Lloyd demonstrating how he was inspired to create the
rubber ice cube tray (courtesy Lloyd Copeman.com)
Lloyd Groff Copeman was born to invent. When he was ten years old, he invented a clock-like instrument that turned his father’s grindstone automatically. This freed him from turning it by hand, giving him time to swim or fish.
Born in 1881, Lloyd grew up on a farm in Farmers Creek, Michigan (east of Flint). He went to a one-room school and attended Michigan Agricultural College (present-day Michigan State University). After meeting businessmen in Detroit and Flint who helped him develop his inventions, he soon became a well-known entrepreneur. One of Copeman’s most important inventions was the first heat-regulated electric stove, called a “fireless cooker.”
In 1912 the Copeman Electric Stove Company was formed in Flint. The company also produced the “toaster that turns toast.” Before this, electric toasters cooked bread on one side and then it was flipped by hand to toast the other side. Copeman’s toaster turned the bread around without having to touch it.
Lloyd’s biggest money-maker was the rubber ice cube tray. One day while collecting sap for maple syrup in the woods, he noticed that slush flaked off his rubber boots easily. He designed and patented a rubber tray. Sales from this invention earned Copeman half a million dollars. (That is about $10 million today.)
Not all of Copeman’s inventions were successful. Copeman wanted to make hunting more comfortable so he made a chair that attached to a hunter’s backside. When the hunter wanted to sit, he would bend and the seat automatically folded out. The catchphrase for this product was “Rig your rear with Copeman’s gear.”
Lloyd had nearly seven hundred patents in his name. He once told his grandson that he could walk into any store and find one of his inventions. Although he is not well known today, Lloyd Copeman developed many inventions and ideas that benefited many people.
For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History magazine. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/.