This week’s Consumer Electronics Show has introduced such modern marvels as a Bluetooth-connected pacifier and a Wi-Fi-connected washing machine. But dial the clock back six decades, and manufacturing and innovation were directed toward the singular purpose of winning the war—futuristic gadgets could wait.
One company forged ahead, though, determined to keep creativity among its top priorities. Facing a decrease in demand during the war years, the Los Angeles Brush Manufacturing Corporation created a catalog full of facetious inventions, simply “to take their minds off the ugly fact that they had no brushes to sell.” In a photo shoot by Allan Grant published in LIFE in 1947, actress Olga San Juan and comedian Billy de Wolfe took those inventions—a series of brushes of questionable utility—for a test drive.
Among the crop of gimmicks were a toothbrush with its bristles replaced by actual teeth, a fingernail brush made of nails meant for a wall, and a broom with a contraption that allows the sweeper to easily sweep dirt under a rug. Not pictured, but specially featured in the company’s catalog: “a special ‘brush off’ brush attached to a mallet for getting rid of too-persistent brush salesmen.”
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.