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Chester Greenwood, Maine Inventor: Home

Chester Greenwood, Not Just About Earmuffs

 

Photograph of Chester Greenwood wearing earmuffsChester Greenwood reportedly had big ears. He enjoyed ice skating, but was bothered by his ears getting cold. Hats didn't seem to work, and he didn't like scarves. There were other earmuffs around, but he didn't like how they fastened onto his head. He came up with the idea of two pieces of fabric secured by a piece of flexible metal that fit closely over the top of the head. He applied for and received a patent for this invention. He was 18 years old at the time.

He was born in 1858,  and lived his whole life in Farmington, Maine. The innovation in earmuffs was his most famous and successful invention, which brought him notoriety and fortune for his whole life.  However the earmuff was just the first of many lifelong accomplishments. 

 

This guide was authored by John Hutchinson, Fogler Library Business Librarian and Representative for the Patent & Trademark Resource Center. Patent Documents come directly from the United State Patent & Trademark Office Website. The University of Maine Special Collections Department provided indispensable assistance.

 

 

 

Chester Greenwood (1858-1937)

 

Photo of Chester Greenwood as a child

Chester Greenwood was born on December 4th, 1858, in Farmington, Maine, and he lived there all his life. He grew up on a farm with his three brothers and two sisters. His family had deep roots in Maine. 

In 1884 he married Sarah Whittier, also of Farmington, and they had four children. Mrs. Greenwood, who went by her middle name, Isabel, was very active in the women's suffrage movement. She and Chester abstained from alcohol and unhealthy foods, and supported the Prohibition movement. She outlived her husband, and died in 1958 at the age of 96.

Photo of Isabel Greenwood

Click on the image below to read a very informative article about Isabel from the Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine, from December 21, 1985, 

Thumbnail of a 1985 newspaper article about Isabel Greenwood

Chester's Earmuffs

 

Chester Greenwood's first, and most successful invention, as the Patent title says, was his "Improvement in Ear-Mufflers". The Patent was issued when he was only 18 years old!

Chester didn't invent the concept of covering one's ears in the cold, of course. His innovation was to secure the coverings to the ears with a strip of metal over the head. (Click on the Images for a closer look)

Thumbnail of Page 1 of Chester Greenwood's Earmuffs Patent Thumbnail of Page 2 of Chester Greenwood's Earmuff Patent

This is the Power Of Attorney form signed for Chester's patent lawyer, Charles A. Shaw of Boston. Note that the form is co-signed by witnesses E. Greenwood and O.S. Greenwood. These could be Chester's older brothers Edward and Orville.

This is the Power Of Attorney form signed for Chester's patent lawyer, Charles A. Shaw of Boston. Note that the form is co-signed by witnesses E. Greenwood and O.S. Greenwood. These could be Chester's older brothers Edward and Orville.


Note from Chester's patent lawyer to the Patent Office. It mentions the enclosure of the $15 application fee, which is about $400 in 2022 money.

 

Note from Chester's patent lawyer to the Patent Office. It mentions the enclosure of the $15 application fee, which is about $400 in 2022 money.

This is a documented oath that Chester Greenwood signs saying that "he verily believes himself to be the himself to be the original and first inventor of the improvement in Ear Mufflers". Signed and dated January 23, 1877.

 

This is a documented oath that Chester Greenwood signs saying that "he verily believes himself to be the himself to be the original and first inventor of the improvement in Ear Mufflers". Signed and dated January 23, 1877.

 

Manufacturing

After Chester acquired that patent, he threw himself into perfecting the design and developing ways of producing and selling earmuffs commercially. At first they were manufactured by hand, but later on he built nineteen different machines to mass-produce the earmuffs on an industrial scale. From 1880 to 1884, production increased from 1,700 pairs to over 50,000. 

For further information, click here for a very informative interview with Chester Greenwood himself, from the Lewiston Evening Journal, January 19, 1884. Greenwood gives a first-hand account of the earmuff manufacturing process. (You may have to zoom in with your phone or with your mouse wheel to read the article)

 

By the way, Fogler Library's Special Collections Department has two of Chester's earmuffs you can come and visit!

 

Photo of a pair of Chester Greenwood earmuffs, property of Fogler Library Special Collections.

Ear-Muff Also-Rans

 

Was Chester the only Ear Protection Inventor? Not on your life! There were Ear-Slippers, Ear Covers and Ear Hoods!

Below are some other patents for Ear Warming innovations, from Chester's contemporaries.

 

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Cheek and Chin Muff, 1858

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear Cheek and Chin Muff, 1858

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Hood, 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear Hood, 1904

Thumbnail of patent for Ear-Slipper, 1877

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear-Slipper, 1877

Thumbnail of patent for Ear-Muffs, 1875 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear-Muffs, 1875 

 

Thumbnail of patent for Ear-Protectors, 1873

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear-Protectors, 1873

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Muff, 1881

 

Ear Muff, 1881

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Covers, 1873

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear Covers, 1873

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Mufflers, 1875

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear Mufflers, 1875

Thumbnail of patent for Ear Muff,1879

 

Ear Muff,1879

Other Inventions too!

Chester Greenwood's first patent was the earmuffs that made him famous, but he didn't stop inventing. He patented four more inventions after that, the last of which was issued in 1936, just six months before his death at the age of 78. (Click on the Images for a closer look)

Thumbnail of Chester Greenwood's patent for an Advertising Match Box, 1882

Advertising Match Box, 1882

Thumbnail for Chester Greenwood's patent for a Wood Boring Machine, 1914

Wood Boring Machine, 1914

Thumbnail for Chester Greenwood's Patent for a Kettle, 1928

Kettle, 1928

Thumbnail for Chester Greenwood's Patent for a Metal Rake, 1936

Metal Rake, 1936

That last patent was for a metal rake with individual teeth that could taken out and replaced if one of them broke, which was a great success. Below is one the advertisements that ran for them. Note that the advertisement informs us that the item is in fact patented.

Thumbnail for an advertisement for a Chester Greenwood Metal Rake

Believe it or not, his patent lawyer was a man named T.T. Greenwood, who apparently was no relation to Chester!

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