While researching I stumbled upon this article by Rob Temple, called "10 Historic Gadget Flops." Brilliantly researched, the article features some real loser inventions, such as the machine invented in 1927 that takes x-rays to determine a person's shoe size. But for writers, these flops are inspirational gems.
You could write a horror story featuring "The Finger Stretcher." It sounds like a torture device, but it isn't.
Or maybe the dirigible pilot in your steampunk story wears something based on the 1920's wrist watch navigator system which holds itty-bitty maps.
My favorite gadget in the article is the hat tipper. I don't know how or if I'll include it (or something similar) in my WIP, but if I can't see one in person, I sure would like to see it in a book. Then again, maybe I'll invent a hat taker-offer for certain young men I know who won't remove their hats at the table. Hmm...