Friday / Weekend Open Line

The millions of Americans who for nearly a century and a half have enjoyed well-brewed coffee can direct their gratitude to James H. Nason of Franklin, Massachusetts. He received the nation’s first patent for a coffee percolator on this date in 1865. Now, not only does just about every home in the U.S. have a coffeemaker, but many also grind their own fresh from coffee beans. The percolator still has a market niche, but since the 1970s has been overtaken by automatic drip coffee makers, and increasingly, the elaborate variants of espresso brewers. One-point-five million metric tons of coffee and its extracts and preparations are imported annually. The vast majority of that is unroasted coffee, and its import value runs around a half-billion dollars a month. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau on the Web at <>

Saturday, December 27th. The reliable TV remote control, a crucial labor saving device for couch potatoes, was unveiled this month in 1957. Robert Adler of the Zenith Corporation received a patent for a mechanical unit that used a striker and four small aluminum chimes to generate ultrasound. The ultrasounds produced controlled on and off, and channel and sound up and down. There had been remotes before, but they were attached to the receiver by an awkward cord. Adler’s remote eventually incorporated electronically generated ultrasound, and was in use until the early 1980s. Today’s remote controls use infrared technology to operate the nation’s television sets, sold in nearly 28,000 radio, TV and electronics stores across the country. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <>.

Sunday, December 28th. One of life’s simple pleasures, and subsequent adornments under tabletops and chair seats, was patented on this date in 1869 — chewing gum. The inventor was a dentist from Ohio, Dr. William Semple, who hoped that the flavored gum would help people keep their teeth clean. Others, such as Thomas Adams and John Colgan, perfected the consistencies and flavors. Gum was avidly accepted by the public, though criticized as a vulgar habit by newspaper editorials, politicians, clergymen and women’s groups. While some may still hold that view, lately around 100,000 tons of chewing gum alone are consumed in the U.S. annually. Manufactured value of both chewing and bubble gum is over $2 billion per year. Our favorite flavors are spearmint, and peppermint. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <>.