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Inventors and Inventions
Joshua Lionel Cowen: Inventor of Lionel Trains



Joshua Lionel Cowen: Inventor of Lionel Trains
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.69

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    flowerpot, harbinger, ignite, pre-assembled, transformer, trademark, fuses, merchandise, civilization, successful, version, battery, fuse, born, interesting, battery-operated
     content words:    Joshua Lionel Cowen, Thomas Edison, United States, Lionel Manufacturing Company, Conrad Hubert, Joshua Cowen, Lionel Cowen, Lionel Trains, General Mills, Richard Kughn


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Joshua Lionel Cowen: Inventor of Lionel Trains
By Joyce Furstenau
  

1     Joshua Lionel Cowen was born in 1877. Just two years later, Thomas Edison invented his first light bulb. Eight years before, the first railroad had joined the eastern United States to the West. Cowen grew up at a time when trains were the fastest and the most exciting way to travel. People were just learning what they could do with electricity.
 
2     Joshua was a curious child. He liked playing with mechanical toys, hiking, and playing ball. He tinkered with electricity, too. When he was seven, he built a wooden train. He made a tiny steam engine to run it. The engine blew up, and it ruined his parents' kitchen.
 
3     Joshua was a good student, but he really didn't enjoy school. He tried going to college after high school. He was unhappy there. He decided he would rather work than go to school. His first job was with a dry cell battery company. After that, he worked for a company that made battery-operated lamps. He spent his spare time experimenting with batteries and electricity.
 
4     Joshua came up with several interesting projects because of his experiments. In 1899, Cowen got his first patent. He created a device used to ignite the powder that photographers of his day used to take flash pictures. This invention prompted him to invent a fuse for underwater explosives. He sold more than 24,000 of his fuses to the U.S. Navy. The money he made selling fuses was used to start his own manufacturing company. The Lionel Manufacturing Company was opened in 1900.
 
5     Cohen's first creation at his new company was an electric fan. It seemed promising, but people lost interest when the weather cooled. Next, he designed some little metal tubes to light up flowers in their pots. It was a very early model of what we now call the flashlight. He lost interest in making flowerpot lights. He didn't think many people would use them. He passed this invention along to one of his salesmen named Conrad Hubert. Hubert used the invention to start the Eveready flashlight company.

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