In case you missed it, February 11th was National Inventors’ Day, so we take a moment to salute those nineteenth-century tinkerers and entrepreneurs who strove to make domestic life easier.  In these cases they chose to advertise their innovations on broadsides, a bibliographer’s term for single-page flyers.  Broadsides often announced the latest news, sometimes even as momentous as the Declaration of Independence, but here we see them as a way to hawk the wares of creative New Yorkers.  

Need a new dryer?  When we see crank-post clotheslines in backyards they seem quaint to us, but they were apparently state of the art in 1859, an improvement for housewives and servants who had been stringing a line each time the wash was brought out.  

Gibson’s clothes drying machine. : The subscribers are now prepared to furnish the public with the best clothes dryer ever offered! …[SY1855 no.69]

Plan on sleeping at the office?  Perhaps that’s not so likely in these work-from-home pandemic days, but a solution is proposed here in 1849, along with the precursor to the sofa bed.  

Great invention. Valuable discovery. : Patent secured April 11, 1846. Patent cross-lever extension tables … Extension sofas and bureaus … Extension book cases … Extension writing desks …[ SY1849 no.61]

Bedbugs a concern?  Try this as novel bedstead made in S.H. Wills’s factory

Wills’s Patent Bedstead Machine [SY1839 no.49]

Like a sewing machine at home?  Sewing machine development engendered raging competition and patent litigation, but by the time Bartholf marketed this model, he could advertise his $50 “Family Machine” to individual households.  The lockstitch he promotes is fundamentally the same as the needle and bobbin operation of today’s consumer models.  

Bartholf’s sewing machines! : We beg to call attention to our various styles of sewing machines, which are admitted to be far superior to any machine ever brought before the public. … [SY1860 no.108]

Planning on upgrading your plumbing?  The welcome advent of indoor plumbing provided an opening for pottery works, especially for Brooklyn’s Edward H. Quinn, a one-time building contractor.  Here he offers terra cotta pipes to the forward thinking.  Terra cotta—fired earthenware—had some advantage over iron piping in being less subject  to oxidation, more resistant to changes in temperature, and, of course, less costly.  

“Practice with science.” Long Island Pottery and Terra-Cotta Works, North 7th St., Williamsburgh. Depots 75 Nassau St., New York, and 7 Court St., Brooklyn. Drain your premises.  [SY1860 no.106]

Dream of a leak-proof sink?  The upgrade from the centuries-old wash basin and ewer to faucets and pipes involved a good deal of improvisation to prevent the inevitable leaks.  Adding a marble slab may not have been “The Greatest and Most Beneficial Invention of the Age,” but it speaks to the mid-nineteenth-century burst in plumbing patents and innovation.  Marble was an expensive solution, but the company promises “Quick sales and small profits.”

Attention! Attention! The greatest and most beneficial invention of the age. Highly interesting to plumbers, marble cutters, architects, builders, and particularly to hotel keepers and to owners of all good classes of houses. : Water tight wash stand, consisting of improved wash basin and improved faucet, in connection with the countersunk marble slab, patented March the 23d, 1858. [SY1858 no.48]

This post is by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections

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