Last night I stumbled across this very amusing invention by Samuel W. White. It's a "hat to prevent drowning" which was patented on October 14, 1840. Apparently he must have been inspired by the invention of the rubber balloon by Michael Faraday in 1825.
What did the "Dragon's" of the time make of this invention I wonder, and was it ever tested?
I couldn't help but wonder how we progressed from the "hat to prevent drowning" to the life jackets we have today. Some sources credit the modern life jacket to Captain Ward of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In 1854 he created a cork vest to be worn by lifeboat crews for both weather protection and buoyancy. However, according to an article in the New York Times the first American patent for an "inflatable life preserver" was given to Peter Markus in 1928 with improvements in 1930 and 1931.This jacket is thought to have saved the lives of 98 of 100 men when the Macon crashed in the Pacific in 1935.
The Californian inventor named Andrew Toti is thought to have improved the vest by adding a crotch strap to prevent the inflated chest panels from riding up. The bulky device was heavily used by the U.S. military during WWII where it received the nickname "The Mae West".
|The "Mae West"|
|Modern Life Jacket|