He may not have been the first person to ever put a so-called muffler over an ear, but he made a fortune off it.
By 1882, Chester Greenwood & Company was making 50,000 pairs a year. By the start of World War I, Greenwood, who would go on to also patent the spring-toothed rake, landed a lucrative contract with the armed forces. (“Everyone in the service really jumped on the bandwagon,” says Vasilios Christofilakos, chairman of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s accessories-design department.) In 1938, a year after Greenwood’s death, Life magazine likened his simple innovation to “the Model T Ford” of earmuffs. Five years later, Miss New York appeared on Life’s cover resplendent in earmuffs. Inside, it hailed the ascendancy of the accessory to “the top rung of the fashion ladder.”