The endless search for a better mousetrap

The endless search for a better mousetrap

Some of the earliest known mousetraps were cataloged in the late sixteenth century, by Leonard Maskal, kitchen clerk to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mascall published a series of books on how to keep a good English home: one explained, “How to Plant and Print All Kinds of Trees,” and another, “Fishing with Hook and Line.” His last volume, published in 1590, was “a book of engines and snares for the taking of polecats, hawks, rats, mice and all kinds of vermin and other animals whatsoever, most profitable to all warriors, such as to enjoy this kind of sport and pastime.” Mousetraps, two of which are similar to what we now call snap traps. In a 1992 paper, David Drummond, a zoologist and author of several histories of animal traps, noted that Mascall called these traps “dragons”, possibly because of their serrated teeth. The springs of the sixteenth century, Drummond explained, were not strong enough to deliver a killing blow with a metal rod, as is generally done in snap traps today; Alternatively, teeth would probably be needed to pierce the mouse’s skin.

The United States did not begin granting patents until 1790; The US Patent and Trademark Office did not exist until years later. Many trap designs have been lost to time. But, according to Joe Dagg, a schoolteacher who has studied mousetraps on the side, European settlers in the Midwest may have been selling off the ancestors of the modern snap trap by the 19th century. In 1847, a Brooklyn man named Job Johnson patented a snap-trap-like mechanism for catching fish. It worked by means of a bait hook which, when caught, deployed a concealed secondary hook, making a loop; In his patent, Johnson indicated that the mechanism could be used to capture “any destructive or ferocious animal”. He later modified it to fit rats by mounting it on a flat base, with its jaw closed.

This trap never got any bigger, but it looks very much like the snap trap that William Hooker, an Illinois farmer, patented half a century later, in 1894. “I always felt the general design was really the same,” said Rick Cicciarelli, agent real estate and antiques collector in Ithaca, New York, who once owned one of two well-known examples of Johnson’s mousetrap.As writer Jack Hope noted, in 1996 article In terms of the history of the mousetrap, snap traps were attractive in part because they eliminated the “moral decision” about what to do with a trapped mouse: “The trapped mouse was already dead.” Marketed as the “Out O’ Sight” trap, Hooker’s design was simple and small: house guests could overlook it, animals weren’t suspicious of it, and it would work if the mouse exerted the slightest pressure on the trigger. The trap was supposed to be reused. But by the 1950s, they were being manufactured and sold so cheaply that people with allergies could simply throw them away, including the mouse—which, it turns out, was what they preferred to do. Jim Stewart, a retired zoo veterinarian and trap researcher who has about a thousand mousetraps in his personal collection, told me that Hooker’s patent also coincided with developments in steel quality. “Hawker’s design was about timing,” he said. Her spring can be real fast and effective.

Eventually, Hooker’s business merged with a competitor, and the combined company was purchased by the Oneida community, a descendant of the financial arm of a now-defunct Christian community in upstate New York. The community organized around the doctrines of free love and “Bible Communism” brought in income by making and selling steel traps. The new company decided to focus on silverware and sold the mousetrap company to three former employees. Now called Woodstream, it still sells mousetraps under the Victor brand name. Wirecutter lists one of Victor’s trademark snap traps—”iconic,” “classic”—as a top pick.

Today, there are only a few types of mousetraps available in the typical hardware store: snap traps, glue traps, electric traps, bucket traps, and live catch traps. However, inventors have filed more than 4,500 US patents for animal traps, about a thousand of which relate specifically to mice. (Not many inventors specify the intended targets of their traps.) Some of the inventors of the mousetrap were supposedly motivated by a quote widely attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat its way to your door.” Emerson may not have said this. exactly ; What he wrote, in a journal, was that the world would cut a path to anyone’s door who would sell the best corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, or chairs, or knives, or crucibles, or church organs. There is nothing uniquely profitable about mousetraps. However, people still invented them, probably because rats are such a widespread nuisance.

Some inventors created mousetraps because of direct rodent experiences. One company famous for traps that can hold several mice at once, for example, was founded by a high school janitor in Iowa who noticed mice were eating students’ lunches. But, just as there are too many mice, there are too many mousetraps. In a 2011 paper, Dagg, the school teacher, found that only four percent of mousetraps registered in the United States have been commercially produced — and many designs have yet to be patented. The Trap History Museum, outside Columbus, Ohio, houses what is possibly the world’s largest collection of mousetraps. Many of the designs shown would be prohibitively expensive to mass-produce, due to their impractical size or reliance on wacky techniques. Others barely work, as they seem designed to work only on the rarest of occasions. Some of the designs are dreamy and fanciful. Like contemporary art, they are valued for those qualities, not because they make it easier to maintain a mouse-free home. You wouldn’t pee in a gallery wall mounted toilet. Likewise, you won’t get much use out of the trap, patented in 1908, that attaches an alarming collar to a mouse so that it disturbs other mice so that they flee their habitats to the outside.

Tom Parr, a retired firefighter and paramedic, maintains the Trap History Museum, located about twenty minutes off the highway, in the basement of a warehouse built on some farmland. When I visited, on a windy spring day, I was underwhelmed: most of the signs on the lot advertised business being run by bar kids, selling pill boxes and police car lights. Only a small sign affixed to a side door indicated that there were more than 3,000 mousetraps inside. Parr, who is eighty years old, has been collecting all manner of animal traps for decades; His museum expanded greatly several years ago, when Woodstream asked him if he would, for a while, take charge of his antique traps, including the wooden trap collection, after he had achieved some notoriety in the trap collecting community.

Walking down the stairs to the Bar Museum for the first time, I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. Arrangements of animal traps of all sizes—plus stacks of books, framed advertisements, poison flasks, displays of fur coats and stuffed woodland creatures—created a maze through a great gray-carpeted room. Barr explained that the mousetraps were placed in an area the size of their closet, so we headed that way. Even in that smaller space, I couldn’t decide where to fix my eyes. Traps – some are neon and plastic, others are wooden or metal; Some are curiously huge, others smaller than a mouse; Some were still in their original packaging, some were dingy with age – there were just too many of them to handle. It is very unusual in life to encounter several thousand versions of household objects, all arranged side by side.

“I’m trying to think of where would be the best place to start,” Barr said with a smile. He turned around in an exact circle to take all the mousetraps.

We gave up, and began to look at the traps in random order. Bar picked up the Kitty Gotcha Trap, an early, colorful mid-century trap in the shape of a cat, which is now selling for over a hundred dollars online. (The traps were nice but didn’t sell well when they hit the market – buyers preferred something they could get away with) Bing Crosby Trip Trapwhich was released around the same time, was a metal design produced with money from the singer, who had invested in several projects, including early Audio and video recording. (Stewart, the historian and collector, called the trip-trap “horrible”—”You can’t even set the thing down!”)

“They all pretty much do the same thing,” Barr said, as I looked up at a display of dozens of surprising wooden traps. “They got rats in there, and they beat them up.”

#endless #search #mousetrap

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