Today in 1882, inventor Maria Beasley received the patent for her most well-known invention: a collapsible life raft.

But that wasn’t her only invention; Maria Beasley was one of those inventors who came up with idea after idea in a bunch of fields.

She was born Maria Hauser in North Carolina, a kid who was interested in building stuff almost from the get go.

There’s a story in an old newspaper article about how at age 13 she built a little sailboat for herself and her dog.

She started her career as a professional inventor after moving to Philadelphia with her husband and children.

The story goes that she kept reading ads in the paper where companies wanted the services of coopers to make barrels.

Beasley already knew a fair amount about barrels; her grandfather had hired a number of coopers for his distillery.

So she came up with a machine that could handle the toughest part of barrel-making, the hooping, at a rate much faster than anyone could do by hand.

This and several other barrel-making innovations made her a fortune,

But she didn’t stop there.

Among other inventions, Beasley also patented a foot-warming device, a bread kneading system, a pan for baking or roasting and a design to keep trains from derailing.

Quite a range!

As for her life raft, Beasley’s creation was collapsible for easier storage, it floated better and it even had special sealed-off compartments where people could store food and supplies.

It’s worth noting here that Beasley lived and worked in a time where a married woman’s property typically belonged to her husband.

But with each new contract Mr. Beasley explicitly signed away any claim to her work.

It was all hers.

Starting tomorrow in Nixa, Missouri, it’s Sucker Days.

It’s not about lollipops; it’s a reference to how in years past, students would, um, opt out of school and local business owners would close for the day so they could all go fishing.

It’s now a community festival with games, rides, music, arts and crafts, and, no surprise, a fish fry.

But I bet if you brought a big lollipop that would be ok.

Maria Beasley: Engineering dynamo (Go! Magazine via Iowa State University Institute for Transportation) 


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