Technology has come a very long way over the last century, and there is no better proof of that than examining some of the insanely weird and stupid inventions of the 20th century.
We don’t know what would motivate someone to build a device that allows a motorcycle to turn into a boat. And there’s no reason for a brush that shines someones balding head while combing their side hair. Yet many of these bizarre inventions actually went on sale to the public.
In fact, a few of the devices were actually big hits at the time — that is, until consumers realized they were insane or just didn’t work as promised.
Here are 20 of the weirdest inventions from history. FYI, #8 is a good way to unintentionally kill babies.
Car Coffee Maker
Make coffee in your car? Sorry, but we have the Starbucks drive-thru for that now. This seemed like a good idea on the surface, but boiling hot coffee while flying around at 65 miles per hour is not smart. Pouring a cup of coffee while driving is also not a very good idea — remember the McDonald’s lawsuit?
Brush & Shine
Are you going bald, but still have a little bit of hair that needs to be combed? Are you also a fan of polishing your head? With the Brush & Shine you can accomplish both tasks at the same time. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that this wasn’t a huge hit among bald men (or anyone for that matter).
Upside Down Phonograph
Why? I understand that sometimes inventors do things just because they can, but unless you plan on using this phonograph in a zero gravity environment, is there really no reason to turn it upside down. This photograph of the invention doesn’t even really give a plausible reason for why you would ever need to turn one upside down.
Wooden Bathing Suits
Wood floats, bathing suits don’t. Problem solved. These bathing suits were made out of lightweight wood, which promised to make swimming less exhausting. These failed to catch on, probably because they look horribly uncomfortable and wood wouldn’t be easy to clean in the washer. It could even catch on fire in the dryer.
High-Powered Hair Dryer
This one’s great for those times when you need to blow dry your hair in five seconds. I have to hand it to the inventor of this crazy device — they really went out of their way to create one of the first “hands free” devices on the market. Apparently you need to sit on a tall table to use this thing.
Spray Tan Vending Machine
If you have ever spray tanned, you know that wearing a bunch of clothes as you do it is a great way to ruin your clothing. Despite that well-known fact, a company attempted to create a self-serve station that looked like a gas pump for your skin. This also seems like the perfect way to give yourself a farmer’s tan — on purpose. The device never reached the mass market.
Every time the trigger was pulled on this gun a photo was taken. The creators used this ad to show off some of the photos that had previously been taken. We’re a little concerned about the photo of the person in one of the examples. While the revolver camera didn’t become a huge hit, we are starting to see body cams on police officers so it wasn’t the worst idea on our list.
This snowstorm mask was meant to replace an umbrella in the winter time. It seems to be a pretty pointless invention, since you can typically cut out most of the snow with a hood and then you don’t have a giant protruding device that is likely to push your face to the side with any gusts of wind. This is yet another weird invention that failed to catch on.
Fresh Air For Baby?
No. No. No. For the love of god — No! Apparently in the 1930s, city-dwelling parents were really concerned about their little ones getting enough fresh air. To solve that problem, a specialized baby holder was created that could be placed outside of a window. Simply place baby in this customized “cage” and they would get a ton of fresh air and sunlight. It may have been great for avoiding too much bilirubin but OMG is it a horrible idea. Just NO!!!
Gas Powered Rollerskates
I’m not going to say I wouldn’t try these out, because they actually look like fun. However, the entire point of rollerskates is to get out and exercise. Plus, having a tank full of gas strapped to your back while flying down the street on a pair of skates seems like a great way to — well — explode! I’m not even sure if this tech would be street-legal. Even hoverboards these days are banned in many locations.
How do you wash your kid’s neck? If you aren’t lazy, you can try soap and water. One mom, however, asked a company many years ago to make a soft brush that her child could wear to clean his neck without any effort on her part. It failed completely and immediately. Why was the child’s neck so filthy, anyway?
Remote Controlled Lawn Mower
A potentially deadly machine controlled by a remote control — what could possibly go wrong with this idea? Sure, we have the Roomba for our living rooms in modern times but they can’t rip your body to shreds. Plus you may not realize there is something you need to pick up before mowing if you use this remote-controlled machine.
Reading in Bed Glasses
Want to read a book in bed but don’t feel like sitting up? Try these bed glasses. They use mirrors and regular prescription glasses so you can lay on your back and still see the words on the page. Apparently, consumers were not willing to pay for the ability to be this lazy.
People Shovel on Car
How do you stop pedestrians from getting run over by cars in the old days? You attach a shovel to the front of the car. This idea didn’t catch on — maybe because it would actually give reason for drivers to scoop up passengers who got in their way. I have to admit I would love one of these in a snowstorm though.
A Motorcycle Boat?
Take a motorcycle, attach it to a boat for power. What could possibly go wrong? Well, not much, other than an engine flooding from water as waves hit the boat and perhaps some corrosive side effects. At the same time, it does look like a fun and unusual way to spend a little time on the lake.
Control your video game console with your mind. Because we should give gamers even less reason to call themselves athletes. The Mindlink required users to wear a special apparatus on their head. By squeezing and loosening their head muscles, they could move around a game’s characters.
Refrigerator and Stove and Sink All-In-One
So basically if your sink leaks, your fridge breaks, or your oven fails, you have to buy an entirely new appliance. Not to mention that getting stuff out of your fridge while cooking means putting yourself in harm’s way. On the other hand, this could work really well in these super tiny 200 square foot micro-apartments in cities like New York and San Francisco.
A vending machine that substitutes as a supermarket? This, in some ways, isn’t a bad idea. The concept was that you can pick up the necessities when the store is closed. It didn’t catch on but there have been some recent concepts for drive-thru supermarkets that could become a reality.
Cat Mew – Mouse Repeller
This device meows like a cat to repel rodents. It was never proven to actually work. But this was actually a successful product for several years — proving that anyone will buy a product if they are told it works and if it’s shaped like a cat.
Ice Mask For Your Face
This ice mask was actually created by the famed Max Factor and it was targeted towards females in Hollywood. The idea was that by placing plastic ice cubes on the face, it could rejuvenate the skin while cooling down the wearer.
Horse Gas Mask, 1940
In London during the 1940s, not only did humans have to worry about gas masks, but horses did as well. After all, you wouldn’t want your horse to collapse during a gas attack while you are riding them. Each horse had to be specially fitted for their mask, to be sure they would be effective.
Family Bicycle, 1939
Instead of lugging your kids behind on those bike trailers, you can just throw them on the front and back of this bike. Of course, the wife sits in the middle doing her daily duties. Really, you have to be very talented to sew and be riding on a bike at the same time.
The Krummlauf was a Nazi invention during WWII. Basically the goal was to curve bullets so soldiers could shoot from around corners or from under cover. When the gun would fire, the bullet would put too much stress on the barrel, causing the gun not to work.
A Gadget to Measure Pain Felt by Fruit and Vegetables
Have you ever wondered how much pain your fruit and vegetables are in? Certainly it is on your mind as you dice them up for fruit salad. Well this Electrometer was designed to measure exactly how much pain they were in. Interesting?
Folding Bridge, 1926
Have you ever went to cross a river and thought “Oh crap, I forgot to pack my emergency folding bridge?” Well, people in 1926 did. The emergency folding bridge was invented to be portable. Who knows how well it worked, but it held these guys for a photo at least.
If you ever wondered what 480 fingers on your head would feel like, this scalp massager has the answer. Every housewife deserves a good head massage after a long day of doing chores and it looks like the product developers delivered with this one.
Create Your Own Dimples
Ever wanted dimples one your face? A woman invented a dimple machine in New York, which basically forced indentations into the skin. It looks horribly uncomfortable. Yet, did you know there is a modern version of this invention? Apparently people are willing to pay big bucks for personal torture devices.
Toilet Mask, 1875
No, it is not a mask to protect you from the toilet. It was invented for women to wear during the night so their skin would be brighter, smoother, and silkier when they woke up in the morning. It was invented by Madam Rowley in 1875. I would not want to wake up next to the person wearing that.
Motorized Bathtub, 1960
During the 1960s, a group of engineering students created a motorized bathtub. They attended the Surrey Technical College in Kingston, England. You have to admit, it is the perfect size to travel around town in.
The monowheel was basically a one-wheeled motorcycle. It was supposed to be a simpler way to get around. Yet, the inventors couldn’t get over the few problems of steering, stability, and obstructed view. It’s a cool idea, but just not so feasible.
Pedestrian Catcher, 1931
Pedestrians in the 1930s were worried so much about getting hit by cars the Pedestrian Catcher was invented to put on front of vehicles. It scooped people up instead of hitting them. Yet, to make the scoop work, the driver had to pull a lever so it may not always have been effective.
If you ever wondered what light sounds like, you’d have to head back to 1912. The otophone was invented by Mr. E. E. Fournier d’Albe. It worked via a pair of headphones and a receiver. The receiver turned light into a buzzing or vibrating sound each time the box was pointed toward light.
The cyclomer was designed to be a bicycle that could operate both on land and in the water. It featured four air floats and used fan blades to propel it forward once it was in the water. Pretty interesting concept, if it actually worked.
Personal Boat, 1915
Sometimes you don’t want to go fishing with anyone else, you just want to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. In 1915, ‘The Au” was designed just for that purpose. This personal flotation device had a place for your feet so you could even walk or swim around in the water.
Super Paddle Wheel, 1770
This paddle-wheel was invented by A.G. Eckhardt. It was supposed to move twice as much water as a traditional paddle wheel. So I wonder if it really worked and if it actually moved twice as much water?
Piano for the Bedridden, 1935
If you were confined to a bed in 1935 you could still play the piano because of this invention. This is good because what else there to do in 1935 besides watch paint dry on the wall? Hopefully it was stable, because it looks pretty heavy.
Electric Police Vest, 1932
Standing out in traffic could get pretty chilly in the winter, which is why the electric police vest was invented in 1932. Looks like it would do a pretty good job of keeping the police warm, but is it fire-resistant? Just in case the wiring is faulty.
Clip-on Ice Skates, 1936
When men walked to work in the 1930s, it could get pretty slippery, especially because their shoes didn’t have much grip. The clip-on ice skates were invented in 1936 to help make commuting much easier. They probably went out of style because you can skate on snow
Baby Radio, 1921
The radio was extremely popular in 1921, so popular in fact that people even wanted to strap it to their baby buggies. This elaborate contraption was strapped to strollers so that babies could listen to the radio on the go. It was made to keep babies from crying.
Radio Hat, 1931
Babies weren’t the only ones who had portable radios. In 1931, the portable radio hat was invented. The hat looks like it could pose a danger around power lines and low-flying aircraft. It also seems like it would fall off of your head pretty easily.
Air drying your hair can take forever and women have had hair tools since the beginning of time (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration). This is a hair dryer that looks like it would push your hair straight down so it’d lay flat.
Next time you want to go camping in the woods or accidentally book a hotel without a sauna, you can bring along your own. The portable sauna was actually manufactured but probably fell out of style once saunas became available in almost every hotel.
Babies get heavy, and carrying them around gets even more difficult as the baby grows bigger. With this suspended baby carrier, now you can share the burden of carrying the baby. Hopefully, you and your partner are able to walk in sync so the baby doesn’t fall out.
Another Smoking Machine
Previously, there was a smoking device that let people smoke two cigarettes at once. This inventor took smoking to the next level by inventing a machine allow someone to smoke a whole pack at once. That is 20 cigarettes all at one time. Talk about difficulty breathing.
Brooms for Tires
Back before street cleaners were a common convenience, dust and debris would get in the way of cars’ tires. Even worse, nails and screws could puncture the wheels. What was the solution to this problem? Put brooms in front of the tires, of course. They just brush everything out of the way.
Walk the Dogs
Back before doctors began telling us to exercise on a regular basis, people invented an easier way to walk the dogs. Just attach them to your car and take them for a walk. This seems extremely dangerous, which is probably why the idea never caught on.
Surfboard with a Motor
This surfboard with a motor actually looks pretty cool. Hopefully, it is stable enough for the man in the suit not to fall over, because that would really ruin a commute to work. Otherwise, it is an interesting contraption.
Robot That Answers Calls
A robot to screen your calls for you would be nice. Yet, having a robot in your house that looked like this one would be horrifying. Could you imagine walking downstairs and seeing this in the middle of your living room? No, thank you… I’ll answer my own phone.
This is perfect for the introvert in your life. This was made up by Hugo Gernsback, who clearly knew the importance of shutting yourself away from everyone when you need your quiet time. This hood was attached to an oxygen tank, and all the outside noise would be eliminated.
Now we just have noise-canceling headphones, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to engage us in conversation. We need the Isolator.
It’s Called Fashion Sweetie
It’s important to learn about our roots, and when it comes to swimming safety gear, this was the pinnacle of safety. These German teenagers went about creating something that would help them learn how to swim, which looks like the beginnings of today’s modern lifejackets. They simply used bicycle tires and tied them up to use as a flotation device.
An Unfortunate Need For This
Some inventions come about due to interest. Others are made to make the world a better place. And, unfortunately, some are made out of fear and safety. This picture was taken in England in 1938, and really demonstrates where the world was at the time. We have a mother walking down the street with her baby, who is placed within a gas-resistant stroller.
It’s Amazing This Didn’t Land
Did we not think makeup would continue to evolve? For the life of me, I’ll never understand how this invention didn’t stick while shower caps are handed out at every motel. This is a shower hood, and it keeps your hair and your makeup as you left it when you jump in the shower. Why this isn’t in every bathroom in America remains a mystery to this day.
If these were still in fashion, I can only assume we wouldn’t be seeing such low fertility rates in the United States. Young adults are pushing off becoming a parent later than any time in history, and we finally have the cause. If baby suspenders were still around, everyone under the age of 24 would have a kid. Just look at home much fun that would be!
Old School VR
Who would have thought that virtual reality would be on people’s minds before we even had color photos? Back when everyone had those big, boxy televisions that would take up half your living room despite its 14-inch screen, people were already looking for a way to make things smaller. So, we got these television glasses, which look totally ridiculous, and would take another half-century to catch on.
Despite All My Rage
I am still just a baby in a cage.
Getting out of the house can always be a struggle, especially when you’re a stay-at-home mom in the 1930’s, stuck in your midrise apartment. Getting your kid some fresh air is never easy, so finding creative ways to get them out and exploring while still close to home was a real hassle. So, someone went out and invented this baby cage, which not-so shockingly didn’t hold up long term.
For Fancy Getogethers
Before we had melon ballers and were putting avocado on literally everything, the big question at every dinner party was “why are my eggs so round?” Imagine those tv infomercials, where a family of five is just bumbling those lousy, round eggs all over the place. Thank God we have the Eggcuber, so we can hold our eggs with confidence.
For The Man Who Has Everything
Smoking is pretty out of vogue now, but back in the 50’s, it seemed that seemingly everyone smoked. Considering you could light up in restaurants, hospitals, and airplanes, the worry of being caught outside in the rain didn’t seem like that big an issue. However, for those that were caught outside, the smoking umbrella was there to ensure your cigarette stayed lit no matter what.
No One Needs This
This looks like a bad prop from a monster movie from the twenties, but it’s actually a legit mask people wore when they went swimming. I can’t imagine it helps for anything — your makeup will still run, your hair will still get wet, and you won’t be making any new friends.