Mechanical Advertising Novelties OF the many ingenious schemes employed in advertising, none have proved more effective tnan the various mechanical devices which various inventors have turned out from time to time. The public in general loves a mystery, and a device which apparently contravenes some general law of nature is sure to receive much attention. In ]'ig. 1 is shown an apparatus, recently patented, which has been quite successful as. an advertising novelty. It consists of a bottle suspended in an inclined position and from its mouth there pours a constant stream of liquid into a tank. As there is no visible means for replenishing the liquid in the bottle, one would naturally expect it soon to become empty, but the level of the liquid in the bottle remains the same. Nature's laws, however, have not been upset, for in the center of the stream is a glass tube of the same color as the liquid and, hence, invisible. The lower end of this tube is connected with a pump and the upper end extends up into the bottle so that the pump is constantly withdrawing liquid from the tank and forcing it up into the bottle, whence it pours out around the glass tube, thus rendering it invisible. So perfect is the illusion, that no hint can be gained from a working device as to the secret of its operation. A clock, keeping excellent time and consisting of a plate of glass on which is painted a dial, a bolt passing through the center of the dial and forming an axis for hands, with no apparent place for a clock movement, will always attract much notice. Recently an ingenious jeweler in a West Virginia lumber town constructed one, using a pane of glass, and wood for the hands. Many a lumber jack spent hours conjecturing how it worked. It made no difference in which position the hands were placed, they would promptly revert to their proper position. The wooden hands were carefully covered with tinfoil, so as to conceal the watch movements inclosed therein. The balancing of the hands was accomplished by an ingenious system of shifting weights. A number of clocks of this type have been patented, one of the cleverest being shown in lig. 2. The enlargements in the hands house the watch movemen ts and the shIfting counterweights. Fig. 3 shows a clever apparatus for attracting attention. All that the spectator sees is a flat-topped box on which a large ball rolls round and round but never falls off. The force moving this sphere is invisible. The sphere is but a thin shell, and inside this shell is a small metallic ball which is free to move about the inner surface of the large sphere. Inside the box is a magnet which is rotated by a small motor. As the small ball endeavors to follow the magnet, it causes the large sphere to roll about the box lid. For calling attention to the excellence of a certain brand of soap, the device shown in Fig. 4 was designed. This shows a very grimy figure descending fror a chimney into a basin, from which he emerges clean and white. The two figures, however, are on separate endless belts which are driven by a hidden motor, Most people imagine that the wooden Indian has a monopoly of the tobacco sign business, but he has a competitor in the dummy which ostensibly smokes a cigar. The cigar, however, is likewise a dummy and the smoke comes from a concealed pot of burning tobacco and is intermittently expelled from the lips of the dummy by concealed bellows. One of the most elaborate of these signs, which was recently patented, appears in Fig. 5. This is a hollow crescent figure, whose convex face is studded with incandescent lights, and bulbs are also arranged in the eyeholes and at the outer end of the cigar, held in the mouth of the figure. At the back of the figure is a box containing a small motor which operates mechanism for intermittently turning on and off the lights, and simultaneously with the turning on of the lights, to blow smoke out through the mouth of the figure. The blowing of soap bubbles is an occupation usually accorded to children, but an automaton for doing this has been patented (see Fig. 6). This figure dips his pipe in a bowl of soap suds, then raises his arm and at the same time a current of air is turned on for blowing the bubble. Then the air is cut off and the fan, which is held in the other hand, is waved and the bubble is blown off into the air. The bellows and the mechanism for working the various levers and the valve are located in the box on which the automaton stands. The combination of a flower and butterfly (Fig. 8), is designed for the display of precious stones. By means of a clockwork mechanism, a cavity in the flower is alternately opened and closed and at the same time the wings of the butterfly and the petals of the flower are moved. Nothing is quite so comforting to a hungry man on a cold day as the st(aming dishes of food displayed in the windows of restaurants. Many a dyspeptic hag come to grief when a steaming dIsh “of corned beef and cabbage has been brought to his attention in this manner. A close examination of the dish would have disclosed a cleverly concealed steam pipe, running from some distant boiler and discharging through the bottom of the dish like the coffee cup shown in Fig. 7. ]'ig. 9 shows how this idea has been utilized for displaying effervescent wines. The stem of the wine glass is hollow and in the lower end is placed a porous plug, through which air is forced by a concealed pump. The pressure must be small in order that the air may rise in minute globules, thus imitating sparkling champagne. A concealed reservoir is also connected with the hollow stem so as to keep the liquid in the glass at a constant level, for a considerable part of the liquid will be lost in evaporation. The advertising value of novelties of this kind is unquestioned and one is surprised, in looking for patents on this art, to find that the number is so small. Their cost of production is generally so small, compared with the huge and elaborate signs now in use, that it would seem that inventors would find this a profitable field of endeavor.
This article was originally published with the title "The Inventor's Department" in Scientific American 105, 14, 301-302 (September 1911)