Art: A Yankee Da Vinci

The headline read FEW PRESENT. In three terse sentences, the obituary in the New Haven Evening Register of Aug. 14, 1884, informed readers that the aged inventor Rufus Porter was dead, and that "there were very few present at the service." It was a cruel epitaph for a man who had lived 92 years and responded so creatively to an inventive age. Porter was the creator of more than 100 machines and gadgets including a washing machine, an airship, a portable, prefabricated house, an automobile run on steam, and an elevated train. He was the founder of the Scientific American, which...

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