"House of Invention: The Secret Life of Everyday...

Editor's Choice

April 23, 2000|By Michael Pakenham

"House of Invention: The Secret Life of Everyday Products," by David Lindsay (Lyons Press, 179 pages, $22.95)

This is one of those occasional little collections of virtually useless but enchanting information that gives intricate character to what before has always been drearily domestic. Lindsay, a New York journalist with a taste for the obscure, has brought together the origins and histories of 21 very familiar and mainly practical devices. The disposable razor was invented by King Camp Gilette in 1895 and first marketed in 1901. Frozen food actually was invented and first marketed by a man named Clarence Birdseye. Socialite Polly Jacobs -- later to become Caresse Crosby -- invented the brassiere in 1914. Each little history carries enough memorable detail to wake up half a truly dull dinner party.

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