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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tag Archives: invention

Edwin Land’s Invention

From February 4, 1936, we have the story of twenty-five-year-old Edwin H Land who took a leave of absence during his senior year at Harvard to set up a laboratory to advance an invention that he had been working on for ten years.

He had developed a piece of glass on which he aligned billions of tiny crystals in the same direction and embedded them in a cellulose matrix. Giant companies like AT&T and Kodak had been testing his invention and were extremely excited by it. He claimed that his invention had more than 800 commercial uses.

He was right. Today it is found in sunglasses, cameras, cell phones, and is used extensively in manufacturing and scientific experiments.

Land, whose name is mostly forgotten today, had invented the first artificial polarizing material. Up through the 1970s, Land was kind of what Steve Jobs became to Apple. Throngs of reporters and consumers eagerly lined up to hear Land announces his company’s latest and greatest inventions every year. His company was named Polaroid.

Polaroid 80B Highlander instant camera made in the USA, circa 1959. Image from Wikimedia.
 

Idea Wasn’t a Bust

It was reported on August 13, 1949 that engineer turned fashion designer Charles Langs was having a problem meeting demand for his new product that he named “The Posies.”

The idea for his invention came while he was on vacation in Florida with his wife Mary and their four children. Mary like to slip off the straps of her bathing suit while suntanning, but that made it difficult to sit up and care for her children while holding her top up at the same time.

He came up with a design that consisted of 2 cloth cups with ruffles that have adhesive around the edges. You simply stick them on and let the sun do the rest.

When he first launched the Posies, he anticipated selling just a few dozen. Yet, it wasn’t long before sales topped 500,000 units each week.

To meet this sudden demand, he contracted with two companies to produce the product and hired 45 women to ship the orders.

Langs insisted that he wanted nothing more than to return to his engineering job and was willing to sell the business to a reputable firm. His plea was noticed by the Textron company and they purchased his business and patents for $750,000 in September 1949 (approximately $8 million today).

Image of brassiere alternative Posies.
Image of brassiere alternative Posies.