My great grandmother was born on September 30, 1895 in Strum, Wisconsin, and used to tell us the most important invention for the home, in her lifetime, was the clothes washing machine. Now history always seems to make the present era seem more civilized, when in fact, it is probably only cleaner, thanks to my grandmother's favorite invention. But, I wonder if it is easier. Certainly, there were many patents issued in the 1880's for inventions that truly would change the lives of future generations, and a handful of these amazing contrivances would have a great impact on that which is truly important to an industrialized nation: the machinery that speeds business, business being the true backbone of a country, but to a country girl whose family depended on farming, the clothes washing machine still stands out as the one that saved her the most time.
So this essay will delve into the era of the 1880's and focus on one of the most important inventors that ever lived, Nikola Tesla. Many business machines were patented before Nikola Tesla patented the alternating-current "electromagnetic motor" in 1888 (while the popular Thomas Edison was stubbornly clinging to direct-current motors), but soon more and more inventors were realizing this new source of harnessed power could bring glorious miracles to business, thus providing them with even more glorious profits. But first, the washing machine, truly in honor of my great grandmother, who will be 105 years old this year.
Before the days of washing machines, people got dirt out of their clothes by pounding them on rocks and washing the dirt away in streams. Sand was used as an abrasive to free the dirt. Soap was discovered at Rome's Sapo Hill where ashes containing the fat of sacrificial animals were found to have good cleaning powers. The earliest washing "machine" - the scrub board - was invented in 1797.
In 1874 William Blackstone, a Bluffton, Indiana merchant and manufacturer of corn planters, built a birthday present for his wife. It was a machine that removed and washed away dirt from clothes. It consisted of a wooden tub in which there was a flat piece of wood containing six small wooden pegs. The inner mechanism looked something like a small milking stool. It was moved back and forth by means of a handle and an arrangement of gears. Dirty clothes were snagged on the wooden pegs an...
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...ed to place his untested theories into countless notebooks. The man who invented the modern world died nearly penniless at age 86 on January 7, 1943. More than two thousand people attended his funeral. In his lifetime, Tesla received over 800 different patents. He probably would have exceeded Edison's record number if he wasn't always broke - he could afford very few patent applications during the last thirty years of his life. Unlike Edison, Tesla was an original thinker whose ideas typically had no precedent in science. Unfortunately, the world does not financially reward people of Tesla's originality. We only award those that take these concepts and turn them into a refined, useful product.
Cheney, Margaret, Tesla: Man Out of Time (Dell Publishing, 1981)
Tesla, N., Electrical Experiment (1919)
Tesla, N., The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla (unknown publishing date or place used) Book actually red on web page:www.neuronet.pitt.edu/~biodam/tesla/tesla.pdf
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