U.S. Armed Forces Will Buy Your Invention (Jan, 1951)

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U.S. Armed Forces Will Buy Your Invention

Once again the National Inventors Council is calling for military gadgets. Here’s your chance to make a fortune as well as help your country.

By Ralph Coniston

AMERICAN inventors are on the verge of handing Russia a major defeat on the propaganda front. The Soviets have been jamming our Voice of America broadcasts and for the past year the nation’s top electronics scientists have been working on a method to counter the Red’s activities, at the suggestion of the National Inventors Council. And now officials report that success is near.

What is the National Inventors Council and how is it that the suggestion came from them? Well, the Council acts as an open door to inventors who want to submit ideas to the armed forces. Its job is to acquaint you with the problems confronting the military services and refer potentially valuable ideas to the appropriate agencies. Periodically, it issues lists of needed inventions.

The Council was organized just before World War II and evaluated 250,000 ideas during the war. The Armed Forces recognized its peacetime value, too, and it has continued as a division of the Department of Commerce. At present, ideas are being received at the rate of 8,000 a year—but the Korean war has caused an enormous spurt in submissions.

While the National Inventors Council must be most concerned with problems of the moment, it manages to look ahead, too. Take the case of Robert C. Harris, an inventor from Fort Wayne, Ind. Back in 1940 Harris sent in a device he had perfected— a small magneto operated by the closing of a hand. It didn’t provide a continuous current—only a spark. The Council agreed that Harris’ invention was ingenious, but what could the spark be used for? Neither Harris, the Inventor’s Council nor the armed services could figure that out so it was shelved.

Several years passed and the army discovered that the bazooka’s original ignition system was unreliable. What was the solution? They asked the National Inventors Council and the board remembered Harris’ whatzit. His “useless” invention saved the day and brought Harris a fortune.

Perhaps you have some little gadget kicking around which you think is of no importance now. It may prove to be tremendously valuable to you and your country. During the last war, Dr. Borris Berkman, civilian scientist, suggested to the Council that milkweed floss should be substituted for kapok because supplies of this material had been cut off by the Japanese. As a result, Dr. Berkman got a government contract, set up the Milkweed Floss Corporation of America and formed an army of boy scouts to gather the floss and help win the war.

Another invention which did not sound at all military was Harry N. Peavey’s plastic carburetor. But the army eventually found it useful in teaching mechanics the principles of repairing and maintaining carburetors.

Scoutmaster Charles Learned devised a signaling mirror which he regarded as little more than a plaything, good for occupying the minds of his scouts. Then early in the war the nation was stirred by the story of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s ordeal while adrift for 23 days on a raft in the South Pacific. Search planes had passed overhead without sighting the party despite the desperate efforts of Rickenbacker and his companions to draw attention.

The armed forces were anxious to find some simple signaling device to attract fliers on similar search missions. A mirror seemed the obvious solution but sunlight reflected from a mirror cannot be seen unless the beam is focused’ directly on the searching plane, something difficult to accomplish with an ordinary mirror. Learned’s signaling mirror seemed to do the trick and the Inventor’s Council passed it on to the proper authorities. Learned refused to take money for his invention and it was some time before the Council convinced him that only by tying up the patent rights himself could he be sure that some greedy stranger would not be able to sting the Government.

Members of the Council, which screens all incoming ideas, are outstanding American inventors, scientists and industrial re- search ^men together with the U. S. Commissioner of Patents and representatives of all the armed forces. Chairman is Dr. Charles F. Kettering of General Motors and secretary is Lawrence Langner, one of the country’s top patent attorneys.

If you present an idea to the Council, it first attempts to determine whether it is scientifically practical and whether it has advantages over existing devices serving the same purpose. For this it often asks the aid of the Bureau of Standards, the Patent Office and other Government agencies. If your idea is believed to be sound, the Council then approaches the proper authorities in the armed forces to discover whether they feel that the new invention would be useful to them. A battery, for example, might be called to the attention of the Signal Corps, the Navy and the Air Force. Certain types of guns would be presented to the Navy while others might be shown to Army Ordnance. Once the armed forces show interest, the Inventors Council’s job is done. Arrangements for actual development and manufacture are taken care of by the armed forces and your payment will come from them.

If you want to propose an invention, here is the way to go about it: Write to the National Inventors Council, Department of Commerce, Washington 25, D. C. No special forms are needed for submitting ideas— just submit each suggestion as a separate document. Typewrite if possible and be sure to give your name and address. State the title of your invention, give a brief statement of its general nature and specific uses, explain the particular point of novelty or superiority of your invention in comparison with existing devices serving the same purpose.

Give a brief outline of any tests which have been made of the invention and include a summary of its patent status and what steps have previously been taken to develop it or bring it to the attention of the armed services or other government agencies. Give a complete description of your invention including any necessary sketches, drawings or photographs. Incomplete information may not be enough to allow the Council to judge the suggestion properly.

Do not send models unless the Council informs you that a working model is needed for testing. In one case an inventor sent the Council a package containing models of two types of bomb. The outside of the package gave no indication of its contents but fortunately there was a warning notice inside. There was considerable alarm until Maj. Gen. W. H. Tschappat, a member of the Council and former chief of Army Ordnance, personally took charge. Another inventor suggested an anti-personnel bomb loaded with itching powder made from a weed and sent samples which almost completely disrupted the workings of the staff.

The Council tries to discourage inventors from going to Washington until the armed forces actually want them there to discuss development and manufacture of their inventions. One inventor made the long trip to Washington from Oregon, only to learn that his invention could not be used by the armed services. He was stranded in Washington without money for return fare.

Because of the official nature of the National Inventors Council and the high standing of its members you can be sure you will not be cheated. However, the highly secret nature of developing inventions for war has occasionally caused misunderstandings. In one case an invention was turned down without explanation only to be used later. The reason was that another inventor had proposed it earlier and consequently had the rights to it. However, the second inventor could not be told this because of security reasons.

Exactly how much the armed services have paid inventors for ideas submitted through the National Inventors Council is not known. However, estimates place this figure in the millions.

Lawrence Langner, secretary of the Council, in speaking of the royalties inventors received from the Government, says, “It’s pretty plain that they were all well satisfied. If they hadn’t been, they could have filed suit in the Court of Claims and I can’t remember a single instance of that having been done.”

Certainly Charles A. Hedden has no com- plaints. Probably as much credit for the Allied victories in North Africa belongs to him as to any other single man. Hedden is no highly trained scientist but rather an ordinary American whose education was received in a country grade school in Florida. In 1934 Hedden, who owned a small radio repair shop, was approached by two strangers who had a map supposedly showing where Gasparilla, the famous pirate, had buried his treasure. They had searched the site near Charlotte Harbor, Fla., but their map had not been accurate enough to locate the exact spot where the treasure lay. Could Hedden figure out a gadget which would show the presence of buried metal?

Hedden could and did. He devised a delicately balanced electrical circuit which would be disrupted by the presence of metal nearby. With this contraption the treasure hunters prowled Charlotte Harbor for months. The gadget proved to be a whiz at locating buried metal. It found old anchors, discarded auto crankshafts, rusted stove lids—but no gold.

However, it later proved to be a treasure in itself. For when the war came along, Hedden offered the invention to the U. S. Government through the National Inventors Council and eventually it became the standard mine detector used by the Allied Forces. It played an essential part in clearing out Axis mine fields to open the way for Allied victory.

Hedden received $50,000 from the government for his invention. But he has also adapted it for other purposes such as screening metal out of materials like tobacco and rubber.

But the great success of Hedden’s invention has created still another problem—how to detect the non-metallic mines which other nation’s have been forced to develop when their metallic models became ineffective.

That problem has not yet been solved and it remains high on the needed list of the National Inventors Council. Solve it—or any other of the difficult military problems listed on page 60—and you’ll make yourself a fortune. And at the same time you’ll be helping your country in a time of great crisis.

  1. wormhole says: January 30, 200912:21 am

    this may be of some interest in connection with the signaling mirror

  2. hwertz says: January 31, 20094:54 pm

    Ahh, plastic carburetors (see page 3)… the scourge of the modern small engine. They should have kept them for training purposes rather than deciding they were good enough for lawn mowers, weed-whackers, etc.

  3. Rodolfo says: February 28, 200911:39 am


    Tengo unos inventos que quiero vender

    Solo Hablo español


    Rodolfo Farias
    Coral Gables
    Zip 33146
    PH: 786-712-6823

  4. Amos John Samuel says: April 13, 20091:30 pm

    Security Shoes. This shoes is mainly for the infantry army. It will help them during jungle war.

  5. Amos John Samuel says: April 13, 20092:21 pm

    Security Helmet. This device will infantry army to detech enemy that are far or near.

  6. lewis says: April 14, 200910:09 pm

    i don’t want to comment on what u have there, there stupid! but i do have a idea i want to present to the military. a unman craft to small to fit a man. the military has this already but for the wrong idea if there is a person in the military that reads this who can make a make some thing work email me at [email protected]

  7. charlie says: April 22, 20095:56 pm

    I do have a fantastic idea and drawings for an invention that would enable a single soldier
    to do more with less effort. In small package at less than 10Lbs.
    Hunters, Hikers and emergency personsl van benefit as well.
    Very simple, low tech, batteries not required.
    Haven’t the means to prototype it.
    If I could meet Stormin’ Norman again he could help
    [email protected]

  8. jahed says: October 18, 20096:26 pm

    Dear Mr / Madam

    My name is Gholamreza Jahed, and I am a young PERSIAN researcher having achieved 2 gold medals one for the year 2006 and the other for the year 2008 in Switzerland International Invention Contests .

    Now, I have registered my third invention which is an “Electronic Safety Box” used as a high safety coffer.

    Having studied painstakingly and finding your company capacity and ability through invent, I made my mind to write to you correspondingly .

    It would be my pleasure to transfer my franchise to your company or to collaborate with you for producing and manufacturing of my new plan .

    I would be cheered to hear from you about my proposal or to hear about your respecting suggestions soon.

    Yours faithfully,

    Gholamreza Jahed
    (Applied research expert)

    persian – KARAJ –
    POST BOX 31465-1158
    e-mail : [email protected]

  9. Jari says: October 18, 20096:42 pm

    Jahed, for crying out loud…. Did you actually read that article??? It’s from 1951! It’s 58 years old! Besides, I wouldn’t invest anything to someone claiming to winning some medals from some unspecified contest. If your comprehension is in that level, that you can’t distinquise an old article from some capital investor website, I’ll doubt that your “invention” is something allready universally known, or your knowledge….. I’ll stop now. Sorry, I’m not in my greatest moods right now.

  10. Firebrand38 says: October 18, 20098:38 pm

    Jari: Seeing as how he still refers to himself as Persian when he actually means Iranian…..

  11. andi the inventor says: October 26, 20097:41 pm

    is 50,000 for such a great invention really “a fortune” ?

  12. Firebrand38 says: October 26, 20097:51 pm

    andi the inventor: Look at the year the article was printed, genius!

    $50,000 in 1951 was the equivalent today of approximately $412,000.

    I think that fits one of the definitions of fortune: “A large sum of money”

  13. Toronto says: October 26, 200911:27 pm

    By the way, I know several people who refer to themselves as Persian, not Iranian or Irani.

    But I see your point re: 1951.

  14. Firebrand38 says: October 27, 20099:18 am

    Toronto: I never guess. His e-mail address is to Saipa Corp….. http://en.wikipedia.org…

    Trust me, he’s e-mailing from Iran.

  15. bishal kumar karki says: December 22, 200912:08 pm

    I have invented a new engine which can run a unlimited no of miles after each and every start without any fuel ;external fuel supplied.I want to hand this model that I have drawn to US government.As i could find the way to connect to white house I have contacted to this site.And also If US government will make effort to contact me then my model will 100%ly work and keep the United State a WORLD POWER for many centuries against China And India FOR a safe future.My engine model is such a top secret even I don’t draw it on a paper,a highly classified for the world.And all dependency on fossil fuel on Arab would end ending to green house emission.If US government already has this model working as a top classified project then also I should be called because this can change fortune of any man and a country too leaving a big overall impact on the position of the state of super power.So if US wants this then call immediately on the following bio-data
    Name:Bishal Kumar Karki
    Contact no:+977-9845238299
    Country : NEPAL,ASIA
    District: Makwanpur
    Town: Heatauda-2,Srijansil Tole

    I am sending because I have a strong faith towards the land of opportunity.
    Any body who finds this just make it to reach right hands and call me at the instant because time is really valuable for me.

  16. Firebrand38 says: December 22, 20091:23 pm

    bishal kumar karki: Whatever medication they have you taking isn’t working.

  17. jimmy m says: May 3, 20104:48 am

    Invention : All soldiers should be equiped with this .It does what most need as all inventions will be taken b uy the govt as we get payed for anything i mean yeah right but instead of wearing diffrent pants they are reversible an when in water they change color to blue as the cars when we was younger when it is stormy ,rainy the weather makes them lighter to stand out just rain alone will not change them blue needs be acyual river pond water hads diffrent kinds of organasm’s that can trigger the affect some way but save allot then changing an carrying diffrent types as green,the iraq color they just are reversible to inside out bamn and unzip at knees to become shorts as well and shirts to long short as well reversible to match .An idea thaT IM SURE THEY TAKE NO MATTER WHAT AS LONG AS THE MEN WOMEN ARE SAFE AND HELP ARE COUNTRY ECONEMY AND THEM AND MUCH EASIER OH WELL I ALWAYS LOOSE STORY OF MY LIFE AS A MAN JUST TRYING IN THIS WORLD TO FEED A FAMILY.AN CAN NOT DO SO AS ALWAYS GET IDEAS STOLEN AS 2 ALREADY I SENT COMPANIES NBAMN 1 YEAR LATER THEY ARE USING IT AN I GOT THE BOOT THEY KNEW NOTHING AS ALWAYS .IF GOVT WANTS ME THEY CAN TRACK ME I JUST THINK OF THINGS ALL DAY TO BETTER THINGS BUT LET THEM GO AS A WASTE OF TIME TO MAKE OTHERS MONEY AS I AM BROKE AND THEY GET RICH NOT EVEN THROUGH YOU A BONE CABS ON DUE P OFF SO THERE GOD BLESS ARE TROOPS AND PRAY FOR ALL IN THIS ECONEMY AS NO ONE HAS THE CHANCE TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE AS SO MANY ARE THIEFS . PEACE TO ALL

  18. Firebrand38 says: May 3, 20106:43 am

    jimmy m: Don’t write in all CAPS, Einstein. It’s considered shouting.

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