In all his 81 years Samuel Finley Breese Morse never attended a National Inventors' Congress. Neither did Alexander Graham Bell, nor Thomas Alva Edison, nor Charles Proteus Steinmetz. Nevertheless hundreds of lesser inventors, any one of whom might become a Morse, a Bell or an Edison overnight, were assembled in Hollywood last week for the National Inventors' Congress. These were not the bigwigs of industrial and academic laboratories. They were the humble rank & file of U. S. idea men, indefatigable purveyors of small ingenuities, perpetual optimists who swell the total of U. S. patents to some 50,000 a year. For example, Albert Giese of Benton Harbor, Mich., had heard a shocking story that 15,000 to 20,000 milkers are blinded every year by the restless tails of cows. His patented cow-tail restrainer was on display last week among 484 other inventions.
Having pondered the fact that many a criminal knows how to slip out of handcuffs, A. C. Elliott of Denver, onetime Royal Mounted policeman, invented a pair of escape-proof steel mittens. Miss Iris Adrian was happy to demonstrate.
Another inventor observed that people wiping their feet on doormats all wipe with a rearward motion, which gradually flattens the bristles and decreases the efficacy of the mat. Some callers are too lazy to wipe their feet at all. Both problems are taken care of by his revolving doormat which gives the feet a circular scouring while the visitor stands still.
E. Carlstrom of Chicago contributed a tear-gas gun which a woman may conceal beneath her skirt, ready for use at the approach of a molester. Miss Catherine A. Moran pulled up her dress to show how it was used.
An item of interest to flag-carriers in parades was a flagstaff, which may be telescoped when the flag-carrier passes under a low bridge.
H. C. Lavery of Minneapolis contributed a "psychograph," a hemispherical metal framework which is fitted over the head. The head displaces a number of levers inside, and from the changed setting of the levers a character analysis can be read off.
Alfred Grosjean of Pasadena invented a sharp-angled violin, which is tuned three musical steps higher than an ordinary violinand and which he says reproduces the "celestial" or "seraphic" tones of ancient instruments. He calls it a "violaeol," a word made up from violin and aeolian. Miss Violet Sheldon was interested.
Also to be seen : a clock with a million possible settings for the alarm; an automatic chewing gum vendor in which a miniature bronco kicks out the gum; an iron mask to supplant hot towels in facial massages ; a gadget for looping up trouser-legs to resemble knickerbockers; a powder-puff for removing neck wrinkles and double chins; a mechanical backscratcher.
Albert G. Burns of Oakland, Calif, was re-elected president of the Congress. It was Mr. Burns who last year revealed that a Clevelander named Antonio Longoria had invented a death-ray which killed rabbits, dogs & cats instantly (TIME, July 23). President Burns said that Inventor Longoria would withhold his secret until invasion threatened the U. S.