Famous June Inventions and Patents from History
There have been many inventions throughout history that you will have heard of because of their success. Unfortunately, however, many inventions sink without trace. This is generally because of one or more of the following reasons:
They don’t effectively or economically address the problem they were designed to solve.
The inventor saw a problem that didn’t exist or was already solved effectively in another way.
The patent described something that proved impossible to manufacture.
Of course, you can still learn a great deal from inventions that proved unsuccessful. Here are a few examples of June inventions from history, what made them work, what didn’t and how their inventors dealt with their success or failure.
June 1st, 1869—Thomas Edison Obtains a Patent for an Electrographic Vote Recorder
You’ve almost certainly heard of Thomas Edison, but were you aware that his first patent, registered when he was just 22 years old, was a failure? In early 1869, it was widely reported that the New York state legislature and the city council of Washington, D.C. were both looking for a method of automatically recording their votes. Responding to this, the young inventor proposed a solution.
Each voter would have a switch that could be moved to “Yes” or “No” positions, transmitting a signal to a device with a dial that would mark up the total of Yes and No votes. It would also mark their name in a corresponding column, upon which a chemically treated piece of paper would be placed to record the final results.
An investor named Dewitt Roberts invested $100 in the device and presented it on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, members didn’t believe that it would save enough time to be helpful, and it was never used. However, it is also likely that they never wanted to save time in the first place; without voicing their votes, there would be no opportunity to speak further and produce a filibuster or persuade their colleagues of their position. In this case, the perceived problem didn’t require a solution. Perhaps the young Edison could have researched further and realized this. However, he didn’t let this failure deter him and went on to register over a thousand more patents during his prolific career.
June 5th, 1869—Ives McGaffey Patents a Carpet Sweeping Machine
Chicago inventor Ives McGaffey spent several years developing his invention, the first real ancestor of the modern vacuum cleaner. He realized that the modern housewife didn’t want to spend hours sweeping rugs and created a machine that created suction with a hand crank. Unfortunately, little is known of the man beside his invention, and it wasn’t a massive success. Although the device was lightweight and compact, the cranking mechanism wasn’t easy to use, and the $25 price tag was out of reach of most customers.
In this instance, the inventor had seen a real need and provided a solution. However, the solution wasn’t economically viable and didn’t solve the problem as well as later inventions. However, it did pave the way for later machines utilizing the newly invented electric motor, and Ives McGaffey is seen by many as the father of the modern vacuum cleaner.
June 9th, 1953—Patent Granted to John H Kraft for the “Manufacture of Soft Surface Cured Cheese”
John H Kraft was one of the founders of Kraft Foods, a brand still globally recognized in the food industry. The Kraft family were (and still are) experts in coming up with new food products designed to be easy to prepare and eat. This invention was one of their earliest and addressed a problem that many would not have even recognized as such.
Most soft cheeses have an outer rind that can be difficult to remove and is somewhat unpalatable. Kraft’s new method produced a soft cheese with a mold pad that was relatively thin and could be easily removed via a porous fabric between the pad and the soft interior cheese. As with many of Kraft’s patents, this invention proved to be a success.
If you’re looking for inspiration as an inventor, this one is food for thought. The most commercially viable inventions are often not flashy technical masterpieces but rather explorations of basic consumer needs that have not yet been met or even consciously considered.
June 10th, 1902—Patent for the “Window Envelope” Granted to H.F. Callahan
Few inventions have become as ubiquitous as the window envelope, used in most businesses across the world to this day. Unfortunately, little is known of the inventor, H.F. Callahan, other than that he submitted the patent and went on to lease the invention to the Envelope Company of Springfield, MA, and continued to profit from it until he died in 1923.
The problem he solved with this invention would not have been immediately apparent to everyone. Businesses at the time were sending out ever-increasing amounts of mail and, in some cases, had to employ people just to write addresses on the envelopes. Another problem was that the letters would occasionally have the wrong address written on them as, once the letter was in the envelope, it was very easy to mix them up.
Callahan’s patent described a rice-paper window in a standard manila envelope (the adhesive worked best on this material), displaying the address inscribed at the top of a correctly folded letter. Thin plastic later replaced the rice paper, but the invention itself is otherwise unchanged today.