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It’s wet mitt season. Here’s who invented the thing that’s saving our winter | CBC News

If you want to dry out your sopping wet winter boots and mitts without turning on the dryer, you may want to use a specially designed rack that sits on a forced-air register. Canadians know it does the job beautifully.

And you can thank the late Lorne McCartney of Ottawa for that rack.

McCartney was a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces who served in Germany in the 1970s. He attended the Royal Military College of Canada alongside astronaut Marc Garneau and retired lieutenant-general and senator Roméo Dallaire.

McCartney also is the designer of that first mitt and boot dryer that Canadians have grown to love.

This photo featuring brothers Mark and Jason McCartney was part of the original packaging. (Submitted by Mark McCartney)

“It was us kids playing outside all the time and coming inside with all the wet mitts and boots,” said Lorne’s son, Mark McCartney of Port Perry, Ont., who is one of three siblings. At the time, the family lived in Barrie.

McCartney’s mom started heaping the mitts onto registers all over the house. “And my father watching it happen said, ‘There’s got to be a better way,'” he said.

Lorne McCartney, at 32, around the time he was busy inventing the Mitt’nBoot Dryer. (Submitted by Mark McCartney)

In his spare time, McCartney’s dad began sketching out ideas and building prototypes from wood and coat hangers. After designing the perfect solution to drying out the family’s winter gear, Lorne McCartney snagged both Canadian and American patents under the name Jili Nolor Corporation in the mid-1980s.

By 1993, business was booming and the McCartney family, who by then had moved to the Ottawa suburb of Kanata for Lorne’s position at National Defence headquarters, gave up his career to work full time on his invention.

Lorne McCartney’s original sketch of his mitt and boot dryer. (Submitted by Mark McCartney)

Lorne McCartney’s early mitt and boot dryer prototype (Submitted by Mark McCartney)

The patents lasted 17 years, and after that, a Chinese company began manufacturing a replica of McCartney’s design. Because it was cheaper, a number of distributors chose the Chinese model, said Mark McCartney.

“So that was kind of a bit of a sore spot with my father in the later years where Canadian Tire stopped using Canadian products,” he said.

“After my father passed, the company was kind of liquidated to a certain extent,” said McCartney, whose dad died at age 68 in 2016 after a battle with chronic inflammatory lung disease. 

“The guy that originally made them for us, he still manufactures it. As long as it still makes some sort of a profit, he’ll continue to make it,” said Mark McCartney about the Norex Division.

The Mitt’nBoot Dryer is still manufactured at the plastics factory in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough.

His mom still gets a cut, said McCartney.

In Canada, you can still buy the original Mitt’nBoot Dryer at Home Hardware and Kiddie Kobbler for about $12.

“They’re very popular,” said Rob Borshell, who works in customer service at Tuckey Home Hardware in London, Ont. “It’s simple. You don’t have to plug it in. It doesn’t use any energy and they do the job.”

McCartney’s dad was a bit of a local celebrity in Kanata, he said. “All the kids at school knew about it. 

“It was a family affair,” said McCartney. “In high school, when I was younger, that was kind of my part-time job. I’d go down in the basement, and watch a movie and just label Mitt’nDryers for two dollars a box.

“He had done an interview years ago, and he’d sold something like 14 million units,” said McCartney. “It was a lot. But I mean, you’re basically making pennies on the dollar.

“The most incredible part is to have an idea and then actually put everything you have toward it, which is not easy to do when you have a family. It’s a hard thing to do.”

WATCH | The original commercial featuring members of the McCartney family:

 




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