Our Early Inventors

According to the records of the United States Patent Office, no one from Laurens County ever invented a mousetrap or even submitted a patent to improve one.   But our early inventors have designed useful implements ranging from a coffee roaster to an automatic mail delivery device to a hunter safety device.    Though this article will concentrate on our county's inventors before the Great Depression, at this very moment there are people in this county, including Dr. Forrest Marshall, the county's most prolific inventor, thinking, drawing, figuring and pondering about a new device which can make life easier or, in some cases, save lives.

John N. Smith, one of Dublin's earliest photographers, was the first to be awarded a patent in 1880.  His patent was not for a skylight, but for improvements in the ease and cost of construction as well as its maintenance. Two more decades would pass before a Dublin inventor would come up with a patentable idea.

William F. Colley came up with a new way to improve a roaster for roasting coffee beans and peanuts in 1902.    Colley designed his roaster to be placed on the top of a wood burning stove, electric stoves were still years away from general use.  Among the features of Colley's hand turned roaster were a series of agitators to stirs the beans and peanuts to prevent scorching and a novel lid designed to keep the heat from escaping.

At the turn of the century, cotton became King in Laurens County.  James R. Robinson registered his patent for a baling press to provide for a more durable press, while maximizing the amount of power which could be applied to the plunger, while minimizing the draft.

Since the discovery of the principles of the lever and the fulcrum, man has sought to find a better way to lift a heavy load.  Irvin C. Huffman designed a lifting jack to provide a simple and efficient construction which could be applied to either old or new lifting jacks so as to provide a ball bearing or antifriction head or cap upon the jack.

Later in the year 1906, Inman H. Fisher's thoughts for arriving at a method of being able to lock his bicycle were finalized and approved by the patent office.  Fisher believed that the public would be served by having a lock of a portable type which could be carried on the person and then applied to lock the frame of the bicycle to the wheel to prevent or deter the unauthorized use of his bike.  The new feature of Fisher's invention was its design  which prevented displacement of the shackle from the body of the lock.

Horace Geffcken sought to improve the ratchet wrench by providing a plurality of interchangeable nut caps and adapt the ratchet to be used as a solid wrench.  Geffcken believed his 1908 patent would enable others skilled in the art of using wrenches to achieve better results.

As the delivery of mail expanded in the first decade of the 20th Century, Shelton H. Roby believed his apparatus for delivering mail and parcels would be of widespread public benefit.  Roby's device was designed in a way so that it could be propelled along a track and take mail from a cart and place it in receptacles along its path.

On cold winter nights, Henry J. Corrigan's conception of a revolving grate promised to become very comforting.   In order to obtain maximum efficiency of radiating heat from the fire place, Corrigan designed a simple and inexpensive fire place grate which could be placed in the center of a wall separating two adjoining rooms.  The homeowner could warm the living room in the evening and before retiring to bed, spin the grate around to heat his bedroom.  Or if desired, both rooms could be heated at the same time.

Sumpter Lea Harwood patented a device in 1910 which would improve the shearing of animals.  Most existing models of shears did not contain a reversible blade.  Harwood's design provided such a blade which could be removed and reversed once one side of the blade had been dulled.

Until 1912, most building scaffolds were of a stationary nature.  In order to raise the level of the work space, workers would have to manually raise the platform upon which they stood.  David J. Muns conceived of an adjustable scaffold, one which could be mechanically raised or lowered by the use of chains wrapped around a revolving drum device.

W.B. Pattillo, one of the town's leading printers, desired to invent a type of cabinet  to hold printing implements and one which could be revolved so that multiple printers could work simultaneously from the same cabinet.

In 1913, James C. Williamson of Dudley was awarded a patent for a new and improved stump puller.    That same year, Sumpter Lea Harwood became the first Laurens Countian to patent multiple devices.  Harwood claimed his improved fire extinguisher would reliably operate under the most roughest of handling.  Two months later, Harwood received a patent for an extinguisher which could be attached to an automobile.  His fourth patent came in 1914 with Harwood's design of a machine which would improve the mixing of fertilizer and deliver a uniform mixture into sacks, with the finest granules on the top.

Edward M. Harp's 1917 patent was designed to make it easier for the homemaker to can fruits and vegetables and then take the gadget apart for easy cleaning.  Harp's intention was to produce a light and durable device, which could be economically manufactured and easily used.

Sam Bashinski's family made their living from cotton.  In 1917, Bashinski patented a cotton harvester, which would funnel cotton stalks into a relatively large basket from which they could be easily retrieved and taken to a shelter for storage until the cotton could be conveniently removed.   The patentee constructed his machine so that the stalks would be cut as close to the ground as possible by installing an adjustable cutting blade.

Robert Chapman's 1924 patent promised to lead to improvement of drying sand used in the manufacture of concrete and other products.  Chapman also contrived a device to quickly dry clay as well in his family's brick business.    As the height of Dublin's buildings began to rise, Leon M. Little conceived of improvements to fire escapes.  Little designed improvements to the traditional fire escape by providing an endless chain, one which would not tangle in times of peril and one which was automatic.

The last invention before the Great Depression came from R.W. Miller, a local bicycle maker and gunsmith.  Miller designed a detachable choke, which could be easily attached and removed to protect a hunter from an accidental misfire while traveling the brush, briars and brambles of the woods of Laurens County and the rest of the world for that matter.