10 Things that Were Invented Because of Peculiar Reasons

by Aleena Khan2 years ago

6 Condensed Milk

Gail Borden was inspired to develop a method of preserving milk after children on a ship he was traveling on, died from drinking infected milk.  The cows on board the ship had gotten seasick and infected, producing infected milk. 

Condensed Milk
(Left) Advertisement for Borden’s Eagle Brand Condensed Milk Image Credit: Karen Ross via Texasescapes.com, Wikimedia.org

Gail Borden, ex-land-surveyor, and editor were returning on a ship from the 1851 London World’s Fair after receiving a gold medal for his invention of dehydrated-beef-meat biscuit.

Prior to 1856, there was no method to preserve milk. As was the norm of the time, Borden’s ship had cows onboard to produce fresh milk for the consumption of the passengers, especially small children.

However, the cows got seasick. Later, they caught an infection and died. Adding to the woe, the milk too got infected, and the children who drank it died.

Appalled by the incident, Borden returned to New York and began experimenting with ways to preserve milk in his basement. He was met with little success.

He eventually found a solution after a visit to a Shaker colony. There he observed that the Shakers were dehydrating the fruits by boiling them in a vacuum pan.

He did the same with milk. The result was reduced milk that tasted good and kept its color.  Also, using this method, the milk could be preserved for longer.

After refining and improving his industrial vacuum pan for three years, he finally patented the product in 1856. (1, 2)

7 The Teddy Bear

When President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a tied bear on a hunting trip, it became national news and the subject of a political cartoon in The Washington Times. Inspired by the cartoon, Morris Mitchcom stuffed a fabric bear and named him after Roosevelt’s nickname “Teddy.”

Teddy Bear
Image Credit : PBS via youtube.com , Clifford Berryman / Wikimedia.org

In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was invited to go on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi by the governor of Mississippi, Andrew H. Longino. During the trip, unlike the other hunters, Roosevelt was unsuccessful in hunting down an animal. So, his guides cornered an American black bear and tied it to a willow tree. They then invited Roosevelt to shoot the bear.

Even though President Roosevelt was an avid hunter, he refused to shoot the defenseless animal calling it unsportsmanlike.

The incident caught the attention of the public. It also became a subject of Clifford Berryman’s political cartoon in The Washington Post.

The cartoon, featuring a black bear being lassoed by a guide while a disgusted Roosevelt looks away, inspired Morris Michtom to make a stuffed bear from fabric. As Theodore Roosevelt was popularly called “Teddy,” the stuffed animal was named “Teddy Bear.” (1, 2)


8 Kotex Sanitary Pads

Kotex pads were invented by Kimberly-Clark, an American paper products company, to replenish the demand for Cellucotton after WWI Army nurses reported using the superabsorbent material as a makeshift sanitary napkin.

(Left) An early advertisement of Kotex for women. Image Credit: Library of Congress, Wisconsin Historical Society WHS-7001

Like a number of other products that first came to market in the 1920s, Kotex sanitary pads originated as a wartime invention. Kimberly-Clark, an American paper products company formed in the 1870s, produced bandages from a material called “Cellucotton” for World War I. Cellucotton, which was made of wood pulp, was five times as absorbent as cotton bandages but much less expensive.

In 1919, with the war over, Kimberly-Clark executives were looking for ways to use Cellucotton in peacetime. The company got the idea of sanitary pads from the American Fund for the French Wounded, according to historians Thomas Heinrich and Bob Batchelor. The Fund “received letters from Army nurses claiming they used Cellucotton surgical dressings as makeshift sanitary napkins.”

After a few rejections and a lot of convincing, Kimberly-Clark agreed to produce the napkins themselves, and the first box of Kotex sanitary pads was sold in October 1919 at the Woolworth’s department store in Chicago. (source)

9 Trunk-release Lever 

The glow-in-the-dark trunk-release lever was developed and mandated in cars in 2002 after Janette Fennell and her husband were kidnapped, robbed, and left for dead in their car trunk. After miraculously escaping, Janette Fennell led a successful campaign to convince the federal government and the auto industry that trunk entrapment was a significant issue and required a solution.

Trunk button
Image Credit: Jannette Fennell / atlasobscura.com

On 29 October 1995, Janette Fennell and her husband Greig were returning from dinner when they were kidnapped from their garage. The couple was forced into their car trunk, driven to a secluded place in the south of San Francisco. They were then robbed and left for dead.

Emergency Release lever
Emergency Release lever. Image credits: Cars.com/Youtube

In a desperate attempt to escape, Janette clawed through the carpet and found the trunk release, hidden underneath among wires.

After narrowly escaping and surviving the incident, Janette was shocked to learn that many cars didn’t even have an emergency release lever, let alone an easily accessible one.

She fiercely campaigned for mandating a trunk-release lever in cars and succeeded after an expert panel voted in favor of equipping car trunks with an internal release latch. (source)


10 Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time was not introduced to match our biological clock with the mechanical one. It was first implemented by Germany during World War I to save coal and electricity and use them in fighting the war instead.

Daylight Saving Time
Image Credit: Unsplash.com

During the spring and summer, the sun rises earlier than in winter. Owing to this, most of the natural light is wasted during the early hours of the day. By moving the clock an hour forward, people will get up early and sync their working hours with daylight. This reduces the use of artificial lighting reducing the public demand for coal.

During a war, countries on both sides of the conflict try to divert their maximum resources in fighting the war. As a result, limited resources like coal and electricity become scarce.

So to save these resources during World War I, Germany introduced Daylight Savings Time in 1916 followed by the US in 1918. (source)

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