Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site


`EVERYONE talks about the weather,'' Mark Twain observed, ``but nobody does anything about it.'' Perhaps the same could be said of dust - except that old Murray Spangler did something about it. At the time, the Hoover family was in business as saddle and harness-makers and the old man worked for them as cleaner and caretaker. Sweeping out the building raised choking dust.

In an attempt to overcome the dust problem, and being something of an amateur inventor, he set about devising a rudimentary vacuum cleaner powered by electricity. It was a primitive contraption, mostly made of tin and pushed along with a broom handle. The great thing was that it swallowed the dust instead of raising it.

About these ads

The moment William Hoover saw the machine, he realized it had great potential. He promptly turned a corner of saddle factory over to the production of the revolutionary cleaner. The first model appeared in 1908. It was an immediate success and the Hoover name became a household word the world over.

THE typewriter has been called, most likely by men, ``a woman's best friend,'' for it can be argued that the machine gave women their first ``opportunity'' to enter the business world. Businessmen realized that they needed nimble-fingered women to operate this new office aid.

The first really practical typewriter was patented in 1868. The idea for a writing machine, however, goes back to 1714 when Queen Anne granted a patent to an English engineer, Henry Hill, for ``an artificial machine or method for impressing letters singly, or progressively, one after another, as in writing.'' The main purpose of this machine seems to have been to make forgery more difficult, rather than to make writing simpler and faster.

The breakthrough came in 1868 when Latham Sholes, a printer and postmaster of Milwaukee, together with three others, produced a machine with piano-like keys, said to look like a cross between a loom and jack-in-the-box.

The Remington Company agreed to undertake production, and their refined version, the famous Remington No. 1 of 1874, was elaborately decorated and mounted on a stand like a sewing machine. It was advertised as ``An ornament to any office, study, or sitting room''! Before long, Remington machines encircled the globe.

THE sewing machine was one of the first important labor-saving devices in the home. Isaac Singer of Boston got it there. It's said that he worked 20 hours a day to perfect a machine that would sew efficiently and continuously.

Singer was more than a brilliant inventor - he realized the importance of publicity and salesmanship. Pretty girls sewed on Singer machines in store windows and great crowds gathered. Meanwhile, Singer salesmen knocked on doors the world over. Before long, the sewing machine was regarded as an essential in the homes of rich and poor alike.

About these ads

HOW to best fasten our clothes is a dilemma that has been with us since the days of cave dwellers, who used pins of bone and horn. Later came brooches and buckles, laces and metal prongs, with press studs making their bow in the late 19th century.

It was Whitcomb Judson, a mechanical engineer of Chicago, who first tried to perfect a slide fastener. Although he failed, he sold his idea to a New Jersey company. A young Swedish engineer who worked for the company, Gideon Sundback, improved Judson's concept and came up with a fastener very similar to the zippers of today. Curiously enough, clothing manufacturers showed little enthusiasm.

A destruction test of a new flying suit for the Army saved the fastener's fate. It was the only component to survive the test intact and an order for 10,000 resulted.

Then a firm making rubber galoshes fitted the fastener to their product. They called their galoshes ``Zippers,'' which became the popular name for the fasteners. Not only have zippers invaded almost every part of the world, but they have even journeyed into outer space!

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.