My father invented a collapsible clothes basket.
You see, we lived in a 21-foot trailer, and there wasn’t any room for big things like round clothes baskets. His collapsible basket folded into a round disk and could be easily stored between the sink and the stove. I only remember the prototype which worked well. Life and work intervened, and someone else invented a square one which was much simpler to use and easy to build.
I, too, have a few inventions to my credit; none have been patented so far. But my as-yet-unnamed forward-facing putter — which I have been developing for several years — is, I think, patent-worthy, and Akron, Ohio is the perfect place to patent it.
Outside of Alexandria, Va., we have more patent attorneys per capita than any other place on Earth, I would argue. After all, Inventure Place was built here because of the political might of such heavyweights as the late patent attorney Ned Oldham, who led the fight along with the local politicos to have the Inventors Hall of Fame built here. What we got was an amazing building on Broadway Street in Akron, when the National Inventors Hall of Fame was moved back to Alexandria, but that’s another story …
Even Ohio’s governor, the late James A. Rhodes, was an inventor. *
So when I got the invitation to the November grand opening of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Akron Gallery, I was excited to see it. The display itself is housed in the gift shop of the former Inventure Place and is somewhat underwhelming as it brings back the format used in the original Hall of Fame, which had been housed on the building’s mezzanine level.
This Hall of Fame includes just a few of the exhibits from the Alexandria National Inventors Hall of Fame and makes the same mistake found in the original, failed HOF. Everything is told in print with no hands-on copies of inventions or their prototypes. One could learn as much from the Internet as the Akron Gallery, but it’s worth a visit just to see the slick multi-media display.
I admit, there is one redeeming facet of Inventure Place that brings inventors of all ages together every summer from all over the country. At Camp Invention, children are introduced to the idea of ideas. Ideas turn into inventions, and inventions better all of our lives. When I was a kid, I would have jumped at the chance to go to a place where they teach you how to work on your inventions. For more information, contact Camp Invention at campinvention.org.
We at AkronLife wish all of you joy and peace in this new year.
* I emailed one of Governor Rhodes’ biographers, Lee Leonard, who co-wrote “James A. Rhodes – Ohio Colossus.” This is his reply:
“ Rhodes was not an inventor in the classic sense, tinkering with something until he found a way to make it work. He was an idea guy — he would have an idea and tell somebody else to do it or hire people to do the work. That's the way he got credit for writing books.
One idea that panned out — although he never found a way to market it — was a system of airlocks and filters that took 99.9 percent of impurities out of the air in an enclosed space. It had its roots in a visit to the Pontiac Silverdome with his grandkids who were so impressed with their surroundings that they wanted a similar place to play at home.
Rhodes envisioned an ‘Environmental City’ in which there would be restaurants, homes, recreation areas, stores — everything — under a dome where the air would be pure, and no one would get sick.
He commissioned people to develop this system, and they took existing technology, combined the components and worked it out for a residence first. Rhodes got a patent on it and had it installed in his two-story house in Upper Arlington, outside Columbus. I was in the house, and the air was noticeably easier to breathe than the outside air.
Although the Central Ohio Lung Association had the system installed in its building, as did a nearby doctor's office, Rhodes could never market it commercially.
Rhodes had other big ideas but none came to fruition to the point where you could classify him as an inventor. In the 1970s he wanted to drill into shale formations to extract natural gas, but the technology wasn't available. It is now, and it's called fracking. He also worked with a tinkerer in Dayton during the gasoline shortage of the early 1970s on an automobile that would get 80 miles to the gallon — the forerunner of today's hybrid — but again, the necessary battery technology wasn't developed, and nothing came of it. So Rhodes was a dreamer but not an inventor.”
Don Baker, Jr., Founder and Editor-in-Chief