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The History of The Fly Swatter

The first purpose-made wire-mesh fly-killing device was patented in the United States by Robert R. Montgomery in 1900. By 1902, he and his sons had produced over half a million models of what he called the “King Fly Killer.” In 1903, he sold his patent to John L. Bennett, who began to mass-produce these wire-mesh fly killers. Around the same time, Dr. Samuel Crumbine, a Kansas public health advocate, began a campaign around fly killing in hopes of increasing public hygiene and decreasing disease. He used the phrase “Swat the fly!” as the slogan. Around 1910, Crumbine worked with the Boy Scouts to launch a nationwide “Swat the Fly” campaign, which was supported by Bennett’s fly swatters. The campaign had widespread reach and helped normalize and popularize the fly swatter as an instrument of public health. Today, we don’t think much of this basic object, but in the early 1900s, it was an important item that signified national concern about hygiene and public health.

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