Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Life Raft: Inventions by Women A-Z

Actors on a life raft - "Primitive Lover" 1922

Maria Beasley (1847-1904?) of Philadelphia (PA) wanted a better life raft, one that was "fire-proof, compact, safe, and readily-launched" when needed. According to the patent, she invented a new design in 1880.



Maria's life raft sported guard railings and rectangular metal floats, unlike typical rafts with hollow tube floats and zero safety railings. By changing the style of the floats, Maria's raft actually folded and unfolded more easily for use and storage, even with the added guard rails. It is not clear from the patent how she made the raft fire proof or why that was important. Life rafts were made of wood and metal in the 1800s, but it seems logical water itself would have been a huge deterrent to fire.

A typical life raft in 1874
(patent) Maria's life raft in 1880 had guard railings
Not much is known about Maria's personal life. From a census in 1880, she was reported as an unemployed housewife, but later, it is clear from other records she had become a successful inventor and business woman. At the Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans in 1884, we know that she displayed some of her inventions, including an improved version of her life raft patented in 1882 

Maria actually made money from her inventions (15 to be exact). Some of her other inventions were:
  • foot warmer
  • steam generator
  • anti-derailment device for trains
  • wooden barrel-making machine
 Her wooden barrel-making machine (for wine-making and food preservation) is said to have made Maria a fortune. She earned close to $20,000 a year, while most working women in her day earned about $3 a day!





Resources:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/US258191.pdf
http://www.herstorynetwork.com/thank-woman/maria-beasley/; http://www.askcathyblog.com/?p=790
A Biographical Dictionary of People in Engineering: From the Earliest ... By Carl W. Hall
Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology By Autumn Stanley
https://books.google.com/books?id=uRJt7QqA7GEC&pg=PA348&lpg=PA348&dq=inventor+maria+beasley+census&source=bl&ots=l5ugKhlpeh&sig=OKAEeUeI1Dband-5XCbLLjulUkw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yhcJVeevJoqwyAT0nIDoCg&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=inventor%20maria%20beasley%20census&f=false:
http://www.goldensilents.com/stars/harrisonford.html

Copyright 2015 © Sharon Marie Himsl

30 comments:

  1. It's nice to see a female inventor of the time actually being successful as well - awesome. I suppose if you have a ship wreck with burning fuel on the water you'd want a fire proof life raft.
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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  2. There's more women inventors than one thinks, Again another superb post.

    Yvonne.

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  3. Go Maria! I love how she started with one invention and kept going. What a fascinating person!

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    1. Hi Mina. Inventing things was a huge part of her life. A neat example for us all to forge ahead with our projects and dreams....to completion!

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  4. $20,000 a year?? That was HUGE, beyond HUGE. One of my relatives was a store clerk and earned $260 working the entire 52 weeks in 1939. That's half a century after Maria's time. Not that Maria didn't deserve more money - just trying to imagine what that kind of money meant back then.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

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    1. I know. I keep trying to wrap my head around that figure. Maria was wealthy!

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  5. Wow! Good to hear not all female inventors were doomed to fail in the olden days :D And a better life raft is a very useful invention!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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    1. Nice to see a dollar tag on her efforts too. It is much the same for all of us trying to write and publish. Some of us will hit the jackpot. Others will not.

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  6. Cool that she got to reap the rewards of her inventions.
    It is kind of funny to think of a life raft being fireproof!

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    1. That was my reaction too :) Thanks for visiting Julie.

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  7. I wonder if the fire-proofing was a concern because of what they would have to use to light--candles, lanterns, or something with fire. I suppose if the raft caught on fire, people would panic and have a hard time getting the fire out even though they were surrounded by water. Maybe few could swim in those days, plus the water would have weighed them down pretty quick considering the stuff they wore.

    Anyway, I left a blog award for you at http://www.tamaranarayan.com. Please stop by if you're interested.

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    1. This could very well have the case. You make some excellent points!

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  8. She was one smart, talented woman! Safety railings are a good detail. But fireproof? That seems silly since you're floating on top of water.

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    1. I like that she was so smart too. A housewife in one record and then a business woman and inventor!

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  9. Got to have something to hold onto. Smart! :)

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    1. Hi. For me that would have been important, especially for families with young children! Thanks for visiting :)

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  10. I never heard of this before. Pretty amazing. I hope plenty of people read it, and the series.

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    1. I do, too. Especially girls and young women who are contemplating what to do with their lives. Thanks for visiting, Dennis.

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  11. Good for her to be wealthy! The only reason i think of rafts being fireproof is if the ship caught fire, the rafts would still be good.

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    1. Yes, and you and others agree on the fire proofing. It would be important!

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  12. That is so impressive. I need to research more on her. Thank you, Sharon.

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    1. I would check the archives in a library. You might have better access where you live. There was just barely enough online!

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  13. That's a crazy amount of money~ What I'm really learning about a lot of these inventions is that they don't have to be crazy complicated... just something that is super useful as a component to something else. Time to brainstorm! ;)

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto
    A-Z Blogging in April Participant

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    1. It does make you wonder. Functional....useful, those would be the key words. Good luck, go for it, Alex!

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  14. Huzzah for Maria Beasley! What an unusual woman in her time!

    Thanks for your comments at my blog! I am enjoying your A to Z posts!

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  15. Wow! Maria sounds like quite a prolific inventor, not to mention a successful one!

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  16. Hi Sharon - Maria does sound like she had her head on straight .. and did so well with her inventions .. fascinating to see what she invented .. cheers Hilary

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  17. I love what you're doing with these posts, shining the spotlight on women inventors. It's so rare that we read anything about these inspiring, creative women. Thank you!

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