Today’s anecdote is an advertisement from the December 14th, 1901 issue for the Automatic Alarm Company of Chicago, Illinois.

For only $1.00, buyers would supposedly be able to protect themselves and their valuables from masked burglars like the one pictured above. The ad boasts, “No need for a Revolver when you have an EVER-READY BURGLAR ALARM.”

The device can be seen in front of the door and on the left side of the window frame. The ad states that the alarm itself uses no electricity and weighs only 8 ounces but fails to give an explanation of how the alarm actually works….any ideas?


About the Author: Mary Karmelek is a production assistant for Nature Publishing Group and is currently working on Scientific American's Digital Archive Project, where she spends countless hours scouring articles and ads of decades long ago. She graduated with her MA in English from Fordham University in 2010 and currently resides in New York City. While her educational background is in gender and war trauma in modernist literature, Mary also has a keen interest in the historical and visual documentation of science, nature, and medicine.