Patent Fashion – Personal Flotation Device, 1915

na_1718_2Perhaps not a fashion, but it is worn… Moved by the tragedy of the Titanic, Norwegian-born former sailor (who had been shipwrecked three times), John Edlund (1874 – 1957), invented a personal life saving device and patented the idea in 1915.

Edlund created his idea when he was living in Claresholm, Alberta – about as far from an ocean as you can get. The device doubled as a valise when not in use for lifesaving. Unfolded, the passenger could climb in and then walk into the water from the ship’s deck – seeing their way through a small glass looking-hole. Edlund was offered a fee for his design, but he turned it down to pursue his own marketing campaign. The idea was profiled in many publications in Canada and the U.S. and there was some interest in it during the Great War, but the idea eventually sank.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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2 Responses to Patent Fashion – Personal Flotation Device, 1915

  1. Barbara says:

    Amazing device, could have saved some lives, no doubt. Strange looking, very bulky, but ingenious!

    • Jonathan says:

      I believe there are similar survival suits being made today that use the same concept, although not doubling as a smart looking valise when not in use!

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