The abacus was probably invented by the Babylonians. It was refined and used by the Romans, Chinese, Arabs, Europeans, and Asians as late as the seventeenth century. It is still used, in various forms, in the Middle East and Japan.
Henry Ford did not invent assembly-line production. Ransom E. Olds, father of the Oldsmobile, introduced the assembly-line technique to the United States in 1901. In doing so, he increased automobile production from 425 vehicles in 1901 to over 2,500 in 1902. Ford contributed modifications, including the conveyor belt system, which reduced the time it took […]
Developed between 1908 and 1912 by Hugh Moore as the healthful “individual drinking cup” for public water sources, the Dixie Cup was originally called the Health Kup. It did not catch on until inventor Moore gave it a new name. The producer of the cups was the Dixie Doll Company, which reminded Moore of a […]
The practice of gyrating with hoops made of grapevines originated in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The name hula, however, was not used until the 1700s, when British and American missionaries returned home with tales of island hoop-dancers. The modern plastic Hula-Hoop was developed in the 1950s by Richard P. Knerr and Arthur K. (“Spud”) […]
The chair dates from the third and sixth dynasties of Egypt (c. 2686-2181 B.C.). These early chairs often had legs shaped like animal limbs.
Scottish engineer John Baird built a working color television in 1928. But it was Hungarian-American inventor Peter Carl Goldmark who, in 1940, developed the first color-television system to be used commercially. Goldmark is also remembered for inventing the 33 1/3 RPM long-playing record in 1948.
The 7 in 7UP stands for the soft drink’s original 7-ounce bottle, the UP for the bubbles from its carbonation. In 1929, when the drink was first introduced by Saint Louis businessman Charles L. Grigg, it was called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. The name was derived from one of its original ingredients, lithium salts.
New Yorker Willis Carrier became interested in ventilation systems while he was still an engineering student at Cornell at the turn of the century. Shortly after his graduation, he developed his first air-cooling system for a Brooklyn printer and lithographer. The first air-conditioned movie house opened in Chicago in 1919. By the end of the […]
The now legendary and defunct Burma-Shave advertisements were developed in 1926 by Allan Odell, the son of the founder of the Burma-Vita Company. Burma-Shave was a new product, the first brushless shaving cream, and in the 1920s it was difficult to sell. But when Odell saw a series of roadside signs for a filling station, […]
Henry Shrapnel of England (1761-1842), an artillery officer, invented the so-called shrapnel. It was a round projectile filled with bullets and equipped with an explosive charge to scatter the shot. In later versions, fragments of the shell casing itself were found to be more deadly than the enclosed bullets. Shrapnel today refers to those fragments.
The safety pin as we know it today was not produced until 1849, when American inventor Walter Hunt patented the first modern design. Precursors were developed in Europe about 3,000 years ago and became the standard device for fastening clothes. In the sixth century B.c., Greek and Roman women used a fibula, a pin with […]
The Tootsie Roll was named after Clara Hirschfield, the daughter of the candy’s creator. Leo Hirschfield who invented the Tootsie Roll had given her this pet name. He gave the name to the candy as well, which entered the American market in 1896.
Yes, there is a connection between the Avon Lady and Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1896 in New York City, D. H. McConnell abandoned door-to-door book selling and formed the California Perfume Company, which marketed scents the same way. His company expanded and McConnell built a factory in Suffern, New York. On the 50th anniversary of […]
M&M stands for Mars and Merrie. Victor Mars and his associate Mr. Merrie created the candy in 1941.
The numbers 10, 2, and 4 represented the times between meals when a person’s energy is at its lowest and can be revived by Dr. Pepper.
Called celluloid, it was invented in 1869 by American John Wesley Hyatt. This cellulose nitrate and camphor mixture, though flammable, was strong and pliable enough for use in a variety of common household items. Eventually it was replaced by less flammable synthetic polymers.
What we now know as the inch (from Latin uncia, or “12th part”) was defined as 112 foot by the Romans. It was roughly a thumb’s breadth, while a foot was roughly the length of a human foot. The Romans introduced the inch to Britain, where it was incorporated into the English system of weights […]
The word fiat means an authoritative decree, from the Latin for “let it be done”. But the Italian car company founded in Turin in 1899 adopted its name as an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Motorcar Works, Turin).
The first chewing gum was the flavorless Adams New York Chewing Gum. Snapping and Stretching was developed by New York inventor Thomas Adams and introduced in 1871. Flavored gum followed in 1875, and bubble gum a decade after that.
The idea for Alka-Seltzer came from a newspaper editor in Elkhart, Indiana, in the 1920s. It was brought to the public by Hub Beardsley, president of the Dr. Miles Laboratories (now Miles Laboratories). Beardsley learned that an entire newspaper staff had remained free of influenza during an epidemic when they took the editor’s prescription of […]
Yes, there was really a Dr. Scholl. In the late nineteenth century, William (“Billy”) Scholl left farm life in La Porte, Indiana, for life as a shoemaker in Chicago. After noticing how much abuse the average foot takes, he decided to become a podiatrist and treat the problems he saw. Once established as a medical […]
The fat little man made of Michelin tires also known as the Michelin Man is named Bibendum. He can be seen on the covers of all Michelin travel guides.
Baron George Wrangell, descendant of Russian and Italian royalty was the Man in the Hathaway Shirt. He was working as an artist’s model before advertising executive David Ogilvy chose him for the Hathaway advertisements in the late 1940s. The eye-patch (cost: 50 cents) was Ogilvy’s idea.
Originally San Francisco tailor Levi Strauss made jeans from canvas. But in the early 1860s, he started using a softer fabric imported from Nimes, France. Known in French as serge de Nimes, the material was called denim in the United States.
No, the Baby Ruth candy bar was named for Ruth Cleveland. Ruth Cleveland was the oldest daughter of President Grover Cleveland.