Ahern was clearly influenced by Rube Goldberg, and many of his early strips use Goldbergian formulas, including crazy inventions. There's more here, though - look at the building in the lower right corner. It looks like something from Dr. Suess! Such buildings would often appear in the Nut Bros. and later in The Squirrel Cage.
Here's an even better example of surrealism, from Ahern's "Squirrel Food" strip, which featured one of his first regular characters, Balmy Benny. These are dated Sep. 15, 17, and 18, 1917. The boss gives Benny a vacation in Simpgoofia.