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Seven dozen at one blow

Appeared in Country Air 1/2012

Von Autorin Sigrid Krügel

It wasn’t a brave little tailor who figured out how to kill more than one fly at a time. It was someone with a much stronger motivation: a cake baker. Theodor Kaiser of Waiblingen reinvented the fly trap in 1909.

The first international airship exhibition opened in Frankfurt on July 10, 1909. And it was there that Theodor Kaiser saw the “aeroplan,” an invention of the Wright brothers. He borrowed the name for his flytrap. Not a revolutionary product, but the most effective on the market.

Kaiser, 47, was a frustrated cake and candy maker. Sales were booming, but so was the fly population in his production facilities.

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His first traps used molasses, as his great-granddaughter Alice Pfau recalls. Too stiff. He talked to a chemist friend, then went on flycatching safari to the French Riviera, confining his victims in specially prepared matchboxes, the children later recalled. Today the company has a lab covering 126 square meters. It still uses the same formula Kaiser and his friend came up with back then: sap, rubber, oils, doesn’t drip, doesn’t harden, stays sticky for three months despite warmth, sun, and drafts. What’s in it is still a closely guarded secret.

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By 1910, Kaiser had 105 employees. In 1926, he sold 36 million of the “honey roll” spirals, popular among housewives for his thoughtful inclusion of a thumbtack ….