In case you missed it, February 11th was National Inventors’ Day, so we take a moment to salute those nineteenth-century tinkerers and entrepreneurs who strove to make domestic life easier. In these cases they chose to advertise their innovations on broadsides, a bibliographer’s term for single-page flyers. Broadsides often announced the latest news, sometimes even as momentous as the Declaration of Independence, but here we see them as a way to hawk the wares of creative New Yorkers.
Need a new dryer? When we see crank-post clotheslines in backyards they seem quaint to us, but they were apparently state of the art in 1859, an improvement for housewives and servants who had been stringing a line each time the wash was brought out.
Plan on sleeping at the office? Perhaps that’s not so likely in these work-from-home pandemic days, but a solution is proposed here in 1849, along with the precursor to the sofa bed.
Bedbugs a concern? Try this as novel bedstead made in S.H. Wills’s factory
Like a sewing machine at home? Sewing machine development engendered raging competition and patent litigation, but by the time Bartholf marketed this model, he could advertise his $50 “Family Machine” to individual households. The lockstitch he promotes is fundamentally the same as the needle and bobbin operation of today’s consumer models.
Planning on upgrading your plumbing? The welcome advent of indoor plumbing provided an opening for pottery works, especially for Brooklyn’s Edward H. Quinn, a one-time building contractor. Here he offers terra cotta pipes to the forward thinking. Terra cotta—fired earthenware—had some advantage over iron piping in being less subject to oxidation, more resistant to changes in temperature, and, of course, less costly.
Dream of a leak-proof sink? The upgrade from the centuries-old wash basin and ewer to faucets and pipes involved a good deal of improvisation to prevent the inevitable leaks. Adding a marble slab may not have been “The Greatest and Most Beneficial Invention of the Age,” but it speaks to the mid-nineteenth-century burst in plumbing patents and innovation. Marble was an expensive solution, but the company promises “Quick sales and small profits.”
This post is by Mariam Touba, Reference Library for Printed Collections