Inventors and Patents From the City of Louisville
It is common knowledge that patents are necessary for a product or invention. However, granting a patent is no guarantee that the product will succeed. According to Dennis Crouch, co-director of the Center for Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship, roughly half of all patents are expired before they are used. Despite the difficulties associated with patenting, however, three patents from the City of Louisville will be granted by 2020.
Walter Hunt was an American mechanical engineer and entrepreneur who invented many useful, and some interesting, things. His inventions include the safety pin and the first workable sewing machine. However, none of his inventions made a profit. He was born on July 29, 1796 in Martinsburg, New York. His education began in a one-room school, and by 1820 he had already completed a degree in masonry. He eventually married Polly Loucks, and the two married.
Hunt’s family was involved in the textile industry. Their community was dominated by the textile mill, and most of Hunt’s friends and family were in the business of spinning cotton and wool. When the mills did not perform well, the entire community was affected. Fortunately, Hunt’s mechanical abilities made it possible for him to obtain a patent for a spinning machine for a flax mill owned by Willis Hoskins.
Hunt also invented a safety device that prevented accidents in horse-drawn carriages. He witnessed a child being run over by a carriage, and the incident disturbed him. He then decided to make safety devices to prevent such accidents. One of his inventions was a hammer-operated metal gong. This invention was patented on July 30, 1827.
Inventors from the City of Louisville are included in Fred Clarke, Inventors From the City ofLouisville. In addition to being a Hall of Famer, Clarke also held many patents and was a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is remembered for inventing a canvas cover for the infield diamond that kept the infield dry and invented a pair of sunglasses for ballplayers to wear during games.
Inventor Thomas Edison learned about telegraphy during the Civil War and began working on improving it. He was granted his first patent for an electric vote recorder in 1868, and later developed more than 125 patents related to the telegraph. He also developed a printer that would convert the electrical telegraph signals into letters.
Thomas Alva Edison’s father was a Baptist minister, and his mother was an educated and beautiful woman. She was born in 1810 in Ohio and was a descendant of an old Revolutionary soldier. She was married to Ebenezer Elliott, a man of Scottish descent who had moved to Stonington, Connecticut.
Thomas Edison first moved to Louisville in 1866, and began working for the Western Union in Louisville. He was employed for a night shift, but he used the time to study and experiment. During that year, he spilled sulfuric acid on his desk, which ate the floor. He later became a renowned inventor and patented a quadruplex telegraph, which could send four messages at once. Sales of this invention allowed him to build a laboratory and make a living.
Granville Woods was a famous inventor who lived in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati. He gained the nickname “Black Edison” and made his mark in the world of inductive communications, or wireless telegraphy. In 1885, the American Bell Telephone Company bought his patent for an electrical messaging device. The device enabled station operators to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire.
Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio, but received little schooling. He took up a number of odd jobs during his early twenties, including working on a British ship and as an engineer in a railroad machine shop. He later spent some time in New York City, where he took courses in engineering and electricity. Even before the Civil War, Woods’ talents were evident.
Woods’ first patent was for a steam boiler. The old pumps at River Station were powered by steam produced in these boilers. He also invented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed railroad workers to transmit messages between moving trains and train stations. These innovations improved public transportation systems in U.S. cities, and made railroad workers safer.
Kid Nichols is a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949. The former Louisville Colonels pitcher played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Beaneaters. He also patented a light-up display board. This invention allows a player to watch a baseball game as if it were taking place elsewhere.
Charles Nichols filed for several patents for his inventions. The listing includes patents that have already been granted and those that are pending. Inventors from Louisville have made their mark in history. Some of their most notable inventions have been listed in this publication.
Elmer Harrison Flick, a former major league baseball player, played in the outfield from 1898 to 1910 for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics, and the Cleveland Bronchos/Naps. In 1963, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His patent is for a protective pad for ballplayers’ hips.
Max Carey was a Hall of Fame outfielder and prolific base stealer. Born in Indiana, he first studied to become a minister before turning to professional baseball. After playing for the South Bend Greens in his hometown, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1909, he went 3-for-6 in his first taste of the big leagues, and he never looked back.
Carey was an important baseball player and inventor. His patented protective pads helped protect players from sliding injuries. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for a decade and managed the Brooklyn Dodgers for two years. Carey was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1961.
In 1924, Carey changed baseball’s batting stance, based on Ty Cobb’s, and he led the league in stolen bases eight times.
Bill Klem, also known as “The Old Arbitrator” and the “Father of Baseball Umpires,” was one of the most successful baseball officials of all time. In his lifetime, he worked in 18 World Series and was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His patent provided improvements to baseball bases, including a dirt-resistant, waterproof surface and sloping design for base runners.
Klem began his professional career as a catcher in the Canadian League. However, arm injuries cut short his playing days. After a few years, Klem began umpiring baseball games, following in the footsteps of his friend Silk O’Loughlin. In 1897, he umpired the first game between the New York Cuban Giants and Berwick, Maine. He worked his way up the ranks, eventually calling balls and strikes for the National League.