Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trains, flashlights and interior landscaping

What do plants, toy trains and flashlights have in common? Joshua L. Cowen, that's what.

Mr. Cowen was the original owner of the American Eveready Company, but his two passions were trains and inventing. One of his inventions was a method of decoratively lighting indoor plants. He used a metal tube, a light bulb and a dry cell battery that kept the light on for 30 days. Hmmm. Good idea.

But it never quite took off and he wanted to pursue other interests; so he gave the Eveready Company and the plant light idea to one of his salesmen, Conrad Hubert, who knew a bright idea when he saw one. With a little finessing, Hubert turned the lighted flowerpot into a flashlight (in 1898) and turned Eveready into a multi-million dollar success story.

This left Mr. Cowen time to invent the first toy train -- which was really not his intention at all -- and to recoup the millions he lost when he gave away his idea. What he meant to create was a little battery powered flatbed car to run along a track in a store window and display merchandise for sale. It seems that people wanted to buy the little car, not the merchandise, and a whole new industry (and hobby) was born.

Can you guess what the 'L' in Joshua L. Cowen's name stood for? Yup. Lionel.



Blogger lionel lines fan said...

This again proves that innovation is difficult if not impossible to manage. Furthermore, oh yes, how glad I am that this was the outcome of Mr. Cowen's creative process. More than a century later I still enjoy his creations everyday! We do not have many ancestors which gave us that much!
Thank you Mr. Cowen!

3:15 PM  

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