Blog  |  Gallery of Inspiration  |  The Bindery  |  About

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Day 42

On Sunday 28th February 1937 the following article titled “Tonic” appeared in the Truth (Qld) newspaper: “Patentees recently gathered for a reunion dinner started with a cocktail — whisky, port wine, ripe blackcurrants, sugar and water— which had been patented by Friedrich Wilhelm Emil Muller in 1909 as a hair tonic.” Naturally, I needed to know more. The dinner referred to in the article was a soirée held at the Mayfair Hotel, Washington, as part of a day-long event to observe the centennial of the US Patent Office as an autonomous organization. During the celebrations attendees, made up of scientists, inventors, engineers and industrialists, spent time viewing models of historical inventions and demonstrations of current research. Guests reported to have attended include: Leo Hendrick Baekeland, inventor of Bakelite; Orville Wright, of the Wright Brothers known for inventing the airplane; Lee De Forest, inventor of the audio radio tube; and William David Coolidge, General Electric's No. 1 x-ray researcher. The Patent Office was created on 4th July 1836 when Andrew Jackson signed an Act creating, as part of the Department of State, a Patent Office headed by a commissioner (today it sits under the Department of Commerce). Until this point, patents were granted by the Cabinet and signed by the President - keeping in mind, during the time anyone could simply walk up to the White House and request an audience with the President, in fact as late as Lincoln’s Presidency (1861-65) two 5 hour sessions per week were spent by the President meeting with members of the public, known as ‘public opinion bars’. An article found in 1909 details the successful submission of the ‘Whisky as Hair Tonic’ patent, and it predicted: “the hair tonic will have an enormous sale in the many prohibition districts of America, where the sale of alcoholic drinks is prohibited. … Chemist's shops in the ‘dry district’ are expected to do a rushing business with the Muller patent.” (06.01.1909, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate). Though I wasn’t able to find any proof of its actual production or sale. And yes, I do currently have blackcurrants soaking in Whisky.