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This Week in Universal News: An Invention to Protect Yourself from Grapefruit, 1937

by on March 24, 2014


This week we’re featuring Professor I.M. Nuts, a gentleman who demonstrates his spectacular inventions in several Universal News stories. In this story, Prof. Nuts shows off a gadget that will prevent you from ruining your day while eating grapefruit. According to Nuts, “every home should have at least half a dozen”!

Have you ever had your “whole day” ruined by a grapefruit? You need Oakes’ ingenious invention. Watch to find out how it works!

Professor Nuts was actually Russell E. Oakes, of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Oakes made a career of presenting ridiculous solutions to simple problems like eating corn on the cob (see this 1939 Popular Science article for more background). In some ways, Oakes was ahead of his time–he’s kind of a cross between something you might see on The Onion and the pitchmen that sell you products to meet needs you never knew you had until you see how overwhelmed that woman in the commercial gets while trying to butter toast.

Although Oakes gained fame by playing up his inventions for laughs, there is a certain amount of earnestness in his demonstrations. In this clip, Oakes states that his “breakfast cap” is patented. In fact, he held at least one serious patent, for a novel method of constructing a device that holds advertising cards.

You can see some of Oakes’ gadgets at the Waukesha County Museum.

From the release sheet:

PROF. NUTTS SOLVES PROBLEM.  Waukesha, Wisconsin.  Our old friend, the Sage of Waukesha, is again- with another of his devices to make living more pleasant.  This time, the Professor takes the difficulties out of grapefruit, that vicious citrus that dotes on squirting juice in the human eye.

Nuts5

Problem solved! Now you won’t end up “swearing at the stenographer”!

You may view the rest of the existing newsreel, including stories about Wallis Simpson‘s seclusion in a French chateau and a display of horsemanship from the Soviet cavalry, here.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.


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