Earmuffs for Everyone!

How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs

Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
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About The Book

As a young boy, Chester Greenwood went from having cold ears to becoming a great inventor in this nonfiction picture book from the acclaimed author-illustrator of Pop! and Daredevil.

When your ears are cold, you can wear earmuffs, but that wasn’t true for Chester Greenwood back in 1873. Earmuffs didn’t exist yet! But during yet another long and cold Maine winter, Chester decided to do something about his freezing ears, and he designed the first pair of ear protectors (a.k.a. earmuffs) out of wire, beaver fur, and cloth. He received a patent for his design by the time he was nineteen, and within a decade the Chester Greenwood & Company factory was producing and shipping “Champion Ear Protectors” worldwide!

But that was just the beginning of Chester’s career as a successful businessman and prolific inventor. In this fun and fact-filled picture book you can find out all about his other clever creations. The Smithsonian has declared Chester Greenwood one of America’s most outstanding inventors. And if you’re ever in Maine on December 21, be sure to don a pair of earmuffs and celebrate Chester Greenwood day!

About The Author

Photo courtesy of the author

Meghan McCarthy is the award-winning author and illustrator of many books for children, including Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs; Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton; Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum; City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male; Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse; and All That Trash. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at Meghan-McCarthy.com.

About The Illustrator

Photo courtesy of the author

Meghan McCarthy is the award-winning author and illustrator of many books for children, including Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs; Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton; Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum; City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male; Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse; and All That Trash. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at Meghan-McCarthy.com.

Raves and Reviews

This picture book charts the evolution of the earmuff. McCarthy starts in the 18th century, discussing the ways that various inventors improved on one another’s designs, until Chester Greenwood made one last tweak to the wire headband and applied for a patent. Woven into the narrative is a description of patents. Children will also come away with a greater understanding of the nature of inventions. The book ends with a brief biography of Chester Greenwood and a section about the dedicated citizens in the state of Maine who lobbied for a Chester Greenwood Day (made official in 1977). Back matter includes an author’s note, a note about patents, and a photo of the annual Chester Greenwood Day parade in Farmington, Maine. Rendered in acrylic paint, the illustrations are appealingly cartoonlike, portraying people with exaggerated round eyes and faces, and complement the concise but upbeat text (?[Isaac Kleinert] also made dress guards, which protected ladies’ clothing from sweat. Ew!?). A solid addition for those seeking titles about inventors and inventions.

– School Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW, October 2014

A look not just at the invention (or not) of earmuffs, but at the process of inventing and the way that history can rewrite itself. Every year in the beginning of December, the town of Farmington, Maine, has a parade in which all the participants (cars, buses, trucks, included) wear earmuffs. This parade celebrates Chester Greenwood, who was not the inventor of earmuffs. Wait. What? That's right. Chester Greenwood did not invent earmuffs; he improved the designs of other inventors, applied for a patent and is misremembered today as the inventor of the ubiquitous ear coverings so popular in cold climates. In her latest nonfiction title, McCarthy looks at how this happened, along the way delivering tidbits about patents; the lives of Greenwood and his wife, Isabel, who was active in the suffrage movement; other inventors who were really improvers (Edison and his light bulb); and the movement to dedicate a day to Greenwood. McCarthy's acrylic illustrations nicely bring history to kids, mixing the familiar and the new. They realistically portray history (and Farmington!) and feature her characteristic big-eyed, round-faced people. Two photographs show Greenwood, sporting earmuffs of course, and a portion of the Chester Greenwood Day parade in downtown Farmington. Backmatter includes a fascinating note about the research for the book, more about patents and a bibliography. While Greenwood was indeed an interesting character, the more valuable—even revolutionary—takeaway is that history isn't necessarily reliable; it can change, and McCarthy's genius is that she communicates this so easily to her audience.

– Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW, October 15, 2014

From Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs, inventors have long had a hold on the American imagination. But exactly what makes something an invention? McCarthy (Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton) again proves her nonfiction storytelling chops by using the humble earmuff and the man associated with it as a way to delve into some deliciously big ideas: what constitutes originality, the slipperiness of origin stories (note the careful wording of the subtitle), and the philosophy of patent law. Like any meaty topic, this one leads readers into side stories and digressions (Greenwood married a suffragette; the early promoters of Chester Greenwood Day mostly made stuff up about its namesake), all captured with crisp, slyly funny acrylics and populated with McCarthy’s customary goggle-eyed characters. McCarthy is the ideal raconteur: funny, curious, and eager to involve her audience in her pursuit of the truth (“What do you think really happened?” she asks at one point). Readers will come away knowing a lot more about earmuffs, and feeling like they’ve spent time with a very smart, very cool friend.

– Publishers Weekly, *STARRED REVIEW, November 3, 2014

Chester Greenwood Day is celebrated annually in Maine to honor a man credited with inventing earmuffs. But did he? The creator of books such as Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum (2010) and Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse (2008), McCarthy leads off this picture-book biography with an illustrated discussion of ear muffs developed before or soon after Greenwood’s birth. Still, the man’s accomplishments were many: improving on earmuff design by adding a steel band, receiving a patent at age 19, and running a successful earmuff manufacturing business. After tracing how Greenwood became known as the inventor of earmuffs, McCarthy describes how his annual “day” became official. In an appended note on research, she mentions that although several sources (Wikipedia, NPR, The Washington Post) incorrectly credited Greenwood with inventing earmuffs, her historical research showed that “the facts got muddled” through the years. Always entertaining, this picture book features a clearly written text and appealing acrylic paintings that vary from spot illustrations of familiar patented inventions (Coke bottles, Lego blocks, a space capsule) to double-page scenes representing the inventor’s life. This unusual book also offers insight into the process of invention and how the muddling of fact, memory, and legend can result in popular history.

– Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW, January 1, 2015

Meghan McCarthy (Daredevil) explains patents while also making a distinction between "invention" and "improvement" in this true story of teenage entrepreneur Chester Greenwood who made improvements to earmuffs.

The author-artist deconstructs the patenting process from start to finish. First, she explains that the word "muff" began with hand mufflers in the 1700s, and shows the improvements upon them (as a fashion accessory as well as warmer) in the 1800s. Next, she chronicles--alongside spot art illustrations--early earmuffs by William Ware (1858), M. Isidor (1873) and I.B. Kleinert (1875), noting that Kleinert's is still in business today. Chester Greenwood's patent on "improvement in ear-mufflers" dated March 13, 1877, postdates all of those. "But the guy everyone knows as the inventor of earmuffs is Chester Greenwood," McCarthy emphasizes. She goes on to explain patents, using well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, Band-Aids, the Apple computer and more. McCarthy poses some theories about why Greenwood is best known among those who dabbled with earmuffs, and compares him with Thomas Edison, who made improvements to previous inventions, including the lightbulb. She also points to marketing as a factor: in his hometown of Farmington, Maine, residents dedicate a day in December to hailing Chester Greenwood.

With this accessible example of an invention for which a teenager made improvements, McCarthy stresses the importance of science, ever changing and advancing and affecting our daily lives--and that young people's ideas are every bit as valid as those of adults. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: The story of inventive teen Chester Greenwood, famous for earmuffs, and an exploration of the patenting process.

– Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review, January 16, 2015

Having forayed into inventor biography in her delightful Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum (BCCB 6/10), McCarthy turns here not only to invention but its historiography as she explores the development of earmuffs and of the narrative of their invention in her usual droll, compact form. The book begins by chronicling some early ear-protecting duds and patents, then relays the story of Chester Greenwood, who “had gigantic ears” and who is widely thought to be the creator of earmuffs, despite evidence that versions of such ear warmers existed well before he was even born. The text then goes back to question the discrepancies between the two narratives (“What do you think really happened?”), dig deeper into patents, address the inventors (like Edison as well as Greenwood) whose contribution was to improve an existing idea rather than be the first to come up with it, and relate the revival and enhancement of Greenwood’s legend years after he died. The result takes McCarthy’s already zippy and effective exploration into thought-provoking new territory for young readers, cleverly unpicking the story behind the story and making the point that innovation rarely occurs in isolation. McCarthy’s familiar pop-eyed human (and animal) figures get added comedy from the rhyming roundness of their earmuffs, and the running gallery of patents and devices that threads through the pages evinces a contagious delight in the Age of Invention. Aside from being an enjoyable outing in its own right, this would be a great opening to kickstart kids’ critical thinking by encouraging them to turn the same kind of interrogation onto other histories and biographies. An extensive note about McCarthy’s process in creating the book, an explanation of patents, and a bibliography are appended.

– Bulletin, *STARRED REVIEW, February 2015

This picture book charts the evolution of the earmuff...Woven into the narrative is a description of patents. Children will also come away with a greater understanding of the nature of inventions....Back matter includes an author’s note, a note about patents, and a photo of the annual Chester Greenwood Day parade in Farmington, Maine. Rendered in acrylic paint, the illustrations are appealingly cartoonlike, portraying people with exaggerated round eyes and faces, and complement the concise but upbeat text ([Isaac Kleinert] also made dress guards, which protected ladies’ clothing from sweat. Ew!). A solid addition for those seeking titles about inventors and inventions.

– School Library Journal *STARRED REVIEW, October 2014

A look not just at the invention (or not) of earmuffs, but at the process of inventing and the way that history can rewrite itself....In her latest nonfiction title, McCarthy looks at how [Chester Greenwood became known as the inventor of earmuffs], along the way delivering tidbits about patents; the lives of Greenwood and his wife, Isabel, who was active in the suffrage movement; other inventors who were really improvers (Edison and his light bulb); and the movement to dedicate a day to Greenwood. McCarthy's acrylic illustrations nicely bring history to kids, mixing the familiar and the new. They realistically portray history (and Farmington!) and feature her characteristic big-eyed, round-faced people....Backmatter includes a fascinating note about the research for the book, more about patents and a bibliography. While Greenwood was indeed an interesting character, the more valuable—even revolutionary—takeaway is that history isn't necessarily reliable; it can change, and McCarthy's genius is that she communicates this so easily to her audience.

– Kirkus Reviews *STARRED REVIEW, October 2014

...McCarthy (Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton) again proves her nonfiction storytelling chops by using the humble earmuff and the man associated with it as a way to delve into some deliciously big ideas: what constitutes originality, the slipperiness of origin stories (note the careful wording of the subtitle), and the philosophy of patent law. Like any meaty topic, this one leads readers into side stories and digressions (Greenwood married a suffragette; the early promoters of Chester Greenwood Day mostly made stuff up about its namesake), all captured with crisp, slyly funny acrylics and populated with McCarthy’s customary goggle-eyed characters. McCarthy is the ideal raconteur: funny, curious, and eager to involve her audience in her pursuit of the truth (“What do you think really happened?” she asks at one point). Readers will come away knowing a lot more about earmuffs, and feeling like they’ve spent time with a very smart, very cool friend.

– Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW

...McCarthy leads off this picture-book biography with an illustrated discussion of ear muffs developed before or soon after Greenwood’s birth. Still, the man’s accomplishments were many: improving on earmuff design by adding a steel band, receiving a patent at age 19, and running a successful earmuff manufacturing business. After tracing how Greenwood became known as the inventor of earmuffs, McCarthy describes how his annual “day” became official. In an appended note on research, she mentions that although several sources (Wikipedia, NPR, The Washington Post) incorrectly credited Greenwood with inventing earmuffs, her historical research showed that “the facts got muddled” through the years. Always entertaining, this picture book features a clearly written text and appealing acrylic paintings that vary from spot illustrations of familiar patented inventions (Coke bottles, Lego blocks, a space capsule) to double-page scenes representing the inventor’s life. This unusual book also offers insight into the process of invention and how the muddling of fact, memory, and legend can result in popular history.

– Booklist *STARRED REVIEW

Awards and Honors

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council)
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List PrimaryTitle
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association's Reading List
  • Eureka Nonfiction Silver Award

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Meghan McCarthy