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From Power Drencher to Super Soaker

Feb 2016

It may be a surprise that the original Super Soaker water gun wasn’t always a neon yellow and green toy irresistible to children and adults. In fact, the Super Soaker was a case of accidental genius. 

Previously known as the Power Drencher, the Super Soaker was stumbled upon by Lonnie G. Johnson.

Lonnie G. Johnson is an African-American engineer and inventor. He earned his master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Tuskegee University, and went on to work in the U.S. Air Force and the NASA Space Program.

Johnson worked on his own inventions in his spare time. Once of his longtime projects was an environmentally friendly heat pump that used water instead of freon. Johnson finally completed a prototype one night in 1982 and decided to test it in his bathroom. There he aimed the nozzle into the bathtub, pulled the lever, and blasted a powerful stream of water straight into the bathtub.

The original prototype was nowhere near as flashy as it is today. The original Super Soaker was made of simple small diameter PVC pipe and a 2-liter bottle.

In 1989, after another seven years of tinkering and tireless sales pitching, Johnson sold his device to the Larami Corporation. The Power Drencher initially failed to make much of a commercial impact -- but after additional marketing efforts and a name change, the Super Soaker became a massively successful product.

Kudos to Lonnie G. Johnson. Happy Black History Month.