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Thomas Elkins | African American Inventors and their Inventions

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Thomas Elkins

Many inventors choose to focus on one specific area of endeavor, or a simple invention that can get them noticed, but the same cannot be said of Thomas Elkins. In fact, his designs and ideas were so unusual that finding information regarding him is not as easy as one would think. Regardless of the strange aspect of his work, it is evident that Elkins was a visionary with an enigmatic personality which greatly influenced his 3 most famous patents – the complete commode, body cooling chamber, and multi-purpose table. Each has its own merit and unique twist, and is a tribute to his wonderfully imaginative sense of creativity.

As early as 1879, Elkins was busily working away to try and make a little bit more liveable for the people of New York. His first patent came for his refrigeration device, which was essentially a large, cooled container, with a funnel shaped ventilation system. This was not your average refrigerator though – it was designed to keep the bodies of the dead cool.  This macabre use was essential in the times before modern medicine when hygiene standards were not what they are today. The hot summers of New York could have led to major disease outbreaks, and keeping the dead cool until they were buried was overlooked until then.

1872 had also been a productive year for Elkins, and once again his contribution came in the sphere of sanitation and hygiene. He designed a toilet that had all the modern comforts of the, including a toilet, bookrack, set of cupboards, and an easy chair. This was the most comfortable way to go about your business in style, and the idea of purchasing a complete solution as opposed to one part at a time would have been a winning one.

 

 

The other patent for which Elkins was famous was another combination of functions all merged into one. This time, he created a dining room table that doubled up as an ironing board, and quilting table. This would have been most useful in times when space was at a premium!

To the strange and wonderful mind of Thomas Elkins, we thank you for all of your inventive spirit!

 
 
 
 

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