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Since its inception in 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show has witnessed the debut of such technological essentials as the VCR, the CD and the Xbox. But for every multinational company premiering the Next Big Thing at CES, there are countless lonely inventors, tinkering with gadgets that may never see the light beyond the walls of a run-down garage.
An article in the May 12, 1958 issue of LIFE titled “Have Invention, Need Angel” featured a handful of these innovators, entrepreneurial enough to bring their inventions to that year’s International Gadget and Invention Show in New York. The show, according to the article, was “a sort of lonely hearts club where misunderstood inventors can meet with understanding investors and perhaps make a match.” In the photographs, shot by Ralph Morse, the creators demonstrate the creations they hope investors will deem worthy of their cash.
And though, as the author writes, “their families often think they are crazy and sometimes they are,” a few of these Edison wannabes ended up with early versions of inventions that would later be produced en masse: an automated card-dealer, an early version of the treadmill and a disposable umbrella (predecessor to that $5 piece of junk that goes from your hand to the trashcan within ten city blocks). But that lady drinking milk upside down should probably get up before all the blood rushes to her head.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.