Inventor K.O.F. Jacobsen of Seattle, Washington debuted his water-walking shoes in 1934 at a Cincinnati inventors' congress. He later displayed them at several other meet-ups of inventors. But although I've found several photos of models wearing the shoes, I haven't been able to find any photos of someone actually walking on water with them.
March 1934: Forty-year-old Mabel Wolf of Brooklyn showed up at Kings County Hospital complaining of acute stomach pain and a loss of appetite. An x-ray revealed the presence of a large clump of metallic objects in her stomach. In a subsequent hour-long operation, surgeons removed 1,203 pieces of hardware from her stomach. The objects weighed a total of one pound, three ounces. Amazingly, they hadn't done her any serious harm.
Lebanon Evening Report - Mar 21, 1934
The inventory of items removed included:
584 fine upholstery tacks
144 carpet tacks
2 chair tacks
1 roundheaded thumbtack
3 thumbtacks (ordinary)
46 small screws
6 medium screws
80 large screws
1 hook-shaped screw (coat hanger)
30 small bolts
47 larger bolts
3 picture hooks
2 large bent safety pins
1 small safety pin
2 stray pins without heads
1 matted mass of hair containing screws and pins
59 assorted beads
4 pieces of wire
89 pieces of glass (all sizes)
1 piece of teacup handle
Miss Wolf claimed that she had eaten all the objects five years earlier, in a single week, while she had been working at a Manhattan hardware store. (You have to wonder if the store had noticed the loss of inventory.)
When pressed further, Miss Wolf said, "I really don't know what started me on my diet. I guess I was just trying to be funny. Don't ask me any more about it. I only want to get well and go home."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle - Mar 20, 1934
Miss wolf had suffered minor stomach pains for five years as a result of the objects, but she had been able to self-treat the discomfort with patent medicine. She finally went to a doctor when the pain became too intense.
One mystery that the doctors weren't fully able to explain was why the metal objects all clumped together in her stomach. Dr. Edwin H. Fiske speculated that "metallic objects in the stomach take on a kind of magnetism, which attracs the individual objects to one another, so that they cling together in one large ball, as if welded together. Thus the danger of the cuts from pointed nails and pins is lessened."
Evidently Miss Wolf suffered from the eating disorder known as pica, which is a compulsion to eat non-nutritive items such as paper, metal, chalk, mud, etc. I suspect that her strange diet hadn't been confined to a single week. She'd probably been doing it for quite a while.
If you're interested in the subject of pica and people swallowing weird things, you can find a whole bunch of cases discussed (including Mabel Wolf) in Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them by Mary Cappello.
July 1930: Charles G. Wood, author of Reds and Lost Wages, when speaking before Hamilton Fish's Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States revealed the corruption of morals that followed the adoption of communism, illustrated by the fact that children in the Soviet Union had no table manners and were being taught to say, "Damn it, pass the bread."
Once upon a time, a company with the somewhat off-putting name of Hurff was big enough to advertise in a top-of-the-line national magazine like LIFE.
Here's the backstory, so far as I can find out.
I have found ads from them as late as 1948. Does that mean that store was selling three-year-old cans of food, given the plant-closing date of 1945? Or maybe the plant did not close, but Hurff himself was forced out? We will probably never know...
Hurff is a fine forgotten piece of what cartoonist Robert Crumb calls "weird old America."
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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.
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