Russell E. Oakes hailed from Waukesha, Wisconsin, and initially worked in advertising. However, in his spare time, he created more than 50 inventions. He went on to become an entertainer, showcasing his marvelous (if not particularly practical) creations.
A vintage postcard featured on the CardCow website states that “Oakes specializes in mirth making… on national radio networks, in television, in Popular Science movie shorts, and during hundreds of personal appearances.”
As well as pictures of his inventions below, there are also videos showing some of his creations in action.
Turning off the light switch
Don’t you just hate it on winter nights when you forget to turn the light off before you get into bed? It must have annoyed Oakes because around 1955 he created a model of a hydraulic device that could turn off the bedroom light from the comfort of your own bed.
This futuristic-looking method of cooking meat was on display at a catering equipment exhibition in London in 1966. This infra-red cooking device would certainly make a good talking piece for Thanksgiving dinner.
Soup spoon with fan cooler (and hidden surprise)
This might look like a soup spoon with a cooling fan, but it’s so much more.
What is a guest to do when their hostess serves them up the most inedible soup at the start of a dinner party? This is when they need the soup spoon that Oakes invented around 1948.
The spoon’s handle is hollow and is connected to a tube that runs up a person’s sleeve into a hot water bottle attached to the leg (and presumably hidden beneath the clothing). You can drain the disgusting soup away through the handle without anyone noticing, and the hostess merely thinks that you’ve brought a spoon that will help cool down her delicious soup.
So, you’ve got this mid-afternoon hankering for a doughnut and a cup of coffee, but you don’t want to get your business suit all messed up. No problem! Get yourself a doughnut dunker. Now, you can dunk your doughnut while avoiding wet and sticky fingers.
As well as protecting your fingers from the mess, the little tray beneath the doughnut will ensure that nothing drips onto your lap either.
Automatic tipper for bellhops
An artificial hand with a tube connecting it to a cash box worn around the waist will remind customers to tip their bellhops. For an added incentive, there’s a “no sale sign” that can be deployed if the tip isn’t sufficiently large.
Pop at you toaster
Why should breakfast be boring? Add some excitement with this “pop at you toaster,” which Oakes invented around 1955. The toaster not only ejects the toast at speed but also horizontally. It could be the beginning of a new extreme sport.
Complex cigarette lighter
Want to impress friends at dinner parties? Then pass over the traditional cigarette lighter that can fit into a pocket in favor of this amazingly complex device that will light a cigarette with style.
Want to know how it worked? Check out the videos below.
Eating spaghetti can be tricky, which is why Oakes invented this spaghetti aid. A winder attached to a fork means that you can pick up your spaghetti with ease.
Military ladies’ surprise hat
For the woman in the military who wants to be both feminine and in uniform, Oakes created this military millinery hat. When the regulation military hat is removed, a flower-crowned formal hat is revealed. Perfect for all occasions.
The Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum, which did a video on Oakes (included below), suggested that this hat could in fact be used if you needed to disguise an unpleasant smell – take your hat off and suddenly you’re surrounded by a pleasing floral scent.
If you’ve got an important 9 AM meeting with a client, the last thing you want is to accidentally get butter on your suit while having breakfast. This butter protector will ensure that your sleeves remain pristine.
Eavesdropping ear trumpets that can also be used at the movies
The saying goes that eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves, but clearly, that wasn’t the theory Oakes followed when he invented his eavesdropping ear trumpets.
They might be effective, but they’re not the most stealthy or subtle method to hear what other people are saying about you.
Oakes demonstrated how, if you take them to the movies and turn the amplifying trumpets forwards, you can hear all the movie dialogue perfectly without it being drowned out by other noisy viewers around you.
Fly shooer for sandwiches
Flies can be a pesky pain in summer, so Oakes invented a device that can be used to swat them away while eating your sandwich at the same time.
In this video, he demonstrates exactly how it works:
Why use just one? See his inventions in practice
Russell E. Oakes proves that his inventions can be used in combination every day. In this photo, he is demonstrating his spaghetti winder, a fan to keep his head cool, his fly shooer, and spiked armbands that can enable the wearer to make their way through even the most crowded department store.
Oakes appeared in various short films demonstrating his inventions.
In this mini movie, you can see in action his fly shooer, a trap for unwanted salesmen, the fan indirectly powered by chewing gum, and his ear trumpets.
Russell Oakes appears in the second part of this movie from Universal Newspaper Reel under the pseudonym Professor I.M. Nuts demonstrating his butter protector.
In this video, Oakes demonstrates how you can protect yourself from having your whole day spoiled by “a particularly vicious grapefruit.” His “breakfast cap” has a protective screen you can pull down to enable you to eat your grapefruit safely.
The Museum collection including videos of the Wiley Waukesha Wizard
As a famous Waukesha resident, some of his gadgets made it into the Waukesha County Museum’s collection. The Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum made a short presentation on his inventions. In particular, the presenter reveals in detail just how the cigarette lighter works.
The Museum also has a special video on their website that Popular Science put together from the videos that Oakes made for them.
As well as demonstrating his chewing gum fan, there are three inventions to help make the perfect apple pie, as well as three inventions that can be combined to help you enjoy a day at the beach in your own living room – including how to get the perfect hot dog with added sand!