Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This one is interesting … and scary: “a new and useful Improvement in Jack-o'-Lantern Helmets”. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a jack-o’-lantern helmet, but we’ll assume it was a thing back in 1903 when this patent was granted. When I stumbled across this I first thought of a bike helmet. After looking over the patent, my second thought was “oh … oh dear. That’s a hell of a design flaw”.

Our inventor, one John Du Ket, of Toledo, Ohio, invented an easy to ship and assemble head mask for any occasion, "including campaign parades, masquerade balls and carnivals". He was granted a patent Aug 25, 1903 (patent no, 737,371). After reading the patent, it becomes painfully aware why governments have health and safety regulations… and recalls.

If you give it a quick glance, it’s pretty cool. The key is the use of flexible cardboard that could be printed with whatever image the customer wanted. Say for instance a person wanted 100 Frankenstein heads for a parade, or 50 copies of the current presidential candidate’s head for a rally. No problem. They could be mass produced and shipped with little hassle. Du Ket’s design allowed the masks to lay out flat, ready for the person on the receiving end to assemble the kit, kind of like a Halloween Flatpack without the screw driver hassles. No assembly was required at the seller’s end, which would cut production time and costs.

 Patent image from Jack o' lantern mask

In some ways, this is ingenious. He took a basic idea and added a modern marketing twist to it – fast to produce, easy to ship, offload assembly to the customer. What, you are asking, is so terrifying about this design? Let me show you:

 Image from patent papers: Candle atop a person's head

“To secure the parts together in form for use, the sides 6 are first folded to form a socket, and a short piece of candle is inserted therein.”

Ponder that for a moment – a cardboard headdress, surrounding a candle in a metal holder that conducts heat, atop a person’s head.  One of his “improvements”, along with the use of flexible cardboard and a flat design, was the inclusion of a candle holder made of sheet metal.  Not sure what the weight would be like, but I’m quite sure after a short while it would be a bit much, especially when it heated up.

On the positive side, Du Ket did consider wax spillage:

 Image from patent papers showing candle holder

“Preferably the diaphragm 2 is shaped by a die to form one or more grooves 16 concentric around the candle-socket, which are adapted to receive any of the material of the candle which may melt and run down on the diaphragm and prevent it spreading to the outer edges of the diaphragm.”

Grooves would be stamped into the metal candle holder and a spillage area would (hopefully) contain the wax. Just don’t move your head around a lot or risk it spilling over the lip of the holder.

Now if this doesn’t scare the crap our of you, you’re a stronger person than I.

Happy Halloween …

 ____

Read the full patent here  Jack-o'-lantern helmet.

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“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”

 ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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