Absolutely Amusing Amusement Devices – aka – The Ball-Coaster!

Patents are great: they provide a unique look at both the scientific and sociological context of a given time, by way of the problems being solved, how they were being solved, and tracing how scientific discoveries are incorporated into the products we use (and just as importantly, don’t use). Simultaneously, they perhaps also provide a personal snapshot into the inventor’s mind – what uses did they imagine for their novel invention? what is the language they use to describe it? what might have been the process leading up to the invention itself?

I find it fascinating…but I’m also a geek, writing about patents in my leisure time – which provides a nice segue into the fun part of this post: Amusement Devices.

Amusement goes hand in hand with leisure. Leisure is thought to originate from the Victorian era in Britain, late in the industrial revolution as better technologies (i.e. scientific development) afforded workers less time on the job – and thus more time to do what they wanted (rather than what they needed) to do. Arguably, the way we choose to spend our leisure time defines a part of ourselves (or perceived selves), within the reasonable constraints of our means (time and money).

So how do you think some snot-nosed kid might choose to enjoy life, beyond swallowing bags of penny candies whilst hopping on his spring-shoes?

Arthur T. Prescott had a great idea in 1902 for how to improve the way we already enjoy riding bicycles, nearly a century before Tony Hawk did the same on his skateboard:

loop dee loop

According to the patent holder:

loop dee loop description


Here’s a gem for the “show me cultural values circa 1905” class of amusement devices:

  • Patent # 794431
  • Inventor: William T. Smythe

government board game

The point of the game?

government board game description

Lastly, what might the following possibly have to do with amusement?

ball 1

Well, stick two people in it – and throw them down a 3 story slide (i.e. the Ball-Coaster!):


ball 2

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com