03 May 2015

Danish Inventions …



Date of Issue : 14 March 2015


Many of the everyday objects which surround us we take for granted. However, some of them were once ground-breaking inventions which made life easier for many people. Some inventions came about more or less by chance, while others resulted from years of painstaking endeavours and never-ending tests and trials. No matter what, many inventions have made our lives easier and dispensed with a whole host of old-fashioned manual processes. What would life be like without refrigerators, for instance? Not to mention vacuum cleaners, escalators and irons ?



Post Danmark  issued four stamps featuring four ground-breaking Danish inventions – two from the nineteenth century and two from the twentieth century. All four inventions are on display at the Danish Museum of Science and Technology in Elsinore north of Copenhagen.

THE MALLING-HANSEN WRITING BALL Rasmus Malling-Hansen, who invented the writing ball, was a deaf-mute teacher at the Royal Institute for the Deaf-mute in Copenhagen. Through his work, he realised that sign language was a much faster way of communicating than writing with pen and ink. In 1867, this realisation led to his invention of the writing ball; with its long strutting brass keys, the machine looked a bit like a hedgehog. The keys with the letters were arranged to achieve the fastest possible writing speed. The most frequently used letters are touched by the fastest fingers, with vowels on the left and consonants on the right. The writing ball was exhibited at the Nordic Exhibition in 1872 and was awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1878. At the Danish Museum of Science and Technology in Elsinore north of Copenhagen, no less than nine different versions of this fascinating invention are on display.

DRY CELL Wilhelm Hellesen was a butter merchant who was passionately interested in physics and chemistry. By pouring ordinary plain flour into the battery liquids, he created the world’s first dry cell. The viscous liquids meant that the batteries were now far easier to transport. In 1887, the inventor founded the Hellesens battery factory in Copenhagen. The company became an instant success, and following the design of the leaping tiger logo by the illustrator Palle Wennerwald in 1924, the battery made it onto even more of the global export markets. Hellesens was later taken over by Duracell, and the last Hellesen battery was produced in 2004.

LONG JOHN DELIVERY BIKE At a time when all Danish towns were awash with messenger boys on bikes, the bicycle manufacturer Morten Rasmussen Mortensen from Aalborg developed his own Long John delivery bike with a platform placed between the front and rear wheels for transporting goods. The Long John became extremely popular as a cheap form of transport which was ideal for transporting things around, be it dairy produce, crates of beer or groceries in general. The original two-wheeled Long John from 1929 has inspired the modern carrier bikes, which in recent decades have enjoyed a renaissance.

READY-MIX CONCRETE TRUCK Before Kristian Hindhede, a civil engineer, built his truck for delivering ready-mix concrete, mixing concrete was hard manual labour done at the construction site. The ready-mix concrete truck was thus part of the rationalisation measures which helped to automate and streamline the building trade. Also, the invention made it possible to build concrete structures on a much bigger scale. After two years, Kristian Hindhede patented his invention in 1929, both in Denmark and internationally. At roughly the same time, he founded KH Beton, Europe’s first supplier of ready-mix concrete. The red and white-striped Bedford readymix concrete truck depicted on the stamp was a common sight in the 1960s, and is on display at the Danish Museum of Science and Technology.

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