Fasces Maximus: Origin of My Vision for the Ultimate Back Scratcher

It’s a funny thing, sometimes, the process of imagination and then creation. A drifting cloud in the sky can transform into a face. A familiar object dissolves into another form. These are often the thoughts and visions in an inventor’s head when bending and shaping a familiar form into something new and different.

My reflections on the twisted shaft of a common wire fly swatter and how some subtle changes could transform it into a totally different and much more useful and essential tool led to the development of ITCHTHATBITCH backscratchers.

A simple bundle of rods, known as “fasces,” from the old Latin word fascis, is similar to a bundle of wires that have been twisted to bind them together for greater strength.

One wire is not nearly as effective as a twisted strand and not nearly as strong.

A single stick can bend and break, while a bound bundle has the strength of unity. A single string with many other strings- when wound together - becomes a rope capable of holding a heavy anchor, and a single wire twisted with many others becomes an enormously strong cable.

So, was the inspiration for the ITCHTHATBITCH back scratcher from a fly swatter, or from the fasces symbol on the reverse of the United States Mercury dime?


Who knows what causes these episodes of inspiration?

After my original twisted-wire fly swatter vision for a backscratcher, I realized that something more than a twist of multiple wires was required to make the end fingers of the back scratcher stiff enough to really scratch.

So I designed a wire-wrapping concept to bring the separate rods of the fasces bundle together, providing strength. This is similar to the strength of the ancient fasces symbol of a bundle tied together with bands of leather to secure it.

Just when you think that you are a real inventor, you find that what you have done goes back thousands of years - to ancient Etruscan and Roman times, when axe blades were secured in bundles of sticks, wrapped in bundles of leather. The fingertips of the ITCHTHATBITCH backscratcher represent the blades of the ancient Roman and Etruscan axes.

The fasces symbolism exists in so many places today that it is not surprising that features of its design can seep into the subconscious and become incorporated into something as functional and useful as a common back scratcher.

The fasces, in addition to appearing on the reverse of the Mercury Dime (minted from late 1916 to 1945), is found in many other examples of both United States and world iconography. The arms of the Lincoln Memorial chair in Washington, D.C. are just one example.

Multiple sources indicate that the meaning of the fasces symbol stems from the fact that while one rod or staff can be easily broken, a bound bundle has much greater strength. The underlying meaning is that strength lies in unity. This theme appears to have originated with the Etruscans and was later adopted by the Romans. In Rome, the Fasces Lictoriae, or “bundles of the lector,” symbolized the power and authority of various officials. The more fasces bundles and staff members holding bundles, the more power and status of the bundle (fasces) bearer.

A downside to the symbol was its adoption by fascism. The symbols used by Italian fascism, however, were short-lived and had little effect on their widespread use in the West and other parts of the world. Along the same vein, the swastika was appropriated by Nazi Germany, while its origins actually date back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures and symbolize well-being; it is still widely used with no negative connotations in India and other eastern regions of the world.

Today, most of us never even think about fasces and other symbols that originated ages ago, and still persist today. What is ironic to me is that the inspiration for the best back scratcher in the world came partially from a symbol of imperial Roman power and authority.

And the result of my subconscious inspiration is, that instead of representing magisterial power, my backscratchers are actual tools of individual power - to satisfy your personal itch.

ITCHTHATBITCH, the Fasces Maximus ultimate back scratcher. Two thousand years from now, my backscratchers may still be around, just like the fasces symbol is today. They are that good.

Bill Grant

ITCHTHATBITCH Backscratchers

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