Innovative Spirit

Seven Inventions for a Safer Fourth of July

From fireworks shields to seat belts, these inventions throughout history have made summer fun less risky

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's annual fireworks report, there were about 5,600 fireworks-related injuries between June 22 and July 22 of last year. (Anna Owen/EyeEm/Getty Images)
smithsonian.com

The 4th of July is not all watermelons and fireworks. It’s also America’s most dangerous holiday, associated with some 600 deaths and more than 64,000 injuries each year. Most of these are car-related and many involve alcohol (please, please don’t drink and drive). Others are caused by summer-specific fun: swimming, sparklers and spoiled potato salad. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's annual fireworks report, there were about 5,600 fireworks-related injuries between June 22 and July 22 of last year.

But inventors are here to help! Here are seven historical patents plucked from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office archives for inventions intended to make classic Independence Day activities a bit safer.

Sparkler Shield

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(USPTO)

We’re not sure this 1941 patent for a “shielded fireworks holder” would meet contemporary safety standards. The illustration shows a small boy blithely holding a lit Roman candle, his hand “protected” by the shield’s metal disk. The shield will presumably keep the sparks from burning the child’s hand (though his head and the rest of his body are still exposed to any fiery showers). It’s a nice thought, Warren P. Hunnicutt of St. Petersburg, Florida. But perhaps keeping kids away from fireworks altogether is a better idea.

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