November 4


Among the sarcasms and satires and flippancies of my novel "A Journey In Time", there lay a serious purpose, which was to seek an escape from the tribal propaganda which is the history taught in most schools, and to replace it with a teaching of history that advocated harmony among men and women, that celebrated their achievements in that regard, and did so by including the whole world, and not just the narrow limitations of whichever social and geographical boundaries "our school" happened to inhabit. There must, it seemed to me, be a way of writing universal history that included everyone, rather than the endless declarations of "our" superiority and "their" inferiority, and the limiting of history to wars, rulers and legal reforms. In the novel, I chose to write a universal history of my birthdate, June 27; but November 4 offers another approach, which may actually hold out more promise to the novelist than to the historian: a universal history of patents.

On this day:-

In 1846, Benjamin Palmer patented the artificial leg

In 1862, Richard Gatling patented the Gatling gun

In 1873, Dentist John Beers of San Francisco patented the original crown (the "old crown"; new and improved versions have replaced it).

In 1879, a human being named Elkins patented refrigerating apparatus


In 1879, James & John Ritty patented the first cash register, to combat stealing by bartenders in their Dayton, Ohio saloon

A universal history of patents - why not? I have no idea if it is even possible to undertake this, but would it not be fascinating to know who first came up with, even if they did not formally patent it, the concept of Justice or Truth, the application of red lipstick or black mascara, the use of fried tomatoes in cooking, the complex distillation of whiskey or the fermentation of wine. Perhaps we can build the book right here, on this blog, by adding information in the comments section until we have accumulated sufficient for an anthology.


image courtesy of Sara Harris
For the information, November 4 was not limited to patents.

In 1854, a new form of lighthouse was completed, unpatented, on Alcatraz Island

In 1890, the Prince of Wales opened the first Underground Station, at Stockwell in London

In 1939, the first air-conditioned automobile (a Packard) was exhibited, in Chicago, Illinois


And of course, in 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, which event is a kind of patent - if ever another non "white anglo-saxon protestant(-orveryoccasionallycatholic)-male" should happen to win the quadrennial auction for the White House, he will need to acknowledge who the very first one to break that cartel was.

Amber pages

George Edward Moore, Analytic philosopher, born today in 1873

Robert Mapplethorpe, photographer, born today in 1946

The first wagon train reached California, today in 1841

Wilfred Owen, pro patria mori - one week, just one bloody week, before the armistice - today in 1918

The entrance to King Tut's tomb, discovered, finally, after decades of searching, by Howard Carter, today in 1922.

And the oldest of all un-patented human inventions, eternally repeated, twice on this date:

Soviet forces crushed the anti-communist revolution in Hungary, today in 1956

Iranian militants seized the US embassy in Teheran, today in 1979

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