John Loud, U.S.; Laszlo Biro, Hungary; Franz Seech, Austria.
From conception to production, the ball-point pen took 61 years to invent. Loud first patented a pen that used a rotating ball to deliver ink in 1888, but he never worked out enough of the technical problems to get the pen to write cleanly.
In 1919 the ball-point was reinvented by Biro with the help of his brother Georg. They tried to market the idea, but poverty and an incomplete design prevented their success until 1943. Fleeing war-torn France, they set up shop in Argentina. They borrowed the concept of capillary-action ink feeding from the fountain pen to refine their design, but still the ink splotched and smeared.
Finally, in 1949, Seech, who was motivated by the collapse of the ball-point company for which he had worked, developed a new ink. The ink was highly concentrated and it dried on contact, so very little had to be applied to the paper and an even line could be drawn. The same year ball-point sales topped fountain pen sales.
François-Louis Cailler, Switzerland
He did not invent the concept, but at the age of 23 he was the first to manufacture chocolate bars on a mass scale. Cailler’s chocolate was the first to appear in blocks, although the French and the Italians had for some time been producing chocolate rolls and sheets that were then sliced into small pieces for sale to local consumers. Cailler’s son-in-law went on to manufacture the first milk chocolate in 1875.
Jesse W. Reno, Charles W. Wheeler, Charles D. Seeberger, U.S.
1892 and 1898
The first escalator was patented in March 1892 by Jesse W. Reno and was known as the Reno Inclined Elevator. It consisted of a continuous inclined conveyor belt made up of grooved wooden slats with rubber cleats. Powered by an electric motor, it moved at a speed of 1 ½ mph and was first used at the Old Iron Pier on Coney Island, NY., in 1896.
Two years later, Harrods in London installed a Reno Inclined Elevator complete with a porter at the top ready to serve brandy to passengers who felt faint from the experience. Other Londoners paid a penny a ride at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham and celebrated the novelty with W. P. Dempsey’s song “Up the Sliding Stairs.”
Charles A. Wheeler patented an improved model with flat steps in August, 1892. His patent was purchased six years later by Charles D. Seeberger, who combined the step design with his own to produce the first practical “moving staircase.” The Otis Elevator Company of New York manufactured it, and it was exhibited in 1900 at the Paris Exposition, where the name “escalator” was adopted.
Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia, Pa., installed the first commercial model the following year. The Otis Company made the last fundamental improvement on the Reno and Seeberger prototypes when it incorporated a “comb-plate landing device” in 1921.
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