This Anti-Burglar Machine From 1923 Was Impressed by Horrific Gasoline Warfare of World Battle I

Illustration depicting a new anti-robbery device in the April 1923 issue of Science and Invention magazine.

Illustration depicting a brand new anti-robbery machine within the April 1923 situation of Science and Invention journal.
Picture: Novak Archive

Think about you’re a financial institution teller with a gun pointed at your head. What do you do? When you’re sensible, you’ll simply give the robber all the cash he asks for. However when you’re an inventor from 1923 you’ve received a significantly better concept. You hit a button, inflicting an explosion that may be heard for miles and releasing a powerful gasoline within the financial institution that knocks the robber unconscious.

A minimum of that was the thought behind an illustration that appeared within the April 1923 situation of Science and Invention journal. The illustration was accompanied by an article titled “Gassing the Burglars” which defined the machine, and included references to the horrific trench warfare of World Battle I, a battle that was barely a couple of years within the rearview mirror.

The article in Science and Invention, credited to Eric A. Dime, acknowledged that this invention was the work of Joseph Menchen Jr., an American who suggested the British Battle Workplace in the course of the early years of the primary World Battle, earlier than the U.S. would lastly be part of the allies in 1917.

Menchen, who had developed a flamethrower for the British in 1915, had an concept that he referred to as the Pyrotechnic-Aspyhxiation-Burglar Alarm, or P.A.B. Alarm for brief, and Hugo Gernsback’s Science and Invention journal appeared very happy to market it.

As Dime defined within the journal:

Shocked, gassed, marked, deafened and probably pinched, are the surprises in retailer for the thief who tries to run the gauntlet of the newest burglar alarm. This sounds as if the enemy of society discovered himself in a form of “No Man’s Land” throughout wartime, whereas engaged in his precarious “commerce” of breaking into buildings in quest of loot. As a matter of truth he does sub­ject himself to a number of the situations of battle, if he tries to rob a home that’s professional­tected with a P. A. B. Alarm. In different phrases that is the Pyrotechnic-Asphyxiat­ing-Burglar Alarm, and it’s a peace time utility of a number of the weapons of warfare employed by the armies in con­flict in the course of the late European battle.

There’s an extended historical past of wartime innovations making their approach to productive peacetime use within the U.S., however the fashionable American creativeness of the twenty first century largely thinks of those advances from World War II.

It’s relatively jarring to see folks of the Nineteen Twenties speak about bringing dwelling something constructive from World Battle I, not to mention referring to the potential advantages of poison gasoline—particularly while you do not forget that an estimated 500,000 troops have been injured and roughly 30,000 died horrific deaths from chemical weapons in the course of the first World Battle.

Illustration for article titled This Anti-Burglar Device From 1923 Was Inspired by Horrific Gas Warfare of World War I

Picture: Novak Archive

Nonetheless, Menchen appeared to suppose it was a sensible use of those poisons to fill a financial institution with them in order that they may incapacitate a possible robber. Because the journal defined, a tool carrying a cartridge might be positioned by a door and activated in various methods to create a loud banging sound that is likely to be heard from as much as 5 miles away.

The loud bang of the cartridge was supposed to stun the robber’s ears however the thief was actually presupposed to be knocked out by the second characteristic of the machine: a steel cylinder that would launch gasoline.

From the journal:

Forming part of the alarm is a steel cylinder which comprises a powder producing an incapacitating gasoline, and this gasoline is generated on the moment that the cartridge is discharged. The gasoline instantly fills the room, wherein it stays like a heavy, yellow fog for about three hours.


The journal goes on to insist that such a gasoline wouldn’t trigger any “everlasting damage” but it surely does “produce tears and a choking sensation.” The precise kind of gasoline isn’t recognized, however the gases utilized in World Battle I ranged from the much less deadly tear gasoline to extra deadly chemical weapons like chlorine and mustard gasoline.

As you possibly can see from the illustration, one doable approach to deploy the unnamed gasoline could be to have the financial institution teller push a big plank down at his ft. What occurs if the teller by accident knocks the plank when he’s serving a buyer relatively than when he’s received a gun in his face? And the way do you retain the gasoline from being inhaled by the teller? These are simply two of seemingly a dozen causes I haven’t been capable of finding anybody who really put in this invention of their financial institution again within the Nineteen Twenties.

The article doesn’t specify the way it might hold the financial institution teller secure, however there’s a trace within the illustration that some sort of door would slide down to guard the financial institution teller from the poison gasoline. May you try this shortly with a gun pointed at your head? Once more, we wouldn’t wager our lives on it.

Illustration for article titled This Anti-Burglar Device From 1923 Was Inspired by Horrific Gas Warfare of World War I

Picture: Novak Archive

There have been various totally different anti-crime gadgets of the Nineteen Twenties that tried to make the most of battery and electrical know-how that was creating comparatively shortly after World Battle I. There was additionally the radio beacon of 1923 that was presupposed to alert the authorities while you thought somebody as much as no good—an concept that utilized the burgeoning applied sciences of radio that might come to outline the Nineteen Twenties. There was the shock-watch of 1927 that was presupposed to be one thing like a taser to your wrist, powered by a comparatively huge battery. And there was the very first breathalyzers, invented within the Nineteen Twenties.

Wherever there are people, there’s certain to be loads of crime. And a number of the applied sciences developed to struggle legal exercise is extra moral than others. The primary walk-through steel detectors weren’t even for conserving crime out of a delicate space. The steel detectors invented to guarantee that Nineteen Twenties workers in Germany weren’t carrying metal parts home.

Nobody likes getting their property stolen, however there’s at all times a steadiness when anti-crime applied sciences are developed to incapacitate a robber. On this case, you didn’t even have to search out a lot sympathy for the thief to comprehend a gasoline protection would most likely be a nasty concept for anybody.

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