Hair Coloring Calculator

Pity the poor inventor of the 1980s, who had a notion for something not supported by the clunky digital tech of that era. This elaborate device is today just a free app.

Full patent here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Nov 25, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Inventions, Patents, 1980s, Hair and Hairstyling

Thanksgiving Hair Tonic Cocktail

In 1909, Friedrich Wilhelm Emil Müller of Chicago received a patent for a hair tonic that, so he claimed, would cause hair "to grow on bald spots of the head." All you had to do was thoroughly rub it into the scalp with the tips of the fingers several times a day.

The tonic struck some at the patent office as sounding quite tasty. So it was served as an aperitif at the 1936 Thanksgiving-week banquet in Washington DC celebrating 100 years of the American patent system.

Tacoma News Tribune - Nov 24, 1936

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 24, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Patents, Thanksgiving, Hair and Hairstyling, Alcohol

Breakaway Stethoscope

Joshua Allen Stivers of Puyallup, WA recently received a patent for a "breakaway stethoscope." It works like a normal stethoscope, but breaks apart if someone tries to use it as a garrote to strangle a person:

Medical staff, such as doctors, nurses and technicians, are often required to deal with unruly and/or aggressive patients that may become violent and cause injury to themselves or others. Medical staff also often carry and wear a stethoscope while working and tend to rest the stethoscope around the neck and on the shoulders when not in use. Unfortunately, violent patients may see that as an opportunity to harm the doctor, nurse or technician by grabbing the stethoscope that is resting on the wearer's neck and strangle or injure the wearer and in some cases cause death. Thus, there is a need for a breakaway stethoscope that will separate into two or more pieces when forcefully pulled on or forcefully wrapped around a doctor's, nurse's, or technician's throat to prevent injury or death to the doctor, nurse or technician.

A quick google search reveals that stethoscopes become weapons disturbingly often. So it's kind of surprising that breakaway ones aren't already standard issue.

Derby Evening Telegraph - Aug 9, 1948

via Jeff Steck

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 17, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Medicine, Patents, Weapons

Circular Boxing Rings

In 1975, Marvin Jenson received a patent (No. 3,876,197) for a circular boxing ring. As he noted in his patent, a circular ring is safer than a square one due to the lack of corners:

Many times during a boxing contest one of the contestants will be trapped in a corner and is unable to escape the ensuing onslaught of his opponent. This may result not only in a serious physical injury to the trapped fighter, but also detracts from the art and skills of the sport.

In a newspaper interview, Jenson further explained that the idea for the round boxing ring had occurred to him after watching the 1961 fight between Benny Paret and Emile Griffith, during which Paret got trapped in a corner and took such a beating that he fell into a coma and died.

Jenson's patent drawing

Jenson's circular ring in use
Jordan Valley Sentinel - June 10, 1976

Jenson was hardly the first person to come up with the idea of a circular boxing ring. The idea has been around for a long time. In fact, way back when fighters used to compete in circles drawn on the ground, which is why boxing rings came to be referred to as 'rings' in the first place, rather than 'squares'.

So how did boxing rings end up being square and continue to be so?

As far as I can tell, it's mostly a matter of convenience. It's easier to string rope in a straight line rather than a circle.

An earlier attempt at a circular ring
Newsweek - May 8, 1944

Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 27, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Sports, Martial Arts, Patents


Not only bucks, but bleats! The inventor's predilection for a goat figure definitely NOT Satanic!

Full patent here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Oct 22, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Bicycles and Other Human-powered Vehicles, Inventions, Patents, Toys, Nineteenth Century

Louis Duprey’s Trapdoor Theater Seats

One of the minor annoyances of going to a theater is having your view blocked if someone in front of you gets up from their seat. Or having to stand from your seat to let someone get by.

Back in 1924, Louis Duprey patented a solution to this problem. He envisioned a theater in which guests would enter through a subchamber, get into their seats, and then be raised upwards by a hydraulic lift, through a trapdoor, into the theater itself. Anyone who wanted to leave early could simply lower themself back down, disturbing no one else.

It's an over-engineered solution to a minor problem, but I would happily pay extra, at least once, to experience a theater like this. Though I'd probably spend the entire time going up and down in my chair.

More info: Patent No. 1,517,774
Related Posts: Thomas Curtis Gray's horizontal theater, Theater in a Whale, Lloyd Brown's Globe Theater

via New Scientist

Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 20, 2022 - Comments (6)
Category: Architecture, Entertainment, Theater and Stage, Patents, 1920s

Apparatus for secretly recording the reading behaviour of a person

Herbert Wettig's patent (granted by the UK patent office in 1971 — GB1241156) details how to hide a television camera in a light fixture for the purpose of "secretly recording the reading behaviour of a person unbeknowst to him."

Why would someone want to do this? Apparently for marketing research.

For example, advertisements were tested in this way to discover if they were noticed at all, how much attention they attracted in comparison with other advertisements, how great the spontaneous interest in the advertisement is, how the reader's gaze moves between the various elements of the advertisement, whether he reads the text as well, how long he looks at the advertisement.

Wettig noted that researchers had previously been doing this in specially designed test rooms. The advantage of his invention, he said, was that it was easily transportable and could be set up discreetly in many different places without arousing suspicion. I'm assuming he's talking about spying on library patrons, since libraries are the most obvious place where people spend a lot of time in public reading.

Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 06, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Patents

Combined coat hanger and musical instrument

I wonder if Louis Jacobs thought he was going to strike it rich when he came up with his idea for a "combined hanger and musical instrument." From his 1918 patent:

Be it known that I, Louis Jacobs, a citizen of the United States, residing at San Francisco, in the county of San Francisco and State of California, have invented new and useful Improvements in Combined Hangers and Musical Instruments, of which the following is a specification.

The object of the present invention is to provide a device for hanging shoes and other articles, and which can also be used as a musical instrument.

But how did it work as a musical instrument? Again from his patent:

The device may also be used in the following manner as a musical instrument: Thin pieces of paper are placed on opposite sides of the wire screen frame, and the frame, after the paper has been thus placed, is brought up to the mouth and the performer sings, speaks, or hums through the paper. The sound of the voice is first split up through the fine pores in the paper, striking the front side of the wire screen and causing vibrations therein, then passing through the holes to the rear side of the wire screen, again causing vibrations therein, so that the sound of the voice is magnified. Any tone, or tune, or the sound of any instrument or the phonograph can be imitated thereby. The effect of these vibrations on the nerves is soothing and quieting. It is also useful in talking to deaf persons, as the sound can be heard by them much better than the ordinary voice.

I can just imagine Jacobs talking to deaf people through his musical coat hanger.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 17, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Music, Patents, 1910s

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Who We Are
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.

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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