The idea came to him, Sylvanus Bowser would later relate, on a cold day in 1885 when he was trying to lift water from his well in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the vapor coming up the wellhead froze to the rope. Several months later, on Sept. 5 Bowser would sell his first hand-powered fuel pump — one that dispensed kerosene for lanterns. In that era, hardware stores sold fuel much they way they sold bolts, pouring or ladling by hand from barrels into containers that led to spills. Within two years, Bowser would patent his idea, and the advent of gasoline-powered machinery soon after made Bowser's invention essential. To this day, gas pumps in Australia are called "bowsers."
Photo: Bob AuBouchon via Flickr