Who Invented First In Your Family?

The first person in my family tree to get a patent was Herman Kolls in 1899. Patent number 639,404, he invented a machine for shaking Babcock milk test bottles. The Babcock bottle was a clear glass flask with a long graduated neck. The bottle and the test were developed by Stephen Babcock in 1890 as a simple but accurate way to determine the fat content of milk.

Herman describes his invention this way "When the wheel 'H' is revolved, the milk and acid in the test-bottle are shaken by the reciprocating clamp in a very efficient manner, and the test-bottles can be very quickly inserted in the clamp and removed from it." It is so great to be able to read his own words talking about his invention. The patent says Herman was from McCune, Kansas so maybe his entrepreneurial inspiration was solving a real problem he had on his dairy farm. We can only wonder.

I looked up on Google Maps McCune and found it is located about 150 miles south of Kansas City. Wikipedia says it was laid out in 1879, got a post office in 1878, and was incorporated into a city in 1881. The population in 2010 was reported to be 405 people. From Herman's patent date of 1899 it looks like he was there at the beginning of it all, a founding member so to speak.

I checked the list of historical events for 1899 and found the following:

  • On January 3rd the first known use of the word "automobile", appeared in an editorial in The New York Times. On May 20th the first speeding infraction happened by a New York cabbie driving an electric car - 12mph down Lexington Street, and on May 24th the first auto repair shop opened in Boston.
  • "Aspirin" (acetylsalicylic acid) was patented by Felix Hoffmann at German company Bayer. The Rubber heel for boots or shoes was patented by American Humphrey O'Sullivan. J S Thurman patented the motor-driven vacuum cleaner, and Issac R. Johnson patented the bicycle frame.


It is awesome to look back and imagine what being an entrepreneur was like so long ago. I'm thankful Herman took the initiative to get a patent on his idea so that 120 plus years later I could learn something new about my family tree.

So who invented first in your family?

Maybe it's time for you to patent your ideas so your future ancestors can learn something about you.

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