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Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

5 Weird Swimming-Related Patents

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Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

Can you imagine seeing any of these at your local pool or beach?

1. U.S. 885212: Life-Preserver and Swimming Machine, 1910

In 1907, Modesto, California residents W.H. Young and O.B. Lyon had what they thought was a brilliant idea for a new device: A combination life preserver/swimming machine, which could be used both for recreation or "in a case of necessity, whereby in cases of accident or ship wreck the survivors may get safely away from the vessel and propel themselves to a place of safety." Their patent was granted in 1910.

Here's how Young and Lyon imagined it would work: An airtight compartment, equipped with a keel, would be strapped around a person's torso. The keel would be connected to "a driving screw propelling mechanism adapted to be operated by the manual force of the wearer." The inventors also suggested making the airtight compartment several compartments, so that if one was punctured, the person could still stay afloat.

2. U.S. 3133522: Swimming Apparatus, 1964

Inventor Aristide Nicolaie created this device that "when attached to the wearer and used by him in bathing will enable the wearer to travel at a relatively high rate of speed through the water whether or not the wearer can swim."

To use the machine, the wearer slips into a flexible harness that is connected on one end to a tubular frame; a flexible shaft extends through the frame to the pedals. A second frame, spaced away from the tubular frame, is connected to the harness. There is also "a propeller rotatably supported in the second frame, and the propeller being connected to the end of the shaft opposite from the pedals and rotated by such shaft when the pedals are rotated, the second frame and the propeller being movable relative to the tubular frame by movement of the body of a swimmer for steering." The patent was granted in 1964.

3. U.S. 1732679: Aquatic vehicle, 1929

Emil Haby filed the patent for this device in 1928. The device, he wrote in the patent, "aims to provide a novel, simple and useful device whereby travelling may be expedited on water and wherein an individual may move front place to place upon a body of water without requiring the services of a motor or other character of boat. A vehicle of this character will prove to highly amusing to bathers as well as useful to those actually desiring to travel from one place to another upon a body of water." The patent was granted in 1929.

4. U.S. 243834: Swimming Apparatus, 1881

This "swimming apparatus," invented by William Beeson "of Dillon, in the county of Beaver Head and Territory of Montana," was "in the nature of a detachable suit provided with pockets or receptacles for the body and limbs, and having between the pockets for the limbs a web portion, which acts like wings or fins, which, from the movement of the legs and arms, effect a propulsion through the water." The suit looks more like something you'd see on a skydiver than a swimmer. Of course, when Beeson patented it in 1881, nobody was flying but the birds.

5. U.S. 964886: Device for Teaching Swimming, 1910

Forget arm floaties: Charles G. Sickels, resident of Santa Cruz, California, had a better way to teach kids to swim, and it involves a torture chamber. This device, patented in 1910, was "designed for the purpose of teaching one the strokes and movements necessary for one to swim with ease ... to be used on land and not in the water by which one acquires a habit of not only making the right strokes but also of making the right combination of strokes." The would-be swimmer lays on a base—his face sticking through, as though he were on a spa's massage table—and cables are attached to his wrists and ankles. The right wrist cable passes over pulleys to the left ankle, and vice versa. "By this arrangement it will be seen that when he makes outward horizontal stroke with his right arm the operation of the cable L2 draws his left foot downward," Sickels writes. "Likewise when his left arm operates a downward movement of the right leg is effected. Also when the arms are operated simultaneously the legs are also moved downwardly." Sounds fun!

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Courtesy of Freeman's
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History
For Sale: More Than 150 Items of Victorian Mourning Art, Clothing, and Jewelry
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Courtesy of Freeman's

Funeral fashion hasn't always been reserved for memorial services, judging from a massive memento mori auction that's being billed as perhaps the largest collection of mourning art ever offered for sale. Spotted by Atlas Obscura and sponsored by Philadelphia-based Freeman’s auction house, the online sale—which kicks off on Wednesday, November 15—features more than 150 works from a renowned private collection, ranging from clothing and jewelry to artworks.

During the Victorian era, people paid tribute to their loved ones by wearing black mourning garb and symbolic accessories. (The latter often featured jet or real locks of hair, according to a 2008 article published in the academic journal Omega.) They also commissioned death-themed artworks and objects, including paintings, as exhibited by Angus Trumble's 2007 book Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria.

These items have long since fallen out of fashion, but some historic preservationists amassed their own macabre private collections. Anita Schorsch, who’s arguably the most famous collector of memento mori, used her historic treasures to launch the Museum of Mourning Art back in 1990. Located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, the museum is—as its name suggests—the only institution in the nation devoted exclusively to mourning art. The museum has been closed since Schorsch's death in 2015, and the items featured in Freeman's auction are from her collection.

Check out some of its memento mori below, or view the online catalogue here.

Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Courtesy OF Freeman's


Hairwork shroud pin, 19th century, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's


18th century iron and brass cemetery padlock from London, England, part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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