No Ordinary Hat Rack

hat rack

Moving to another country is not simple, externally or internally. I have been excited and full of thoughts, but sometimes a wave of sadness hits me. That’s to be expected; any big life change, even a joyous one, probably comes with some sadness. I was paddling atop one of those waves when the doorbell rang; upon opening the door, I found a big box waiting. I knew what it was, but when I cut through the tape, pulled back the cardboard, and saw the gleaming green hat rack, my sadness skedaddled, landing me on dry ground. I spent a few minutes turning the rack in the light.

Over the past year I have written a few pieces about my great-granduncle Charles Fischer (the oldest brother of my great-grandfather), his company (the Chas. Fischer Spring Co.), and his inventions. Three people wrote to me in response:

1. Robert Charles Fischer, Charles Fischer’s grandson, with whom I have now met several times in person, to my joy;

2. A person inquiring about the drum magazine (manufactured by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co.) for the Thompson Submachine Gun, which was used in World War II;

3. A person in Ontario (a couple, rather) who owned a hat rack manufactured by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co. and wanted to know whether I would like to have it. Of course I said yes; I was thrilled. Here it is! I’m bringing it with me to Hungary.

Look at this lovely thing. Each hat rests atop a spring, to which a cord is attached. You can mount the rack high up in the closet or hallway and then just pull the cord of the hat you want. The stamp (which is faint) says PATENT APPL’D FOR / THE CHAS FISHER SPRING CO / BRROKLYN, NY. I couldn’t find the patent for this particular rack, but there’s a 1926 patent for an altogether different one. I don’t know which one came first.

It’s easy to take hat racks for granted–I’ve never even had one before–but they help you not only save space  but preserve the hats themselves. Putting them on a stand is much better than heaping them together on a shelf. The hat rack brings to mind a time when clothes were durable and people took good care of them. (That practice hasn’t entirely vanished, but it takes more determination.) Taking care of your clothes allowed you to survive on little money; you didn’t often have to buy new things.

Charles Fischer came to the U.S. from Hungary in 1890, at age 14, with his parents and seven siblings. From what I gather, they had lived in both Budapest and Györke (now Ďurkov, Slovakia). In the U.S., they started out at 346 East 3rd Street in Manhattan; then they moved elsewhere (Brooklyn, other parts of Manhattan, and Queens). Charles began working as a toolmaker before specializing in springs and founding his own company. It seems that he never went to school here; he began working right away. Yet the patent specifications are written in clear and elegant prose; the logic is clearly his, and the words probably are too. Someone may have edited his spelling and grammar, but the descriptions and explanations must have been his own.

I will write more about his inventions in future posts and essays; for now, I am delighting in the rack–not only the rack, but the thoughtfulness of the people who sent it to me. I can’t wait to mount it in Szolnok and put my hats on it. I will take good care of them all.

 

I added a detail to this piece after posting it.

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6 Comments

  1. Yes. The great gift was their thoughtfulness in sending it you. Wonderful, that.

    Love the women’s hats from the 1920s. Though not too crazy about what those did to exotic bird populations worldwide. Florida, where I live, came close to losing its roseate spoonbills.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Bob, for stopping by and commenting! I found this interesting article on the subject of hats and birds: http://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/07/15/422860307/hats-off-to-women-who-saved-the-birds

      Reply
      • Awesome. BTW, LOVED the Take away the take away TED talk. Always great when a teacher is actually thinking about the work rather than following some ed school script.

      • I am glad to hear that! Yes, my most memorable and influential teachers (from elementary school onward) were the ones who thought about the subject matter. They showed what it meant to go farther and farther into the problem or work.

      • yes yes yes yes yes! breathtaking to me how often kids walk away from these canned spam ed school recipe lessons having no new world (what?) or procedural (how) knowledge and no questions. But, hey, they’ve practiced their “inferencing skills,” as if that were some one thing. The greatest teachers are models of what it is to be an intrinsically motivated learner. I would count you among those.

      • Thanks for the link. Very much enjoyed that article.

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