August has just begun, and how can we welcome it, if not with an episode of our Anniversaries of the first patents column?
The eighth month of the year represents for many of us the arrival of the long-awaited beach holidays! Not everyone, however, chooses to go on holiday at this time, and those who, in the past, had certainly continued to work, are all the inventors of today’s column! (Well, the idea of a summer holiday originated later than several of today’s inventions, anyway…).
Today, we’ll go through the birth of telephones, sewing machines, motorbikes, and the constant presence of the most known inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. It is no coincidence; in June’s episode, we wrote about him that his name ‘appears very frequently in our column’.
Enough for now, let’s start our trip through the historical patents registered in August!
AUGUST 2ND 1955
How many of us are familiar with the fastening system (widely used in the textile industry) called Velcro? Probably everyone.
What many people don’t know, however, it’s the date of Velcro’s birth, August 2nd 1955, when Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral filed the patent of his invention.
The first ‘hook and loop‘ fastening system was not very different from the one we are all familiar with today. It consisted of two strips of cloth with a surface covered in tiny hooks and tiny loops, respectively, which were intended to couple, enabling the fastening.
The name, Velcro, derives from the union of the two French words: ‘velours’ (velvet) and ‘crochet’ (hook). It is said that the idea originated during a walk in the mountains. De Mestral found a considerable amount of red flowers attached to his jacket. Analysing them under a microscope, he discovered that they had two small hooks that allowed the flowers to get caught on fabric and fur. A stroke of genius!
AUGUST 8TH 1876
It is now time for a bit of Thomas Edison!
In 1876, he obtained a patent for the mimeograph, an ancestor of our printer.
The device, also called ‘velocigraph’, was a mechanical printing system widely used in the 20th century. It was used to manually reproduce prints in small runs and at low cost.
Although the first inventor to create this type of machine was Eugenio De Zuccato, in 1874, with plenty of witnesses, it was Edison who filed and received the patent US 180.857.
AUGUST 9TH, EDISON AGAIN
Let’s jump to 1892, the year in which the American inventor was granted a patent for the two-way telegraph.
Until that 9 August, the telegraph consisted of two separate devices, one for reception and one for transmission. Edison thus invented a single device capable of gathering both functions, that was the basis of remote communication. Who knows what he would think when seeing our modern smartphones!
AUGUST 12TH 1851
To all fashionistas, this one’s for you.
In 1851, American inventor Isaac Merritt Singer patented his first domestic sewing machine.
The machine was operated by a foot pedal, which activated the movement of the needle, the bobbin, and the advancement of the fabric. In that same year, the inventor founded the famous Singer company. The manufacturer of the sewing machines that are found all over the world, in vintage clothes shops, tailor’s shops, and exceptionally in the living room of my home!
AUGUST 13TH 1889
Have you ever hear of ‘to make virtue out of a necessity’?
One evening, in 1889, Mr William Gray searched in vain for a telephone so that he could contact his doctor and urge him to help his sick wife.
From the failure of his intentions that night, he then decided to roll up his sleeves and find an affordable solution. On 13 August 1889, he patented the first coin-operated telephone, a kind of drawer that was made to work by inserting first coins, and then tokens, into a slot.
AUGUST 23RD 1904
On this date, Harry Delyne Weed filed a patent for the first snow chains.
Yep. You read that right. Snow chains were invented in August. However, there is an explanation: back then, the roads were certainly not what they are today. Mud was a constant, even after a short rainfall.
The innovation of his idea, as simple as it is functional, is to allow the wheels to grip the road. These chains would later prove to be essential for tackling snowy and icy routes.
AUGUST 29TH 1885
We come to the end of our episode devoted to August patents with an invention for two-wheelers.
On this day, many years ago, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler patented his prototype motorbike. Although the first two-wheeled vehicle was the brainchild of Louis Guillaume Perraux, Daimler’s vehicle featured a truly innovative internal combustion engine, which was later used in the manufacture of cars and other vehicles.
Photo by Wallace Chuck from Pexels