Necessity is the mother of invention, and 15-year-old Chester Greenwood was a boy in need. As an entrepreneurial farm kid in Farmington, Maine who walked outdoors on sales routes for his family’s eggs, Chester’s ears would sear in the winter cold. He was allergic to wool, and thus could not wear the head wrap mufflers that most other kids used at the time. One day in the winter of 1873, the cold was so painful that he couldn’t take it anymore. He had an idea, and ran home to his grandmother for sewing help: black velvet on the inside, beaver fur on the outside, and a simple bent wire to hold the stitched pieces on top of his ears. He called it the “Greenwood Champion Ear Protector,” and it was an instant hit with the other kids in his community. The popularity spread to people of all ages soon enough, and before he knew it, Chester was in business.
After some modifications, Greenwood received a patent for his invention in 1877 and opened up a factory. Business grew rapidly, and production work supported a large number of Farmington families for what became more than six decades.
Fast forward 130 years, and “earmuffs” are still a popular means for protecting ears in all shapes and styles. Chester Greenwood, who went on to be granted over 130 patents in his lifetime, is still celebrated in Farmington today with a parade held in his honor on the first day of every winter.