The genius of pioneer inventors can confound us. Countless contraptions that revolutionized farming in the 19th and early 20th centuries have become contemporary curiosities, or even mysteries. Here are three sent in by readers. Do you know what they are?
July's mystery tools
A. Distance recorder, owned by Jim Moffet, Modesto, III. According to an 1896 patent awarded to Willard Bundy, Binghamton, N.Y., the object 'records distances, speed of travel, and the time consumed, all simultaneously ... and [is] adapt ed to be attached to a rotating object, as to the spoke of a vehicle-wheel, so that the rotation of the wheel actuates the distance recording mechanism.' An undated Keuffel & Esser Co., N.Y., catalog further notes the recording method. 'The distance traveled is determined by multiplying the circumference of the wheel by the number of revolutions which the dial indicates.' Readers who identified the recorder are Jessie Coyle, Cottontown, Tenn.; Virgil Cassill, Drakesville, Iowa; and Barry Navarre, New Tripoli, Pa.
B. Egg carton expander, owned by William Kuntz, Coodfield, III. According to reader Bud Porter, Woodstock, III., the device, 'expanded cardboard egg cartons when they arrived at the egg farm in compressed condition.' Other readers who identified the tool are Allen McCloskey, Calveston, Ind.; Virgil Cassill; Tim Porter, Woodstock, III., Bob Hickey, Faribault, Minn.; and Bob Wittersheim, Carleton, Mich.
C. Buggy wrench and oiler, owned by Jim Moffet. According to Jim, 'It is an adjustable wrench to fit the various sizes of nuts that hold the wheels onto the buggy axle. Using it much like a brace for leverage, remove the nut, slide the wheel off and apply oil from the container to the axle. Then, replace the wheel and axle nut and tighten with tool. Entire job accomplished with only this tool, other than the lifting device.' Readers who identified it also include Onie Sims, Whittier, Calif.; Frank Scheibert, Middletown, Ohio; Marvin Bunn, Rockford, Mich.; and Jim Plantikow, Omaha, Neb.