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Page last updated at 08:35 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 09:35 UK

Midweek quiz: Inventions

Midweek quiz: Strange inventions

This week the British Library opens an exhibition of weird and wonderful inventions. Some of them, like this clockwork teamaker, are testaments to mechanical ingenuity. Others, like an overnight nose-shaper, are not. Can you guess what they do?

Clockwork teasmade, 1902

1.) Multiple Choice Question

What was this eyewear meant for?

  1. Face-mounted potholing torches
  2. Under-the-bedclothes reading glasses
  3. Forehead heater

2.) Multiple Choice Question

The intended purpose of this implement?

Wooden invention
  1. Combined wine-stopper and meat tenderiser
  2. Late 18th Century police truncheon
  3. Pile-cream applicator

3.) Multiple Choice Question

What was this device used as?

  1. Wrist-mounted prayer scroll holder
  2. Hands-free shopping list carrier
  3. Route map and golf-score bracelet


The wearer loaded the device with a scroll before setting out and then followed the red line and wound the paper on as they drove. Intended for Sunday drivers, the reverse of each scroll also had space to note down the driver's golf scores. Click NEXT to continue.


4.) Multiple Choice Question

How were these used?

  1. Cooking tongs with handy carry strap
  2. Nostril pinchers to prevent water-blocked sinuses
  3. A skirt-lifter for clean hemlines

5.) Multiple Choice Question

And what was the idea behind these?

  1. Early shock-proof binoculars
  2. Whiskey flask
  3. Stereo hunting horn

6.) Multiple Choice Question

What was the purpose of this bell?

  1. Alarmed mouse trap
  2. Portable dinner bell
  3. Clockwork burglar alarm

7.) Multiple Choice Question

What was the purpose of this contraption?

  1. Navy sonar distance finder
  2. Eye massager
  3. One-handed binoculars

8.) Multiple Choice Question

What's this?

  1. A musical box to lull children to sleep
  2. A builder's chalk line
  3. A dynamo shaver

9.) Multiple Choice Question

And how about this?

  1. Hand-powered circular saw
  2. Rotating nail file
  3. Knife sharpener

10.) Multiple Choice Question

What problem was this meant to solve?

  1. A letter rack for tidy desks
  2. A five-slice bread toaster for family breakfasts
  3. A multi-line blackboard marker


  1. It's a pair of reading glasses. For night-time reading, these glasses with lights on were designed in America in the 1930s. A good idea - except for the fact that the wearer had to carry a battery around with them.
  2. It's a pile-cream applicator. The smooth end of this eye-watering device was filled with ointment and then inserted into the afflicted orifice. The screw turned until the cream oozed out to soothe the problem area.
  3. It's a route map. Dating from 1926, this wrist band was the sat nav of its era - each scroll traced the road route between two different destinations. Click NEXT to find out more.
  4. It's a skirt-lifter. Long before the mini-skirt, or even knee-length hemlines, Victorian women struggled to keep their long skirts out of the dirt and dust. The metal pads were fixed to the bottom of the skirt, the ribbon draped over the arm and the skirt was lifted by raising the arm.
  5. It's a flask. These were designed to allow a serious drinker to hide their habit. At first glance they appear to be racing binoculars, but in fact they are double-barrelled whiskey flasks.
  6. It's a burglar alarm. This wind-up alarm dates from the 1890s. The mechanism was wound up, a lever above the bell raised and the device put at the foot of a closed door. If anyone tried to come in, the upright would be pushed down and set off the bell.
  7. It's an eye massager. The inventors of this device claimed that it would help your eyesight if you pressed the two bulbs which blew air into your eyes and pummelled them with massaging cups.
  8. It's a shaver. The black knob on the side of this device is in fact a shaving blade. By pulling the string firmly, a dynamo inside sets the blades working. You then apply the shaver to your face and hope to shave an area before the blades slow down, trapping the bristles and snagging your skin.
  9. It's a knife sharpener. This Edwardian one was intended for large households that used a lot of cutlery at every meal.
  10. It's a blackboard marker. This simple tool, dating from about 1900, was used to draw five parallel lines on a blackboard. A piece of chalk was clipped into each fork and the wooden handle used to draw musical staves on a board.

Your Score

0 - 3 : Antediluvian

4 - 8 : Quietly inspired

9 - 10 : Eureka!

For a complete archive of past quizzes and our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, visit the Magazine page and scroll down. You can also do this quiz on your mobile device.

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