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.
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."
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.
It's fairly common to use metal clothes hangers to extend the range of a radio's antenna. So John Jerome Spina had the idea of combining the radio and clothes hanger into one. The metal of the hanger would serve as the antenna. He was granted a patent for this invention in 1978.
I'm not sure he thought through what would then happen if you hung something on the hanger, such as a coat.
The Exit Traveler came on the market in the late 1980s. It was designed to let hotel guests rappel out of their window in the event of a fire.
Of course, you had to carry the thing around in your luggage, on the off chance that you got stuck in a burning building and the stairs were inaccessible. Then you had to find something to anchor the device to. And it was one-use only. Perhaps why it never caught on.
Seems that the inventors also tried to get hotels to pre-install them in rooms, anchored to walls. But the hotels probably had visions of guests rappelling out of windows even when there wasn't a fire.
Robert Linn theorized that a loudspeaker shaped like a human head, containing a mouth and nose cavity similar to that of a person, would produce sounds that were of a higher quality and more "pleasing and properly modulated" than a regular loudspeaker would. So he created (and patented in 1927) what he called the Amplifier or Enunciator.
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.