Friday, March 30, 2007


I have seen in the last year, clothing, bags, and purses that have little slots built in or MP3 players. Most of them are clearly designed for the Ipod crowd. But it's no new idea to combine functional clothing and mediaplayers. The idea is more than 5 decades old. But it began, for some reason with hats...
In 1949 the American Merri-Lei Corporation of Brooklyn, NY debuted a radio receiver embedded in a womens hat. Thsi was a fairly heavy decive. It was a 2-tube single-loop battery device with a 1S5 tube and a 3V4 tube connected as an "Ultraaudion". The loop antenna is mounted in such a way that it can be rotated for best reception. Just try to sit still. Thetuning knob is mounted between the two tubes. The ear phones are built-in. The powersource are two batteries, a1.5 and a 22.5 volt batterie that are to be carried in the coat pocket and connected with the "Radio-Hat" by a short lead. It's semi-portable by todays standards, the hat weighed 12 oz and the power supply 7-oz.
It was advertised in Popular Science among other periodicals of the day. It was an invention of Victor T. Hoeflich. It only cost $7.95 each. More here, and here. The tradition lives on here, among other places.
As absurd as the device seems it caused enough of a stir that Zenith saw fit to produce their own version to compete in 1952. Their take on the device housed parts of the device in a walking cane to distribute the weight. That’s here with a short documentary.

By the 1960s there were far lighter versions built into visors, some were even solar powered. I think Solar Vision still makes this one. Now of course it costs $26.50 plus $6.50 for shipping. Oh, the pains of inflation.