Pianos, Projectors, Pop-Up Toasters, and Pigs…

Sometimes, I really don’t have much to write about, so I improvise…I make a daily visit to the “Today in History” website (read why by clicking here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/tuesdays-twinkies-teflon-and-tv-dinners/).

May 27th was an epic day when it comes to inventions/firsts that impact ordinary folks like me: 

1. In 1796, a guy from New Jersey named James Sylvanus McLean received the first U.S. patent for “an improvement in piano fortes” (the first piano-like instrument in the country was known as a “spinet” and had been built some 27 years earlier by fellow Jersey boy, John Harris).  Some of my happiest childhood memories centre around the piano…it was the first instrument I learned to play (see https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/sounds-that-soothe-my-soul-part-1-the-first-20-years/).  My mom enjoyed playing it too.  I believe ours was a Baldwin Hamilton studio piano…it looked a lot like this one:


2. In 1895, a film camera/projector, the Kineopticon, was patented by inventor, Birt Acres.  Many years later in the early 1970’s, my mom decided to take a film course at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.  My dad was the star of her first short film…it was based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.  I remember going with them to film it at our country property near Millbridge, Ontario.  Dad read this famous quote as he narrated the film: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Later, there was another incident involving Mom and a slide projector.  She was having an art show of her abstract work, and often gave a live presentation as well.  One night, the audience got an “animated” show, as the slide projector overheated and the image onscreen bubbled, melted and disintegrated before our eyes!  Neat effect, but totally unplanned!

Kineopticon Camera...it's a good thing cameras are smaller now...

3. In 1919, Charles Strite patented the pop-up toaster, called the Toastmaster.  What a great idea!  Imagine the people holding their bread hopefully over the fire trying to get it toasted evenly!  Our first toaster was a shiny chrome model which did two slices at once.  Mom used to mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it on our toast.  I’ve traded up since then…when Jim and I moved in together, he had a four-slice toaster with a bagel setting (which I keep forgetting to adjust when I do regular bread!).  With seven people in the family, that larger capacity is a handy thing to have!

Instruction book for Strite's machine...

4. In 1930, masking tape was invented by Richard Drew.  Where would we be without it?  We’d have paint everywhere it wasn’t supposed to be, for one thing.  I also remember using rolled-up pieces of masking tape to de-cat hair my clothes when I was younger.  Another handy use is for price tags for junk at yard sales.

Masking tape is a lot fancier now than it used to be...we only had one colour...beige...

5. In 1933, Walt Disney released their animated film “Three Little Pigs.”  That book was the first book I learned to read, at age 3.  I remember the wolf’s line: “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!”  Mean old wolf…the pigs weren’t scared though…remember their song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

This book was released at the same time as the movie...

6. In 1960, Baltimore Oriole Clint Courtney was the first catcher to use the oversized catcher’s mitt.  I found it fascinating that this development only happened the year before I was born…I thought it was a lot older!  There’s a fun profile of Courtney here: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/sports/thetoydepartment/2009/05/

Here's Courtney with his mitt...

7. In 1961, the first black light was sold.  This brings me back to record stores in the seventies, and the black light posters hanging on the walls.  I never bought one – I thought they were ugly, and I’m pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have bought me a black light, even if I asked for one.

I might have gone for this one if I'd seen it in 1976...

  I hope you’ve enjoyed this random trip through history…



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