When he did return home, it was, unsurprisingly, to a bachelor penthouse on 5th Avenue—a peeping Tom’s paradise overlooking Greenwich Village, with thousands of dollars worth of binoculars dangling from the windows, and ice buckets stocked with perpetually chilling German beers and wines at the front door for visitors. “He loved women, Dr. S., and women loved him,” says Doty.
Schlumbohm’s after-hours habits may explain why he often arrived at his studio to work at 5 P.M. and stayed only an hour or two before leaving for dinner. Schlumbohm didn’t have a factory: Corning Glass and Alcoa manufactured the parts for his inventions, and eight lovely women (not surprisingly, he never hired a male employee) assembled the products at his studio on 41 Murray Street. There, amidst the scrap metal, blown glass, cork, and doodles, he tinkered and built things until he got bored with them, then moved on to the next invention.
When Schlumbohm died of a heart attack in 1962, he was 66 years old and held the rights to over 300 quirky inventions, many of them designs of joy that fed his insatiable appetite for the good life. In one photograph from his scrapbook, a 60-year-old Schlumbohm is down on one knee, clad in clingy shorts, digging a giant red flag into Coney Island beach as if he’s just discovered it. Years before, he’d been warned against moving to Depression-struck America—there was no money to be made, and there was nothing left to invent. He holds onto the flagpole, alone and smiling, with a thick, triumphant fist in the air.
View more photographs of Schlumbohm and his lost creations.