A Horn for Airplanes

Invented by Charles Adler, Jr. of Baltimore and granted a patent in 1947.

I imagine the last thing you'd want to hear as your flight is cruising at 30,000 feet is the pilot suddenly honking the horn.

Though, of course, the horn was intended for small planes, not passenger jets.

Adler himself used it to nag his wife by flying low over his house and honking the horn so that she'd know to start preparing his dinner.

Massillon Evening Independent - Aug 1, 1946

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 25, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Inventions, Air Travel and Airlines, 1940s

Cigarette lighter that gives the finger

In 1942, George Horther was granted a patent for what he called an "electric resistance lighter". From what I can gather, lifting the finger activated the lighter. He had received a separate design patent in 1940 for the invention's appearance.

Curiously, in neither patent did Horther ever refer to the significance of the gesture his invention is making, even though that's pretty much the entire point of it.

I imagine he must have intended to sell this as a gag gift, but I can't find any evidence that he ever did manage to market it.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 18, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Inventions, Smoking and Tobacco, 1940s

Reuben Lindstrom’s Wind Driven Vehicle

In 1940, Reuben Lindstrom was granted a patent for a "wind driven vehicle". It was a toy made out of tin cans. It resembled a model train, and the wind could make it go by itself. In his patent, Lindstrom explained that he deliberately avoided using a sail to propel the toy.

In wind driven vehicles it is desirable to avoid use of elevated wind responsive devices such as sails, windmills and the like and this is particularly true in toy vehicles simulating various types of full-sized vehicles for the reason that it is desired that the toy vehicle resemble as nearly as possible the full sized vehicle which it simulates.

Instead, he had shaped the wheels "to constitute wind responsive impeller blades".

Digging more deeply into the history of this patent, it turns out that Lindstrom was quite a character. For a start, he never cut his hair because, so he said, whenever he did he got heart trouble. In America, in the 1940s, this was unusual enough that it made the news.

Warren Times Mirror - June 28, 1949

He was a regular fixture around Wisconsin Rapids. A 2001 article in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune called him "our most unforgettable character."

In addition to his wind-driven toy train, he had built a kind of motorized bicycle, described as a "weird contraption of bicycle wheel, one cylinder gas motor, pulley, levers, scooter and miscellany." He used this to get around on roads and railroad lines.

He basically lived as a street person/free spirit, always carrying around "a picture of a woman with a large snake wrapped around her neck." Some people referred to him as the "inventor hobo".

One of the quotations attributed to him: "Fashion is the main religion of this world. If you are different, they think you are nuts. Most people stay away from me because they think I'm a religious fanatic. The girls also stay away from me."

Also: "Dirt's natural and it keeps human diseases from penetrating the skin and entering my body."

He died in 1988.

There's some more info about him at

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune - June 9, 2001

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 11, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Bums, Hobos, Tramps, Beggars, Panhandlers and Other Streetpeople, Inventions, Toys, 1940s, Trains

The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair

This drama illustrates the contribution of free enterprise, technology, and Westinghouse products to the American way of life. The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair pits an anti-capitalist bohemian artist boyfriend against an all-American electrical engineer who believes in improving society by working through corporations. The Middletons experience Westinghouse's technological marvels at the Fair and win back their daughter from her leftist boyfriend.

Memorable moments: the dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern and Mrs. Drudge; Electro, the smoking robot; and the Westinghouse time capsule.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Apr 11, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Fairs, Amusement Parks, and Resorts, Family, Technology, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1940s

Fire-Breathing Woman

In April 1940, Linda Lancaster Dodge Stratton was granted a patent for the "cigar or cigarette lighter" shown below. Its novel feature was that it was shaped like a fire-breathing woman. Or, as Stratton put it, "in the shape of a human figure artistically posed with the igniting means located in the mouth and ignited and extinguished by the movement of the head to open and close the mouth thereof through the manual movement of the arms toward and from the mouth."

It kinda looks like a fire-breathing Barbie. Though it predates Barbie by almost 20 years.

The patent said this woman was to be "constructed in a pocket or a table size." It would definitely be a conversation piece to have a table-size version of her in your home.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 04, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Inventions, Smoking and Tobacco, 1940s, Women

Telephone Pole Tossing

1943: St. Louis University introduced a Phys Ed course in "telephone pole tossing".

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Apr 23, 1943

A whole bunch of images of SLU students lifting and tossing poles are archived at the Google Arts and Culture site:

Posted By: Alex - Tue Mar 23, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Exercise and Fitness, 1940s

The Mechanized Restaurant

British inventor Thomas Maldwyn Lewis and his partners apparently had some expertise in conveyor-belt technology. So they cast about for novel ways to apply this knowledge. What they came up with was the "mechanized restaurant". Their idea was to put diners on a conveyor belt and move them past serving stations. From their 1948 patent:

In accordance with our invention, the customers are provided with seats and if desired footrests moving in a continuous manner along with a table or like surface, the different courses being placed upon the table at definite positions in the travel of the table so that when the traverse of any particular seat is completed, the occupant has completed his meal and may move to a seat in a lounge or the like to rest and/or to finish his meal with a coffee or the like which may be supplied just before the said traverse is completed.

The inventors argued that this mechanization of the dining experience would "expedite the delivery of meals and enable more meals to be served with the use of a given floor area than is at present possible."

That may be true, but I doubt many restaurant owners would want to invest the money to build one of these, just for the sake of potentially serving a few more meals.

Not to mention the problem of slow eaters. I'm imagining a crowd of diners standing at the end of the conveyor belt, plates in hand, trying to finish their meals.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Feb 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Restaurants, Technology, 1940s

Recipes for Cooking Domestic Rabbit Meat

During World War II, as the country faced meat rationing, the U.S. Government decided to promote rabbit meat as an alternative to beef and chicken. As part of this effort, the Department of the Interior released a pamphlet, "Recipes for Cooking Domestic Rabbit Meat". It included recipes such as "Rabbit Chop Suey," "Vagabond Stew," and "Wartime Rabbit Casserole". The pamphlet noted:

The growing scarcity of meat due to war conditions and the necessity of feeding our armed forces and our Allies makes it imperative that new sources of supply be developed. The domestic rabbit—easy to raise—is rapidly solving the meat problem in many American homes, and thus is playing an important part in the Food for Freedom program. Rabbit meat is not rationed.

Entrepreneur Martin French of Los Angeles must have had visions of the rabbit-meat market taking off. In 1940, he received trademark protection for "Bunnyburger" — his ground rabbit meat business.

I'd like to think that, in some alternative reality, the government's plan worked and it's possible to go into a McDonald's and order a McBunny with Cheese.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Feb 18, 2021 - Comments (8)
Category: Food, Cookbooks, 1940s

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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, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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