View Full Version : Lighted Flowers - & Other Useless (?) Stuff

04-07-2012, 02:16 AM
Seemingly a foolish man, Joshua L. Cowen 3965 was your typical turn of the century inventor. Lots of ideas - some that worked, some that didn't.

His first major invention was intended to revolutionize photography. He designed a fuse to ignite magnesium powered flashes, but the invention was a dud.

His best customer for his fuses was the U. S. Navy. They didn't want to take pictures with his fuses, however. They bought 24,000 of them in 1898 to detonate underwater mines.

His next creation was the development of little metal tubes that were designed to illuminate flowers in their pots. These illuminated flower pots were difficult to perfect (if he could have gotten them to dance to music, he would have earned a fortune).

Cowen became bored with his flower pot lights and in 1898 gave the project away to one of his salesmen - some guy named Conrad Hubert. Hubert couldn't care less about the lighted flower pots. Instead, he liked the device Cowen developed to operate them - a lightbulb and dry cell battery combination that had a 30 day life.

Hubert took Cowen's battery operated device and developed it into the flashlight. The company that Cowen gave away was named the American Eveready Company, and it earned Hubert nearly six million dollars in two decades (a large sum of money for the turn of the century). When Hubert died, he left behind a $15,000,000 estate, virtually all earned from Cowen's invention.

One would think that Cowen would feel like a real loser for giving an idea like Eveready batteries away for nothing, but he actually came up with a better idea that earned him even more money.

What wasn't mentioned was that the "L" in Joshua L. Cowen's name stood for Lionel - as in Lionel trains.

When Cowen gave away his flower pot light company, he turned his attention to these small electrical devices. The first Lionel train that he produced was just a flatbed car that ran on batteries.

He sold them as eye catching displays for shop windows. 3966

However, people quickly wanted them for their homes, particularly for under the Christmas tree.

By 1906, he had introduced the transformer and famous three rail track. In 1907, he introduced the first locomotive.

The rest is model train history. 3967

Useless? Useful? You decide.

04-07-2012, 09:44 AM
Perhaps not so useful but certainly interesting. Taught me a couple of things I did not know.

Thanks, Joe.:thanks