Kansas City is the birthplace of many inventions that have changed the way we perform everyday tasks. For example, your neck might be a lot hairier if it weren't for Samuel Coffman, who invented the electric clippers.
Today on the KCUR program Central Standard, we discussed just a few of the most prominent products, icons and improvements invented here. Check out this list of seven life-changing inventions, born right here in KC:
- Teflon-coated frying pan: Marion Trazzolo is credited with this everyday item. Trazzolo's Kansas City company, Laboratory Plasticware Fabricators, used Teflon to coat lab equipment. The synthetic material, which was actually developed by DuPont Co., was the perfect solution for food sticking to frying pans. Trazzolo capitalized on the idea and patented his "Happy Pan" in 1961.
- Mickey Mouse: A live pet mouse that Walt Disney kept in his Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City was the inspiration behind this iconic cartoon character.
- Automatic telephone switcher system: Almon Brown Strowger, a Kansas City undertaker, was tired of a rival undertaker's wife, a switchboard operator, from directing business calls to only her husband. Although he wasn't the first to come up with the idea, Strowger's model was the first to work on several telephone lines within one system. Strowger's invention allowed callers to dial each other directly, eliminating the need for telephone switchboard operators. He received a patent for it in 1891.
- Electric hair clippers: By the end of World War I, Samuel Coffman's latest invention was an instant hit amongst barbers all over town. A set of clippers cost $25.
- Elevator improvement: Charles L. Cookson of the Cookson Elevator Company improved safety measurements for stopping elevators. The first Cookson Elevator was installed in a building in Leavenworth, Kan., in 1894.
- Brick making machine improvements: Herman Struckenberg, a German immigrant, worked as a brick maker in St. Louis before he bought his own brickyard in Kansas City. Struckenberg made improvements to existing brick machines and patented his ideas.
- Automatic fire alarm: At the turn of the nineteenth century, Kansas City Fire Chief George C. Hale patented the system that alerts a city's central fire station to a fire's exact location.