Sunday, May 23, 2010

Invention Sunday: Ear Muffs by Chester Greenwood

In an effort to further develop this home-made project of Knees and Paws, I have chosen to post a weekly foray into the world of inventing. One month from now I will commence with the daunting task of writing the official patent application.

Dear reader, please excuse me if this topic bores you, but I'm a self-declared geek, I'm skipping church today, I'm avoiding the laundry mountain and the garage that needs organizing.

Today I'm thankful for Chester Greenwood, inventor of ear muffs.

One winter, a fifteen year old boy was ice skating in his hometown of Farmington, Maine when he wondered whether tufts of fur sewn between a loop of wire would protect his ears from extreme cold. He asked his grandmother to sew them, then wrote a patent for the "improved ear protectors" in 1873. Once the patent was official, Greenwood began manufacturing ear muffs, providing jobs for people in Farmington for close to 60 years.

The tiny article about him on Wikipedia lists a few other of Greenwood's inventions which became more complex as he matured. Not only an inventor, he owned a bicycle business and helped establish a telephone system in his town. He married, had four kids, engaged in civic responsibilities and is remembered with fondness and appreciation. The State of Maine declared December 21 to be the official "Chester Greenwood Day".

I'm not in this to get a parade day. But it's so cool to think about the possibilities of what a simple, hand crafted invention can do. I personally did not enjoy wearing ear muffs, but the idea sold. It started in the home with a simple idea. This, more than anything, excites me. Chester did not have Etsy. (I wonder if his grandma would have started there?) He didn't have to learn online marketing. Without those avenues I do wonder how he got from point a to point z and every point in between.

And so I have a research project that promises visits to historical libraries. I am thrilled to do this. Despite connecting with many wonderful new online buddies I sort of feel like a loner in the patenting part of this. I need a historical guide. More on Chester as I uncover his story. Perhaps it will help to shape mine.

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