Doesn’t that name just roll off the tongue?!
Though you may not know his name, I can almost guarantee you know his greatest invention – the Chemex coffee maker. The creation is part chemist’s funnel, part Erlenmeyer flask, with a blond leather band in the middle corseting its hourglass curves. It is an iconic symbol of German modernism and simple, functional Bauhaus style. Its success launched its inventor, Dr. Peter Schlumbohm (1896-1962), into the arms of the design establishment (the coffee maker has been a part of the MOMA’s design collection since 1944, just three years after Schlumbohm patented it), and in the early years of World War II, it was considered a patriotic alternative to products made from metals and plastics (which were essential to the war effort). A Time Magazine article from November 1946 quotes the ebullient inventor as saying, “with the Chemex, even a moron can make good coffee.” So true.
But Schlumbohm (don’t you just love that name?!) also had some pretty excellent though lesser known inventions. There was the disposable Instant Ice container for the man about town lugging a warm bottle of Champagne; the Tubadipdrip was a coffee and tea maker by day, and a cocktail mixer by night. In fact, by 1949 the doctor held patents on some 300 inventions, ranging from a propane-fuelled motor to a conical garbage can, about a dozen of which were developed into successful products, and an insane amount of which are part of the MOMA collection.
There was even a car – the Chemobile!
The Chemobile featured a wrap-around windshield. Schlumbohm described the passenger compartment, which was placed over the powertrain, as being “rather analogous to a man riding a horse or to a maharajah riding in a basket on top of an elephant.”
Kind of makes you feel a bit unproductive, huh?!