About the Holiday
On March 13, 1877 Chester Greenwood—a 19-year-old inventor—received a patent for “improvements in ear-mufflers” and forever sealed his place in history—as well as making winter more comfortable for millions of freezing ears! Today we honor Chester and his invention that brought attention to Farmington, Maine and jobs for many people in the area. So if you live in an area where the cold winds are still blowing, wear your earmuffs in pride!
Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs
By Meghan McCarthy
In the mid-1800s inventors were trying to solve the problem of winter’s chill effects on tender ears. William Ware designed an “ear, cheek, and chin muff” that one wore somewhat like a false beard. Ear protecting hats, ear “slippers,” high collars, and other designs followed. But it wasn’t until Chester Greenwood and his sensitive protruding ears came along that earmuffs became practical. While the exact steps Chester took in creating his earmuffs aren’t known, he eventually perfected his invention and received a government patent on March 13, 1877—when he was only 19 years old!
Chester was no one-invention wonder, though. Always on the lookout for clever ways to make money, he went on to improve other products. He applied his foresight to the tea kettle, rounding the edges of the bottom to reduce wear; constructed an interchangeable-tooth rake; and built a collapsible, if cumbersome, tent.
His inventions brought him a comfortable life—a beautiful house for his family in Maine, the first steam car in his town, and a bicycle shop on the bottom floor of his workshop—that he shared with others. His wife, also a progressive thinker, worked for women’s suffrage, and inspired her husband to hire women in his workshops.
After Chester passed away, some people, most notably Mickey Maguire, thought he deserved more acclaim—even a day dedicated as Chester Greenwood Day. Maguire was so excited about this that he became a kind of inventor himself—an inventor of tall tales. Over time he told some whoppers and they were printed, making it hard to separate fact from myth. But even without the made-up stories, it’s easy to say that Chester Greenwood had a very remarkable life
Earmuffs for Everyone goes beyond the story of Chester Greenwood to include other inventors, a discussion of the patent system (using products well-known to today’s kids), and how an inventor’s legacy grows. Meghan McCarthy writes with verve and humor, making the story of Greenwood’s invention as well as others’ creations inviting, accessible, and fun. Her illustrations of the first attempts at earmuffs and other1800s products are sure to delight kids and make them curious about the time period.
In her author’s note at the back of the book, McCarthy expands on the story of Chester Greenwood and the process of applying for and earning a patent.
Ages 4 – 8
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481406376
National Earmuff Day Activity
Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze
One muff on each side of the head—Genius! But it took inventors a lot of trial and error to make the perfect warming headgear. Use your own creative thinking on this Here’s to Warm Ears!earmuff-shaped maze. Solution included.