House of Invention: The Secret Life of Everyday Objects

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Globe Pequot, Sep 1, 2002 - Reference - 192 pages
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David Lindsay shares the most fascinating stories in the obsessive history of invention, all within the typical American home. He stops in each room to examine the most taken-for-granted objects, and finds eccentric inventors lurking within every delightfully bizarre story of invention. The bathroom, for example, is a hotbed of innovation. We meet Gillette of disposable razor fame, who had grandiose utopian plans; the inventor of Vaseline -- he actually ate a spoonful of the stuff each day; and the first woman millionaire. A visit to the kitchen takes us to the frigid North, where Clarence Birdseye was inspired, and into the odd psyches of the Kellogg brothers. In the foyer, we find the magical history of the intercom, the piratical origins of paper money, and the Houdini-like ascension of the king of locks. The office yields the origins of pencils; the roots of Muzak technology; and the debt we owe to Nikola Tesla. The garage shows us the genius of the standard screw thread, the patent-stealing of intermittent windshield wipers, and the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of the woman who invented the flat-bottomed paper bag. In the family room, we learn of the race for television's patent, about the violent inventor of the Nautilus machine, and of the pacifism that inspired solitaire. The bedroom boasts more personal inventions as we unravel the histories of the brassiere and even the condom. There is intrigue, suspense, fraud, rebellion, and more. No house should be without House of Invention, and no one interested in stories of genius and ingenuity and the extraordinary creation of ordinary objects should miss it.
 

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Contents

The Disposable Razor
9
Vaseline
17
Hair Straightener
23
Frozen Food
31
The Blender
39
Breakfast Cereal
45
The Intercom
57
Bank Notes
63
The Intermittent Windshield Wiper
111
The Standard Screw Thread
117
The FlatBottomed Paper Bag
125
Television
133
The Exercise Machine
143
Solitaire
149
The Brassiere
157
Shatterproof Glasses
163

Locks and Keys
71
Muzak
83
The Pencil
93
The Electrical Outlet
99
The Condom
171
Suggested Reading
177
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Page ix - Acknowledgments This book could not have been written without the help of many people.

About the author (2002)

David Lindsay has previously published several books, including "The Patent Files: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Invention" and "Madness in the Making: The Triumphant Rise and Untimely Fall of America's Show Inventors," He has also written for "New York Press, American Heritage, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal "and "The American Experience," In addition to being a successful historian, he is also a founding member of the music groups the Klezmatics and They Might Be Giants. David Lindsay lives in New York City

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