[Source: Scientific American, July 11, 1869; also [The full description of the apparatus (as seen in the American Phreonological Journal, September, 1869) can be read in the continued reading section, below.]
And so in 1869 came this odd Victorian appeal to a frosty blend of survivability and entertainment. The fellow in this woodcut was decked out in the very latest lifesaving apparatus for making one’s waxed-mustachioed way through disaster. The surviving member donned a very resistant, very heavy suit made of rubber, including a helmet (of some sort), all of which was made to make the wearer impervious to cold or heat./ Under the rubber suit was a floatation/buoyancy undersuit which seems to fit snug around the wear’s waistcoat. It looks as though the whole of the suit would increase the mass of the wearer by something like one-third. Most intriguing here is the little companion buoy (complete with a “Eureka” flag), which was outfitted with water, food, “reading material so that he may read the news to pass the time of day”, cigars, a pipe and tobacco, plus torches. Evidently, this was to keep the person afloat, alive, and entertained for days on end.
[Source: Scientific American via Google Books]
This magnificent 1877 non-SteamPunk telescoping india-rubber screw, invented by Trauggott Beek (of Newark N.J.), is supposed to be waterproof, so that the wearer could put it on over evening clothing (as is the case in this illustration) and enjoy a spin in the surf before contemplating other Victorian nighttime reveries. It was said that the wearer could stow away a month's worth of food in the suit, somehow--I don't see how this could be, especially if there was a month's worth of water, which would like fitting in the suit with another (larger) person.
[Source: Scientific American, May, 1877, issue #18.]
The apparatus may be briefly described as follows:
"A, in figure 1, is a rubber-suit, made large enough to be put on over a person's ordinary clothing, his shoes only being removed. The only openings in this suit, at the head and wrists, are arranged to fit closely to the person. A flap, C, projects beneath the chin of the wearer to protect his mouth and nose from the splash of the water. Straps and suspenders, G and H, are employed to secure the suit to the person. I is a cork jacket worn beneath the rubber suit. K arc metal shoes or weights fitting upon the feet, and padded so as to avoid giving much inconvenience to the wearer. M is the swimming or paddling device, to be grasped by the hand. It is covered with rul>- bcr, and so constructed that when moved in one direction the wings fold back and occasion little resistance from the water, but when moved in the opposite, the wings expand, and thus encounter the most resistance."
"Figure 2 represents in detail a can or buoy made to contain water and provisions, besides affording the basis for the flag-staff. This buoy is attached to the suit A by a cord, O, as seen in figure 1."
"Figure 3 is an open diagram of Mr. Stoner's life-boat, in which a device for ballasting is introduced which can be adjusted to meet any emergency and avoid capsizing. F is a weight fixed to the lower end of a lever which is pivoted at its upper end to the middle point of the keel of the boat. A small rope being attached to the upper end, operated by a winch, pawl, ratchet, and brake, serves to swing the lever back, and bring it up to the level of the forward segment of the keel, in which position it forms a part of the after half of the keel. This is its proper position in calm weather or when the boat is under sail with a moderately fair wind. If the wind be on the beam, and blowing strongly, the lever is let down as much as necessary to meet the emergency. When, finally, the lever reaches the vertical position, the center of gravity is brought so low that no wind can capsize the boat. This was amply proved by the experiments. A large party of gentlemen entered the boat, and failed to capsize it by all the means within reach."