So Much More Than Ever Imagined

John Lewis
2 min readJan 12, 2022

Little Bits of History VIII


Paul Winchell had a long and successful career on stage, screen and TV.

Paul and his dummy, Jerry Mahoney, were famous in the early days of broadcasting. He did so much voice talent and ventriloquist work that lasts to this day, from Dick Dastardly for Hanna-Barbera to Gargamel in the Smurfs to Tigger in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.

He was an incredibly gifted talent in that field…yet so much more that so many never truly knew about.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Winchell was also an inventor of and held patents on a large number of diverse devices. He’s been credited with coming up with a flameless cigarette lighter, an invisible garter belt, a method of breeding Tilapia fish so that poorer countries could feed their citizens, and an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage. In all, some 30 items were patented by Winchell over time.

The big one — that he is virtually unknown for now — will blow you away.

Source: The Atlantic

He worked for years on the first artificial heart, and donated the research to the University of Utah to further research the device. His name fell into obscurity, but is forever linked to the quest for that device today.

We think of Paul Winchell as a gifted ventriloquist and performer, but he was so much more. Please also remember the inventor when you think of him.

OH, and he actually did miss the boat on one concept he had, a disposable razor which he neglected to get a patent on. Friends told him Who would buy a razor just to throw it away? He abandoned the idea, a major razor company picked it up and proved Paul was right all along.

Listening to friends sometimes doesn’t pay off.



John Lewis

John Lewis was born in Europe, and came by both wanderlust and curiosity from that beginning. He considers this his Third Act in Life.