Beulah Louise Henry

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Beulah Louise Henry (February 11, 1887 – February 1973[1]) was an American inventor. In the 1930s, she was given the nickname "Lady Edison" for her many inventions.[2][3][4]

Her inventions include a bobbin-free sewing machine and a vacuum ice cream freezer. Though she was awarded around 49 patents over her lifetime, she had around 110 inventions total.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born in North Carolina,[5] the daughter of Walter R. and Beulah Henry. She was the granddaughter of former North Carolina Governor W. W. Holden and a direct descendant of Patrick Henry. From 1909 to 1912 she attended North Carolina Presbyterian College and Elizabeth College in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she submitted her first patents.[3]

Career as inventor - New York City[edit]

She moved to New York City by 1924, where she founded two companies. She worked as an inventor for the Nicholas Machine Works from 1939 to 1955. She also served as a consultant for many companies that manufactured her inventions, including the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and the International Doll Company. She lived in New York hotels, belonged to a variety of scientific societies, and never married.[3]


A partial list of Henry's inventions includes:[6]

  • vacuum ice cream freezer (1912) US 1037762 
  • umbrella with a variety different colored snap-on cloth covers (1924)
  • the first bobbinless sewing machine (1940)
  • "Protograph" - worked with a manual typewriter to make four copies of a document (1932)
  • "Continuously-attached Envelopes" for mass mailings (1952)
  • "Dolly Dips" soap-filled sponges for children (1929)
  • "Miss Illusion" doll with eyes that could change color and close (1935)
  • Hair Curler (1925)
  • Parasol Bag (1925)
  • Umbrella Runner Shield Attachment (1926)
  • Water-Sport Apparatus (1927)
  • Poodle-Dog Doll (1927)
  • Ball Covering (1927)
  • Foot Covering (1927)
  • Sealing Device for Inflatable Bodies (1929)
  • Valve For Inflatable Articles (1929)
  • Henry Closure Construction (1930)
  • Henry Valve for Inflatable Articles (1931)
  • Duplicating Device for Typewriting Machines (1932)
  • Duplicating Attachment for Typewriters (1932)
  • Writing Machine (1936)
  • Multicopy Attachment for Typewriters (1937)
  • Movable Eye Structure for figure Toys (1935)
  • Double Chain Stitch Sewing Machine (1936)
  • Feeding and Aligning Device (1940)
  • Seam and Method of Forming Seams (1941)
  • Sewing Apparatus (1941)
  • Typewriting Machine (1941)
  • Device for Producing Articulate Sounds (1941)
  • Duplex Sound Producer (1944)
  • Continuously Attached Envelopes (1952)
  • Can Opener (1956)
  • Direct and Return Mailing Envelope (1962)


Henry was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.[7]


  1. ^ "IEEE History Center Biography of Beula Louise Henry". Archived from the original on 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2006-08-07.
  2. ^ a b MIT Inventor of the Week page about Henry
  3. ^ a b c Autumn Stanley. (1993). Mothers and daughters of invention: notes for a revised history of technology. Scarecrow Press, Rutgers. p. 424. Google Books preview.
  4. ^ "Women Gaining In Patent Rolls." (Aug 11, 1940). New York Times pg. 39. "Women can also boast of a Lady Edison. She is Miss Buela Louise Henry of New York City."
  5. ^ Entry for Walter R. Henry, 1910 U.S. Census, Charlotte, North Carolina
  6. ^ "Beulah Henry at". Retrieved 2006-08-07.
  7. ^ Biography from the National Inventors Hall of Fame

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • A profile of Henry and her inventions is given in Stanley's Mothers and Daughters of Invention (1993, Scarecrow Press; 1995, Rutgers University Press), pp. 351–2,366-7,417, 420-26.