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Your answer? They dismantled “high tech” stuff of the day and saved nuts and bolts, connectors, switches, knobs, in brief anything that might be reused for hobby purposes. Amateur inventors were everywhere.
In a small town in the midwest, the one bank was repeatedly robbed. Someone installed a switch on the bank doors and ran a wire to the sherriff’s office. Thieves soon figured out that it could be easily defeated by simply cutting the wire before robbing the bank. My grandad, a young attorney, quickly found the solution. He connected the bank switch across the contacts which close when the clapper retracts from the bell. Thus, the “all OK” state was the clapper stuck to the coil, thus silence. Cutting the wire enabled normal bell operation. And thus was invented the modern closed circuit burglar alarm, which activates alarm when the circuit is cut.
I still have two three inch thick volumes titled “The Boy Mechanic” published by Popular Mechanics magazine in 1906. I am certain that plans for the exact motor pictured in this post are found in one of those books. 118 years ago, technological advances often came from ordinary people. There were very few “Professional Inventors” like Thomas Edison or the Wright brothers, motivated by money. Nowadays, folks like my grandad are called Open Source hackers.