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Earmuffs have come a long way in 142 years.
Chester Greenwood was a 15-year-old bestowed with generous ears when he decided he had had enough of the biting cold while ice skating. That was in 1873. The first earmuffs were then born. They were fashioned from farm wire. They had fur sewn on them by his grandmother.
Greenwood made improvements with a steel band and adjustable hinges. He sold hundreds of thousands of "Champion Ear Protectors."
These days, similar versions are still sold. Others wrap around the back of the neck. That eliminates mussed hair. There are versions with fleece. Some have fur or down. Some even have built-in ear buds for music.
It is worth celebrating. So Greenwood's hometown of Farmington, Maine, is doing just that. It has don so for nearly 40 years. The town has a parade in which residents proudly wear earmuffs.
"It is unique. How many other little towns can celebrate earmuffs? Seriously," said Nancy Porter. She is the author of the self-published "Chester: More Than Earmuffs."
Greenwood is forever linked to his signature invention. But, he also created other things. By some accounts, he came up with more than 100 devices. But he got patents for only five. In addition to his ear protectors, he patented a rake. He also patented an advertising matchbox and a tea kettle. He also created a device designed to drill holes in the ends of wooden spools, Porter said.
"He was of the Yankee ingenuity breed," Porter said.
He also was a businessman. He ran a bicycle shop. He built a plumbing and heating business. And he also created a local telephone company. His earmuff factory closed a few years after his death in 1937.
The legacy of the dapper-dressed inventor faded over the years. It was brought back when the Maine Legislature declared Chester Greenwood Day on the first day of winter in 1977.
Fittingly, the first parade was held in a snowstorm. A snowplow led the parade to clear a path. Students from the University of Maine at Farmington participated on skis.
"It was snowing and people were on the street just the same. Both sides. The parade turned out pretty good," said 75-year-old Ronald Greenwood. He is Chester Greenwood's great-grandson.
These days, the event is held on the first Saturday in December.
All parade participants include earmuffs in their floats. Afterward, an earmuff flag is raised at the courthouse. There is also a polar dip on Clearwater Lake. And the town Christmas tree is lighted.
There was a pretend lockup in the past. Youngsters caught without earmuffs would be jailed. That is what Ronald Greenwood said. Planners are not going that far during this year's festivities.
Afterward, many folks will put their earmuffs into storage.
Ronald Greenwood is a locksmith. He is also a building contractor. He said earmuffs do not work so well for him.
And Porter said she had a fleece hat with ear flaps that she prefers. "I have an original pair of Chesters," Porter said. "I wear them on Chester Greenwood Day."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What necessity was the mother of this invention?
Write your answers in the comments section below