Startup

Startup: Not As Obvious As You Would Think

You would think that as soon as dry cell batteries became commercially available in 1896 and with electric lanterns already being sold, a handheld flashlight would practically invent itself. But no, instead, Conrad Hubert (né Akiba Horowitz) first invented the electric flower pot. It contained a small low voltage light and a battery to illuminate your flowers in the evening. America said, “Yawn.” Conrad did have the foresight to buy up David Missel’s shop, patents, and hire Missel himself to ditch the flowerpot, put the batteries in a tube, and patent the “Every Ready Flash Light”. With a carbon filament bulb, you really couldn’t leave it on for very long (thus the “flash”) but after donating a bunch to the NYPD, they proved effective and took America by storm.

Judging by the copy from the ad, America’s rich litigious history of the innovate-appropriate-litigate cycle was already alive and strong.

  • skitter

    The patent wars, from the telegraph forward, were just as nasty then as they are now.

    • tonyola

      It got really nasty in the auto industry. One man, George Selden, claimed a patent on all US cars and tried to force every company to get licenses from him. Henry Ford fought him and eventually won.
      <img src="http://www.bpmlegal.com/gif/fordad.gif"&gt;

  • tonyola

    So just what other "electric novelties" did this company make? My imagination runs riot…

    • skitter

      Well, motors of the time were huge by comparison to today, so keep the riot steam-punky.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Where is the UL? I can't be sure it isn't a knock-off otherwise.

  • JackMaz

    If nothing else came of Horowitz's lighted pot, at least it finally justified its assessment of the kettle.

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