The Hippo


May 25, 2020








A spork - And a knife?
The first iterations of the combo utensil
If you’ve ever had the urge to both spear and ladle your food simultaneously, you’re probably a big fan of the spork. The history of the utensil is multifaceted, with a couple of early inventors fashioning what became the modern-day spork.
In 1874, Rhode Island native Samuel W. Francis was granted a patent for a combined knife-fork-spoon item to increase dining convenience. He said in his patent that it grouped “the several elements closely together” using the bowl of the spoon as the “central element” with the fork-tines and knife on the edge. 
However, many sources, including the Manchester City Library (, cite George Laramy of Enfield as the inventor of the first spork. He was granted a patent in 1907 for a table utensil described in the patent application as “a combined knife, spoon and fork all in one single piece” that he noted would be “especially adapted for use by persons with one arm.” His invention allowed for one side of the “bowl” piece to be fitted with a blade for cutting — or not (unlike Francis’, which appears to include a non-removable sharp edge for cutting). Laramy’s patent application also specifies that his utensil has rounded “crotches” between the tines and that “by constructing the device in this manner it becomes impossible for food to become wedged within the crotches.” 
Neither Francis nor Laramy coined the term “spork,” however. It first appeared in the Century Dictionary supplement around 1909 as a “long, slender spoon having the end of the bowl projections resembling the tines of a fork.” 


A cause for alarm
NH clockmaker invents rudimentary alarm clock

By Hippo Staff

Nobody likes being jarred out of sleep by the grating buzz, obnoxious chirp or fuzzy radio of an alarm clock. But for many, the morning wakeup call is a necessary evil — and one whose origins have ties to the Granite State. 

While the oldest alarm clocks were water clocks that date back to 250 B.C. Greece, New Hampshire-based clockmaker Levi Hutchins is often credited with creating the first mechanical alarm clock in 1787. 
Hutchins, who was born in 1761, and his brother Abel entered into an apprenticeship with master clockmaker Simon Willard of Grafton, Mass. After years of apprenticing, the brothers moved to Concord, where their father owned a dry goods store. They opened a clockmaking shop on Main Street near the central village. 
“Their shop was right on a railroad junction near the Merrimack River, so  it was positioned on a place where people were moving through,” said John Delaney, owner of Delaney’s antique clocks in West Townsend, Mass. “They certainly influenced the region. It wasn’t long after he got there that another clockmaker moved to Concord. The earliest clocks have brass dials that were engraved. There weren’t a lot of New Hampshire clockmakers making them.”
While Hutchins’ clocks were successful, alarm clocks were not a part of that success. None of the models he sold were equipped with alarms. 
That doesn’t mean he didn’t invent one. As the story goes, Hutchins built an alarm clock, but just for his own use. The busy craftsman needed to wake up at 4 a.m. each day, so he enlisted the help of one of his clocks.
Hutchins never patented the device. The model was crude, and the hammer could only be set to ring at 4 a.m, according to inventors expert Mary Bellis. 
While Hutchins’ mechanical alarm clock may have been the first in the U.S., it likely wasn’t the first ever. Delaney said he owns a Dutch tall case clock created in the 1750s that’s equipped with an alarm mechanism. There are also reports the first small mechanical alarm clocks may have been the handiwork of inventor Taqi al-Din from the Turkish Empire.  He described his invention in a book from 1559. When it comes to commercial models, the first patented  model was the work of French inventor Antoine Redier. 
Today, alarm clocks take many forms. They’re stationed on our nightstands. They are a simple app on our smart phones.  They’ve come a long way since the earliest models, which were all seven-plus-foot-tall box clocks. 
If size was an inconvenience, so was the duration of the alarm. They typically involved a weight-driven wind-up device, and once the alarm sounded, it couldn’t be turned off.  
“You really couldn’t shut it off,” Delaney said. “It had to run out and would keep going. The first time, it might go off for three or four minutes, and you’d have to go into another room to get away from it. So the second time you wouldn’t wind  it quite as high.” 
As seen in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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