Sunday, March 13, 2016

CBS Sunday Morning does the patent of Zeglen for the bulletproof vest

Within a show themed about guns (and hosted by Lee Cowan ), CBS Sunday Morning on March 13 made reference to the patent of Casimir Zeglen on the bulletproof vest.

Wikipedia gives some background:

In 1893, after the assassination of Carter Harrison, Sr., the mayor of Chicago, he invented the first commercial bulletproof vest. In 1897, he improved it together with Jan Szczepanik who was the inventor of the first commercial bulletproof armor in 1901. It saved the life Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain - his carriage was covered with Szczepanik's bulletproof armor when a bomb exploded near it.

He was a Catholic priest of St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church in Chicago, then the largest Polish church in the country, with 40,000 in the parish. In his early 20s he began experimenting with the cloth, using steel shavings, moss, hair. In his research, he came upon the work of Dr. George E. Goodfellow, who had written about the bullet resistive properties of silk.[2] All early experiments produced an inflexible cloth which was more in the nature of a coat of chainmail. After the assassination of Mayor Carter Harrison, Zeglen renewed his efforts to find a bulletproof material and determined to use silk. In his mid 30s he discovered a way to weave the silk, to enable it to capture the bullet, while visiting weaving mills in Vienna, Austria, and Aachen, Germany.


The story of Zeglen is a counter-example to Lemley's Myth of the Sole Inventor, because Zeglen developed his bullet-proof vest on his own. After patents were filed, he did work with Szczepanik (the "Polish Edison") for development in Europe. Szczepanik ran somewhat of an inventor-help business, and the interaction with Zeglen illustrates somewhat the potential hazards to inventors of such businesses. Zeglen was somewhat like Thomas Edison in using the press to promote his invention. There are some stories related to McKinley and to the Arch Duke.

Zeglen later employed his ideas for producing tires having improved wear characteristics.

**As to Chicago and Zeglen's initial motivation for the vest, one notes that the Columbian Exhibition (which was lit by alternating current and Westinghouse light bulbs) was in 1893 and the assassination occurred right before the closing. Clarence Darrow represented the murderer Prendergast, who was later hanged, the only client of Darrow to be executed.

Just two days before the exposition was set to close, Chicago’s recently reelected mayor, Carter Harrison Sr., was shot and killed and the closing ceremony of the exposition was cancelled.

The Columbian Exhibition featured electricity, and the many battery powered exhibits inspired one man to work on battery powered cars, related later to ALAM which provoked the Selden patent litigation against Henry Ford. The Ferris wheel and cream of wheat also debuted at the Exposition.


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