One thing I really love about the early American era is that so many gentlemen with time on their hands went about interesting pursuits--like invention. I've previously talked about some of the inventions of Benjamin Franklin. Today I wanted to take a look at Thomas Jefferson's.
The Jefferson Polygraph
One of the most interesting of the inventions to be found at Monticello is the polygraph. In an age well before copiers or computers, Jefferson still wanted multiple copies of his letters--so came up with a way to copy them as he wrote them.
The Wheel Cipher
The Revolving Items
Looking through the page at Monticello.org featuring Jefferson's inventions, there are quite a few that utilize the idea of revolving or spiraling objects to maximize the use for a space. The first is a "turning machine" for hanging clothes--much like many of the closet-organizing items to be found today! The "hanger" was a spiral with arms coming out in all directions, over which you would drape the clothing. It seems that only a drawing of it remains, and many mentions of it in the correspondence of those who had visited Monticello.
He also invented a revolving bookstand that could hold up to five books at once, displaying them all. This would also be quite handy for anyone who is comparing various texts. The stand displayed one book on the top and one on each side, and then the reader could spin the devise to show him whichever text he needed. Certainly beats spreading them all out on a table or stacking them one on top of the other!
But Jefferson didn't stop there. He also created a revolving service door between the dining room and the passageway so that servants didn't have to physically open a door to bring the food in--always difficult when hands are full. Instead, they slid the food onto the shelves on one side of the door and spun it.
I just love how all these early-American inventions are so very practical--and some are so very surprising. And especially how "gentlemen of leisure" put that leisure to such good use.