The Sex Detector made its debut around 1920. It was a gadget, sold by "Sex-Detector Laboratories," that promised to be able to detect the gender of an egg — or any piece of biological matter whose sex one might want to find out (oysters, butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, worms). It supposedly even worked on blood. So police could use it to discover the sex of a criminal.
It was basically an empty rifle shell suspended on a piece of string. When held over an egg (or whatever) it would reveal through the direction of its motion the sex of the chick inside.
It was probably more accurately described as an idiot detector... the idiot being the one holding the string.
For a while it was heavily advertised in poultry journals, but when inspectors at the U.S. Dept of Agriculture investigated the efficacy of the device, they found it to be useless. It worked no better than a piece of cardboard attached to a thread. Advertisements for the product were banned.
In 1927, William S. Dutton, a writer for American magazine, decided to locate America's most average man. The requirements were that whoever it was had to be:
A native-born American, of average age, average size, average education and average viewpoint. He had to own an average home on an average street, drive an average automobile and be head of a family of four, which is the average used by the census bureau. He had to be engaged in an average one-man business, be neither a leader nor a laggard in public affairs, neither prominent nor obscure, popular or unpopular.
To conduct his search, Dutton used the census report, a map, and a weather chart to select America's most average city, which he decided was Fort Madison, Iowa. Then he conducted a survey of Fort Madison's residents to determine who the most average man living there was.
He finally settled on Roy L. Gray, owner of a clothing store. Gray was 43 years old, married, and had two children.
Dutton knocked on Gray's door and informed him that he was the most average man in America. Gray seemed to take the news in stride. He agreed to an interview, and then was whisked off to Chicago where he was given the VIP treatment, which included getting to meet the mayor. Then he returned to his average life, and as far as I can tell never made the news again.
Inspired by my earlier post about Khruschev's distaste for modern art, I am moved to launch this occasional series about modern art that was made prior to his premiership (1958) that would have likely offended him. I will focus on less-famous works.
If this is not an esoteric thread, I'm not sure what is!
1924: Thomas Collins, 21-years-old, drove by a farmer with a truck full of watermelons and called out to the farmer to toss him one. The farmer obliged. The watermelon landed on Collins' head, snapped his neck, and killed him instantly.
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Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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