JF Ptak Science Books Post 1562 [Part of a series on the History of the Future]
There was a time in the late 19th century when it was seen that Thomas Edison could do just about anything--so much so that the Brits in The London Punch gave him tongue-in-cheek credit for inventing (flying, so to speak), anti-gravity underwear.
The funny thing about this though is that the best thing that people could do with this new invention would be to go to a super-sized art gallery to look at paintings close to the ceiling.
This would no doubt have been distracting to the people without this delightful new underwear, who had to solemnly sit earthbound and try to enjoy their experience while people now not only walked by, but floated through their site lines as well. Perhaps they were wondering why these well-dressed flying people were doing so, indoors.
Of course you could have made baby kites as well, shoving the little buggers into their anti-grav onesies, tether them to your bike, and give them a ride through the not-brambly countryside. I would hope that the dog in the image below didn't get distracted by anything whatsoever--but if that did happen, it would be easy to locate the dog. All you had to do was follow the flying baby.
Why did all of this have to be underwear? Why not, say, outer clothing? Or a carriage? Or ship? Or etc.?
Perhaps it was easy to make fun of an invention that seemed highly dubious but, somehow, still within the realm of possibility. After all, Edison was beginning a phenomenal run of creativity--by 1879, when these images appeared, Edison, who was just 32, had already invented the electric light bulb and the phonograph, not to mention dozens of patents for things like the automatic telegraph, the voice engine, the speaking telephone, and an electrical tangle of other useful and revolutionary things (not the least of which were certain essential improvements in the telephone that made the Bell instrument more commercially practicable on a mass scale). Edison was seen as being capable of virtually anything--later in life, he was the subject of an early science fiction work by Serviss called Edison's Conquest of Mars, and much later on, in 1920, a bored joke of his on a naive reporter became international news when the rest of the world thought that he might have invented a telephone to the dead. But early on in his career, at the beginnings of the great heights of fame, he was seen as being capable of just about anything.
Certainly they, the editors, the representatives of the thinking society, felt the electric mode of change in the air. Punch greeted their readers to their almanac with this super-charged image:
And noted, several pages later in the almanac, that their modern conveniences might soon find themselves as quaint antiquarians, housed in a museum, being visited by Mr. Punch and his dog touring the place, transported by some sort of electromagentic sumpin':
List of Edison's patents, here.