Some history on Greene County inventors


By Joan Baxter



A few weeks ago, I shared stories of several inventors from Greene County, here are a few more.

William Ruthrauff was the rope manufacturing executive who invented Pepsodent toothpaste, and John Glossinger invented the first candy bar which was named “O Henry.”

Did you know that John Bryan in addition to owning a large pharmaceutical company also has some inventions to his credit? He invented a type of car brake as well as an invention to aid in the herding of cattle, but the most interesting invention was the machine which made the crimped caps which were used on soft drink and beer bottles.

He was rather eccentric, but at the same time was a very generous man. He was an agnostic, and having written a book of fables offered to donate a copy to the Antioch University library. Because the college was very staunchly Christian at that time, and since he did not believe in God, the donation was refused. This angered him so much he said he would buy all the property around the college and eventually the school itself.

He did not live long enough to put the school out of business, but he was able to purchase several acres of land adjacent. Today, his gift delights people of all ages.

Chemist Robert H. Hardoen lived on East Second Street in Xenia where he had a laboratory constructed on the rear of his home. In the mid 1930s several chemists were working on a process which would stop the rusting of panels used in the building of steel houses.

He says, “I had the extraordinary good fortune to be the successful searcher. After working for several months on the little laboratory built on to the rear of my home the work was transferred to the Bowser-Morner Laboratories at Dayton, where better facilities were available. There it was found that in addition to its rust-inhibiting qualities the coating would serve as a bonding agent to increase adhesion of porcelain to iron surfaces.”

This was used extensively during World War II. He also discovered “resolith,” a synthetic resin with photographic properties used in offset printing. He manufactured this at his home under the name Resolith Chemical Co. One of his eerier inventions was a rectifier which was used in battery set radios before the discovery of the AC tube.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force was grateful to Charles Valley of Fairborn who invented a drop pad to be placed under the displayed planes at the museum. Previously, metal drip pans were placed to catch oil and other leaks. Valley’s invention of a very effective state-of-the-art drip pad made of laminated-expanded urethane took the place o the old pans. He is also credited with developing several patented inventions relating to the testing and fabrication of prototype solar cells for future satellite power systems.

Xenia native R. Hayes Hamilton served as the maître d’ hotel at the Flanders in New Jersey for many years. His invention was a movie projector which would project movies on the ceilings for bedridden veterans. This invention was patented in 1919 immediately after World War I, and was certainly a boon to those veterans who were in the hospital recovering from war wounds.

Victor Darnell of Spring Valley has had several useful inventions, but perhaps one of the most welcome was the first mechanical hospital bed. He also worked with Charles Kettering on other medical devices.

For those who have lost their sight – braille has been a true benefit – however children who lost their sight were not able to color pictures. Siegfried Conrad and George Armstrong of Fairborn teamed up to make a “contour vraille.” This device embosses a series of braille dots in a pattern. A sheet of paper is inserted between the folded zin and pressure is applied to print the picture, enabling the child to color in the lines. The device was so well received, the inventors were asked to provide maps of cities using the same technique to aid adults who were trying to locate streets on a map.

In 1907, many homes and buildings were being constructed with concrete blocks. George S. Ormsby of Xenia received a patent for his invention which “comprises a mortar gauge for accurately spreading mortar on cement blocks in the construction of buildings, walls or other masonry.” It provided means which the workman in the construction of a wall to quickly and uniformly spread the mortar on the parts of a block, and to exclude the mortar from those parts where it should not be placed. That must have been a great time-saver.

Harrell V. Noble has been credited with the invention of what we know today as solid state circuity. He was an engineer who received several patents for various inventions, but the one where his “missed the boat” was the microwave.

He was experimenting with microwave cooking with a device which had no sides – only a top and bottom with “legs” to hold the two together. He used to laugh when he talked about experimenting with a hot dog, which he burned to a crisp with his device. He decided microwave cooking simply was not going to work and abandoned his experiments.

Greene County residents are certainly an innovate group of people and have made their marks on history.

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By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.