History of Earmuffs | New England Inventions

Did you know that earmuffs were invented in Maine by Chester Greenwood in 1873? Learn more about the history of these “vintage toasters.”

By Jenn Johnson

Oct 17 2017


Maine-made EarmuffsOn the first Saturday in December in Farmington, Maine, no matter the weather, you’ll see earmuffs everywhere, snugged over the heads of residents young and old in this town of about 7,700. Forbearing pets will be wearing them, too—as will just about anything that can be fitted with a U-shaped band and two fluffy pads. Police cruisers and fire engines. The lawn sign for the senior citizens home. The high school football team’s state championship trophy.

All this, to honor a 15-year-old Farmington boy named Chester Greenwood who had very large, very sensitive ears, and—after a particularly painful afternoon spent skating on a local pond in 1873—decided to apply some Yankee ingenuity to the problem. A few twists of baling wire, some fabric pads sewn by his grandmother, and voilà: He had the proto-type for what he would patent four years later as “ear-mufflers” and ultimately brand as “Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors.”

Though others had patented ear warmers of varying practicality, young Chester’s design—with a spring steel headband holding the pads firmly against the ears—was the one that caught on. By 1883, his Farmington factory was making 50,000 pairs a year. He would eventually supply them to World War I soldiers; in 1936, the factory, now employing nearly 100 residents, turned out some 400,000 earmuffs.

His empire did not long outlast him, after his death in 1937 at age 78. But in 1977 the state officially designated a day to commemorate his “inventive genius and native ability, which contributed much to the enjoyment of Maine’s winter season,” and which now, 40 years later, Farmingtonians celebrate to show that they will always have a warm spot for Chester Greenwood, forever their man of the ear.