Inventors around the world file hundreds of thousands of invention patents every year.
Many ideas have changed the world, making our daily lives more manageable and enjoyable. However, for every innovative invention, hundreds of bizarre, strange, impractical, or simply unusable inventions exist.
Although amusing, the weird inventions of yesteryear can offer us insights into the culture of previous generations and the problems their inventors tried to solve.
Here is a list of 11 weird inventions you won’t believe actually existed.
Nicknamed by Time Magazine as one of the “50 Worst Inventions of All Time,” the “baby cage” was used in the 1930s by parents living in ever more congested American cities.
As all parents know, fresh air is essential for a child’s proper development. Even doctors at the beginning of the last century argued that this bizarre invention would stimulate the babies’ immune systems and help them stay healthy.
However, the “baby cage” quickly lost popularity, most likely due to its obvious risk to the child’s safety.
What parent would rather hang his child several dozen feet in the air rather than take them for a simple stroll in the park?
With the advent of the automobile, the streets became much more dangerous for pedestrians, partly because traffic rules were not as strict as today and partly because pedestrian crossings were utterly absent.
As the first decades of the 20th century brought an explosion in the number of vehicles, authorities faced thousands of traffic accidents resulting in deaths and injuries.
This problem led to the development of another weird invention – the rubber bumper.
Inventor A.J. Grafham proposed a new concept of a bumper for vehicles, which was essentially a rubber and sponge chair that promised to protect pedestrians in case they were run over by a car.
However, the invention was never implemented on a large scale, partly due to the additional costs car manufacturers had to bear and partly due to its inefficiency, as the rubber bumper proved helpful in only a few exceptional cases.
For decades before remarkable inventions such as the Walkman, iPod, and mobile phone, the idea of listening to the radio on the move was unthinkable due to the size of early radio devices.
The radio hat was the idea of a German inventor, with the first model presented in the early 1930s. The unusual “device” was a straw hat with two large antennas protruding from the top.
Despite later versions of the radio hat being made from various materials, none ever attracted the public. The weird invention was bulky and uncomfortable, and the antennas needed to be more powerful for a good reception of radio signals.
Then, two decades later, the arrival of the first transistor radio revolutionized the radio device market, becoming one of the most important inventions of the 20th century.
Charles Steinlauf’s “family bicycle” is a concept that still raises eyebrows today.
Steinlauf believed that more than the traditional single-person bicycle was needed to keep the whole family entertained while enjoying the great outdoors.
So, rather than buying multiple bikes, why not create one large one for the entire family?
And so, the family bicycle was born.
This bicycle features multiple seats, including two for pedaling, one for standing in the front, and one dedicated to a seamstress who could continue working while in motion.
While four-person bicycles are available today, none of the current models include a sewing machine.
If you think the current trend of wearing wooden sunglasses is bizarre, wait till you hear about the wooden bathing suits that appeared in Washington in 1929.
These suits looked like barrels and were designed to make swimming easier. Unfortunately, they were anything but comfortable.
The wooden bathing suits were heavy, cumbersome, impossible to clean, and, most importantly, a drowning hazard. These suits were quickly forgotten and were never popular among women.
In 1930, British inventor John Purves was inspired by one of Leonardo da Vinci’s fantastic ideas to create the Dynasphere vehicle.
The single-wheel vehicle could reach speeds of up to 55 km/h, but it was precarious and could easily overturn if the driver braked suddenly.
Today, vehicles inspired by Purves’ Dynasphere are more maneuverable and safer, but they can cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Some even have the added feature of shining in the dark.
Talking about shining in the dark, when Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decided to add some flair to American cars, they came up with the concept of illuminated tires.
These tires included no less than 18 internal bulbs that would light up when the car was in motion.
Unlike other weird inventions, illuminated tires were well-received by the public. However, the high production costs made it practically impossible to implement them on a large scale.
Nevertheless, a set of illuminated tires was installed on a 1954 concept car – the Golden Sahara II.
In 2019, the collector car was fully restored, receiving a new set of four illuminated tires from Goodyear.
The Cat-Mew machine is a gadget that does exactly what its name suggests – it produces the sound of a cat meowing.
Invented in 1963 by a Japanese company called Alley Cats, the Cat-Mew machine was created to help soothe lonely cats.
The device could play various cat sounds, from purring to meowing, and it became quite popular among Japanese cat lovers.
The weird invention was later modified to produce human sounds, such as a baby crying or a woman singing, making it a versatile tool for calming both cats and people.
Have you ever been in a restaurant and accidentally dropped butter on your sleeve when you reached over the table? This is precisely what happened to the American inventor Russell E. Oakes in 1950.
In response, he developed a spider-like metal contraption called the Butter Protector, a weird invention meant to cover the butter dish or other products prone to such “accidents” during meals.
Fortunately, today’s diners can easily solve this problem by putting butter in special containers with lids or politely asking to be served the food they need.
Moving on to the weird inventions of the past, we must recognize the Face Glove, which was developed in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.
This peculiar-looking face mask was intended for refined ladies who wanted to keep their skin young, soft, and free of imperfections.
The mask was made of flexible rubber and had to be worn during the night to encourage the opening and cleansing of the pores through sweat.
With its horror-movie-like appearance, the Face Glove was not as effective in treating skin problems as its inventor, Madame Helen M. Rowley, had hoped.
Nonetheless, the masks enjoyed unexpected popularity, compelling other companies to launch their own versions.
Sadly, these new versions were made of cheap and dangerous materials such as asbestos, sulfur, and lead, making them particularly hazardous and causing countless skin diseases and problems.
Few can compete with the Universal Shaving Machine when it comes to weird inventions.
As the fashion of long beards lost popularity at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it became socially acceptable for men to shave.
However, the daily shaving ritual required time and patience, leading more and more gentlemen to resort to barbers for a neat and effortless shave.
The problem was that one barber could only serve one customer at a time.
Of course, such a problem required a fitting solution, which came from the Universal Shaving Machine.
Clients were sited one next to another, and a strange-looking mechanical arm was applying shaving foam all over their faces. Then, another mechanical arm with a sharp razor was used to shave the facial hair.
Thus, the machine could, theoretically, shave 12 men at once.
However, the device could not be adjusted for each client’s facial peculiarities, resulting in uneven shavings, cuts, and abrasions caused by the razor blade.
By now, you may be wondering what connects these strange inventions.
The answer is simple: they were created to solve problems that no longer exist or were better solved by other means.
Despite their strange and curious nature, these inventions remind us that humans are inventive and always seeking solutions to their problems, even if they may not always be effective or practical.
Overall, these weird inventions offer a glimpse into the culture and problems of past generations.
They remind us that innovation is not always perfect and that even failed inventions can teach valuable lessons.
Who knows, perhaps one of today’s odd inventions may be tomorrow’s game-changing technology?
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- Bizarre Inventions. planetpatent.com. [Source]
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- Jake Rossen - 20 of the Weirdest Inventions From the Past 20 Years. mentalfloss.com.
- Richard Bevan - 8 of the Weirdest Inventions in History. historyhit.com.
- Kamelia Angelova - 50 Weird And Awesome Inventions From The Consumer Golden Age. businessinsider.com.