“This book is a fascinating, appetite-whetting glimpse for the, if you’ll pardon the expression, uninitiated. If only, when you opened it, it set off a .38 caliber blank and squirted water in your face.”
About twenty years ago, I came across a DeMoulin catalog at a farm auction in Ohio.
It was as if Buster Keaton and Harry Houdini took over Montgomery Ward and branched out into "weird." Each page was wonderfully illustrated and each was stranger than the one before. The contraptions listed were designed to perform some kind of devilish prank: a life-sized stuffed goat on wheels wired to shock the rider, a mechanical spitting skeleton, an exploding spanking machine.
Turns out, various editions of this prank supply catalog were printed from 1896 to 1930, mailed from their source in Illinois to fraternal lodges around the country. Their creators were America’s original hi-tech geeks of the new electric age. Too wonderful to remain buried by history, I’ve labored to get these Extraordinary Catalogs of Peculiar Inventions back in print (thanks to Perigee/Penguin) as an important piece of Americana.