In 1981 William O. Holmes, a retired ironworker from Belmont, California, filed a patent application for a new life-saving device. In his application Holmes claimed that a “recent rash of fires in high-rise hotels” had produced multiple deaths from smoke inhalation. There was a pressing need, he wrote, for a means of “supplying a hotel guest with fresh air until he can be rescued”. Holmes’ solution was a ‘toilet snorkel’: a breathing tube, inserted through the water pan of a toilet, to allow the user to breathe
fresh air from the sewer pipe. Thankfully, Holmes’ device included a mouthpiece housing a charcoal filter to reduce the inhalation of nasty odours – or indeed solids:
As remarkable as it seems, Holmes’ life-saving toilet tube never really caught on. Two years later he developed a more pragmatic invention, winning the patent for a streamlined hydraulic jack. Holmes lived into his eighties, dying in 2009.
Source: US Patents and Trademarks, Application 4320756A, 1981.