Lady's Flatus Inhibitor,
In 1864 Michael Flannigan
and his little clan of Irish hooligans were doing well financially.
He was flush from the roaring success of the Whistle-Snap Vitals
Binding System (circa 1863) and famous for his Fecal Banishment
Apparatus (circa 1860) (1).
On the family front, however, things were not nearly so rosy.
The continual debauchery of
his sisters Mary, Hope and Chelsea and their various addictions
were a constant drain on his resources, and they gave his other
sister Molly terrible gas.
Flannigan well understood
the obvious social embarrassment this caused his sister (2),
and he saw an opportunity to help her and indeed, all of humanity
deal with their intestinal vapours.
By the summer of 1864, Flannigan
had created the Lady's Flatus Inhibitor - a simple device, really,
made of cork, a bit of rubber and a small disk of tin. The Inhibitor
was designed for easy discreet insertion before a dinner party
or an evening of whisk; Flannigan's intention was that it would
prevent the potentially humiliating escape of bodily gasses
in social contexts. The invention was an immediate hit, and
many fine ladies in both Ireland and England were using the
Flatus Inhibitor by the beginning of the social season.
Predictably, disaster followed.
At Lady Cecil B. Butrum's
annual Far East Festival the "lentil love" dish was particularly
spicy and unfortunately, Hungrup Singh (her Sihk cook) had not
prepared the lentils properly. Accordingly, the high level of
complex carbohydrates made it difficult - if not impossible
- to fully digest the dish. Butrum's choice of food (and the
shoddy workmanship of the sub-contractor that Flannigan had
hired to produce the tin disks) would result in what the London
Scabrous Times would later dub "The Windy Lake Cross Rip."
The rough edges of the poorly
finished tin were sufficiently sharp to cut through several
layers of cloth and projected with enough force, even whalebone.
Many ladies present would later say they had a terrible premonition
of disaster as they experienced "gaseous abdominal fullness"
and "extreme discomfort". When the music started and the dancing
began, the stage was set for disaster.
papers referred to him as "Methane Mike" and "Michael
Nearly 100 Flatus Inhibitors
were in use that night, and all but one escaped the confines
for which they were designed.(4)
Most at high velocities. For the most part, the sound of bustles
being blown apart was simply embarrassing, but for the Lady
and Lord Jason Foewad, it was tragic. As they ascended to the
upstairs parlour in Butrum Manor, it happened: The tension behind
Lady Foewad's Inhibitor finally reached its critical stress
point, and it was launched. It was miserable luck that Lord
Foewad was two steps below and behind her as the Inhibitor tore
through her evening wear at the speed of sound.
"I say, let's hope that's the only
exploding cork this evening." --Punchy, 1864
The rough edges of the tin
nicked Foewad in the carotid artery, and within minutes, he
bled to death.
Luckily for Flannigan, the
blame for the death could be put squarely on the shoulders of
the sub-contractor, so the Windy Lake Cross Rip did not hurt
But he was - once again -
the laughing stock of London: the papers referred to him as
"Methane Mike" and "Michael Flatus-again".
Undaunted by ridicule, financial
danger or even the potential death of his customers, he returned
to the drawing board, leading him to create the . . .
Lady's Aerophagia Ameliorator,
Clearly the problem with the
original design was that it attempted to prevent the escape
of such a large and volatile admixture of gasses. Instead, why
not capture the gasses and use them for other things? This was
the beginning of his love affair with vaporous fuels that would
eventually result in the Library Bosom Affair.
It was also at this time the
Fecal Banishment Apparatus was causing in many cases of Glutus
Plus Maximus, and instituting the fashion sensation
called the bustle. Flannigan had found his solution: The Lady's
|Flannigan's working sketch of the device.
|Starting with the original
"plug" design from the Flatus Inhibitor (5),
Flannigan added some rubber tubing, attaching it in order
to: the "Swiveller Deal", the "Particulate Eradicator", "the
Continence Valvular Device" and the "Gas Bag", all of which
he patented separately. The prosaically named "Gas Bag" was
designed to fit within the confines of a lady's bustle.
Though the memory of The Windy
Lake Cross Rip was still fresh in the minds of London Society,
its Ladies were keen to try another device to help them with
social intestinal indiscretions. (6)
The carefully constructed
nature of The Lady's Aerophagia Ameliorator and the high-cost
subcontractors that he employed ensured the success of the invention.
It was truly the hit of the 1865 social season, though there
were still a few distressing incidents.
The most embarrassing was
reported by none other than Horatio Jeeks, the worst alcoholic
in London and the writer of the London Barf and Whistle's
gossip column, Addled Chatter: