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The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo

On this day 125 years ago: 21 July 1891

By July 21, 2016No Comments

Before breaking the bank at Monte Carlo, Charles Deville Wells earned fame as an inventor – though notoriety might perhaps be a better word.

Patent Steam Regulator

Charles Deville Wells patented this speed regulator for steam engines in 1868 when he was 27 years old.

On this day in 1891 the current edition of The Engineer – a weekly magazine – presents a snapshot of a Victorian world still deeply entrenched in the era of horse-drawn power, yet poised to move forward into an age in which machines would replace animals, and in which electricity would take over from gas for lighting and heating purposes.

I chose the following assortment of patents from this issue of the periodical more or less at random.

Wheels for Velocipedes; Photographic Reliefs in Rubber; Combination Surprise Spring Cannon and Shooting Gallery Toys; Producing Coffin Lace; Magic Goal Kicker; Pictures Projected Upon a Screen; Typewriting Machines; Turning Over the Leaves of Music; Utilising the Power of Streams; Hay Making Machines; Shot Firing Safety Lamp; Mineral Water Opener; Walking Stick Billiard Cue; Convertible Phaeton Front Seat; Retaining Device for Cuffs; Machine Guns; Fire Escapes; Gas Lighting; Ventilating Mackintoshes; Sockets for Electric Lamps; Calks for Horseshoes; Detaching Horses from Carriages; Curling Iron Holder for Gas Jet.

Charles Wells himself had, in the preceding years, applied for patents on a bewildering variety of gadgets and ideas, including:

Obtaining Photographic Birds-Eye Views; a Multiple-Wick Candle; Sunshades; a Life-Saving Torpedo; and Detecting Counterfeit Coins. 

More recently, though, his inventive skills had been directed almost exclusively towards improving the efficiency of steam engines: his inventions could potentially have been extremely valuable in a civilisation largely reliant on steam power.  This week’s crop of patents in The Engineer reflects this trend with applications for:

Regulating the Speed of Steam Engines; Steam Boilers; Steam Generators.

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