also Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press, Ruth Handler and her
line of Barbie dolls, Samuel Morse and his telegraph, Wilbur and
Orville Wright and their flying machine, and so on.
Three of the above inventors are
connected with at least one failed invention -- one that was sent
back to the old drawing board, where it stayed. Can you match the
following clunkers with the correct inventors mentioned above?
Talking movies and electric vote
Harry Warner, president of Warner
Studios, once denounced the idea of movies that had sound by saying,
"Who … wants to watch movies with sound?" We take this for granted
now, but the earliest movies had no sound. One very successful
inventor tried -- and failed -- to combine movies with sound. He
also created an electric vote counter that failed. Actually, the
electric vote counter worked just fine, but no one wanted to use it.
Who was this inventor who had multiple failures?
Thomas Edison. Yup, even the
greatest inventor of all time had a few failures. The vote counter
was a turning point in Edison's career, though, as it caused him to
decide to "only want to invent things that will sell." He received
1,093 patents in his career, which is more than any other inventor
The "Rittenhouse" stove
The original inventor of this
cast-iron stove figured that if it could be placed in the middle of
a room it would produce more heat than a fireplace could.
Unfortunately, he designed it so the smoke would come out from the
bottom. Since smoke rises, this made it impossible for his stove to
By the late 1780s, inventor David
Rittenhouse had successfully improved the original version of this
stove, so he named it after himself. Even though he succeeded, it
was his predecessor whose name is on the stove -- Ben Franklin,
inventor of the Franklin Stove.
[to top of second column
in this article]
The Paige Typesetter
Who invented the Paige Typesetter?
Who was buried in Grant's tomb?
The Paige Typesetter was a very
complex invention, one whose patent application was the longest in
history at the time. James Paige is the machine's inventor, but this
portion of the story is about a successful inventor who invested his
own money in the invention. In fact, he invested in a number of
losing inventions, causing him to personally turn down the
opportunity to invest in the most valuable patent in history --
Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. Who was this inventor-investor?
There were several reasons for the
failure of this complex invention, which was in demand by most of
the leading newspapers and publishing houses at the time. First, the
patent took more than eight years to issue, as one of the examiners
died while the case was pending, another patent examiner died insane
and the original patent attorney died in an insane asylum; and
second, James Paige refused to give up enough of his ownership
rights to the necessary investors when it was ready to hit the
So if you ever find yourself looking
at certain failure squarely in the face with your own electric vote
counter, Franklin Stove or Paige Typesetter, you're in pretty good
Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2005