In the early days of crime fighting, people didn't quite know how to act. Westerns and gangster movies suggest that cops and robbers have always just pointed their guns and shouted "Freeze!" But it turns out that fighting real-life crime back in the day was more like a James Bond movie, if Q designed the weapons while drunk. For instance ...
9Machine Gun Vest (1929)
What looks like an early prototype of Tony Stark's arc light reactor is actually a vest that, when the strings are pulled, causes your bow tie to spin around and whistle .... oh sorry, that's the other string-operated novelty vest. This one causes "a fusillade of bullets" to pour forth from your body like a swarm of tiny lead chest-bursters.
It's easy to imagine the scenario that Samuel Schwarz had in mind while designing the Vest Machine Gun. A hold-up artist pulls out his gun and tells Schwarz to "Stick 'em up!" to which Schwarz would reply, "You asked for it, buddy," raising his arms and activating the eight-barreled machine gun hidden in his chest. But wait, eight goddamn machine gun barrels? We're all for booby trapping your clothes with deadly weapons, but that seems like a lot of machine guns with which to shoot someone at point-blank range. That starts to feel less like ironic justice, more like the type of guy who goes around asking nerds if they want a "Hurts, don't it?" (if that bully then disintegrated their torso like a human landmine).
"Ask me to raise the roof. I dare you."
You'd think they'd be a little more careful with a gun that was so easy to fire while yawning, or high-fiving someone, or signaling a touchdown, or putting your hands in the air so as to wave them around like you just don't care OH MY GOD, EVERYONE AT THE DISCO IS DEAD.
Amazingly, three years earlier, a German inventor had devised a similar contraption with a pistol rigging concealed inside a small satchel:
"Only one shot in the crotch, Hans? Keep practicing!"
8Bank Teller Trapdoor (1919)
Bank robberies were apparently such a problem in the early 20th century that the number one industry was figuring out creative ways to dispatch crooks with your hands raised above your head. This trapdoor, triggered via the bank teller's foot, seems to be the humane, if a bit overly dramatic option. A trapdoor opens, and just like that the bandit is "forthwith" trapped in a chamber below the floor, where he is kept until, according to the product description, he can be:
... fished up by a policeman. "Fished up" is no idle jest; for the cashier has at his right hand a wheel which, when turned, will open a valve in the compartment below and flood it with water.
"Oh, hey. Sorry, Mr. Vanderbilt -- I thought your checkbook was a revolver."
Holy shit, what?! So what we're learning here is that -- besides the fact that, starting today, we're making it a requirement to use the word "forthwith" at least once in every article -- it was once considered OK to just casually drown a thief the way you'd flush one of those creepy hundred-legged bugs that somehow end up squiggling around in your bathtub?