishing trips he observed the spawning of Atlantic salmon.
That observation set him off on a path to open his own hatchery in Caledonia, New York. He worked to propagate salmon and brook trout at first, but then in 1867 moved on to other species such as American shad. That same year is where our patent model comes in: his Device for Hatching the Spawn of Fishes (Patent No. 68,871).[Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US68871A/en?oq=us68871) Green says in his patent document that the apparatus “should be anchored in a current, for shad, but may be anchored in still water for certain other varieties of fish, and for frogs… The case must be open after dark, for shad, as the smaller fish which would take the young shad only feed during the day. This gives the young shad an opportunity to take care of themselves as nature dictates.”
Concurrently, Seth Green became the first New York State fish commissioner, working alongside Robert B. Roosevelt and Horatio Seymour. The trio worked together to create a regular restocking program for the state, using fish from Green’s Caledonia hatchery. But Green’s efforts weren’t just concentrated to New York State. He introduced shad down the East Coast as far as the Savannah River in Georgia, and even sent 12,000 shad to the Sacramento River in California.
Green passed away in 1888, but his name still lives on through the hatchery in Caledonia, which was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2015. You can visit his grave in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, where you can also find the resting places of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
An Insubordinate Patentee
The main goal of the museum’s inventor research project is to learn as much as we can about the people behind the patent models in our collection. With sometimes just one patent number, and one inventor name to go off of, our amazing volunteer is able to unearth mounds of information such as birth and death dates/places, marriages, occupations, other patents they held, and so much more! Yet, for every story that is fleshed out, is another that has seemingly been lost to us. This month, I’d like to share with a patent model that wonderfully represents this issue.
In 1877, two women by the names of Mary Augusta Requa and Eleanor Dunn were granted Patent No. 189,574, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US189574A/en?oq=us189574) for an Improvement in Copy-Books. And then, in 1881, they were granted a reissue of the same copy-book. I opened the research folder to review it, and noticed that we weren’t able to find any life details for Eleanor Dunn. Mary Augusta Requa, on the other hand, had an abundant online presence! We even found out that Requa’s sisters, Ella and Emma, held patents and designs in their names.
Mary Augusta Requa was a native of New York City. She was a patentee, held a Masters in Pedagogy, an M.D. from the Women’s Medical College of New York, and a law degree from NYU. At the height of her career from 1896-1904, she was supervisor of physical education for Manhattan and the Bronx.
But, her term as supervisor would not last. In 1894 she was dismissed for “insubordination” when she refused to step down to an Assistant position after a restructuring instated a new Director that would oversee the entirety of New York City. After failed attempts by “a group of masculine legal minds” to reinstate her position, Requa took it upon herself to become a lawyer and fight her own case.
The 1910 Census lists Requa’s occupation as a Supervisor at the public schools, and a 1915 New York Directory lists her occupation as Director. It seems as though she was successful in her own defense!
With more and more records being digitized and made available to the public daily, I’m hopeful that one day we will be able to populate Eleanor Dunn’s research file. Til then, we’ll celebrate Dr. Requa’s tenacity, and the assumption that she too would want her co-patentee to have her 15 minutes of fame in Hagley’s Research News.
What do bees, spiders, and sheep have in common? An inventor!
On November 26, 1872, Alvah Washburn patented an Improvement in Paper-Folding Machines. His invention “consists of a series of light folding-frames hinged on the top of a table, and provided with operating-gear actuated by a cam-shaft, which said frames are arranged in such order and sizes relatively to each other that a printed sheet delivered on the table over all the folding-frames by the depositors of a printing-press will be folded in the order of folding it by hand and thrown off the machine by another frame similar to the folding-frames…” (Patent No. 133,393). [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US133393A/en?oq=us133393)
I’m not exactly sure what attracted me to this model in the first place. Perhaps because it was visually interesting? This model is incredibly detailed with its intricate, latticed surface and different sized folding frames. Or perhaps because I liked the name “Alvah”? Whatever the case, the model and invention prompted me to perform a quick search on the inventor.
It turns out that Mr. Washburn was known as “the Tinker” within his hometown of Medina, Ohio. This nickname may be appropriate, as his interests and professions seemed to vary. He was co-founder of the Medina Foundry Company, but also at one time worked with the A.I. Root Company. The A.I. Root Company, still in operation today, specialized in bee keeping and bee products. Washburn is mentioned and praised in a monthly “Bee Culture” volume for his help in apiary construction (first column, last paragraph). The volume proclaims that his skills “are destined soon to make him better known to the world.”
And he certainly did have an impact on the world of invention. Washburn also held patents for a Machine for Grinding Spiders (Patent No. 244,010: don’t worry, not the arachnid, this was more of a polishing wheel for a mechanical part called a “spider”), an Improvement in Machines for Shearing Sheep (Patent No. 59,103), and a Machine for Dressing Feathers (Patent No. 65,782). Washburn also reissued his Improvement in Paper Folding Machines in 1873. Quite an array of patents!
Alvah Washburn is a wonderful example of the unexpected research potential of some patent models. Sometimes, it’s possible to become interested in a certain model by looks or patent document alone, conduct an internet search, and have nothing of great substance turn up. Some inventors have, unfortunately, been lost to time so far.
But, once in a while, you get lucky and find the town “Tinker”.
[Patent 244,010 Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US244010A/en?oq=us244010)
[Patent 59,103 Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US59103A/en?oq=us59103)
[Patent 65,782 Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US65782A/en?oq=us65782)
Harriet Ruth Tracy - Woman Inventor
During the nineteenth century, women made up just 1% of all inventors who received United States patents. Hagley is fortunate to have approximately 80 patent models representing women inventors out of the more than 5,000 models in the collection. Unfortunately, little is known about most of these women but there are exceptions.
For example, Mrs. Harriet Ruth Tracy (1834-1918) was both a prolific and successful inventor. While processing our new Rothschild Patent Model Collection, I was extremely pleased to see that we have her first patent! Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Tracy spent much of her life living in New York before moving to London where she later died after a very prominent career as an inventor.
Overall Mrs. Tracy received at least twenty-seven patents during the period of 1868 to 1915. Hagley’s patent model is for an improved crib-attachment for bedsteads with the objective “to furnish an improved bedstead and crib, so constructed and arranged that when the crib is not in use, and is pushed into its place in the bedstead, the said bedstead and crib shall present a neat and uniform appearance, giving no indication of the presence of the crib-attachment…” [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US74865A/en?oq=us74865)
Mrs. Tracy’s prominence as an inventor came not only from her seventeen patents on sewing-machines but also her six safety elevator patents. During the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, she displayed her lock-stitch and chain-stitch sewing machine in the Liberal Arts Building. What impressed everyone was her improved bobbin which held up to 1,000 yards of thread hence reducing the number of times the bobbin thread had to be replaced making it a time saver. Her sewing-machines were used in both domestic and industrial settings.
While her sewing machine was in one building on display, another one of her inventions was installed in the Woman’s Building. The “Tracy Gravity Safety Elevator” was selected for daily use because it had “automatic platforms that keep the shaft constantly closed, and prevent any person falling through it, or flames ascending it.” It was used to transport visitors to the roof-top restaurant.
Harriet Tracy’s inventions received extensive public acclaim in the Chicago Newspapers. The *Chicago Mail* said about her sewing machine “All ladies who see the machine are delighted with it and her other meritorious inventions and proud that a woman has accomplished what man failed to do…” Tracy spent her life inventing and managing her patents to great success.
Cast Your Ballot in Willis L. Barnes’s Patent Model
An incredibly controversial, but immeasurably important Election Day is looming for us here in the U.S. Appropriately, within the last couple weeks, I happened to unpack a Ballot-Box patent model (below). This patent was granted to Willis L. Barnes, of Charlestown, Indiana, on October 15, 1878. Barnes’s Improvement in Ballot-Boxes claims that “the mechanism can be operated only when a ballot has been placed upon the receiving-fingers, and, when operated, will deposit the ballot in the box, close the box, register the ballot, and sound an alarm” (Patent No. 208,951), [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US208951A/en?oq=us208951).
One of the most interesting features of this patent model are the three revolving digits behind a glass window. Why would it be necessary to register the number of ballots that have been put into the box? Ballot-box stuffing, the act of adding ballots in order to skew results, was not an overly common occurrence, but it was still something many wanted to avoid. Barnes’s patent seems to safeguard against such illicit activities. It would have caused extreme suspicion if the number of votes within the box exceeded the number on the register.
Voter abuse was common around the time that Barnes was granted his patent. However, the Australian ballot was starting to be introduced in the United States (beginning in Louisville, Kentucky in 1888). Before the Australian, or secret ballot, voters would get their ballots from the respective political parties. It was common for each party to have different ballots, and therefore an individual’s vote was not secret. With the Australian ballot, voters received a standard, blank ballot with the candidate’s names and parties listed. The voter, often in private, placed a mark next to their choice. On one hand, the secret ballot decreased intimidation at the polls. However, the secret ballot also created an obstacle for illiterate citizens and may have led to more robust literacy tests.
The United States has certainly come a long way in how we vote. Today we use paper ballots with optical scans or electronic voting machines that store our votes directly into a computer’s memory. Our advancements in voting technology have overcome issues such as ballot-box stuffing, but in turn have left us vulnerable to other issues like hacking. It will be interesting to see how these issues will be combatted as time goes on.
Keyssar, A. (2009). The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. New York: Basic Books.
Patent Models - This Inventor Played His Cards Right
While reading through the patent document for Andrew Dougherty’s Improvement in Registering Mechanism for Printing-Presses, I was surprised to find his claim that the invention was “especially serviceable in printing… playing-cards” (Patent No. 178,608). [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US178608A/en?oq=us178608)This was a very specific claim, so I decided to look up Mr. Dougherty to see if I could find out any more information on his life, career, or other patents. I was blown away by his story and success!
Andrew Dougherty and his parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland when he was only 7 years old. When he was a teenager, he held a variety of jobs. He worked for a time as a whaler off the coast of New England, and then at some point moved on to work for a playing card company. If you ask me, these are two of the most opposite gigs I can think of.
In any case, the playing card industry seemed to appeal to Dougherty, and at age 21 he had saved up enough money to open his own playing card business in New York City. This business would eventually merge with the Coughtry brothers and become Coughtry and Dougherty. This company created stencil-colored cards.
Once Coughtry and Dougherty dissolved, Dougherty went into business for himself again. By 1870 his company could produce three and a half million decks a year. Dougherty is also credited with developing and patenting two finishes for cards: the Linoid finish and the Pegulose finish. The Linoid finish was an extra coating that decreased stickiness, while the Pegulose finish allowed for the cards to be washed if soiled. Dougherty also patented Triplicates, which was a design feature that included two small depictions of the card in the top left and lower right corners.
Dougherty’s business was eventually purchased in 1907 by the United States Playing Card Company. One of Dougherty’s decks, named Tally-Ho, is still for sale to this day. The deck’s packaging has ‘A. Dougherty’ printed on it, and the cards are coated with the Linoid finish.
[# Andrew Dougherty 1848-1930](https://www.wopc.co.uk/usa/dougherty/index)
The du Pont Story on a Hooked Rug
Many times, people have asked me what my favorite artifact in the collection is. But I have too many to just give one. Here is one of my favorites. This artifact is an incredible work of art. Not only is this magnificent, hooked rug visually interesting, it combines both of our collecting areas admirably. It represents important icons from the history of the du Pont family in America and was made from DuPont Company’s nylon.
The artist who designed and made this rug was a du Pont who was a direct descendent of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of the DuPont Company. Born Nancy du Pont Reynolds (later Mrs. Edward W. Cooch, Jr.), she began making this rug in her late 20s. It was intended for use in a house but ended up in storage where it remained until it came to Hagley.
The process began by her drawing the pattern you see below and determining what kind of material to make the rug out of. Typically, hooked rugs were made from wool, but she decided to use nylon instead. Introduced to the public in the late 1930s, by the late 1940s DuPont chemists were exploring new uses for nylon including for carpets and rugs and this had great appeal to her. It was so new that all colors in the rug had to be customed-dyed using experimental dyes to her color specifications. This is probably the only hooked rug made from nylon. Ultimately nylon turned out to be a poor choice even though the colors are as brilliant as they were when new. But in limited active use, the rug began to fray and pill on the surface when it was walked on and there is evidence of that on the rug.
The rug depicts the history of the du Pont family and the DuPont Company in America. Each image shows a time, event, invention or symbol in the du Pont story. The design centers around the “American Eagle which was the ship that brought E. I. du Pont and his family to America. He later founded the DuPont Company. The date 1800 indicates the year they arrived in America and 1950 represents their 150th anniversary. Images include buildings on the Hagley property such as the barn and first office towards the top and a gunpowder roll mill on the Brandywine River on the lower right side.
Mrs. Cooch was an artist and I believe this is her masterpiece! One of the most amazing things she told me was that she started it in the middle and worked her way out to the edges. After she finished almost half the rug, she discovered a mistake and pulled everything out and started over again! Remarkable!
From the Object Files: The all too true tales and back stories behind some of Hagley’s most remarkable collections. (Part 4)
If you spend a significant amount of time amongst museum collections there are bound to be some objects for which you develop a fondness and some you just fail to appreciate. One such object came to Hagley in the Amram/Brick Woman Inventor Collection. He is a Billiken and, to me at least, seems rather unpleasant. But does that impish grin truly disguise a fiendish heart? Or is he just misunderstood?
As it turns out this little guy has no sinister intention after all. In fact it is just the opposite. It turns out, Billiken, the self proclaimed “God of things as they ought to be” was created as a symbol of good luck and good fortune. His journey began in Kansas City where a young artist teacher named Florence Pretz had a idea for a small pudgy deity who would bring luck to all who worshiped him. Miss Pretz was awarded a patent on Oct. 6, 1908 for her “design for an image” [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/USD39603S/en?q=florence%20pretz&oq=florence%20pretz). And not long after that small plaster statues of Billiken were available to the public. In accordance with the lighthearted Billiken philosophy, he was not available for purchase but could be obtained on a 99 year loan with a deposit of 75 cents.
Within a few short months the little grinning god was everywhere. By that fall he had his own corporate force in The Billiken Company, who managed the use of his image. His smiling face appeared on cards, as jewelry, in books and toys, spreading happiness, hope and luck where ever he appeared, including as the mascot of St. Louis University.
The little totem had become an honest to goodness national craze. By Early 1909 one of members of the company designed and patented a small throne on which the statue could be placed. A fitting seat for a happy idol.
Like all fads, the Billiken eventually faded from the public imagination. But he lives on here at Hagley as a testament to one woman’s inventiveness. (Even if I think he is a little creepy.)
From the Object Files: The all too true tales and back stories behind some of Hagley’s most remarkable collections. (Part 1)
It often happens that a trip into museum storage will generate questions, and most likely the question is “What is that”? A recent excursion generated just such a discussion, when a colleague noticed a tall oddly shaped metal object at the back of the room and asked “What kind of lamp is that”? My answer, that it wasn’t a lamp at all but a machine for perming women’s hair, was sufficient enough at the time. However, what it was is only part of the mystery, how and why it worked and why it was here were bigger questions. As it turns out, that odd machine was a key innovation in the pursuit of the perfect coif.
The quest for curls has taken many forms over the years. We are all familiar with curling irons or curling tongs; heated rods around which hair is wrapped with a clamp to hold it in place. And presto! Curled hair! And we are all familiar with permanents; hair is secured around a curler and a chemical solution is applied. And presto! Permanently curled hair. But why combine the two?
In the initial days of permanent waving, the chemical solution needed to be heated in order to sufficiently change the hair structure to make it hold the curl. In these early incarnations, curlers would need to be heated individually. Heating them with electricity allowed the curlers to all be heated at once and to a controlled temperature, producing better curls with fewer injuries.
The first permanent wave machine to use electricity to heat strands of hair was patented in England by Karl Nessler. Nessler’s machine combined electric heat with a chemical process to produce lasting curls. It wasn’t an instant hit in London, but the idea was revolutionary enough to inspire many alternate versions on both sides of the Atlantic. One such machine was invented by Marjorie Stewart Joyner, an African American, in 1939. She created and patented a machine that could add curl to straight hair or straighten curly hair, using electrically heated metal rods. Hagley’s machine, which came to us as part of the Amram/Brick Woman Inventor Collection, is a representation of further improvements on Joyner’s work.
In the middle of the 20th century a new all chemical process of perming hair, that didn’t require heat, was introduced and these types of machines began to disappear from salons. This odd looking contraption is now a permanent (ha!) reminder of man’s (and woman’s) ability to apply a little ingenuity to an everyday problem and possibly change things forever.
[Joyner Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US1693515A/en?oq=us1693515)
Paging Doctor Thornton: New Discoveries about the First Superintendent of the Patent Office in Hagley’s Collections
As a recent hire, I am still becoming familiar with Hagley and its collections. Sure, I spend most of my time laser focused on patent models, but the models are only a part of the museum collection. And I have not had the opportunity to explore the library collection. That all changed after a random database search that served as an example of the richness and depth of Hagley’s holdings.
At the time, I was working on a presentation and researching the first Superintendent of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Dr. William Thornton. Who is Thornton? To even touch upon his biography would take up too much space. His Forrest-Gumpian talent for being present at important moments during the formation of our early republic warrant a book of its own. For this article, it is my research into an object in our museum associated with him that established a surprising connection between Thornton, the DuPont Company, E.I. du Pont, and Thomas Jefferson.
It all started when, on a lark, I simply typed Thornton’s name into our museum collection search engine. To my astonishment, we had an object associated with him in the collection! It is pictured here. It is a tiny, three-inch tall tin container with a label that reads:
English Canister Pdr.
from a Blocktin Can.
Presented by Dr. Thornton/Novb 1824.
This container entered Hagley’s collections through the old DuPont Company Museum. How did it get there? Who did Thornton send this to and why? Did it contain a sample of powder for testing or was the container itself unique enough?
All these questions inspired me to do some more digging. Unfortunately, there was little information in the museum object files. If this was presented to the DuPont Company, was there any other documentation in the company’s archives? If I struck gold in Hagley’s collections once, could it happen twice?
Spoiler alert: Yes! Just like before, I typed Thornton’s name into a search engine. But this time, I focused on the library’s holdings. Not only was there a book in the stacks written by Thornton with a personal dedication to E.I., but the archives contained 16 letters written by Thornton to E.I. and others in his circle! Could these letters provide any information about the powder container?
Well, no. But they did highlight a shared interest between Thornton, E.I., and Thomas Jefferson. While I already knew Thornton advised E.I. on his patent application for a gunpowder graining machine, and I knew that Jefferson was critical to helping E.I. with his gunpowder business, the letters proved there was more of a personal connection between these three men.
The focus of that connection was the breeding of merino sheep. All three were passionate about these animals and the potential for developing a domestic market for their wool. Thornton stated that Jefferson was sending “a thorough bred ram to every County in Virginia”. E.I. allowed his prized rams Don Pedro and Don Ferdinand to pay conjugal visits to Thornton’s flock. Thornton, who in addition to being a physician, knew a great deal about animal husbandry and veterinary care. He offered E.I. advice on how to care for Don Ferdinand after he became ill. Thornton also received a gift of French sheepdogs from Jefferson and promised to set aside one for du Pont.
Thornton shared some rather interesting viewpoints on Jefferson’s mountaintop home, Monticello. I shared the existence of these letters, as well as Thornton’s impressions, with the folks at Monticello. They were thrilled to hear about the letters and requested digital copies. Hopefully together our two institutions can continue to reveal new information about the relationship between these three men who contributed immensely to the growth of American industry.
And it all started when I simply typed “Thornton” into our search engine. Who knows what new connections we can trace? Isn’t technology grand?
Play Ball! Bobby Shantz, Willie Mays and Leo Durocher’s MLB Uniforms
Since it is summer, it seems like every time I drive by a park, I see people playing baseball. That recently reminded me of some Major League Baseball uniforms we have in the collection. The DuPont Company connection is that they were all made from wool blended with one of their synthetic textile fibers. Each is labeled with the player’s name and year used.
The first jersey was worn by New York Yankees’ pitcher Bobby Shantz in 1957. It is his home jersey made by Spaulding. Early uniforms were made from wool, but Shantz’s is the first made with nylon. This “new” synthetic blend was 40% nylon and 60% worsted wool.
Next is the home jersey and undershirt worn by Hall of Famer Willie Mays when he played for the San Francisco Giants in 1961. His uniform was made by Tim McAuliffe, Inc. in Boston, MA. The fabric is a blend of 55% Dacron and 45% worsted wool.
Last is the 1962 home uniform worn by Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Dodgers’ coach Leo Durocher. It also was made by Tim McAuliffe, Inc. in Boston, MA, with the 55% Dacron and 45% worsted wool blend fabric.
At the time these were made, DuPont was promoting the use of their new synthetic materials in sporting equipment and uniforms. These are designated part of our DuPont “firsts” artifact collection, which means that they could have been made for promotional reasons but also for wear testing. How that worked is that DuPont would have supplied the fabric to the company making the uniforms and after wearing it, the person would have been asked questions about its wear and comfort.
These uniforms were donated to Hagley by Charles H. Rutledge who worked for the DuPont Company in the Textile Fibers Department. He gave a public program which showed what kind of objects were used in the past and compared them with the new modern objects including DuPont products whenever he could. Other items from his collection related to baseball include a baseball cap worn by the Philadelphia Athletics until the mid-1920s and a costume replica of a 1909 New York Giants travel uniform.
Dog Days of Summer
As I looked around for a blog topic during the dog days of summer, I thought why not focus on dog artifacts in the museum collection? What immediately drew my attention was a group of thirteen watercolor framed paintings of sporting or bird dogs which are beautifully portrayed in their hunting stances.
You might ask why Hagley has paintings of dogs? The answer is that they are part of the 1954 DuPont Museum Collection that established Hagley’s collections. Split into both the museum and library’s collections, it represents the early history of DuPont. The dog paintings specifically were used as advertising artwork which in this case was used to promote the use of smokeless gunpowder for hunting.
These dogs represent the National Field Trial Champions (or the National Bird Dog Championship) from 1896 to 1910. All were Llewellin English setters except for “Manitoba Rap” who was an English pointer.
Well-known sporting artist Edmund Henry Osthaus (1858-1928) was the artist of these paintings. Born in Germany, Osthaus immigrated to the United States in 1883. He became the Chief Instructor for the Toledo Academy of Fine Arts in Ohio and later was promoted to Director from 1886-1893. One of his hobbies was hunting with bird dogs so he was very familiar with them which led to his specialty of painting portraits of setters and pointers in lifelike hunting poses. He was the founder of the National Field Trial Association in 1895 and served as a trial judge. Osthaus began to work for DuPont in the late 1890s and produced hunting dog paintings for their advertising purposes.
DuPont used these paintings in several ways. The best-known example is “The Champions” a highly collectable set of thirteen advertising postcards produced in 1917. All are marked “Shoot DuPont Powders.” The Hagley library has copies of the postcards. [Link](https://findingaids.hagley.org/repositories/2/resources/111) Another use they had was appearing on annual DuPont calendars. The 1898 winner “Tony’s Gale” was on the 1936 calendar; 1899 winner “Joe Cumming” on the 1908 and 1936 calendars; 1909 winner “Geneva” on the 1909 calendar and 1910 winner “Monora” on the 1913 calendar. And they were also used on DuPont envelope covers and lithographs suitable for framing. Much of this was used as customer giveaways to promote their products.
Frances Gabe and her Amazing Self-Cleaning House!
Many people complain about cleaning their house but Frances Gabe actually did something about it!
She decided to invent, patent and build a prototype house that cleaned itself! According to Gabe the self-cleaning house (SCH) “was never intended to scrub a dirty house or building, but to keep a clean house clean.” In the March 1982 issue of People Magazine, Gabe said: “I want to eliminate all unnecessary motion so that handicapped and elderly people can care for themselves. My system will allow people to do so by pushing a few buttons.”
Born in 1915, Frances Grace Arnholz later married Herbert Bateson. For many years, together they ran a construction and maintenance company with her eventually taking the lead. After her divorce, she decided to change her last name to Gabe which represents **G**race **A**rnholz **B**ateson which she added an “**e**” to. Her building experience led to her commitment to invent and build a self-cleaning house for her to live in which she did.
Gabe’s patent application was filed in 1980 and she finally received patent number 4,428,085, [Patent Link](https://patents.google.com/patent/US4428085A/en?oq=us4428085) on January 31, 1984 for Self-Cleaning Building Construction. According to the patent: “A self-cleaning building construction comprises apparatus for applying a fine spray or mist of water and/or water and detergent to wall, floor and ceiling surfaces, followed by warm air drying. Floors slope in a direction for removing excess moisture via a drain. Also included are closet apparatus for cleaning clothing, cupboard dishwasher apparatus for cleaning stored dishes, self-cleaning bathtub apparatus, and self-cleaning washbasin apparatus.” Her patent included 68 more inventions inside the house which waterproofed everything including plastic cases for books.
The house itself was comprised of two stories. The first floor contained the living and dining spaces as well as the kitchen. The second floor had a bathroom, bedroom, clothes closet and an outdoor patio space. Before earthquake damage in 2001, Gabe turned on the cleaning apparatus twice a year.
Gabe spent many years publicizing her SCH. She did many radio and television interviews and charged a small fee to people who wanted to see the house. Her hope was that many of these would be built throughout the country. Marketing materials she developed said: “the Self-Cleaning House safely and automatically washes and dries ceilings, wall, windows, floors, curtains, upholstery, dirty dishes, dirty clothes and books.”
Hagley is extremely fortunate to have the model of Gabe’s SCH and other models, including her self-cleaning dishwasher, in the museum innovation collection. She passed away on December 26, 2016. Personally, because she was such a fascinating woman who was just so very creative, I am very happy that she lives on in the internet because words in print just don’t do her any justice.
Getting Clean: Soap Packaging
Collections of packaging materials have been growing in popularity over the past decades. Their popularity is likely linked to their increasing rarity due to their ephemeral nature which after using the product inside the packaging was then discarded. The museum has extensive packaging collections starting with its DuPont gunpowder containers through to more modern products.
One significant example is the Gerald A. and Arlene L. Fingerman Fabric Care Memorabilia Collection. This vast collection, which consists of a multitude of objects related to the business of getting clean. Portions of this collection have been transferred to library including trade cards that represent many of the products in the museum collection. Included are product packaging relating to laundry soap/detergent, bluing, naphtha soap, bath soap, cleaning fluid, spot removers, starch, borax, dish washing soap and a whole lot more! These products which primarily date to the 19th and 20th centuries were made in at least twenty-eight states including New York, California, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Montana, Michigan and more. Seventeen countries are represented include Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, England, Australia, Guatemala, Ireland and Malaysia giving it global representation.
The diversity in the collection is really wonderful ranging from familiar brands that still exist today such as ALL, Downy and Tide to those that are long gone but now not forgotten including one of my favorites – *Hippo Washing Powder* from Burlington, Iowa. Great name for laundry soap! Another personal favorite of mine is New York *Washing Gas* which was made in Cincinnati, Ohio. How did they ever come up with that name?
In addition to the soap boxes, the Fingerman collection contains many other items related to laundry including home dry cleaning machines, patent models, clothes pounders and more.