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."
To operate the assembly, the operator places the inlet tube with its valve open adjacent his anal region from which a colonic gas is discharged. The piston is then withdrawn to a degree producing a negative pressure to inhale the gas into the combustion chamber to intermix with the air therein to create a combustible mixture. The ignitor is then activated to explode the mixture in the chamber and fire the missile into space.
Zanakis argued that his toy wasn't just amusing but also offered safety benefits, because using it was safer than lighting your farts on fire:
A recreational activity practiced by some individuals is ignition of one's own flatus. This is performed by using a lit match or candle, or a cigarette lighter. So widespread is this activity that there are web sites on the Internet devoted exclusively to explaining proper lighting techniques.
A major drawback of this popular practice is that it usually involves the hazardous coupling of fire, combustible gases and inebriated participants. Reports of serious burns to body parts are not uncommon, this being especially true when the participants remove their clothing...
In view of the foregoing, the main object of this invention is to provide a safe toy which exploits the combustible properties of flatus to fire a toy missile into space.
Suntan Suzy was a doll that would develop a tan if you put her in the sunlight. Back in the shade, her tan would fade. She came on the market in 1962, but lasted only one season. As far as I can tell, she was the only doll that has ever had the ability to tan.
0.5 gram of mercuric bis-dithizonate having the following structural formula was dissolved in 1000 grams of dioctyl phthalate.
1550 grams of a high molecular weight polyvinyl chloride polymer, in powdered form, were dispersed in this solution by stirring for ten to fifteen minutes. The latter material was specifically Bakelite Company QYNV polymer. Thus a plastisol formulation containing the phototropic dye dissolved in the liquid dioctyl phthalate (plasticizer phase) was obtained. About 120 grams of this plastisol formulation were then poured into a two piece steel mold, this having its inner surface previously coated with a silicone oil release film. This was then placed in an oven at 140 degrees centigrade and held at this temperature for eight minutes to allow solution of the polyvinyl chloride polymer phase. The mold and contents were then removed from the oven, cooled to room temperature, and the now solid form of the doll figure removed.
The figure thus produced was transparent and red in color. Upon exposure to sunlight a progressive darkening to a brown, then blue-black color occurred during a period of about three to four minutes, simulating a “sunburning” effect. When the doll was shielded from the sun a return to the original color took place, being visually complete after a period of eight to ten minutes. This action was repeatable with no detectable change in functional characteristics being noted after several dozen cycles.
It seems like an interesting gimmick for a doll. Curious it never caught on.
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.