The Inventive Inventions of Dotts

A look back at an ovoidal innovation and other work compiled by Stephen Drew, Improbable Research staff

The name of inventor Hiram S. Dotts is now less well known that it once was. So, too, are his inventions, two of which—perhaps Dotts’s most enduringly influential—are described here.

Dotts’s Egg-Opener

[caption id="attachment_57286" align="aligncenter" width="429" caption="Detail from the patent for Dotts’s improved egg-opener."][/caption]

Be it known that I, HIRAM S. DOTTS, a citizen of the United States, residing at Thoburn, in the county of Marion, State of West Virginia, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Egg-Openers, of which the following is a specification.

So begins the text to U.S. patent #696,016, granted March 25, 1902 to Hiram S. Dotts. Mr. Dotts’s description, despite dealing with a subject of great technical complexity, is nearly poetical. Dotts (and/or his lawyer, E.B. Stocking) reduces the device, and its place in the world, to just 41 words:

This invention relates to egg-openers, and to particularly to a construction embodying jaws movable in their relation to each other and toward an egg in order to fracture the shell thereof upon a peripheral line extending in a single horizontal plane.

Dotts’s Cigar-Tip-Protecting-Label Innovation

[caption id="attachment_57287" align="aligncenter" width="367" caption="Detail from the patent for Dotts’s improved cigar-tip-protecting-label technology."][/caption]

Just over thirteen years later, on December 7, 1915, Dotts received a patent for a device in an almost wholly different field of endeavor. In his words (and/or those of his attorney, E.B. Stocking):

Be it known that I, HIRAM S. DOTTS, a citizen of the United States, residing at Marianna, in the county of Washington and State of Pennsylvania, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Cigar-Tip-Protecting Labels, of which the following is a specification, reference being had therein to the accompanying drawing.

This invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in cigar tip-protecting labels, the object being to provide a combination tip protector and label so constructed that the label will be held in position on the cigar by the tip protector.

Dotts’s Legacy

However well Dotts was known to the public during his lifetime, his fame is now surpassed by that of other inventors, many of whom knew or know little or nothing firsthand about how to make improvements on egg-openers or cigar-tip-protecting-labels. It is possible that readers of this article will rectify or perpetuate this state of affairs.


The article above is from the September-October 2008 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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I have an egg opener much like the Dotts one. It's orange and shaped like a chicken and a relic from the 70's that I found when cleaning out my parents house. There used to be a matching set of egg cups & spoons - all either orange or olive green.
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