Red Cross workers search for victims buried in cars following snowfall, New York, Buffalo, February, 1977
Red Cross workers search for victims buried in cars following snowfall during the Blizzard of “77.” Only about 12 inches of new snow fell during this event but high winds coupled with existing snow in western New York and accumulated snow on the surface of frozen Lake Erie combined to cause major difficulties. New York, Buffalo, February, 1977
Patents are usually not very exciting. In these legal documents, the government outlines the rights a person has over his invention, while the inventor discloses how his invention works. Patent no. 268,693 from 5 December 1882, however, shown here in its original form, is a lot of fun. It concerns a “Device for Indicating Life in Buried Persons,” which was filed under “Coffins: Life Signals” (see the red stamp). Yes, it’s a machine that shouts “Help, I’m not dead!” for you when you are prematurely placed six feet under. The accompanying description, obtained via Google Patents, explains how it works:
“If the person buried should come to life, a motion of his hands will turn the branches of the T-shaped pipe B, upon or near which his hands are placed. […] The cover E will turn and the index will show on the scale that it has been turned. If the person should turn in the coffin or make a violent motion, he will push the pipe B upward and push the cover off the top of the box. A supply of air enters the coffin through the pipe and will keep him alive till help arrives.”
It’s simplicity itself: make a movement in your coffin and a pipe is pushed up, which lets in oxygen and moves a scale on the surface (“above the turf”) so that it indicates that you are, in fact, still alive. Best thing of all? It is recyclable. States the same description: “When the person has been buried a sufficiently long time to insure the certainty of death, the apparatus may be removed”.