It is no secret that Northerners are a resourcful bunch. You probably have a duct-tape-and-wire contraption of your own in your garage perfectly suited to solve a particularly unique Up North challenge. Here are some clever ideas that apparently had mass appeal that sprang from the brains of your Northern brethren:
Propeller anemometer:Crazy, tornado-chasing armored vehicles. Everybody wants one, and everybody wants that little spinning cup anemometer on top of theirs. The model of choice is from RM Young Company, Traverse City. See it in the movies (Twister), on TV (Storm Chasers) and state-of-the-art weather stations all over the planet.
Numerical control manufacturing: Nothing sexy in the invention’s name, but John Parsons’s idea transformed how the world (as in the whole world!) works. Back in 1947, Parsons developed with Frank Stulen numerically controlled manufacturing, that is, a way to precisely control machines using computers. The Traverse Cityian’s nickname: Father of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Road center line: Who doesn’t appreciate the center line? A yooper named K. I. Sawyer, Marquette County road supervisor, figured if people stayed on their own side of the road, fewer drivers would be killed. First strip: Deadman’s Curve, on County Road 492 between Marquette and Negaunee.
Concrete block machine: Jesse Besser, of Alpena, didn’t invent concrete blocks (they’ve been around since the Romans), but in 1904 he did invent the machine that produced them in mind-numbing quantities. They’ve proliferated beyond imagination, and their drab uniformity has become synonymous with, uh, drab uniformity. And strong buildings. Thanks(?) Jesse.
The other iron lung machine: In a post-apocalyptic world, you want to hang with Yoopers. During the polio epidemic of mid-20th century, a U.P. hospital staffer made an iron lung out of two oil barrels and a vacuum cleaner motor. A couple dozen were produced and saved many children.
Maple laminated butcher block: In the beginning, butchers chopped raw meat atop tree stumps. When the stumps dried, the rings separated and blood got in. Unhealthy. After the enterprising founders of Petoskey’s Michigan Maple Block invented maple end-grain laminate chopping blocks (know it by the interlocking pieces) about 1900, food prep took a major turn for the healthier.
Motorized lifesaving boat: When your boat capsizes and you’re thrashing about in the H2O, take heart knowing that dude has a motor on the rescue craft. Thank Carl Blomstrom, chief engineer at Lakeshore Engine Works, and Captain Charles Cleary, of the Marquette United States Life Saving Service for first swapping oar for propeller, late 1890’s.