The Tinkle Pot is a novelty musical toilet created by Searcy (White County) drug store owner Frank Headlee, who also served as mayor of Searcy from 1951 to 1956. Essentially, it is a modified plastic commode for a child that plays music when the seat and lid are put down; when closed, the seat compresses a pin and lever that activate a music box inside the Tinkle Pot. In order to play, the music box must first be wound by hand. The Tinkle Pot itself weighs between one and two pounds, and it also features a handle on the back of the toilet for easy carrying. Headlee had the idea to manufacture the Tinkle Pot for sale in his drug store on the Searcy courthouse square.
For help with patenting his unique creation, Headlee approached local draftsman, businessman, and Navy veteran T. R. Garner. In an interview, Garner recalled the drafting of a drawing for the Tinkle Pot patent application to be easy; he forgot about it until he saw several of them stacked on a shelf at Headlee’s store later in the 1950s. Headlee received a patent on his Tinkle Pot in 1957, and it is listed as a “musical training pot” under U.S. Pat. No. 2,788,764. On the side of the packaging, Headlee wrote, “Tinkle Pots for tinkling tots.”
Headlee’s Drug Store in Searcy existed in four different locations downtown for much of the early twentieth century, though always on the courthouse square, and served as both a Rexall and a Walgreens at different times over the years. Headlee’s son Sonny later took over store operations and ran the family enterprise up until its closing in the 1970s, which subsequently brought an end to sales of the Tinkle Pot and led to its passage into relative obscurity.
For additional information:
Miller, Adam. “Interview with T. R. Garner.” On file at the White County Public Library, Searcy, Arkansas.
My grandfather, Frank Headlee, had a great sense of humor, and I know he would have enjoyed your entry. He marketed the Tinkle Pot to be used by real children, not dolls.
He was able to place Tinkle Pots in department stores in Little Rock and Memphis, but they weren’t big sellers, and I remember them as “close outs” in our drugstores for years afterward.
"*" indicates required fields