The Cardinal Book Prop

Yesterday, to my joy and amazement, I received a comment here from a grandson of my great-granduncle Charles Fischer. I have written a few pieces about Charles Fischer’s inventions; I had no idea who the readers would be. I was moved to hear from someone who remembered him and admired his work—a relative, no less. That was a great day in this blog’s life and my own.

Speaking of the inventions, the other day I received a Cardinal Book Prop with the original box! I found it on Ebay. I already have two book props made by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., but the box is extremely rare, and this third book prop is in glistening condition.

The pictures on the front of box illustrate just how handy this book prop is. But the description on the back is at least as enticing (and suggests that someone was having fun):

Read With Your Hands Free

The Cardinal Book Prop leaves both hands free while you read. It holds your book open, supports its weight and keeps your place. It can be used in any position anywhere. The flexible knee clamp enables you to recline in an easy chair with your book held in position, and your hands free to smoke, eat, write or rest.

For Reading in Bed

The Cardinal Book Prop relieves your hands of the tiring weight when reading in bed. Also enables you to keep your arms and shoulders covered. A necessity in times of illness.

For Sketching

The Cardinal Book Prop is ideal for both indoor and outdoor sketching. It holds the sheet firmly and may be adjusted to any angle. It is transformed to a perfect tracing outfit by merely placing a light in back of it.

On the Table

The Cardinal Book Prop will hold your book or newspaper on the table at any angle. It also holds your place leaving your hands free to work. It is indispensable for holding cook books and reference books.

Outdoors

The Cardinal Book Prop makes outdoor reading more comfortable. It holds your book open and prevents the pages from blowing over. A necessity for through comfort at country, seashore or on steamer deck.

Will Hold Any Size Book, Magazine or Sheet Music

The Cardinal Book Prop is fully adjustable and will hold any normal size book, in both vertical and horizontal position and by extending its auxiliary arms it holds large magazines and sheet music on the piano. It is adjustable to any height or angle, thus enabling you to sit perfectly erect while reading, sketching or playing.

Carry It With You

The Cardinal Book Prop is made of lightweight metal, has no sharp edges and is exceptionally compact. It folds into small space and is easily carried along.

Made in Colors

The Cardinal Book Prop is finished in a number of pleasing colors and will match your furniture and surroundings.

Your choice of BLACK – GREEN – MAHOGANY

Patented and M’f’d by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., Brooklyn, N.Y.

cardinal-book-prop-side-viewIndeed, the book prop can be used for all these things. It is adjustable (thanks to the springs and other parts) and has two different ways of holding the pages open (a holder at the base and the auxiliary arms). I have used it with books large and small, thick and thin. I haven’t yet used it on a steamer deck but hope to do so if the occasion arises.

What I really enjoy is the sense of practical possibility. If you have a versatile device, why not find ways to use it on land and sea, indoors and outdoors, with music, sketching, reading, and cooking? Then the people who purchase these props can start thinking of even more uses. For instance, it can be handy if you are learning your lines for a play (you can make hand gestures as you learn, since you aren’t holding the script), if you are solving a math problem from a book (you can prop the book right in front of your notebook, for easy glancing back and forth between the two), or if you wish to read something in an unfamiliar language (you can prop it up on your knee and then take the dictionary in your hands).

That’s what I enjoy about inventions, especially these. They don’t just solve a problem; they get you to think about your daily life and materials in new and different ways.

Update: Please see the wonderful comment from Robert Charles Fischer, Charles Fischer’s grandson.

At Home

domabookstandFor the next few blog posts, I’m going to do something a little different from the usual. I plan to walk through Chekhov’s story “Home” (“Дома“), pointing out some details and favorite parts as I go along. In this story, a father (a prosecutor by profession) learns from the governess that his seven-year-old son, Seryozha, has been smoking in his study. He now has to take up the matter with the little boy, but how? For the first post, I will discuss the story from the beginning to the boy’s entrance (“Good evening, papa!”). Subsequent posts will progress through the story. I will announce the passages in advance.

cardinal-book-propThroughout this reading, I will use a book prop patented and manufactured by my great-granduncle’s company, the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., once located on Kent Street in Brooklyn. They were best known for the AN-6530 goggles, which the U.S. Army and Navy flight crews used in World War II. But Charles Fischer (1876-1946) invented and patented a host of other things, including a timer (Pat. No. 2,417,641), a handle for pipe cleaners (Pat. No. 1,782,871), a boudoir lamp (Pat. No. 1,639,493), a rack for boots and shoes (Pat. No. 1,603,382), a take-up spring (Pat. No. 1,578,817), a telephone receiver (Pat. No. 1,526,666), a magnetic speedometer (Pat. No. 1,467,031), a display stand (Pat. No. 1,437,837), and a telephone stand (Pat. No. 1,371,747). (The links take you to the drawings.)

The book prop has some marvelous features; it rests on the leg and clasps onto the knee, so that you can do other things with your hands; it has an indentation for the book’s spine, and it clasps the pages from below or from the sides. The box says, “Patented and M’f’d by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., Brooklyn, N. Y.” It resembles his display stand in some ways.

Charles came to New York City around age 14, with his parents and seven siblings, from Györke, Hungary (now Ďurkov, Slovakia). My great-grandfather Max was one of his younger brothers. They were Jewish, and they spoke Hungarian at home. In 1900 they lived at 346 East 3rd Street, and Charles worked as a toolmaker. A few years later, they moved to Brooklyn; from there they dispersed to the various boroughs. In 1906 Charles founded his company (where some family members, including Max, would be employed for many years to come). In 1933 he was one of the charter members of the Spring Manufacturers Association.) In 1944 the Knights of Columbus named him among “public-spirited citizens who are always in the fore in striving to make our community a finer and a better place in which to live.” He died in 1946.

It seems fitting to use the book prop for Chekhov’s story. I hope you enjoy reading along.

Update: I took the two pictures at the top;  the picture of the box is courtesy of The Monkey’s Paw, “Toronto’s most idiosyncratic secondhand bookshop.” Also see Joe Simpson’s comment (below), as well as my later post “The Springs of Creativity.” Since then, I have acquired two more book props and a box.