This “True Stuff from Old Books” entry is from Scientific American magazine, 1883. Sci-Am is pretty interesting to read back issues from, because as goofy as we sometimes think the 1800s were technology-wise (full of penny-farthing bicycles and steam locomotives), this was the height of the Industrial Revolution and the future literally seemed limitless for inventors. Any tinkerer with a few tools and a subscription to Sci-Am felt he could change the world with his creativity, and who’s to say he couldn’t.
Click the image for bigger; or, a complete transcription is below the jump.
How the Inventor Plagues his Poor Wife.
A facetious chap connected with one of our daily newspapers give[s] the following amusing burlesque on the trials of an inventor’s wife:
“It is all very well to talk about working for the heathen,” said one, as the ladies put up their sewing, “but I’d like to have some one tell me what I am to do with my husband.”
“What is the matter with him?” asked a sympathetic old lady. “William is a good man,” continued the first, waving her glasses in an argumentative way, “but William will invent. He goes inventing round from morning till night, and I have no peace or comfort. I didn’t object when he invented a fire escape, but I did remonstrate when he wanted me to crawl out of the window one night last winter to see how it worked. Then he originated a lock for the door that wouldn’t open from midnight until morning, so as to keep burglars out. The first time he tried it he caught his coat-tail in it, and I had to walk around him with a pan of hot coals all night to keep him from freezing.”
“Why didn’t he take his coat off?”
“I wanted him to, but he stood around till the thing opened itself, trying to invent some way of unfastening it. That’s William’s trouble. He will invent. A little while ago he got up a cabinet bedstead that would shut and open without handling. It went by clockwork. William got into it, and up it went. Bless your heart, he sta[y]ed in there from Saturday afternoon till Sunday night, when it flew open and disclosed William with the plans and specifications of a patent washbowl that would tip over just when it got so full. The result was that I lost all my rings and a breastpin down the wastepipe.
“Then he got up a crutch for a man that could also be used as an opera-glass. Whenever the man leaned on it up it went, and when he put it to his eye to find William, it flew out into a crutch and almost broke the top of his head off. Once he invented a rope ladder to be worn as a guard chain and lengthened out with a spring. He put it round his neck, but the spring got loose and turned it into a ladder and almost choked him to death. Then he invented a patent boot heel to crack nuts with, but he mashed his thumb with it and gave it up. Why, he has a washtub full of inventions. One of them is a prayerbook that always opens at the right place. We tried it one morning at church, but the wheels and springs made such a noise that the sexton took William by the collar and told him to leave his fire engines at home when he came to worship. The other day I saw him going up the street with a model of a grain elevator sticking out of his hip pocket, and he is fixing up an improved shot-tower in our bed-room.”