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OBITUARIES : Wilbur Curtis; Inventor of Glass Coffeepot and Fiberglass Car

October 26, 1987

Wilbur Darby Curtis, the inventor of the glass coffeepot and a briefly marketed fiberglass car named the Shamrock, has died of a heart attack. He was 82.

Curtis held 16 patents for tea and coffee brewing and dispensing machines, his son-in-law, A. James Liska, said Sunday.

He was working on a patent for a portable coffee brewing device at the time he died, Liska said. Curtis suffered a stroke in August at his home in Calabasas, and died of a heart attack Saturday at Maxicare Medical Center in Culver City, the son-in-law said.

A native of Nutley, N.J., Curtis became a stockbroker shortly after leaving high school and lost his first million in the 1929 stock market crash. He earned and lost several fortunes during his lifetime, his son-in-law said.

After the market crashed, Liska said, Curtis went to work for Silex Co., which later became Proctor-Silex. He moved to California for the company as a salesman.

In 1940, he designed the all-glass coffeepot, Liska said. The first coffeepot had a metal handle, which was too expensive to throw away if the glass portion of the pot broke, so Curtis then came up with a plastic handle for the device, Liska said. In 1941, he set up his own firm, Wilbur Curtis Co., which began manufacturing the coffeepots.

After a divorce, the company was taken over by the first of his four wives, who now runs it with their son, Robert, Liska said. Curtis then started Kona Coffee Co. in Hawaii, which is now run by his wife Kitt and his stepdaughter, Geri Lester.

Curtis also invented the first fiberglass-bodied car, Liska said. The car, a convertible called the Shamrock, was manufactured in Ireland for one year only in 1958.

He is survived by his son, a sister, 3 stepdaughters, 13 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Services were pending.

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