“This invention relates to educational devices, and has particular reference to an apparatus for facilitating the observation, study and photography of subterranean life, especially the life and habits of insects and smaller animals who live underground.” So began Frank Austin ((1873 – 1964)’s application to the U.S. Patent Office, filed on June 21, 1929, for his storied Ant House (also known as the Ant Farm).
A simple design based on glass panes and soil or sand allowed a curious viewer to observe as ants or other insects furrowed their way through the ground. Word has it that Austin paid local boys $4.00 a quart for ants brought in alive, and that carpenter ants were his preference as they were the largest and most interesting. His patent application consciously stated that that “other objects of the invention reside in the simplicity of construction and mode of use of the device, the economy with which is may be produced and the general efficiency derived therefrom.”
Photographed in Chamber Boutique on 23rd Street, West of 10th Avenue.