George Kromer, the railroad fireman who created the distinctive railroad cap design, and his wife, Ida, used their success with engineer caps to expand into other garments. At the time, washing machines didn’t have the ability to “spin dry,” and as electricity wasn’t available across the U.S., many washing machines, if one could afford them, used a hit-n-miss gasoline engine for power. These early electric or gasoline-powered machines washed the clothes, but to remove the water they had to be “wrung dry.” As this didn’t remove all the water, machines had a set of powered rolling pin-type wooden cylinders that clothes could be pushed through to further remove the water. These “wringer-manglers” were constantly breaking buttons. George Kromer patented (Patent 1,695,592) an alternative to the button: Kromer’s “Garmet Fastener” had a tab that slipped through a square buttonhole-type opening to secure two flaps of clothing to be held together. As the fastener was all made of soft materials, wringer type washers didn’t ruin the Kromer Fastener as it did the buttons of the day.
Kromer, in later years and still living in Wisconsin, became annoyed at his automobile sliding about during the winter months on Wisconsin’s snowy road surfaces. He invented an “Anti-Skid Attachment” for the automobile. How did it work?
Kromer recognized that using either just the foot brake or a combination of foot brake and hand brake would often send a vehicle sliding along the icy road surface in any direction without the ability to steer or stop the vehicle.
Kromer’s patented (Patent 2,608,274) invention attached a pivotable U-shaped steel frame to a car’s rear axle. At the end of the U-arms were mounted either steel cylinders or flat plates, both of which had spikes, studs, grooves, or similar ice-gripping means. In the case of the cylinders, a ring gear was attached to the brake drum so that it engaged a gear on the spiked steel cylinder such that the cylinder rotated in reverse of the wheel’s rotation. The hand-brake lever was reconfigured to activate the U-frame to lower it to the road surface instead of applying the parking brake.
When a snow- or ice-packed slippery road was encountered, the mechanism could be activated from the parking brake handle. Coming to a stop, the driver would use the parking brake handle to lower the mechanism into contact with the icy road surface. If the spiked shoe was used, the gripping of the spikes on the shoe would bring the vehicle to a stop and hold it stopped along with light application of the foot brake. For units installed with the steel cylinder, when engaged with the hand brake, the steel cylinder would rotate in reverse of the wheel as it contacted the road surface to “dig in” to help stop the vehicle.