Lesser Known Follies in History

photo of the original check used to pay for Alaska, worth $7.2 millionThroughout history, people have scoffed at genius, dubbing brilliant inventions and land purchases as “follies.” 

We have all heard of “Fulton’s Folly,” the famous steamship, and “Seward’s Folly,” the $7.2 million purchase of Alaska from Russia. 

Of course, we now chuckle at the ignorance of critics who failed to comprehend the genius behind these “follies.”  While many lament the fact that Sarah Palin ultimately came with the deal, Seward had no way of knowing.

But what of other, lesser known “follies” in history? 

Here we present an incomplete compendium.

Seward’s Second Folly:  After the purchase of Alaska, also known as Seward’s Folly, Sammy Seward, a cousin of William H. Seward, tried to buy China.  Although the price was relatively inexpensive in today’s dollars, China was much more expensive than Alaska, and, it turned out, was not owned by Russia.  Sammy did not give up on matching his cousin and later tried to buy France.

Clemson’s Folly:  Invented in 1827 by eccentric inventor Fiduciarious “Clem” Clemson, a merry-go-round to relax horses was devised to twirl large beasts around while playing cheerful music.  Unfortunately, during testing, Clemson tried to ride alongside a large Clydesdale and was squashed.

Klimperson’s folly:  Klimper Klimperson, an eccentric gold miner, wished to walk to Japan from Sacramento, California.  He began a tunnel to Japan from his back yard but ran out of funds long before the tunnel reached the edge of his property.  Later, the tunnel would become a celebrated wine cellar and yodeling den.

Jimbo’s Folly:  An impossible dream isn’t always big.  In 1963 Jimbo “Junior” Jimboson laid complicated plans to leave his position as a service station attendant in Pikeville, Kentucky and rise to a position doing “inside work” as a convenience store clerk.  His plans fell through after his engagement to LuLu Claperson, also of Pikeville, and, later, the births of their 14 children.

Fulmer’s Folly:  Inspired by Fulton’s “Folly,” Chance Photo of a replica of Fulton's steamship aka Fulton's folly“Charles” Fulmer looked around his kitchen to find a propellant similar to steam.  Fulmer invented the “toaster smoke engine” which used thousands of toasters to generate hot smoke.  Unfortunately for Fulmer, the famous “copper rise” of 1928 raised the price of extension cords, and also several serviceable alternatives to steam engines had been invented by then.