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Cheryl Hughes: Next

Did you know there is a patent on the fitted sheet?  The patent was granted to Bertha Berman on October 6, 1959.  Ms. Berman’s sheets had the corners sewn so they would fit to the mattress (  You can even see the drawings Ms. Berman submitted with her application at


               There was also a patent issued for the improvement of the fitted sheet.  In 1990, Gisele Jubinville created deep corner pockets that stay put.  She sold her patent in 1993 for a cool million dollars.

               I’ve always been fascinated by inventors and their ideas, even the not-so-bright ideas.  On the website, there are a few inventions that beg to differ with the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention.  Two of my favorites listed there are the Ironius, a coffee mug iron and the Greenhouse Helmet that “allows the wearer to breathe in oxygen given off by plants” that are actually in the helmet.  The site says these sorts of inventions “solve problems that no one really thought existed.”

               William Addis, of England, is credited with inventing the first modern toothbrush.  The handle was carved from cattle bone and the brush was made from pig’s hair (  Addis developed this idea in 1770 while he was jailed for causing a riot in Spitalfields.  Time really was money for Addis, because after his release, he started a business, manufacturing toothbrushes, and became very rich doling it.  His progeny also benefited from the invention.  The business stayed in that family until 1996, when it was sold to Wisdom Toothbrushes, which manufactures 70 million per year in the UK (  Let’s hope they’re not still made from cow bone and pig’s hair.

               I always believed the zero-turn lawn mower was a pretty modern invention—the year 2000 or later.  It turns out, it was much earlier than that.  In 1949, in Warrensburg, Missouri, resident Max B. Swisher invented the first zero-turn mower.  It was a three-wheeled machine—one front drive wheel and two rear wheels.  To reverse, you had to turn the steering wheel 180 degrees, and backwards you would go.  It was manufactured in 1955, and he called it the Ride King (  I couldn’t find the cost of the original model, but you can still buy one of the updated versions for around $3500, and you can even get one of the originals, albeit it’s in need of some major refurbishment, for $125 on eBay, if you’re willing to drive to Atmore, Alabama and pick it up.  

               The dual lever zero-turn mower we are familiar with today was the brainchild of John Regier, an employee of Hesston Corporation, which manufactured farm equipment.  In 1963, he designed the twin-lever zero-turn lawn mower.  He tried to get the Hesston Company to develop his idea and expand their market, but “this technology was new and regarded as unusual, which resulted in slow acceptance” (

               I want to pause here to make the point that our forebearers brushed their teeth with cow bone and pig hair, but a major manufacturer of farm equipment was too afraid of a new idea that used levers instead of a steering wheel.  Unbelievable, but I digress.

               Regier eventually sold his patent to Excel Industries—bet they weren’t afraid of a little pig’s hair—parent company of Hustler Turf and Big Dog Mowers, and the rest is history (

               According to, the next cutting-edge technology for mowers will be akin to the Roomba vacuum cleaner, that little battery-operated robot that sweeps your floor while you do other things.  These automated mowers have been in production since 1995, with Husqvarna leading the way.  (Where have I been?)  The first model was a solar model, followed in 1998 by an Auto Mower with a rechargeable battery for 24/7 mowing.

               In 2012, Bosch Indego developed lawn mapping, so the mower will mow in a “systematic manner instead of a random pattern.”  Both Bosch and Husqvarna models come with voice control using Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

               The one I’m holding out for, however, came out in April of this year.  According to, “The Toadi discovers what your yard looks like and creates a map of it and is able to avoid obstacles—all without perimeter wire.”  The picture of the Toadi looks like a cooler on wheels.

               According to, Toadi can maintain up to 0.6 acres and sells for $2,760, and the pro version, selling for $3,390, can maintain 1.2 acres and comes with 3 years-worth of titanium-coated blades.

               Okay, so it looks like I will be waiting a while till I can buy a used one online, but it’s interesting to find out what’s next.




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