Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



On This Day in 1986 – Inventor Lonnie Johnson Patents the Super Soaker Water Gun Editors
May 27, 2024

(HISTORY.COM) – On May 27, 1986, the U.S. Patent Office granted a patent to inventor Lonnie Johnson for his toy design simply titled ”Squirt Gun.” After a few name changes and additional patents, Johnson’s invention—ultimately re-named the “Super Soaker®”—would become the best-selling water toy of all time, eventually earning its rightful place in the American National Toy Hall of Fame.


Johnson’s concept for the Super Soaker began by accident in his own basement bathroom in 1982. At the time, he was employed as a nuclear engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on the Galileo mission to Jupiter. While brainstorming a heat pump that would use pressurized water vapor instead of environmentally hazardous freon, Johnson hooked up a nozzle to his bathroom sink. It accidentally sprang a leak, shooting water across the bathroom in a strong stream. A lightbulb went off: This design could make one heck of a powerful water gun.

Years later, while working on the Air Force’s B-52 stealth bomber by day, Johnson tinkered in his free time on a wide range of projects, including this one. (A lifelong inventor, he made his own rocket fuel on the kitchen stove as a kid and built an award-winning robot in 1968 while attending a segregated Alabama high school, before going on to receive a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Tuskegee University.) He eventually worked up a prototype for his water gun idea, made with plexiglass, PVC pipes and a two-liter soda bottle for the reservoir. When he gave the device to his 7-year-old daughter Aneka to try, she proceeded to super-soak every other kid on the Air Force base.

It wasn’t until 1989 that he found a production partner in the toy business, Philadelphia-based Larami, which manufactured it under the name “Power Drencher.” The toy was an instant hit, selling two million units in 1991. Toy giant Hasbro purchased Larami—and the rights to the gun, which it renamed the “Super Soaker.”

After selling more than 250 million units and earning well over $1 billion dollars, the Super Soaker was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Over the years, Johnson has continued to patent ideas and inventions in the fields of engineering and energy technology, along with more quotidian and playful products like a wet diaper detector and Nerf blasters. Johnson currently holds more than 130 U.S. patents and is the author of several publications related to the field of spacecraft power systems.

To learn more about Today in History visit:


Idaho State News

idfg-cliess Monday, December 18, 2023 – 11:30 AM MST Turn your backyard into a bird B&B with these helpful wintertime bird-feeding tips We all...