Patent surprises

Some well-known inventors owe their fame to their innovations; others would be obscure if they had not excelled in other pursuits. Here is a selection of US patents held by historical figures you might not suspect.

Abraham Lincoln: ''Device for buoying vessels over shoals'' (1849), a system of adjustable buoyant chambers enabling steamboats to ''pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes.''

James E. B. (Jeb) Stuart, Confederate general: ''Method of attaching sabers to belts'' (1859).

Lillian Russell, actress: ''Dresser trunk'' (1912), a deluxe model ''that will answer to the requirements of an actress in having all the cosmetics and necessities of a 'make-up' at hand.'' Among its features is a set of built-in electric lights for the vanity mirror.

Harry Houdini, escape artist: ''Diver's suit'' (1921), allowing a diver ''to quickly divest himself of the suit while submerged and to safely escape.'' The secret is an easy-to-operate mechanism to separate upper and lower portions.

Albert Einstein (with Leo Szilard): ''Refrigeration apparatus'' (1930).

Hedy Lamarr (with husband Gene Markey, Captain USN): ''Secret communication system'' (1942) to aim torpedoes by remote control, using a radio transmitter and paper rolls ''of the type used for many years in player pianos.''

Mark Twain: ''An improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments'' (suspenders) (1881).

Mrs. Rudolph Valentino: ''Combined coverlet and doll'' (1924), a children's item that ''may be converted into a wrap, a carriage robe, or serve as a doll.''

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