Slinky was patented by Richard and Betty James in 1947. He was trying to develop a spring that would suspend ship instruments even in turbulent waters. He accidentally dropped one of his springs, and the toy was born. Children can “walk” slinkies down an inclined plane by following the easy directions at: Slinky.
Earmuffs were patented by Chester Greenwood of Farmington, Maine, in 1877. He was fifteen years old when he invented the Champion Ear Protectors. He had his grandmother add some fur at the ends of a piece of wire. He received patent #188,292. His invention became a factory, employing community members.
Cotton gin was patented by Eli Whitney in 1794. It changed the way cotton was raised and processed in the southeastern United States. Prior to the gin, slaves had to hand separate the cotton fibers from cotton seeds and debris. The cotton gin processed the separation ten times faster. More cotton could therefore be played, and unfortunately more slaves would be needed. Children could glean many more details at: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/cotton-gin-patent/. Children could watch an animation as to how the cotton gin works at: http://www.eliwhitney.org/cotton.htm.
Washing machine was patented by Nathaniel Briggs in 1797. A fire in the patent office in 1836 destroyed all records of his patent. However, his patent probably resembled a current wash board.
Zoetrope was patented by William Lincoln in 1867. He received Patent Number 64,117. A zoetrope produces the illusion of a moving picture by creating two cylinders, one inside the other. The outer cylinder contains paintings. The inner cylinder has slits in its side. When the inner cylinder turns, observers see the images on the outer cylinder move. Quite popular in the 1880’s, zoetropes have found new homes in long subway station platforms. Children could see an amazing Pixar video of a zoetrope at: http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/17452504790.
Air conditioner was patented by Willis Haviland Carrier in 1914. Idea: Children could research how air conditioners work, and they could find out if different types of coolant exist. Children can learn how an air conditioner works by viewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lFUlA1PZ8U.
Zipper was patented by Gideon Sundback of Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1913. However, it was not called a zipper until 1922 when the B. F. Goodrich Company used the term to describe fasteners on its galoshes. Prior to 1922, it was called “separable fastener.” Idea: Children could make a list of non-clothing items that have zippers. For example, some binders have zippers. They could view the patent at: Zipper Patent.