Earmuffs for everyone

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 28, 2007

The story goes that 15-year-old Chester Greenwood was ice-skating when his ears got unbearably cold. One account has his ears turning “from red to blue to white” in the frigid temperatures of his hometown of Farmington, another version says that in fact, his ears would go from blue to red to white. In any event, the dude had some cold ears.

Wrapping a bulky scarf ’round his head didn’t do the trick, so he asked his grandma to sew some fur onto wire coils that covered his ears — and thus, in 1873, earmuffs were born; Greenwood subsequently applied for and received a US patent for his cozy invention.

The Greenwood Champion Ear Protector — as the muff was originally called — became a hot commodity, first in Farmington and then throughout a wider community. Eventually, Greenwood had a booming factory that produced more than 400,000 earmuffs a day, according to a Maine.gov Web page on famous people from Maine. He is one of the Smithsonian Institution’s 15 outstanding American inventors.

Each year, Farmington honors its inventive son (who also came up with the wide-bottom tea kettle, the steel-tooth rake, and a version of the mechanical mousetrap) with a parade, award ceremony, and other festivities. This year’s celebration will take place on December 1 (a full 20 days before the officially sanctioned Maine holiday of Chester Greenwood Day, which falls on December 21). There is no entry fee or registration required for those who want to join the parade either dressed in or dressed as earmuffs. For the first time ever, there will be a Gingerbread House contest in addition to the annual Chili Contest. At 3 pm the brave souls who comprise the Polar Bear Club will take a dip in Farmington’s Clearwater Lake.

Certainly, after that freezing adventure, they’ll want to warm up with some ear protectors — and what better place to find some than in Farmington, the Earmuff Capital of the World.

Chester Greenwood Day begins at 9 am on December 1; visitwww.franklincountymaine.org/calendar for more details.

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  Topics: This Just In , Smithsonian Institution
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