Design for a Machine, French, eighteenth century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1962.


Volume XIV, Number 1 | winter 2021


Ellen Eglin, a housekeeper working in Washington, DC, devised a clothes wringer in 1888 to make washing and drying more efficient. Instead of patenting her invention, she sold the rights to an agent for eighteen dollars, bringing the new owner “great financial success,” according to an 1890 article. “If it was known that a Negro woman patented the invention, white ladies would not buy the wringer,” she told the reporter.

Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of these two has the grander view?

—Victor Hugo, 1862