|(left to right) Dr. Ernest Post, Amy Wiseman, Laura Post and Dr. Robin Post
Herman Post didn’t like rock and roll. In fact, he hated it. But he had a hand in every classic rock record you can think of. Every hit single released by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and every other artist you can think of between the mid-50s and mid-80s owes its existence to Herman Post. And it all started with a broken stapler.
Herman was an inventor in the classic Thomas Edison/Alexander Graham Bell mold, with a seemingly endless stream of products coming out of his basement tinkering. His breakthrough invention was the tape splicer—a tool for seamlessly joining two pieces of recording tape or movie film. That meant that if the Beatles recorded six takes of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” they could take the great vocal from take one and combine it with the best guitar solo from take five, producing the ideal hit record.
He got the idea for the splicer by looking at a broken office stapler and seeing the potential in its mechanism. His patent application drawings actually include that modified stapler. He started making the devices in the basement, enlisting help from his young children, and eventually launched a company, Robins Industries, to make that product and dozens of others, including bulk erasers for reusing magnetic recording tape, record cleaners, tape reels, and an attachment for Polaroid cameras that let users create 3-D images. Every recording studio in the world was stocked with his products, as was every home-electronics store—and the company became very successful. It was quite a rise for a man who grew up desperately poor in a South Bronx tenement.
He was still inventing and creating right up until his death last year at 91. “I think inventors are the most optimistic people in the world,” his daughter Amy says, “because they see any problem and know there is an answer. Even if you can’t figure it out, you know the answer will come.” Unusually, Herman combined his engineering gifts with an artistic flair. In his later years, he made stunning stained glass artwork and sculptures of surprising sophistication. “He liked making money and being successful,” his daughter Amy says, “but that wasn’t the main thing. His true nature was whimsy.” That sensibility is particularly evident in his stained glass work, which features highly stylized animals.
He also had a strong sense of compassion. “I had several conversations with him,” Amy says, “where we talked about what was important in life. And he said housing and food were the most essential. Everything else was extra.”
So when Herman passed away, Amy decided that the best way to honor her father was to make a donation to Foodshare in his name with her portion of his charitable fund. And on August 11, she and her three siblings arrived at Foodshare for the official dedication of the Herman Post Training Room, which will provide essential instruction to a wide variety of volunteers and staff people. That training will make the organization more efficient, which would surely please the inventor, but even more important, it will mean more hungry people getting the food they need. And that would surely please the boy who grew up in grinding poverty and never forgot what that felt like.
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