(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Debrilla M. Ratchford, an airline stewardess, received U.S. Patent #4, 094, 391
for her invention of a suitcase with wheels and transporting hook in 1978.
Ratchford must surely stand as the most underrated inventor of the late 20th Century.
Some JPGB readers must be old enough to remember the bad old days when going to the airport meant lugging around a heavy bag. I remember a trip I made to England in the early 1990s, and my suitcase was just killing me. I happened across a store in London that sold a primitive add on device merely to emulate a modern suitcase with wheels and a telescoping handle (with elastic bands to bind the case).
I happily shelled out whatever it took to buy that contraption. My life as a tourist instantly improved. Mind you, it was terrible compared to a modern bag, but it beat the living daylights out of suffering as a human pack animal.
Strangely enough, America had sent a man to the Moon before inventing a decent roller bag. I’m all for guys jumping around in low gravity and planting flags, but to me, the roller bag is much more important advance in human civilization.
I can scarcely imagine modern business travel without the carry-on roller bag. Hop on the plane, stow your bag, land and hit the ground running. For you strange people still checking bags, **ahem**, catch a clue. You’ll be suprised how much you can stuff into a carry-on with a suiter for hanging clothes.
Sometimes it is the little improvements that make a big difference in life. Companies guided by the invisible hand of the market popularized and improved upon the Ratchford design, and now I don’t have to sit around bored out of my mind waiting for luggage. Better yet, luggage can now be renamed “rollage.”
If someone can name a Nobel Peace Prize winner that has had a more beneficial impact on my life than Debrilla Ratchford, I’d love to hear who and how. I’m sure there are some wonderful people on that list but amidst all those grandees, they will have had to have done something very special for me to appreciate them more than Ratchford.
I’m talking about something on the order of inventing Tex-Mex or College Football to even get in the neighborhood.