Abram Spanel, the last private owner of Drumthwacket, was an inventor. Embedded within the library are seven items invented by New Jersey inventors including Abram Spanel. See if you can find all seven and click to learn more about each.
A resident of Highland Park, New Jersey, Earle Dickson invented an adhesive bandage to better protect small wounds when his accident prone wife, Josephine Frances Knight kept burning and nicking her fingers while cooking in the kitchen. A cotton buyer for Johnson and Johnson, Dickson introduced the product to executives who after distributing free samples to the nation's Boy Scouts, marketed the product to world-wide success.
Abram Spanel (1901-1985) was the third and last private owner of Drumthwacket, having purchased the property from Moses Taylor Pyne’s granddaughter Agnes in 1941. His inventions on which he held more than 2,000 patents, ranged from a pneumatic stretcher designed to carry wounded military personnel in water to a home hair-cutting device. In 1932, Spanel founded the International Latex Corporation which would later become known as the International Playtex Corporation. In 1965, the company won the competition to design the Apollo Spacesuit.
A resident of Newark, New Jersey, Charles Brooks patented the paper punch in 1893. Used as a ticket puncher, the device included a built in receptacle to collect the round pieces of waste paper left behind by the punch. Brooks is also known for his 1896 patent for improvements to the street sweeper which included the spinning brushes characteristic of modern machines and a more efficiently designed compartment to contain the collected debris.
Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878-1972), a resident of Montclair, New Jersey, was an inventor, author, industrial engineer and mother of 12 children. Working with her husband Frank, the couple pioneered industrial management techniques which they applied to the workplace and household. Their experiments included detailed analysis of motion to produce faster ways to wash dishes, brush teeth and other such chores. Lillian’s work as an industrial engineer for General Electric to improve kitchen design and the efficiency of kitchen appliances led to many of her patented inventions including among others, the electric food mixer, shelves inside refrigerator doors (including the egg keeper and butter tray) and the foot pedal trash can. The Gilbreth family was immortalized in the book Cheaper by the Dozen written by two of Lillian’s twelve children and subsequently turned in the popular 1950 movie of the same name.
Lester William Polsfuss - known as Les Paul - was a pioneer of the electric guitar and inventor of many recording techniques such as, multi-tracking, reverb and close miking. In 2007, he was presented with the National Medal of Arts. In a White House ceremony attended by President Bush, he was praised for "his innovation as a musician, his pioneering designs of the electric guitar, and his groundbreaking recording techniques that have influenced the development of American jazz, blues, and pop music, and inspired generations of guitarists." Les Paul was a lifelong resident of Mahwah, New Jersey.
Bubble Wrap was invented by two engineers, Alfred Fielding (1917 – 1994) and Swiss inventor, Marc Chavannes (b. 1946) in Hawthorne, New Jersey, in 1957. Their initial intent was to create textured wallpaper for home décor by sealing two shower curtains together in such a way that the captured air bubbles would create bumps and ridges. When the product failed commercially, the team first re-marketed it as greenhouse insulation until the early 1960s, when it was discovered it could be successfully used as a cushioning packing material.
At the age of 20, Samuel Leeds Allen (1841 – 1918) moved with his family from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Cinnaminson Township, New Jersey. He began manufacturing sleds at his farm equipment factory as a means of keeping his employees busy during the slower summer months. After testing his sled with local adults and children, Allen patented the flexible flyer sled in 1889. The sled’s features included a pair of steel runners with a bendable spot halfway down the slide which enabled the rider to sit upright or lie on their stomach, to steer the sled.