The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper

“Who invented the swim fins?” (You’ll be surprised)

“Who invented the swivel chair?”

“Who invented the first automatic flush toilet?” (7 1/2 gpf…Yikes!)

“..,the baseball mitt, the sewing machine, electric kettle and phonograph?”

Do you see a trend? These were but a few questions tossed my way during our recent ‘stump the crossing guard’ activity at our ‘curbside classroom’. The topic was ‘inventions’. Challenge me with an invention, and I’ll tell you the inventor. Really? I could do that?

“…the zipper, pink flamingo and thimble?”

The truth is, I don’t know inventors, Jefferson and Edison were my default answers, and Crapper was a ‘throw in’ for some subtle humor. But I do know how to stimulate curiosity in the preteens and teens at my school crossing post.

Ask questions, awe them with facts, dare to challenge them, mix in some fun and you’ve got a winning formula for a positive start to the school day, even before they get to their building.

The early morning light showed smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of kids genuinely interested in the ‘game’, as they peppered me with inventions, some common and others, not so common. Those who didn’t have a challenge listened with interest. Now, that’s a positive.

“Who invented Velcro? (Great question, but do you know the story behind it)

“Who invented the thunder lamp?” (Would have loved one back in the 60s)

“Who invented the umbrella?” (Useful this Spring)

The questions went on, requiring me to do some follow-up research to verify answers (below). And, to that point, the only rule was that they had to know the inventor’s name.

“Who invented the Diesel engine (there actually was a guy named Diesel), the chocolate chip cookie (my wife baked some this weekend…they’re gone), and, the traffic light (no, he wasn’t a crossing guard)?

“Bifocals?” (the same fellow who did the swim fins)

Adults crossing with the kids joined the fun. “Who invented the ‘reaper-binder’, the ‘manhole cover’ and what did BF Goodrich invent?”

The end of the school year will be here anon. It’s been a good one at our crossing post with lots of smiles, good conversation and latent learning. While the formal education occurs inside the brick buildings, the day begins earlier, on the sidewalk, with an informal ‘game of Life’ at our ‘curbside classroom’.

Who invented the ‘flying shuttle, printing press, the light bulb’?

I’ve provided a list of the inventions we discussed. As a sidebar, it was not unusual for a discussion to break out over an invention, or the inventor.

I enjoyed the ‘challenge’, as the kids seemed to do, as well, so much so that I believe they expect more. Your ideas and participation are welcomed.


To all the creators who made our lives simpler with something new every day, and to the students, who help make our mornings a fun time by both listening and participating.


Like many inventions, some were credited to the wrong person, especially in cases where someone didn’t actually invent, but improved a product This list is the best information I found using Wikipedia and other sources. If there’s a correction, please note it in the comments.

Swivel Chair: Thomas Jefferson, who purportedly signed the Declaration of Independence from said chair.

Light bulb: Joseph Swan, Sir Hiram Maxim AND Thomas Edison. (1835)

Printing press: Johannes Gutenberg (1438)

Flying shuttle (a weaving tool): John Kay (1733)

Manhole cover: Thomas Crapper (still collectibles in England).

Reaper-binder: (a farm implement, as an enhancement to the reaper) Charles Baxter Withington (1872)

Bi-focales: Ben Franklin (he used them frequently but whether or not he in invented them is subject to debate)

Traffic light: JP Knight, am English train engineer (1868)

Chocolate chip cookie: Ruth Graves Wakefield (1938)

Diesel engine: Rudolph Diesel (1893)

Umbrella: more than 4000 ago, but waterproofed by the Chinese in 11th Century BC.

Thunder lamp: Richard Clarkson (2013, do you have one)

Velcro: George deMestral (1941)

Thimble: John Lofting (subject to debate) (1693)

Pink flamingo: Don Featherstone, Designer) (1957)

Zipper: Whitcomb Jutson (1890s)

Phonograph: Thomas Edison (1877)

Electric kettle: Arthur Leslie Lang (1891)

Sewing machine: Thomas Saint (1790)

Baseball mitt: Bill Doak, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (1920), but subject to a great deal of controversy.

Flush toilet: (1596). Several names attributed. Thomas Crapper did not invent it but he significantly improved it with subsequent inventions.

Bendy straw: Joseph Friedman (1937)

Swim fins: Ben Franklin (1717)

Wheel: early man

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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

29 thoughts on “The Crossing Guard Chronicles: #3, ‘Jefferson, Edison and Crapper”

    1. But, beware, my research showed that there are differences of opinions as to who invented whatever. Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet( John, loo, et al), despite the association of his name to the product! We’ll discuss it tonight.


    1. Now that you reminded me, yes, but it didn’t make an impression on me. However, we did have a ‘jeopardy’ question yesterday, ‘I’ll take famous women for $1000…who was Clara Barton?’ Lots of correct answers from these youngsters. Also added a news tidbit about a First by Amelia Earhart. I try to be an equal opportunity ‘fact guy’ 😂😉. Thanks for reading/commenting, Robbie.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. She was a repeat champion? I did not know that. But she was a winner for sure. I’ll have to remind the kids who she was and what she did. Thanks, Robbie.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Robbie, have you ever heard of Susan B Anthony, an American woman from years ago? Not an inventor, but very famous for other accomplishments.


    1. Thanks, Gary. And I just hope that years from now, I can remember… Very nice compliment and I appreciate you reading and commenting about the post.


    1. That’s an excellent point,
      Lily, esp for a seemingly simple addition to the cookie. It’s an interesting story and you can read mire. Just ask Siri, ‘when was the chocolate chip cookie invented?’ I love them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, Al! You never know when info comes in handy. Example, one day you’re at an art show and someone asks you directions for the bathroom. You politely tell them where to ‘go’, and, as an added bonus, you can give them some background on the evolution of the toilet. How impressive is that, Al?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jennie, I think I know how you might feel at the end of day, a week, a month and now a school year. A few weeks to go yet, and I’m pretty much out of gas as far as challenging these kids. I’m tired, so, I can imagine how you must feel. You really do need that summer break to recharge the batteries, don’t you? Of course, I’m an ol’ geezer and you, why you’re just getting started. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I am pooped! We just had an amazing pillowcase event (blog post soon), finished writing and delivering children’s observations (five pages per child), and have two more events ahead. It’s all wonderful, just tiring. Us old geezers need the summer to recharge. BTW, you’d better check my blog post this morning…really!


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