Various kinds of trivialities. A novelty item, gag gift, gimmick, magic trick, or toy. Embodied in the French phrase c'est du gadget for concepts that are gimmicky or just for fun.
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Quote: “man who probably was thinking the thing out, sitting quietly at a desk. THE headquarters of the Hoover state organization in Forty-first Street are even rougher-looking. The brick walls show through the plaster in two places. Nothing here equals the national committee’s farm, but the place is busier. Phones ring a lot, earnest ladies come in and offer to Do Something, wan salesmen appear with little things to sell – ashtrays with elephants on them, collapsible drinking cups bearing the likeness of Hoover, all sorts of bibelots. They say this is the biggest gadget and gewgaw campaign since Harrison and Tyler. Campaign songs are offered in greatest abundance. An excited composer phoned the offices at nine one night (they are open till after midnight) and wanted to sing his song over the wire. Someone had to listen. People with mottoes and slogans arc next in number to songwriters. One man offered to sell for thirty-five dollars the line, “ H, the beginning of Hoover and the end of Smith. “ Some phrase-coiners send their slogans along by wire.”
Author: White, E.B.
Source: New Yorker: 1928-10-06: p. 17-21
Quote: “It must be wonderful,’ babbled Gladys, ‘ to be a big, business man and sell people things.’ ‘It is,’ agreed Saleratus. ‘Only I’m not.’ ‘Oh, yes, you are,’ Gladys rattled on. ‘You sell people heaps and heaps of things, whether they want them or not.’ ‘I do?’ asked Saleratus. ‘Yes, you do. You see I know all about you. I’ve been just crazy to meet you, and I was thrilled when Jessica told me you were coming to-night.’ ‘You were,’ said Saleratus. ‘I certainly was. I wish you’d try to sell me something.’ ‘Hey,’ muttered Saleratus. ‘Yes, I do. Won’t you sell me something?’ ‘I’ll sell you a gag,’ Saleratus rejoined, as the car hit a particularly wicked bump in the road down which they were flying. ‘A what?’ asked Gladys, righting herself. ‘A gadget,’ said Saleratus. ‘What’s that?’ ‘A do funny you put on a machine.’ ‘Why would I want a gadget?’ ‘You wouldn’t,’ said Saleratus. ‘Then why try to sell me one,’ said Gladys. ‘I won’t,’ replied Saleratus. ‘Don’t you just love nature?’ asked Gladys.”
Author: Livermore, George G.
Source: Boys’ Life, August 1929
Quote: “Lately [toy train outfits in window shops] seem to have gone into the discard, but at least one hustler reports that he got all of the old effect by substituting the new streamlined train for the old-fashioned engine. Got the outfit free because the toy store was anxious to call attention to the novelty, and not only sent over a man to make the layout but took advertising space to tell that the gadget could be seen in operation in the theatre lobby.”
Author: Sargent, Epes W.
Source: Variety, December 25, 1934
Quote: “Gag, ‘a joke or imposture; a hoax.’ Gadget, ‘a contrivance, object or device; a term often used to denote something novel’–slang. Gimmick, ‘any small device used secretly by a magician in performing a trick.’” “The author, while performing professionally, from 1908 until 1921, when he entered the radio broadcasting field at WLW, Cincinnati, believed he had originated many new ideas in magic, only to find that someone else had the same ideas. A memorandum book, with the idea and date of its creation, with a signature of a witness, is necessary to prove originality in lawful court, and therefore, it is a suggestion, that should you develop a new idea in magic, follow this procedure.”
Author: Plough, Alvin Richard
Source: Colon, Michigan: The Abbott Magic Novelty Company. 1937.
Quote: “Whittling and Woodcarving. by E.J. Tangerman. It appears, at least from the advertisements of cutlery people, that whittling and woodcarving are coming back as serious hobbies. This volume proves it. Starting with a discussion of how to make the simplest toys and gadgets, trinkets, and wood chains, it proceeds to discuss the carving of human figures, elaborate chests, plaques, designs, and moldings for furniture.”
Source: Scientific American 156, (April 1937) p. 276-278
Quote: “Gadget sticks out tongue at noisy driver. New device gives ‘razz’ to silly auto horn tutors. […] Millions of motorists have wanted a gadget of this type for years, and Fooey Face has now been placed on the market.”
Source: Popular Mechanics. Jul 1939. p. 147A
Quote: “NICK (Watching the toy all this time) Say, that really is something. What is that, anyway? MARY L. comes in. JOE (Holding it toward NICK, and MARY L.) Nick, this is a toy. A contraption devised by the cunning of man to drive boredom, or grief, or anger out of children. A noble gadget. A gadget, I might say, infinitely nobler than any other I can think of at the moment. Everybody gathers around Joe’s table to look at the toy. The toy stops working. JOE winds the music box. Lifts a whistle: blows it, making a very strange, funny and sorrowful sound.Delightful. Tragic, but delightful. WESLEY plays the music-box theme on the piano.MARY L. takes a table.”
Author: Saroyan, William
Quote: “To fight for democracy and against Hitlerism, we have turned our factories into arsenals–conscious that we are about to deprive ourselves of some of our most-prized comforts. We are diverting our iron and copper and aluminum to the making of guns and tanks and planes and ships to be used in the defense of democracy. … As Christmas approaches, everyone will feel it more and more. Santa Claus will be on hand, but he’ll have to deal out Defense Bonds instead of gadgets.” (1) Included in this list of “luxuries and semiluxuries” to be transmuted into wartime use: nylon and rayon stockings for powderbags and parachutes, and cotton stockings become fashionable. Automobile factories reduce car production by 50%. Steel and other raw materials diverted. “And although the first 1942 models off the assembly line have the usual chromium trim and gadgets, when these supplies are used up there won’t be any more.” (2) “On the search for defense jobs are the salesmen who have made their living from passenger cars, electric appliances, refrigerators, washing machines, and other non-defense machines which are comfortable and useful but not now as essential as planes and guns and tanks and ships. The factories which have been producing this rich stream of comforts are looking for defense contracts.” (2) Retooling in automobile plants, for instance, takes 6-8 months. “On the basis of these two quick surveys, OPM certifies to the War and Navy departments the facts it finds–that half or more of Jonesville’s industrial workers are about to lose their jobs because the Jonesville Gadget Factory can’t get copper, steel, zinc, or aluminum; that the gadget factory has certain specific machinery and that certain items can be used in tooling steel for a gun carriage or metal for a bomber, or castings for a tank, or whatever.” (14) A plan to retain American workers: “The men from the filling stations and the gadget factories, the soldiers who are released from the Army, and the skilled workmen who have been producing automobiles, washing machines, and the other useful implements of a high-standard-of-living nation, are turning rapidly into defense workers.” (16)”
Source: Washington, D.C.: Division of Information. Office for Emergency Management. 1941.
Quote: “Jesse also invented a mowing machine which he sold to McCormick, a whistling buoy, and practical joke gadgets. Taking a fancy to Simon, Uncle Jesse brought him into his foundry and taught him to use tools. That shop was Simon Lake’s university.”
Author: Machester, Harland
Source: Scientific American 168, (March 1943). p. 120-123
Quote: “Model Jets and Rockets for Boys, by Raymond F. Yates. Harper & Brothers ($2.50). Mr. Yates gives a brief history of rockets, and then devotes several chapters to detailed instructions on how to build jet propelled aircraft, racing cars and boats, using ordinary house hold items and a few gadgets that can be purchased inexpensively. A complete jet engine that will run a model plane at 200 miles per hour costs only $1.95; fuel tanks can be made out of empty 35-milli meter film containers. […] Coggins and Pratt offer for a somewhat older age group an interesting account of the history and development of these fateful gadgets. Their book describes the tightly packed, powder-filled paper tubes used in the 13th century by the Chinese to frighten off the Mongolian invaders, the Congreve rockets the British lobbed into Baltimore in 1814.”
Author: Newman, James R.
Source: Scientific American 187, (December 1952). p. 78-83
Quote: “Do you know what an atom bomb is shaped like? I don’t either, but it would be appropriate if it were shaped like the earth. Then we could install it in some of those gadget-like imitations of the solar system that you see in planetariums, schools, museums, and other such places. / Certainly, if education is supposed to be made more realistic, that would be making imitation solar systems more realistic. After all, is not this earth of ours now just an atom bomb? / That’s why, of course, we’re surprised that there’s a 1952. That’s why we’re wondering whether there’ll be a 1953.”
Author: Carlton, Elliot
Source: Arkansas State Press (Little Rock, Arkansas) • 01-04-1952 • Page 4
Quote: “Latest novelty to roll out of Hollywood–“Groucho Goggles.” This plastic gadget for young and old fun-lovers makes everyone look, act, and sound like Groucho Marx, famed NBC quizmaster.”
Source: The Plain Dealer (Kansas City, Kansas) • 07-15-1955 • Page 
Quote: “This article by Walter C. Michaels in your April issue will delight the hearts of many physics teachers who in the past quarter-century have been caught between the muddleheaded educationists, with their emphasis on adjustment, and the functional boys who saw in high school physics nothing more than a parade of gadgets. […] The sad part of Dr. Michels’s article is his implication that our economy cannot afford enough qualified physics teachers to maintain an adequate classroom program, and therefore must resort to money-saving gadgets such as canned and televised lectures.”
Source: Scientific American 199, (July 1958). p. 8-13
Quote: “[review of John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger”] I did not know what its message was until suddenly, in the midst of a discussion, I saw a woman who had gotten “pleasantly tiddly” as John Osborne’s main character, Jimmy, says, looking “tenderly and lecherously” into her husband’s eyes . . . and he, poor sucker, rise to the bait, thinking, in spite of himself and in spite of years of such bait that this will be the night when, as Jimmy says, “I’ll make such love to you, you’ll not care about anything else at all,” and she will give herself to him in love at last . . . (for, while women are turning rapidly into den mothers, men remain, for a while longer at least, the hopeful ones; only they “hope”, but they don’t heave to) . . . and then I knew what John Osborne’s play was about. / It was about the fact that we give our bodies—no holds barred . . . that we give materially . . . scuffling and driving ourselves, knifing our neighbors even, to pile riches at the feet of “loved ones.” We give fine cars, trips to Europe, gadgets, gimmicks. / But we do not give ourselves, so that we have all but lost the power of communicating with each other, and exist side by side like cold blooded polar bears, staring unblinkingly at each other until even the most venturesome is frozen into silence.”
Author: Lomax, Almena
Source: Los Angeles Tribune (Los Angeles, California) • 10-16-1959 • Page 11
Quote: “I had made this gadget – it was a toy for children as far as I was concerned. I didn’t have any idea of its worth. It was just a little gadget that hopped up into the air and floated down again. Cute, but worthless, except as a novelty. And it was too expensive to build it as a novelty. So I forgot about it.”
Author: Garrett, Randall
Source: [Short story] In: New York
Quote: “” When the exhibits come in, I hope you’ll notice that they aren’t just gadgets or toys, “ he said. “ To qualify they have to demonstrate a scientific principle or development and do it in an original way – not just an imitation. We have teams of top-notch judges for each category – specialists from education and industry. Projects which are rated Superior or Excellent win awards. It wasn’t long before Albert Thiess Jr., the boy with the photoelectric-cell demonstration. Caine in and began setting up his project. tl le later won a Superior award.”
Author: Bird, John
Source: Saturday Evening Post: 3/4/1961, Vol. 234 Issue 9
Quote: “Each subject was told that his task was to transport all the weights in the wagon from one side of a table (‘Lawrence’) to the other side (‘Topeka’), that the wheels must roll freely, that he could make as many trips as he wished and that there were no hidden tricks or gadgets on the wagon––that its rolling was a function of the among of weight in it.”
Author: Scheerer, Martin
Source: Scientific American 208, (April 1963). p. 118-132
Quote: “I felt an anxiety building up in my chest. I became so agitated that I dropped my writing pad, and my pencil rolled out of sight. Don Juan and don Genaro immediately began a most farcical search for it. I had never seen a more astonishing performance of theatrical magic and sleight of hand. Except that there was no stage, or props, or any type of gadgetry, and the performers did not seem to be using sleight of hand. Don Genaro, the head magician, and his assistant, don Juan, produced in a matter of minutes the most astounding, bizarre, and outlandish collection of objects which they found underneath, or behind, or above every object within the periphery of the Jumada. In the style of stage magic, don Genaro would proceed to find an object, which he would throw away as soon as he had attested that it was not […]”
Author: Castaneda, Carlos
Source: Harpers. September 1974.
Quote: “Of what use are they except as criminal weapons? With attempts at gun control, how about knife control? As a start, how about a Sullivan Law banning all knife sales to juveniles and banning the sale of novelty knives in souvenir and gadget stores in the Times Square area and elsewhere? Stabbing homicides may take a sharp drop if these steps are taken.”
Source: New York Times. 13 March 1975.
Quote: “In fact, companies such as General Telephone &; Electronics and ITT are already challenging AT &T’s; dominance over phone equipment by selling telephones themselves, as are a host of smaller firms that have been cranking out toylike phone gadgets that look like beer cans, Mickey Mouse and Superman. The devices connect right up to the Bell lines in homes or offices. AT &T; is fighting back through its 1,800 PhoneCenter retail outlets around the country, which offer an equally broad array telephone designs to customers.”
Source: Time Magazine: 1980/08/25
Quote: “A poll of the juvenile set in 1937 showed the Little Orphan Annie radio show was No. 1 with kids from 5 to 8 years old. The Lone Ranger was a close second. Kids from 9 to 14 chose the masked man first and’ Annie second. But if you think the old radio characters were popular then, wait till you find out what the gadgets connected with their shows are selling for now. For example, Orphan Annie decoders from 1938,’ 37, and’ 38, are available for $25 from Mark and Lois Jacobs, 702 N. Wells St., Chicago, 60610. They specialize in American collectibles.”
Source: Chicago Tribune: 19800225
Quote: “In 1972, Jobs entered Oregon’s Reed College, but he left two years later to ease his family’s financial hardships. He then took a job designing video games at Atari. Wozniak, meanwhile, had dropped out of Berkeley to become a designer at Hewlett-Packard. After hours, Wozniak worked hard building a small, easy-to-use computer. In 1976 he succeeded. The pint-size machine was smaller than a portable typewriter, but it could do the feats of much larger computers. # To Wozniak, the new machine was simply a gadget to show his fellow computer buffs. Jobs, in contrast, saw the commercial potential of the machine that could help families do their personal finance or small businesses control inventories, and he urged that they form a company to market the computer. The two raised $1,300 to open a makeshift production line by selling Jobs’ Volkswagen Micro Bus and Wozniak’s Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator. Jobs, recalling a pleasant summer that he spent working in the orchards of Oregon, christened the new computer Apple.”
Source: Time Magazine: 1982/02/15