Question from Martha P.:
Hello Invention Geek,
Who patented the first corkscrew?
Question from Nelson J.:
Not an earth shattering question but who took out the first patent for bottled water??
Question from Frankie del Fuego:
I was wondering if you could figure out when the first fire grenades were patented in the US? I saw some on an antiques show the other night – little glass ‘bombs’ that contain a chemical to help put out fires.
Also, could you tell me where the idea came from? That is, were we the first ones to make these things or is it an older idea?
Thanks a million!
-Frankie del Fuego
Fire grenades were small glass bottles filled with salt water or carbon-tetrachloride and sealed with a cork and cement. These bottles were meant to be thrown into a small room or area at the base of the fire. The glass bottle would then hopefully break and then the contents would put out the fire. When the grenade was filled with carbon tetrachloride, the contents would vaporize immediately into immense volumes of fire extinguishing gas in which combustion can not possibly exist.
Fire grenades were developed around 1860 and they were in use until about 1910 when they were replaced with extinguishers closer to what we use now. The first United States patent for a fire grenade was issued to Samuel B. Johnson on August 8, 1871. He received Patent #117,891 for an improvement in fire-extinguishers. The Harden “Star” Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher was the most popular brand of extinguisher.
Today the colorful bottles with ornate designs are popular with collectors. They are rare since the bottle was meant to be destroyed. Fire grenades is good condition can be worth upwards of $2,000.
Question from Michael.:
When did Li Tian die?
Hi Michael –
I’m assuming you mean Li Tian, the monk who is most widely credited as the inventor of fireworks. I have to admit, you almost had me stumped on this one, but again, perseverance (or should I say need-to-know stubbornness) prevailed!
Some deeper research into the invention of fireworks led me to discover Li Tian, the inventor of fireworks, apparently lived from 601 AD to 690 AD. This was during the reign of Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin), first emperor of the Tang Dynasty. As the most popular legend goes, the Emperor’s prime minister had been haunted by the ghost of an evil dragon and Li Tian’s fireworks helped scare away the evil spirit.
What’s really interesting to me is the fact that these dates contradict some widely circulated information that Li Tian unveiled his invention during the Song Dynasty in the 10th century. But, knowing the legend includes the Emperor Taizong, and having historical record of his reign during the early half of the 7th century (he ruled from 621 until his death in 649 AD ), we know this simply cannot be true.
My best guess is the confusion comes from the fact that a temple in Li Tian’s honor was built in his home region during the Song Dynasty and somewhere along the lines this was mistranslated into being the time that he also lived.
More research into Li Tian’s hometown, the temple, and a local fireworks museum helped me confirm the facts. In the process, I also confirmed that April 18, a day where offerings are made to Li Tian and fireworks are set off in his honor, is purported to be the clever monk’s birthday.
Cheers to you, Michael! This was a tough one but it got me digging deeper into both the legend and the truth about fireworks!
Great question, hope you enjoyed the answer as much as I enjoyed seeking it out!
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