National Treasure #68: Paint Rollers

I don’t think I ever had to paint a room without a paint roller, so I’m sure I don’t appreciate them properly. Sort of like the folks before sliced bread was an option. But I’ve painted quite a few rooms with the aid of a paint roller, and if this is the easy way, I wouldn’t want to do it the hard way.

Photo/graphic of paint roller paraphernalia

The Canadian who invented it – Norman Breakey – is so not famous that even Library and Archives Canada doesn’t know when he was born and when he died. Between those unknown dates, and for whatever reason – production issues? small market size? – Norm was never able to capitalize on his invention and get the big bucks he deserved. I figure the least we can do for him – and the most, as it turns out – is to properly appreciate his invention.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #68: Paint Rollers

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Speaking of not getting credit for something, a friend of mine (now deceased) worked as maintenance manager for a large refuse collection company. During his time with the company there were a fair number of accidents due to their trucks backing into something. Harry thought about it, and developed a back-up beeper, thereby saving the company a basketful of dollars. This would be somewhere around 1970.

    I just did an Internet search for inventors of the back-up beeper. I see there is one by a Japanese developer in 1963; it wasn’t popular because the noise from it was so piercing. There’s another from Boise, Idaho in 1967. No mention of anyone from Canada.

    Now, it’s entirely possible that various people were contemplating this idea around the same time. Be that as it may, my friend Harry sold the patent for it to his employer for $800. Given the money the company saved, that $800 was a mere pittance!


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Yes, I guess it’s possible – even likely – that the back-up alarm was developed in more than one place, roughly at the same time, but it is a shame when people don’t even get recognition for their bright ideas. What’s the saying? There’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.

  2. JimTaylor says:

    I had no idea the paint roller was a Canadian invention. I wonder if it is now in use worldwide? Is there any place on earth that doesn’t use rollers? Or is there, in some places a nationalistic antagonism to using this foreign import? (Obviously, I thinking of the superiority of the Robertson head screw over the Phillips, but US products still use Phillips head screws.)
    Jim T

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