Zac McDorrThis week we take a look at another great Maine inventor, named as one of America’s top inventors by the Smithsonian. Some estimate that Chester Greenwood had over 100 inventions to his name, though he only patented five. The most famous, of course, is the earmuff.

Greenwood was only 15 when he had the idea that would change Farmington, Maine forever. While ice-skating is one of Maine’s great winter activities, it is somewhat hard on the ears. Rather than wear a bulky hat on the head, Greenwood thought that covering the ears alone would solve the problem. He created a wire device that went around the head, and had his grandmother sew beaver fur pads for the ear covering.

A “muff” was a fur tube for keeping the hands warm in winter. Earmuffs, then, are muffs for the ears, though Greenwood called them ear protectors. He received a patent for them in 1877.

Greenwood was dedicated to the improvement of his hometown. He introduced the first telephone system in Farmington. His greatest contribution, however, was the earmuff business, which provided jobs for 60 years.

Production peaked in 1937 with 400,000 pairs. During WWI, Greenwood’s ear protectors helped soldiers with the cold and miserable conditions of trench warfare.

Besides earmuffs, Greenwood invented a metal rake, a folding bed, a wide-bottom teakettle, a wood-boring machine, and many other things. In his spare time, he ran a bicycle shop, a heating business, and a telephone company.

The State of Maine Legislature declared the first day of winter to be Chester Greenwood Day. On the first Saturday of December, Farmington celebrates the day with a festival where everyone is encouraged to wear earmuffs. There is a parade, carriage rides, and other festivities, including a polar-bear dip and a gingerbread house contest.