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"Machine to Keep Flies Off Dining Tables." Patent no. 1118, filed by H. Diprose, 1871


Patent no. 1118. Filing year 1871.

"Machine to Keep Flies Off Dining Tables," H. Diprose.

Flies are pests. The citizens of Confederation-era Canada clearly thought so, as there are a number of Canadian patents dedicated to the extermination of these insects, including Cuthbertson and Goold's "Machine for Catching and Destroying Flies" (no. 1994) and Arlington Ingalls Farnam's "Device for Catching Flies on Cattle" (no. 47067). H. Diprose's Pioneer Fly-Fan (above), on the other hand, had the more humane goal of keeping flies off dining tables and other surfaces.

The fan was an ungainly device, with four arms extending from a vertical shaft that rose from a base. The arms held wispy-looking fans and the base contained a gear and spring arrangement that, when wound "in the usual way, as clocks are wound," spun the arms and fans. "The � movement will keep off Flies from Dining Tables, Babies-Cradles, Sick Beds or wherever the machine might be applied for that purpose," wrote Diprose. His device probably achieved some success within the radius of its spinning arms -- at least until it had to be rewound.

To be fair, Diprose and his fellow fly-haters were in tune with the times, as public hygiene was undergoing a renaissance in the late 1800s. City officials sought to avoid further outbreaks of cholera and other illnesses, and links were being made between disease and sewage, animals, and insects. Whether that justified having Diprose's Pioneer Fly-Fan as your dinner-table centrepiece is another question.


Hardy, Jean-Pierre. "Personal Hygiene in Canada, 1660-1835." Oracle: A Journey Through Canadian History and Culture.
(accessed November 1, 2005).

Miller, Gary, and Robert Peterson. Insects, Disease and History.
(accessed November 5, 2005).