Two brothers of my Great Grandpa Albert Menke were issued US Patents for their inventions over 100 years ago. One of them I learned about from this clipping in the Columbus Journal, March 17, 1886.
Henry Menke Jr was 24 years old when he filed an application dated November 14, 1885 for a Revolving Fan. Click on the link to see his full application with sketches which I found at Google Patents (even though his name was terribly transcribed).
United States Patent No. 337,600 issued March 9, 1886
"My invention relates to revolving fans adapted for use on dining or library tables, or at other places, for driving away flying insects, and for briskly circulating the air for cooling persons near the machine; and the invention has for its object to provide a simple, inexpensive, and effective devise of this character. "
A distant cousin had told me about George Edward Menke inventing a corn sheller he called the "Little GEM". That was not the patent I found for him online. His application was filed July 29, 1911 for a a railroad Loading Device. Again, you can find the application and sketches at that link.
"An object of the invention is to provide a loading device, particularly adaptable for use in connection with railway engines, to load the tenders thereof when the engines pass beneath the device. My invention embodies among other features, a structure which when used in connection with railway engines to load the tenders thereof, will be automatically operated by the engine when the same passes beneath the device to fill the tender of the engine with coal or other material, used to operate the engine."
How much of an impact either of these inventions had on their industries, I couldn't say without a lot of research which I don't have the time to do. But I might look closer now at old fans in antique stores. I do know that neither man became famous for their invention, nor got rich from it. Still, it's kind of cool.