A lot of the traps my friend Jay and I design use little mousetrap-like devices that go bang when opened, usually sold under names like “exploding toilet seats,” or as the main mechanism in exploding pens. It consists of a hinge that is closed over a spring-loaded hammer. When the hinge is allowed to open, the hammer is released and strikes a percussion cap, causing a loud bang. Not too long ago I discovered the history of this wonderful invention, which was originally called the Bingo Shooting Device and was invented exactly 100 years ago this year.
The inventor of the device was one Sam S. Adams, who in 1907 was trying to follow up on his previous year’s successful invention of sneezing powder (a coal-tar product sold under the name “Cachoo”). Copy-cats were underselling his sneezing powder, and so he moved on with the Bingo Shooting Device, and installed the device in decks of cards, cigar boxes and “books with saucy titles” (to quote a 1941 article about Adams’ success).
Adams went on to invent some of the best-known gags of the last century, including the Snake Jam Jar (a jam-jar in which a spring-loaded snake jumps out), Racket Wireless Message (an envelope that rattles when opened, now sold as “Rattlesnake Eggs”), the Dribble Glass, a telescope that gives the user a black eye, soap that stains your hands, and of course the world-famous Joy Buzzer — basically every well-known joke but the Whoopie Cushion. His company, now called S.S. Adams Company, still exists and sells novelty items to this day.