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10 Interesting Backstories Behind Common Things

Backstories Behind Common Things

We are familiar with terms or things that we do not realize are attached to facts that we can’t even imagine. But it’s true that each existing concept or thing has its own backstory. Some are known and some are not. Once you go through the interesting backstories behind common things, you will surely be awestruck! Let’s have a glance.

1. Baby monitors were a direct response to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Eugene F. McDonald Jr., who was the president of the radio company and one of the terrified parents all over the world after the horrific incident took place, readily set out to create a radio system to monitor her daughter’s room.

Baby monitor
First baby monitor of Zenith. Image credits: Sailko/Wikimedia

The backstory of the invention of baby monitors is quite an interesting one. The Lindbergh kidnapping that took place on 1 March 1932 shocked the entire country, and artist Isamu Noguchi was no different. The entire nation was silenced to hear the kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh.

The child’s corpse was recovered on May 12, and after two years of a prolonged investigation, a carpenter named Richard Hauptmann was arrested. The trial was remarkable and considered one of the trials of the century. Witnessing the conclusion, Isamu Noguchi thought of making something to protect small babies from getting abducted or misplaced.

In 1937, five years after the Lindbergh kidnapping, Isamu Noguchi introduced the “Radio Nurse.” The design was marketed by Zenith Radio Corporation, and the firm’s president himself commissioned it to track his daughter while on his yacht.

The Radio Nurse was made of black Bakelite and was eight inches tall. In general, the Radio Nurse consisted of two parts: a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver was supposed to be on the guardian’s ear to receive the sound transmission from the transmitter that would be present in the baby’s room. (1, 2, 3)

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2. In 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia caused a scarcity of horses. This was the trigger factor behind the invention of bicycles. Karl Von Drais came up with “Laufmaschine” to replace the horses which later was modified in the modern-day cycle.

Karl von Drais and bicycle
Karl von Drais and Bicycle. Image credits: H.Zell, Joachim Köhler via Wikimedia

Though it might sound insane, the backstory behind the invention of the bicycle lies in the scarcity of the horse due to the lowering of the world’s temperature.

In 1815, Mount Tambora, located in Indonesia, erupted resulting in the ash cloud dispersing around the world and lowering the global temperature. Due to this sudden climatic change, crops died on the field and millions of animals, including horses, died out of starvation.

A German aristocrat, Karl Von Drais, tried to come up with something called Laufmaschine (running machine) to replace the horses. In 1817, he introduced a two-wheeled vehicle made of wood. The vehicle differed a lot in design from what we called a bicycle today and had no gears in it.

The vehicle was supposed to be pushed with legs while sitting on a seat attached to a wooden body with two wooden wheels. It became popular throughout Europe and was known as draisienne, hobby horse, and dandy horse. However, they were banned from the sidewalks as they posed a threat to pedestrians and seemed risky to ride.

Bicycles made their comeback in 1860 when they were introduced with fixed steel wheels and gear systems. Gradually, they became popular among both men and women in such a way that in 1970, five million bicycles were manufactured in the USA alone. (1, 2, 3)

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3. It was the cooking mishaps of the wife of a cotton buyer for Johnson and Johnson named Earle Dickson that triggered the concept of a Band-aid. Unlike today, Band-aids came in a roll that was 18 inches long and three inches wide.

Band-aid
Image credits: Alf van Beem/Wikimedia

Earlier in the 1920s, there were no proper methods to bind up minor cuts or injuries, and since antibiotics were not yet invented, infections could often be fatal. Today’s handy Band-aids have a backstory of cooking mishaps of Josephine Knight Dickson, the newlywed wife of Earl Dickson living in New Jersey.

She was prone to minor injuries while cooking meals for the family. Due to the absence of proper binding material, Josephine would cover up the wound with a piece of fabric and tie a knot to hold it up. But neither this was hygienic, nor handy.

Earl, seeing his wife suffering, started to think of inventing easy-to-apply sanitary coverings to ease her pain. Dickson, who was a cotton buyer for Johnson and Johnson, created the coverings for the first time with the help of antiseptic cotton gauzes and surgical adhesive tapes manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

The strip of tape is 18 inches long and three inches wide and came in a roll, unlike today’s Band-aids. All Josephine had to do was to cut a piece from the role and apply it to her wound.

One year later, Earl’s boss came to know about his Band-aid and approached James Wood Johnson, president of the company. Johnson & Johnson officially released the product in 1921. They were not a hit at the first as many lacked the knowledge of how to use them.

In 1924, Johnson & Johnson invented machines to create them on a large scale, and this time, they were much easier to use. Each of the Band-aids was packed individually and scissors were no longer needed to cut them. Also, there was a thin red string attached to the packet to easily tear it open. During World War 2, millions of Band-aids were shipped to the frontline to help the wounded soldiers. (1, 2, 3)

4. Corn flakes were invented to stop masturbation when John Kellog had the idea that non-veg meals are responsible for triggering sexual desire. He invented a simple meal using cereal and nuts which are known as “corn flakes.”

John Harvey Kellog
John Harvey Kellog. Image credits: Wikimedia

Do you know corn flakes were invented to keep you healthy? The backstory says something completely different. The inventor of cornflakes, John Harvey Kellogg, was a Seventh-day Adventist and was a believer that sex and masturbation are unhealthy and immoral. His beliefs were so strong that he slept in a different room from his wife despite being married, and adopted all his children.

John Kellogg believed that meats and spicy, rich flavored foods increase sexual desires. So, he thought of inventing a plain-tasting breakfast made of cereals and nuts that would help teenagers and human beings to suppress their sexual and sinful desires.

And that’s how cornflakes came into existence. Not only that, the usage of cornflakes in the regular diet was suggested and promoted by the Church itself to help people avoid a “sinful” life and passion-driven experiences.

Perhaps now you understand why cornflakes are so tasteless in general. (1, 2, 3)

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5. Lloyd Groff Copeman was a prolific inventor who lived in the twentieth century. He invented several household appliances that brought many changes and played a major role in society. With the help of his wife, he invented the first automatic toaster that didn’t require manually turning the toast.

Lloyd Groff Copeman
Lloyd Groff Copeman. Image credits: Kent Copeman/Lloydcopeman.com

Lloyd Groff Copeman, an extremely talented and prolific inventor from the USA, had been behind the invention of numerous household appliances. From the early 1900s, he started working on several ideas that would later change the course of a normal household and would leave him a century-lasting legacy.

Toasters, as we know them today, are one of his inventions as well. Although quite interestingly, the idea didn’t come from him. The backstory reveals it was his beloved wife that asked him if he could invent such a toaster that wouldn’t require manually turning over by hand.

To give you a brief backstory, before Copeman’s invention, one would have to pile bread on a slab facing the heat and when one side is done, they would have to turn the other side to the heating coil manually. Fascinated by the idea, Copeman started working on it and within a few months we had the first “automatic toaster.”

But it wasn’t all Copeman. He had his wife, Hazel, helping him throughout the process. And it was Hazel who made the first prototype with hairpins. However, it’s more of oral history. The claim is supported by the patent office as the patent was registered under the name of Hazel B. Copeman in 1914. (source)

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