Beulah Louise Henry
The U.S. designates February 11th as National Inventors Day and one of the most prolific inventors of her time was Beulah Louise Henry, dubbed by the press “Lady Edison” due to her many inventions.
A self-taught engineer and inventor, she filed her first patent for a vacuum ice cream freezer in 1912 when she was in her early twenties. She has said that her inventions come to her as a complete picture and then she would work with model makers to help her get her idea from paper to actual model for manufacturing. When she developed the idea of an umbrella that would have snap-on covers to match a woman’s outfits, she was told it was an impossible task and that it would never work. So, she sat down and invented a new snapping mechanism that would make the product viable and received a patent for this mechanism.
Many of her inventions seem simple on the surface but it was often the case that not only did she invent the object, like the Dolly Dips sponge that had a compartment for snapping the soap into place, but she also invented the machine that would cut the sponge into the required shape. Her Miss Illusion doll featured two snap on wigs – one blonde, one brunette, but it also featured a button that when pressed would change the doll’s eye color between blue and brown.
While she did invent many toys and household goods, such as the first bobbin less sewing machine, she also worked on improving the typewriter. Dubbed a protograph, her invention was an attachment that gave four copies of a type written document without the use of carbon paper. In 1962 she filed her 45th patent for a combination mailing and return envelope that can be manufactured as continuous strips. She continued to invent both for herself and under the employment of various companies eventually logging 49 patents and over 100 inventions during her career. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
Written by Angela Goad