In addition to being a member of the British peerage, Edward, Marquis of Worcester, who died on April 3, 1667, was a bit of a dabbler, a sort of ersatz inventor, and author of an odd little book called A Century of Inventions. The book, written some ten years earlier, describes, as the title suggests, a hundred speculative projects, none of them, however, detailed enough to allow a reader to actually put them into practice: secret writing with peculiar inks, explosive devices that would sink any ship, ships that would resist any explosive devices, floating gardens, a method to prevent sands from shifting, automatic assault pistols and cannons, a timer for lighting candles at any time during the night, a hundred-foot pocket ladder, flying machines.
Although many of his ideas foreshadowed later inventions, it is unclear whether he had thought through the methods by which they would work. One idea was put to work with success although unusually so. As the owner of Raglan Castle, he had constructed some hydraulic engines and wheels for bringing water from the moat to the top of the castle tower. During the Civil War, Roundheads had approached the castle with not the best of intentions. The Marquis had his waterworks put into play. “There was such a roaring,” he later wrote, “that the unwelcome visitors stood transfixed, not knowing what to make of it.” On cue, one of the Marquis’ men came running toward them shouting that the lions were loose. The intruders tumbled over one another down the stairs in an effort to escape, never looking back until the castle was out sight.
The Marquis’ 100 nifty inventions most likely did not inspire Time Magazine to create its list of inventions at the turn of this century, although it could have. The Time list heralded fifty creations that it called the worst of all time. Wretched Richards Almanac has visited some of these in the past and will visit others in the future (like on April 5). The list includes such sure-fire ideas as Hair in a Can, Tanning Beds, Venetian-Blind Sunglasses, Smell-o-Vision, Hula Chair and many more.