December 4 ~  Our Secret Wishes Daily Guideposts

"Our inventions mirror our secret wishes." ~ Lawrence Durrell

Chester Greenwood

In the case of Chester Greenwood (1858-1937), born in Farmington, Maine, his invention was born from a "secret wish" when he was just 15 years old. While ice skating he needed to warm his ears from the bitter cold. Legend has it that on this day in 1873, young Greenwood created the earmuff.

How did he do it?

As Thomas Edison once said, "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." Greenwood bent wire to make two ear shaped loops then had his grandmother sew beaver fur and velvet on them. In no time, Patent #188,292, for earmuffs, was made.

As philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Invention breeds invention." By 1886, Chester Greenwood's factory was shipping Champion Ear Protectors throughout the world.

Always searching for a new invention to make life better, Greenwood had over 100 patents. During World War I, he supplied ear protectors to U.S. G.I.s. In 1936, he patented the steel-tooth rake. He also invented the whistling teakettle and a better mousetrap.

"Discovery," said biochemist Albert Gyorgyi, "consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."

Since 1977, the state of Maine has annually celebrated Chester Greenwood Day on the first Saturday in December to "honor Chester Greenwood, whose inventive genius and native ability, which contributed much to the enjoyment of Maine's winter season, marked him as one of Maine's outstanding citizens."

Necessity breeds invention.