A new book, Inventions That Didn’t Change the World, published next month by Thames & Hudson, looks at the forgotten side of the Victorian age of invention—not the steam engine or the lightbulb but the Improved Sausage Machine, the Epanalepsian Advertizing Vehicle, and the Moustache Protector.
The book’s author, Julie Halls, has dug out copyright applications for hundreds of failed inventions from the vaults of the National Archives in London, where she’s a records specialist. The ideas are essentially a catalog of the pet peeves, obsessions, and anxieties of Victorian England, and the attempts of often amateur inventors to fix them. There are belts to ward off cholera and mechanical jacks for taking off your shoes, spring-loaded bibles and spiked cravats, tennis rackets with handles that scoop up stray balls and punishment devices for prisons.
And everywhere, there’s the firm belief in social progress through technological innovation. It’s an idea that has…
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