Automatic Washing Machine for Dogs

Mario Altissimo was granted Patent No. 4,505,229 in 1985 for his "Automatic Washing Machine for Dogs and Like Animals".

I wonder if anyone has ever created an equivalent type of automatic washing machine for humans.

Science Year 1983

Update: Paul gave me a heads up about this Three Stooges take on a washing machine for dogs. A clear example of prior art!

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 13, 2022 - Comments (5)
Category: Bathrooms, Patents, Dogs, 1980s

Vinous Rubber Grapes

Vinous Rubber Grapes, patented in 1885, were rubber grapes filled with various types of alcohol (wine, brandy, whisky, etc.). The idea was that they would allow people to drink discreetly even in places where alcohol wasn't served. Or, as the advertising copy put it, the rubber grapes provided "a ready means for a refreshing stimulant whenever needed, without reservation, even in the most criticising surroundings."

Apparently they sold quite well, right up until the passage of the 18th amendent in 1920.

I don't think that anything quite like them can be bought nowadays.

The Topeka Lantern - Feb 19, 1887

The Judge's Library - Apr 1889

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 01, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Patents, Nineteenth Century

Electricity from falling workers

3M recently received a patent (No. 11,260,252) for a safety harness that generates electrical power when a worker (wearing the harness) falls off a building.

Digging deeper into the patent, it becomes clear that 3M is imagining that if the safety harness is self-powered, it can readily transmit a help message. As opposed to it being battery-powered, which runs the risk of the battery being dead when needed.

Still, it's amusing to think of falling workers as the solution to the world's energy problems.

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 04, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Patents, Power Generation

Anti-Submarine Seagulls

During World War I the British Navy attempted to train seagulls to reveal the presence of German submarines. The idea was to use a dummy periscope "from which at intervals food would be discharged like sausage-meat from a machine." The birds would, hopefully, learn to associate periscopes with food and would then fly around approaching German submarines, revealing where they were.

Initial tests were conducted by Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield in Poole harbour in Dorset. Inglefield tried to train the birds not only to fly around periscopes, but also to poop on them.

Subsequent tests were briefly conducted in 1917, but then the Navy abandoned the idea.

One private inventor, Thomas Mills, refused to give up on the idea. In 1918 he patented what he called an "apparatus for use in connection with the location of submarines" (Patent GB116,976). It was basically a dummy periscope that disgorged ribbons of food.

Unfortunately for Mills, the development of sonar then made submarine-detecting seagulls unnecessary.

More info: "Avian Anti-Submarine Warfare Proposals In Britain, 1915-18: The Admiralty And Thomas Mills," by David A.H. Wilson in the International Journal of Naval History - Apr 2006, 5(1).

Thomas Mills' seagull-training device

Mills and his invention

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 27, 2022 - Comments (0)
Category: Military, Patents, 1910s

Dragan Petrik’s Ice Railroad

In 1967, Dragan Petrik was granted a patent (No. 3,343,495) for a high-speed, rocket-powered train that would run on blocks of ice. In an Oct 1967 column, NY Times reporter Stacy V. Jones provided some details:

From South Africa comes a proposal for railroad trains to run at high speed on blocks of ice instead of wheels.

Dragan R. Petrik of Pretoria was granted a patent last week for vehicles equipped to change the blocks as they melt and wear down, without stopping the train.

Patent 3,343,495 provides for propulsion by jet, rocket thrust, propellers or other means independent of the usual wheel traction. While conventional rails could be used, Petrik prefers a flanged metal surface that can be heated in cold climates.

Each car is to have cold rooms for storage of the ice. Blocks are to be forced down through ducts under control of a sensing unit that maintains the car at proper height.

Conventional wheels may be used in a station or for emergency support. A set of ice blocks is provided just ahead of and in back of each set of wheels. One ice skid can be used while another is being replenished.

For braking, there is a rubbing surface along the track, on which friction pads can be applied.

Petrik says his system will make possible very high speed for all types of land vehicles.

I have no idea if this would work, but it would be interesting to see it tested out.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 17, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Patents, Trains and Other Vehicles on Rails, 1960s

Joke Beer

It's April Fool's Day. Have a beer!

From Patent No. 2,140,327:

The principal object of the invention is to provide an imitation of a glass or mug of beer which is so accurate in its imitation that it can not be easily picked out among a number of real containers of beer. When the beer is served with the 'joke beer' included in a group, one of the guests will obviously pick up the 'joke beer' and attempt to drink it; whereupon he will be embarrassed.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 01, 2022 - Comments (0)
Category: Holidays, Patents, 1930s

A New Method for getting Gold from Wheat

In 1884, Harry Fell of South Norwood Park was granted Patent No. 14,204 by the British Patent Office for a "New Method for getting Gold from Wheat". This begs the question, what was the old method of getting gold from wheat?

I haven't been able to find a copy of the patent, since 19th-century British patents (unlike American ones) aren't readily available online. However, the March 5, 1997 issue of Science offered a full transcript of Fell's patent, "including the peculiar use of punctuation marks".

That in the steeping of the mixture of half, measure, 'the whole wheat straw cut info fine square snips the width of the straw and half' the grains in a jar of ordinary cold water "I let the steep remain still for ten hours at a temperature of fifty-nine degrees Fahrenheit varying with temperature, and then straining off the liquor into a shallow pan of some such cool substance as china or earthenware, I leave this liquor to stand in this pan for yet twenty-four hours at sixty degrees also varying with temperature; these durations of times of ten hours and twenty-four hours speaking for a very inferior brown straw much knocked about and the grains those, of a very good quality, of red wheat; and then catch up the skim on a cylinder of some such cool substance as china or earthenware," and then let this skim dry, so getting some results of films of Gold.

The April 24, 1885 issue of The Photographic News offered an easier-to-understand summary of Fell's method:

The material (whole-wheat straw) is steeped in slightly warm water for ten hours, and strained off into a shallow pan; the pan being allowed to stand in a moderately warm place for twenty-four hours, a scum appears on the surface of the liquid, and this is caught on a cylinder of some cool substance, as china or earthenware. "Then let this skim dry," says the alchemist, "so getting some results of films of gold."

Of course, what Fell had failed to mention was that the wheat would first have to be grown in soil containing a lot of gold. Then, yes, I think it would be possible to get gold from wheat using his method. Though it would probably be easier to get it by directly filtering the gold out of the dirt.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 21, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Patents, Nineteenth Century

A Device for Intercepting the Moisture running down the Hands and Wrists when Eating Crayfish

In 1933, the British patent office awarded Edgar Honig of Germany Patent No. 393,673 for this invention. From his patent:

This invention relates to a means for intercepting the liquid tending to run down the wrists and the arms when eating crayfish.

When eating crustacea of this nature, it is found very unpleasant that the liquid emerging therefrom tends to run down the wrists and into the sleeves, this liquid resulting in stains, which it is extremely difficult or impossible to remove.

According to the invention, this drawback is overcome by means of a ring which tightly encircles the wrist and consists of an absorbent material. As a material of this description it is convenient to employ rubber sponge. It is, however, also possible to use paper, fabric or similar materials, which intercept the moisture running over the wrists and absord the same.

I'm not a fan of shellfish, so I wasn't aware how messy crayfish (aka crawfish) could be. But evidently their messiness really bothered Honig.

Below: how to eat crawfish.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Mar 10, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Food, Patents, 1930s

Patented by an insane person

Many patents might seem like they've been invented by an insane person. But as far as I know U.S. Patent No. 711,566 is the only patent that actually describes the inventor (Clark D. Hazard) as "an insane person".

The invention itself is unremarkable. It's for a "heating furnace". Evidently Mr. Hazard must have been institutionalized, or otherwise incapable of filing for the patent without assistance. So given this, it's impressive he was able to invent the furnace. But his description still stands out as a curiosity of the patent office.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Feb 25, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Patents, 1900s

Nuclear Tunneling

One of the projects that researchers at Los Alamos have worked on is a 'subterrene'. This is a nuclear-powered tunneling machine capable of boring through solid rock at high speed by melting the rock. They were granted a patent (No. 3,693,731) for this in 1972.

There's some info about this (as well as it's possible use on the Moon or Mars) in the book Terraforming Mars:

A means, however, of generating a glass coating on the wall, as a direct result of the tunneling process could be achieved by nuclear heating and melting, rather than nuclear explosive crushing. This latter idea has been explored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory under the guise of the SUBTERRENE program in which it was envisioned that the heat from a fission-reactor might be used to literally melt the rock around it - effectively, that is, tunnelling by the controlled use of a China-Syndrome meltdown. Indeed, a US patent (#3,693,731) for such a nuclear tunneling machine, was awarded to Dale Armstrong and co-workers at Los Alamos in September 1972. The patent application states, "this invention provides a rapid versatile economical method of deep-earth excavation, tunneling shaft sinking which offers solutions to ecological problems, acquiring natural resources presently inaccessible and access to an enormous reservoir of natural heat energy. These valuable subterranean sources include natural minerals and hydrocarbons, fresh water and clean geothermal heat energy".

The same technology was proposed by Joseph Neudecker and co-workers, in 1986, as a means by which tunnels might be bored upon the Moon in order to construct a subsurface transportation system. Describing their nuclear-powered melting machine as a SUBSELENE, Neudecker et al. calculate that a fission-reactor-heated, 5-m diameter tunneler could be made to advance by as much as a 50-m per day through the lunar subsurface. This tunneling, they argued could (indeed, must) be operated remotely. Importantly, for tunnel coherence and stability, the material melted at the front of the SUBSELENE would be extruded at its backend to form a glass lining on the tunnel wall.

Wikipedia has an article about the Subterrene, noting the rumor that the Soviets actually built such a device which they called the "battle mole".

Posted By: Alex - Sat Feb 19, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Caves, Caverns, Tunnels and Other Subterranean Venues, Patents, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1970s

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Alex Boese
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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