Legends – Mother of Inventions

DeKalb County has always been in the forefront of patented innovations.

The most famous patents from DeKalb County were the barbed wire patents. Joseph Glidden, Jacob Haish, and businessman Isaac Ellwood are the “big three” that competed to produce the best barbed wire in the business. However, it was actually Henry Rose of Waterman who patented a wire fence in 1873; it was the “big three” who perfected Henry’s idea.

But these were not the only ideas that came from DeKalb County. Here are some of the lesser-known inventions.

The reclining rocking chair was patented by Isaac W. Johnson of Sycamore in 1887. Manufactured in Sycamore, the chair was readily converted from a reclining chair to a rocking chair and vice versa.

In 1908, U.S. Patent No. 888,229 was granted to Andrew Elmberg of Sycamore for a vegetable and fruit picker. It was advertised as the “Easy Picker, the handiest tool ever invented for picking cucumbers, vegetables, and fruit.” The “pickle picker upper” was so easy, even a child could use it, and it only cost $2.

This advertisement for the Easy Picker claimed it’s “So easy, even a child could use it.” The Easy Picker, a tool for picking vegetables and fruits, was developed by Andrew Elmberg of Sycamore in 1908.


Genoa inventors patented a better telephone transmitter in 1910. Oscar Leich and Niels Pedersen were awarded U. S. Patent No. 970,066. Leich Electric became a major industry in the Genoa area.

Archie W. Farrell of Hinckley designed and developed a new carburetor in 1914. This carburetor utilized kerosene and other heavier oils instead of gasoline. This new invention would decrease the cost of operations about one-third and increase the motive power from 15 to 20 percent over the gasoline carburetors. The carburetors were made at the Hinckley Machine Works.

William Eckhardt of DeKalb, the first Farm Adviser in the nation, invented a new means for handling ear-corn, a corn dryer, whose basic principles still apply today. In 1920 U. S. Patent No. 1,334,235 was issued for this purpose. Eckhardt was owner of the Eckhardt Seed Company, which was located on Clifford Street in DeKalb.

William Eckhardt, the county’s first farm advisor, designed a corn dryer, U. S. Patent 1,334,325, in 1920. His corn dryer principles still apply today. He also started the Eckhardt Seed Company in DeKalb.


Perhaps the strangest patent was applied for in 1880 by William Beavers of Sycamore, who patented an apparatus for the preservation of dead bodies to enable a corpse in the heat of mid-summer to be preserved. His invention kept a constant flow of icy air over the body.

This is just a sampling of the patents that have come from DeKalb County. It’s interesting to see what the issues were of the day and how our forward-thinking pioneers resolved those problems.

Information provided by the Joiner History Room, DeKalb County Archives