Imagine what life would be like without these conveniences invented in Racine County and in some cases still produced here.
PANORAMIC CAMERA: In 1896, Burlington's Peter Angsten invented a camera with a spring-propelled pivoting lens that captured 180-degree images. The Al-Vista camera was built at Angstens Multiscope and Film Co. in Burlington until 1908, when the Kodak Co. ceased making film for it. Angsten sold his interest in the camera for $3,400, and various forms of the camera have been made since.
MALTED MILK: Everyone knows the Horlick Malted Milk Co. developed the process to dehydrate milk, but did you know what William Horlick's motivation was for the product? No, it wasn't creamy milk shakes. It was to provide a food for babies and sick people that could be shipped without spoiling. The granulated infant food was patented in 1883 and later became the impetus for an entire soda fountain industry.
AUTOMOBILE: According to the "Grassroots History of Racine County," the first automobile in the world — that's right, the world — was made in Racine. It was a steam-powered vehicle called The Spark. Dr. James W. Carhart built it and was driving it around the Belle City in 1873.
Carhart was invited to show his creation at a 1908 exhibition of automobiles in Paris, but the car had been dismantled and used for other purposes. At the exhibition, Carhart was addressed as the father of automobiles. The oldest car at the Paris show was 16 years old; Carhart's would have been 35.
The local auto heritage continued with cars made by the Mitchell Co. and the J.I. Case Co.
BLENDER: Think blender and the names Osterizer and Waring come to mind. While both products were first made here, the inventor was Steven J. Poplawski. In 1922, he came up with the idea of putting a spinning blade at the bottom of a cup to make soda fountain drinks. That idea was turned into a commercial success in the late 1930s by big band leader Fred Waring, who marketed the Waring Blendor, and Racine inventor Frederick Osius.
UNIVERSAL MOTOR: It's hard to imagine, but when electricity was in its infancy, there were battles over what type of current would become the standard in American homes. Racine inventor Chester Beach saw the sparks flying and invented the first motor that ran on both alternating and direct current. With Louis H. Hamilton, Beach developed a fractional horsepower motor that would eventually power just about every kitchen convenience product. Just after the turn of the century, Hamilton Beach's Home Motor was being attached to sewing machines. By 1919, several attachments turned the motor into a grinder, buffer, fan and mixer.
Blenders, sewing machines, mixers, vacuums, toasters and irons are just a few of the products Hamilton Beach made available to the world.
Manual and electric hair clippers
MANUAL & ELECTRIC HAIR CLIPPERS:In the early 1920s, Racine inventors must have been thinking a lot about grooming habits. Hometown entrepreneurs Mathew Andis and John Oster developed a hand-operated hair clipper to touch up the popular bobbed haircuts of the day. Soon barbers everywhere were clipping away with their sartorial device. Andis also developed an electric clipper that remains the industry standard. The Andis Co., 1800 Renaissance Blvd, Sturtevant, still makes clippers today.
Portable vacuum cleaner
PORTABLE VACUUM CLEANER: Until Frederick Osius came along, vacuum cleaners were monstrous machines built into the basements of large buildings, using hoses to reach into individual rooms. Osius used a small electric motor being developed in Racine to make the first portable vacuum cleaner. He sold his business in 1910 for $300,000 to the McCrumb-Howell Co. and started the Hamilton Beach company. He went on to develop a name brand known around the world for home labor-saving devices. The national vacuum cleaner museum in the Pacific Northwest recognizes Racine as the home of the first easily portable vacuum cleaner.
LOLLIPOP MACHINE: When an East Coast candy maker wanted to find a way to put hard candy on a stick in 1908, the Racine Confectioners Machinery Co. answered the call. The local company invented a machine to automate the process of making suckers, fast becoming a favorite candy treat. The machine could make 40 lollypops a minute, and the candy company figured it could produce in a week all the suckers it could sell in a year.
POWER MOWER: Albert J. Dremel's name is usually associated with small rotary grinding tools still sold under the Dremel name in Racine. But perhaps more significantly, the local inventor is credited with designing the first lawn mower integrated with a specific gas-powered motor. After designing the first wringer as chief engineer for the Maytag Co. in Iowa, Dremel moved to Racine in 1921 and created his mower.
He sold the concept for the reel-type mower to Jacobsen Manufacturing Co. and the 4-Acre mower was produced. Named because it could mow four acres of grass in a day, the machine sold for $275 and was used mainly on golf courses and large estates. Jacobsen went on to produce the first mower for the masses in 1939. Homeowners could buy the Lawn Queen for $87.50.
From his basement workshop, local architect John W. Hammes built his wife the worlds first kitchen garbage disposer in 1927. After spending 10 years perfecting his device, Hammes sold 52 handbuilt disposers during his first year of business in the late 1930s. From his invention grew the In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing Co. Half of the homes in America have a garbage disposer. Half of those disposers are In-Sink-Erators.