Who Invented the Advent Calender?

For many children around the world, one of the biggest sources of excitement during the holiday season, is the Advent Calendar. Parents buy or make them every year for their children to count down the days until Christmas Eve. There are various options in size, material and content. But no matter what style the parents choose, the most important part is the opening of one door each day starting on December 1st.

But who invented it? It is a true German Christmas tradition. The origins of the Advent Calendar go back to the German Lutherans. The first style, which was used by religious families in the 19th century, was simply to draw a chalk line for every day in December until Christmas Eve. Other families would light a candle every day and put it on a wooden structure, known as the Advent Clock.

The first printed Advent Calendar was made by a Swabian parishioner, Gerhard Lang, in 1908. Lang first produced a board where 24 pictures could be afixed, and several years later added 24 doors. After producing 30 different designs, Lang’s company went out of business and had to close in the 1930s. After World War II this successful tradition was reintroduced in 1946. The first Advent Calendar filled with chocolate was available in 1958.

Today Advent Calendars consist of two pieces of cardboard glued together where 24 doors are cut out in the top layer showing a picture in each. One door is opened every day until Christmas Eve. The last door, number 24, usually is the largest door with either a surprise or a traditional picture of the birth of Jesus Christ.

December in Trademark History

On December 1, 1948, a very famous board game was copyright registered: Scrabble.

However, as we know the day an invention is registered is not necessarily the day it was invented. In 1938, architect Alfred Butts created a game which he originally called “criss-crosswords”. It was played on a 15×15 grid game board with a crossword layout. Butts manually tabulated the frequency of letters in words using examples from dictionaries and various newspapers like the New York Times.

In 1948, James Brunot bought the right to manufacture the game and paid a royalty fee to Butts. He left the rules of the game practically unchanged and called it “scrabble”. This new name comes from a real world which means “to scratch frantically”. The big breakthrough came in 1952, when the president of Macy’s placed a big order and put it in his stores. Today, the manufacturing rights of U.S. and Canada belong to Hasbro, whereas Mattel provides the rest of the world with this famous game.

For those of you that might not know the game, the main goal is to collect points. Commonly used letters like A and E have lower values than less used letters like Y or Z. And of course there are tournaments and world records in the Scrabble world. The 2011 Scrabble World Championship took place in October this year in Warsaw, Poland, and was won by Nigel Richards of Australia, becoming the first ever two time Scrabble World Champion.

For this and many other reasons December has always been a great month in trademark history.

The Inventors Hall of Fame

Have you ever visited the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA? If you are an inventor or just interested in inventions and novelties, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum might be worth a trip. It is situated in the atrium of the Madison Building, where the USPTO’s headoffice is located.

The Inventors Hall of Fame shows five elements, which are the Hall of Fame, Museum, a Portrait Gallery, a Theatre and a Museum Store.
In the Hall of Fame over 400 displays show famous American Inventors and their inventions. Interactive kiosks also help the visitor to understand the idea, how it was developed and how it changed the lives of each inventor.
In addition, rotating exhibitions are included in the Museum, featuring different themes. ‚Exercising Ingenuity: Inventions in Health and Fitness‘ is the name of the current exhibition. It highlights the historic advances, current trends and future technologies relating to a healthier body and mind.

The Portrait Gallery features digital electronic portraits of United States Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; famous inventor Thomas Edison; National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Helen Free, developer of self-testing for diabetics, and Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the personal computer and co-founder of Apple Computer; and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

The Museum Store offers a large selection of unique merchandise including apparel, books, invention kits, glassware, jewelry, and desk accessories. Many items feature the official USPTO seal.

An Invention to Help a Friend

While we earlier looked at the worst inventions that can be a threat to health and life, there were also some great ideas this year.

When looking at the science sector, we see some great things coming out of people’s garages and workshops. „Popular Science“ magazine’s yearly Invention Award honors inventions which treat the sick, save the world or simply are fun to play with. Every year 10 truly dedicated inventors receive this special award to show the brilliance and the inspiration behind it.

Among these true geniuses is Mark Stark, who developed the Stark Hand. The concept of an artificial hand might not be entirely new, but this one is better and stronger in quality and still cheaper that everything else on the market. Mark Stark developed this hand to help his friend Dave Vogt, who was born without a left hand. In 2004, Stark constructed it from hardware-store supplies and gave it to Vogt to try out. Within an hour, Vogt caught a ball with his left hand for the first time in his life. Since then, they have been working together to improve it and to construct four more prototypes.

Another improvement had to be made when Dave swung around on the dancefloor. He hit the hand against a wall and a prosthetic knuckle broke, which led Stark to strengthen the joints. Mark Stark invested 7 years and $18,000 to develop the Stark Hand and is in negotiations for a licensing agreement with a major prosthetics manufacturer.

We are keeping our fingers crossed, prosthetic or otherwise.