I found the coolest patent design while looking for something entirely unrelated – an 1895 Kinetoscope, also called the Viviscope. The diagrams are wonderful.
Technology as art – the Viviscope by W. C. Farnum, Arlington, Vermont
A kinetoscope was a forerunner of moving pictures machines. They allowed the viewer to watch moving images through a tube or window.
In it, a strip of film was passed rapidly between a lens and an electric light bulb while the viewer peered through a peephole. Behind the peephole was a spinning wheel with a narrow slit that acted as a shutter, permitting a momentary view of each of the 46 frames passing in front of the shutter every second. The result was a lifelike representation of persons and objects in motion. Kinetoscope | Definition, Inventors, History, & Facts | Britannica
The original concept was developed by Thomas Edison, but the work in making a functioning kinetoscope was done by William Kennedy Dickson. Edison, in typical Edison style, took sole credit for its creation, although historians tend to see it as a collaborative effort. Dickson finished work on the kinetoscope by 1892 and Edison patented the work shortly afterwards.
There were several kinetoscope patents filed in the late 1890s, but this one by William Carleton Farnum was the best looking of the lot. Now, that doesn’t mean it would have been functional. But as far as technology as art goes, this one is stunning. The diagrams show a far better attention to detail than many I see during my patent searches.
Patent No. 547,775 was granted to Farnum on Oct. 15, 1895. He envisioned the kinetoscope as a new method for advertising. His design utilized what he called a “transfer roller” to move the pictures instead of mirrors used in other kinetoscope designs.
…wave-movement is applied through the medium of a flexible band which encircles the periphery of a cylinder, so that the slack loop is taken up on a roller, which I have called a “transfer roller,’ and by it can be carried completely around the cylinder very much as the tides move around the earth, and as the wave takes
Not only are the design schematics fameworthy, but the entire machine is a work of art. It was manufactured by Elias Bernard Koopman of New York, 50 Union Square, N. Y. Koopman was one of the founders of American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and is known for his contributions to early cinema. One of the other founders of was William Kennedy Dickson, the same man who worked for Edison. Dickson left Edison’s company shortly after creating the kinetoscope and started the American Mutoscope. It’s an interesting bit of intersecting cinema history,
The Viviscope consisted of a hand driven geared mechanism working on a vertical spindle mounted in a hollow column, attached to the base. Fixed to the top of the column was a platform, having a shallow tin cylinder. An arm carrying a roller fixed to its longest end, was attached to the vertical spindle, which imparted the necessary movement to the paper figure bands and passed each successive picture in the form of a loop, in front of the viewing aperture. The strips of pictures were somewhat similar to those used in the zoetrope, with the exception that the two ends were joined together to form an endless band, and by placing one of these bands of pictures in correct position on the instrument and turning the handle the figures were shipped in rapid sequence from one phase of movement to the next, and when viewed through the framed opening, apparent movement could be observed. It is interesting to read the patent specification of the Viviscope, as the inventor claims for the application of its use as being eminently suitable for advertising purposes in railway trains and for exhibition purposes. There were also suggested different forms, amongst which was a rather elaborate multiple instrument, but it achieved no commercial success”
(Will Day, manuscript, 25,000 Years to Trap a Shadow, archives Cinémathèque française).
“It achieved no commercial success” answered one of the questions I had while researching the machine – what happened to the design? There was quite a bit of competition and despite making it off the drawing board, never found a market. Farnum patented one or two other devices and then seems to have disappeared off the pages of history.
If you like the design, check out the t-shirt, “1895 Kinetoscope – Antique cameras and film” T-shirt by BitterGrounds | Redbubble. The clean lines in the schematic are appealing and work well on ts etc. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my Redbubble store. Many of these old patents are beautiful and worthy of remembering and celebrating. There is a vibrancy and excitement to the inventions that is contagious.
How about a trip on a self-powered aircraft? This early heavier-than-air design combined cycling with balloon power. Successful flights were was still 6 years away when Carl Myers dreamed up this innovative sky cycle.
I, CARL EDGAR MYERS, aeronautical engineer, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Mohawk, in the county of Herkimer and State of New York, have invented an Improvement in Sky-Cycles, of which the following is a specification.”
Carl Edgar Myers (March 2, 1842 – November 30, 1925) was an interesting person. Engineer, meteorologist, entrepreneur, balloonist and inventor, Myers is an unsung hero of American ingenuity and inventiveness. At the cusp of the 20th century, he explored ways to use recent technological breakthroughs in innovative ways.
One of his enduring passions was hot air balloons. Myers’ interest in ballooning appears to have arisen out of his involvement in meteorological measurements and a desire to further atmospheric studies. He built his first balloon in 1878, flying it later in 1880. He designed and manufactured various improvements for dirigibles, including improving the materials used. His home was called the Balloon Farm and is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. His contributions to early flight and meteorology are intriguing. Myers reminds me of great Otto Lilienthal and his experiments with flight.
The Aerial Velocipede Patent No. 581,218 April 20, 1897
My invention consists, first, of a new form of body possessing greater bulk or capacity with less proportional exposed surface, combined with less resistance to projectile movement through air, than any other form yet discovered or in use, and which I term a symmetrical wave line spindle shaped body, and, secondly, of certain connected devices for propulsion, more especially adapted to be operated in air, a special arrangement of which adapted to be operated by manual power I term the aerial velocipede for flying. Google Patent
The aerial velocipede was a hot air dirigible controlled by human pedal power. Myers envisioned a single seater balloon that combined elements of cycling and flight.
Self-powered aircraft with a twist
Dirigible cycling for one.
The propulsion mentioned in the patent would be a unique combination of hot air balloon, wings, and pedal power for thrust and steering.
The operator seated upon the velocipede seat V grasps the hand-cranks K, attached to the gear-wheel O, while his feet may operate the foot-cranks attached to gear-wheel O, arranged to move simultaneously with C by means of gear-wheels C, attached to the hollow connecting shaft U, which revolves around the upright rod U. (Shown in detail in Fig. 3, similar letters referring to similar parts.) Gearwheel (1, attached to propeller-shaft Z, is driven by gear O, and the construction of the crank system thus permits the revolving of the screw S backward or forward by either one or both hands or feet, leaving one or both hands at liberty for other purposes when desirable. Paragraph 40 pg. 4
It’s not as complicated as it seems. The rider can use hands or feet, depending on what they are doing. The pedals are attached to a propellor shaft that gives the sky bike both a bit of lift and the ability to propel forward and backward. The design also considers the need for a rudder and wings for both stability and directional guidance.
To work the Wings, the operator grasps the … principal or secondary wing-arm at any point serving to give him proper control, the position varying advantageously by the special movement to be made. The Wing-shaft may be rotated like a crank or operated like a feathering-oar or simply move backward and forward or up and down. Paragraph 115 pg. 5
The wings allowed the balloonist to move forward, back, and up/down. It was, on paper, very maneuverable. But required an enormous amount of leg and arm strength to operate. For a short hop it might have been fine but exhausting for any lengthy trip.
Not a Myers balloon, but you can see the inspiration
The sky cycle never got off the ground. I could find no reference to it being built. Myers was no amateur dreamer. He knew his balloons. Myers continued his work building better balloons for nearly 2 more decades, including developing over 100 for the US Weather Bureau and 21 for the United States Army Signal Corps (USASC) for use in the Spanish American War. (rf: Smithsonian Institute – Carl Myers Balloon Farm Collection)
Sky Cycle self-propelled aircraft as a blueprint
I tidied up the original diagram and turned it into a clean schematic for a bit of fun. It came out surprisingly good. I tried tarting up the balloon a bit, but the design looked too busy, so I pulled back. Feel free to download the blueprint (or should I call it a black print) for your own use. The image is quite large so you might need to downsize it for your device. It’s a bit fun, and whimsical. So enjoy. Don’t forget to take a look at the details on the wings and pedals. They are impressive.
Click on the image to see the full image
I used the schematic over at Bittergrounds.Redbubble store. The design worked well on several items and I had a lot of fun setting them up. If you go to the store, check them out in the Schematics & Blueprints category.
They do make interesting coffee coasters. Good conversation pieces
Holidays equal cranberries. And what holiday meal is complete without a feeding of freshly cooked cranberry sauce. In my family, cranberry sauce was home-made, starting with raw cranberries. Put them on to boil, add some sugar and serve. Nothing is easier. I like to grate a bit of fresh ginger into the pot while the berries are coming to a boil to add a touch of zing. Ours was more a relish than a jelly, and tarter than canned varieties.
The cranberries harvested for commercial use are Vaccinium macrocarpon and native to North America. There are over 100 varieties within the Vaccinium family alone. It has an impressive international pedigree:
North American cranberries have cousins in Europe. Vaccinium vitis-idaea is known as the preisselberre in Germany, the lingonberry in Sweden, the cowberry in England and also partridge berry, foxberry, upland cranberry, rock cranberry and mountain cranberry.
Cranberry Facts from Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery.
My earliest memories came from learning how to cook with my Mom. We made everything from scratch because it was cheaper. We’d look in the cupboard and decide what to make based on what was there. Often, we would page through Mom’s cookbook seeing if there was something new, we could do with the same old ingredients.
I remember learning to make cranberry sauce. I was measuring out the sugar and Mom stopped me. I said that’s what the recipe calls for. She looked over the rim of her glasses and said, “you never use the amount listed”. She plopped the cranberries into water, brought it to a boil and we waited for the “pop, pop, pop” sound. Once the cranberries started to shed their skins, Mom would decide if more water was needed. Once all the cranberries were de-skinned, sugar was added, slowly. A little at a time and left to simmer. Taste and decide if more sugar was needed. Repeat if needed. Over the years, I began to add diced up tangerines and a bit of ginger to the mixture. Mom was horrified when she discovered my adulteration. She was a cranberry purist. But ginger cranberry sauce is great on toast in the morning.
Cranberries don’t come with ridges in the wild
Slab ‘o cranberries
I have a friend who thinks it’s not cranberry sauce if he can’t see the ridges left from the can. Believe it or not, there’s a patent for those ridges. Ok, I’m lying, not the ridges, but the whole canned jellied cranberry stuff, seeds, and all.
The original patent was filed Dec. 27, 1960, and granted July 28, 1964 on behalf of Ocean Spray, the ubiquitous giant of red berry products. Earlier canned cranberry jellies were pressed through a sieve to remove the seeds and skins. According to Ocean Spray, this step meant a loss of 10% of the raw cranberry product. If you are in the business of food production, this is a substantial waste.
It is therefore a primary object of this invention to provide a process by which the entire cranberry may be
used to form a jellied sauce. It is another object to provide a method of making a novel jellied cranberry sauce
which contains the entire cranberry..
Ocean Spray’s new process starts with turning whole cranberries (fresh or frozen) into a puree and then cooked with sugar. The crushed cranberries were required to pass through a sieve 0.027 inch in diameter. That ensured a uniform puree. If you’re mashing the canned cranberries around your plate this year, look at the size of the seeds and that will give you an idea of how fine the mesh is. According to the patent, if pieces were larger than .027″, the puree won’t create the “desirable smooth gel-like texture”.
At sieve measurements between “0.006 and 0.027 the puree gives a constantly smooth jellied sauce without objectionably discrete particles being present.” Objectionably discrete particles meant things like overly large chunks and skins that rolled up instead of being macerated.
Next was the cooking process. The mashed-up puree would pass along to be mixed with sugar and water, both balanced to form a smooth gel once cooled. Then off to the cooking stage. The mixture was to be heated from between 180 to 218 F for up to 10 min. This process cooked the berries into a gel and effectively sterilized them. The cooked cranberries would be poured into cans or jars and vacuumed sealed while still hot.
And this is why there are ridges on your canned cranberries. It’s the cans Ocean Spray opted to use. The cans act as a mould, and as the cranberry jelly cooled, it forms into the shape of the can, ridges, and all. Thus, was born a weird tradition – slabs of cranberries complete with can shapes. I suspect, if Ocean Spray changed the shape of their cans to a non-ridged type, there might be a mutiny in Cranberry Land.
It’s not all one cranberry recipe fits all
The interesting part of this patent was the different types of cranberries. If you’ve cooked your own sauce, you know you must be careful with the amount of water and sugar used or you end up with sweet, cranberry soup instead of sauce. Mom’s adage was “start off with a minimal amount of water and add some later if needed”.
The patent looks at frozen early black cranberries, raw early black cranberries, and fresh Howe cranberries, each requiring different macerating techniques and amounts of sugar/screen size/cooking times.
The above description and examples show that, by the process of this invention, a new jellied cranberry sauce may be made from the whole cranberry. All of the cranberry is used and the time and labor required to make a finished product are materially decreased.
pg. 3 Patent #3,142,577 PROCESS FOR FORMING A JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE
DIY can molds
So many have grown up expecting ridges on their cranberries that a cottage industry has sprung up telling people how to make their own cranberry jelly complete with the can indents. Here’s one if you want to try it.
I don’t have anything against canned cranberries. They’re a bit sweeter than I like but I prefer cooking my own. I get a nostalgic rush thinking of days rooting through the cookbook with Mom and learning how to use various ingredients. Up until her death this year, we still spent time together in the kitchen. We would chat and laugh when putting together something new, just like when I was a child. One of my enduring memories is hearing Mom sing while crashing pots and pans about. Christmas won’t be the same this year without the smells of something roasting in the oven, the banging of pots and “Silver Bells” being sung off key. I was still learning from her until the end. Thanks, Mom, for the skills and the memories.
Did you enjoy this article?
Check out the patent for frozen cranberries found in TV dinners. I had fun writing this one a few years ago.
Today, we’re going to look at doping. No, no, not that kind, the aviation kind. Early airplanes were made of cloth pulled taut over a wood frame. To protect the wood, and create a streamlined body, the material was covered in something called dope, a liquid designed to waterproof & pull the material tight as it dried.
Looking at an early manual & doping
I have a treat for you today, something from my aviation collection – a 1914 aeroplane manual from the Canadian government’s War Office. While looking at a few patents dealing with doping material I remembered something from this book:
Training manual for the fledgling Royal Flying Corps, Canada.
Published 2 months before the outbreak of WW1, the manual covered basics like assembling an aircraft, maintaining the engine, flying it, and of course doping the body. The book is fragile, so I didn’t scan from it. There isn’t much in the way of diagrams anyway. But it did include a small section on dope:
The shrinking and preservative agents employed by various makers also differ widely. The best known amongst the latter are rubber, pegamoid, cellon and emaillite. P 23 Training manual Royal Flying Corps 1914
Each company developed their own recipe for dope. They were a kind of witch’s brew, with the first being composed of nitrate. Other chemicals included nitrocellulose, cellulose acetate and cellulose acetate butyrate.
British Emaillite Co., Ltd. – the “Premier Dope”
Three aircraft makers are mentioned in the manual – Avro, Royal Aircraft Factory and Farman. Specific models aren’t mentioned, but I suspect they were Avro 504, British Aircraft Factory’s B.E.2 and the Farman MF11, also called the Longhorn. The manual recommends they all be treated with Emaillite. The B.E. plane doping was described this way:
The fabric is sewn with needle and thread along the trailing edges and round the curved edges. It is also sewn with twine through the plane to the reverse side along each rib. Rubber solution is then rubbed into the fabric with the fingers along each rib and rubber adhesive tape applied. Rubber adhesive tape is similarly applied around the curved ends and the trailing edges.
Dome-headed brass tacks are driven in along each rib to further secure the fabric. The planes then receive three coats of the correct emaillite solutions. pg. 23
The Premier Dope Ad Rec. Num. 5 of 128 Source: Aeroplane July 3rd, 1913 https://www.aviationancestry.co.uk/
The British Emaillite Co. was around from about 1911 to 1921 when it was acquired by the Titanine company. It’s difficult finding solid information about the British Emaillite Co, but after a lot of searching, I found a patent for their cellulose acetate dope from around the time the RFC manual was written.
Patent # GB191206798A by British Emaillite Co., Jan. 14. 1914
I could only find abstracts from the patent, not the entire paper. But it is informative as to what chemicals were used:
A fabric for aviation apparatus that is invisible or indistinctly visible is formed of films of cellulose acetate or like compound. Materials are added to modify the refractive index of the compound so as to render a reinforcing-material, such as silk or cotton fibres, placed between the sheets, invisible.
In an example, a composition, comprising 110 grm. of acetate or hydroacetate of cellulose, 35 grm. of a mixture composed of equal parts of naphthol, ethylic ether of naphthol, and benzene sulphonamide, 880 grm. of tetrachloride of ethane, and 120 grm. of alcohol, is spread on glass, and very fine silk tulle placed upon it while still moist. This is stripped off when dry and placed, tulle side downwards, upon a second moist layer of the composition spread on glass, and, when dry, the completed fabric is removed from the glass.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t download the entire patent, and Google Patents doesn’t offer it, just a reference. I did however obtain a 1917 patent, from the same company.
Patent # US1298199A Cellulose-ester dope or varnish by British Emaillite Co., filed June 13, 1917
This invention relates to the manufacture of dopes of the kind used for coating the surfaces of aeroplanes, and its chief objects are to improve the adhesiveness, strength and surface of the coating and to reduce or eliminate the poisonous or deleterious properties of dopes.
Aeroplane dopes must produce in and on the fabric employed an elastic highly contractile film with a hard surface which when struck must yield a clear resonant note (an indication that the necessary contraction has been obtained) with sufficient body and rigidity (obtained so by a succession of coats) to retain its stream line contour during flight.
So, the dope had to dry tight enough to protect the wood and pull the material taut, to keep the airplane streamlined, but not so tight it would damage the aircraft by warping the frame. If you’re interested in the chemical components, look at the patent US1298199A – Cellulose-ester dope or varnish. – Google Patents for the details.
For now, the manual is back in its protective wrapping and back on the shelf. It’s been a real treat paging through it.
Pringles cans have been in the news lately so I thought I’d look up the original patent for the container. Along the way, I learned a few interesting things about the can, Pringles and their “hyperbolic paraboloid-shaped potato chips”, or as the rest of us describe it a big tube of chips.
The ubiquitous Pringles can – image courtesy Pringles
PACKAGING OF CHIP-TYPE SNACK FOOD PRODUCTS.
Patented Mar. 3, 1970
Filed July 29, 1966, Ser. No. 568,878 Patent #US3498798A
The original Pringles can was designed before the world awoke to recycling initiatives. It’s a legacy of the notion that the world would never run out of resources. We didn’t have oceans filled with plastic waste killing off wildlife in 1966. After years of pressure, Kellogg’s (current owners of the Pringles name) are changing the materials.
Pringles is testing a redesign using recycled paper. The current can is almost impossible to recycle. Not really the most friendly packaging when it comes to the environment. This made me curious about the original patent.
The recycling pilot project is being tested in the UK for a few weeks, using recycled paper for starters. I wondered why they aren’t just switching over to a new can all at once. Turns out, it’s more complicated than using any old materials.
Not so easy making changes to the Pringles can after all.
The original patent was filed by Fredrick J. Baur and Harold Kenneth Hawley for Procter & Gamble. The can is composed of foil, paper board, metal and plastic. Impossible to toss into a recycling bin, unless you tear the entire tube apart. The patent was pretty cool though. I didn’t expect to see so many aspects of design to what seems to be a simple tube container.
The technology behind the Pringles can is surprising. Bauer addressed a number of marketing and packaging issues. The design had to take into consideration on how to protect fragile chips, extend shelf life and reduce space on store shelves.
Chips of uniform size and shape are stacked one upon the other in closely fitting relationship to form a stacked array, and are then placed within a rigid tubular container formed from materials which are substantially impervious to the passage of oxygen and water vapor. The ends are applied to the container to seal the same. From patent #US3498798A
[figure one] elevational view of a snack food package
The design addressed the issue of keeping the chips dry and preventing them from getting crushed in transportation. One aspect was the consistency of how many chips you get in each tin. It’s predictable, unlike bags. Nothing says disappointment like tearing open a bag and finding it 2/3 air and 1/3 chips. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. It’s worse when the chips are reduced to tiny flakes of crumbs. From a marketing perspective, the tube is a killer selling point. The customer will always get the same amount of perfectly formed chips.
The can overcame issues of shelf life by minimizing “the quantity of oxygen and water vapor which is packed with the product and thereby increase the shelf life of the product by excluding excess oxygen and water vapor, thereby delaying the onset of oxidative rancidity and staling” (From patent #US3498798A() without the need for excessive preservatives. Another win for the customer in terms of taste.
So the design required quite a bit of packaging components to overcome the issues. That’s why it’s not so easy to replace the tube. It had to be vacuum sealed, fit onto any shelf space, be more compact and stackable. It took public pressure to force the company to look for ways to simplify the can and make all components recyclable.
“Hyperbolic paraboloid-shaped potato chips”, or as the rest of us describe it – a big tube of chips.
In case you don’t know what a hyperbolic paraboloid looks like. Author: Christian Amet] File:ParabHyper.png – Wikimedia Commons
Not sure if the tube came first or the patent for the chip shape. There is a second patent dealing with the manufacturing of the actual chip. Part of the patent defines the standardized shape of potato chips to fit the can. They are a “hyperbolic paraboloid”. That means it’s a curved chip made in a uniform design. In case you’re interested regular chips are parabolic cylinder.
[figure 5 6] a perspective view of one form of potato chips which may be packaged in a container of the present invention;
Yup, that’s a hyperbolic paraboloid. I had to look this up to understand what it meant. The benefit of this change is the chips are now stackable. They can easily be plopped into a protective tube and shipped.
The chips used are of non-planar shape and are first formed into the desired curved shape in a uniform manner to permit the chips to be stacked one upon the other to form a grouped array and thereby minimize the void space there between.
The chips are stacked one upon the other with corresponding surfaces similarly oriented and are then placed in a substantially rigid, tubular container which is adapted to enclose the stack of closely packed chips. After being inserted into the tubular container, the latter is sealed closed by securing one or more ends thereto. Both the tubular container and the ends are fabricated from materials which are impervious to oxygen and water vapor to prevent the entrance of additional atmospheric oxygen and water vapor into the interior of the package which would rancidify the frying fat retained by the chips and result in the chips becoming stale. From patent #US3498798A.
In other words, the chips stack uniformly into the Pringles can. And that is how one of the most successfully marketed potato chips came to be. The design and technology created a memorable shape and package.
Watch Pringles being made
It’s an interesting process, from start to finish.
Feast your eyes on the original Two Faced Teddy! One side is an adorable, cuddly teddy bear. The reverse, a po-faced human staring at you with dead eyes.
DOUBLE-FACED TEDDY BEAR.
LOUIS S. SCHIFFER
Application filed December 16, 1913 | Patented June 9, 1914.
Not sure how I stumbled across this one. I was looking for patents dealing with early radium products and became sidetracked. The sketch gives me the giggles when I look at it. The heads look like they were transplanted onto Mr. Peanut’s body. Poor Mr. Peanut, we hardly knew you.
A toy comprising in combination, a body, and a head for said body, said head having two faces thereon looking in opposite directions, one of said faces resembling that of a bear and the covering of said head being arranged to form projections serving as ears for said bear’s face, the other of said faces resembling that of a person and the cover of said head being arranged around said person’s face in the form of a cowl whereby said projections serve likewise to give a clownish effect.
Can you imagine waking up and seeing this staring at you? A furry human clown glowering at you in the dim light?
The actual design is quite interesting. The head swivels 180 degrees using disks and rivets/pins. The arms and legs employ swivel joints so they would be flexible.
… the head being attached to the body by means of a swivel joint so that it can turn easily to the left or right through 180°
and sit steady and parallel with the body when facing in either direction. Patent letters
The only example I could find of a two faced bear similar to this patent, was produced by the renowned stuffed animal maker Bernhard Hermann, sometime between 1930-1940. I could find no reference to any being developed by Louis Schiffer. I’ve tried looking for German patents for the Hermann bear as well, but had no luck. I was curious as to whether Hermann was aware of Schiffer or had developed the two-faced bear independently. They are strikingly similar.
Let’s go play in the forest. You’ll be safe. Trust me!
It’s very close to the patent, right down to the swivelling head and moveable arms. This toy is slightly less terrifying than the one in the 1914 diagram, very slightly. The doll/bear screams out clown in the sewers asking if you want a balloon. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of dolls, so maybe it’s me.
If you’d like to see the bear in more detail, saunter over to Ruby Lane and check out it out.