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Top 10 Everyday Inventions

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

This is a list of the inventions of some of the many objects we use in our every day lives. While these are all very minor things, they all help to make life much easier. So, here is a list of the top 10 everyday inventions.

10. The Safety Razor

Us Patent 775134.Png

Prior to the invention of the safety razor, most men used a straight razor – a bare blade that takes skill to use. In the late 18th century, Jean-Jacques Perret, inspired by a joiner’s plane, invented the first safety razor. Perret was an expert on the subject and he even wrote a book on in it: “Pogonotomy or the Art of Learning to Shave Oneself”. From the 1820’s onward, a variety of companies began manufacturing their own style of safety razor (though many of these would not be considered a safety razor by today’s standards). In 1875, the Kampfe brothers released the first American version; this razor featured a wire skin guard on one side of the blade, which required removal for sharpening. In 1901, King Camp Gillette (an American inventor) invented the first safety razor with disposable blades. Gillette, being a shrewd businessman, realized that selling the razors at a loss and making money on the disposable blades could make a far greater profit. This method of marketing is called the Razor and Blades Business Model, or a “loss leader”. In 1903, his first year of selling the device to the public, Gillette sold 51 razors and 168 blades.

9. Peanut Butter

250Px-Peanutbutter

First off, let us dispel a myth: George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter! Peanuts were first ground in to a paste by the Incas, but the tradition eventually vanished. It was not until 1890 that the first modern use of peanut butter came about. George A. Bayle produced the paste and sold it as a protein supplement for people with bad teeth. In 1893, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created a forerunner of the peanut butter, as we know it today – though his recipe used steamed, rather than roasted, peanuts. Peanut butter was widely introduced to the United States in 1904, by C.H. Sumner at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (Saint Louis World’s Fair) which also popularized the ice cream cone, the hot dog and the hamburger. In 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield developed modern peanut butter by using finer grinding, hydrogenation, and an emulsifier to keep the oil from separating. This created a creamy texture unlike the earlier peanut butter described as gritty, or pasty. He received a patent for stable peanut butter that had a shelf life of up to a year.


8. Tin Can

Tin Can250

British merchant Peter Durand made an impact on food preservation with his 1810 patenting of the tin can. In 1813, John Hall and Bryan Dorkin opened the first commercial canning factory in England. The first tin cans were so thick they had to be hammered open. As cans became thinner, it became possible to invent dedicated can openers. In 1858, Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut patented the first can opener. The U.S. military used it during the Civil War. In 1866, J. Osterhoudt patented the tin can with a key opener that you can find on sardine cans. The inventor of the familiar household can opener was William Lyman. William Lyman patented a very easy to use can opener in 1870, the kind with the wheel that rolls and cuts around the rim of a can. The Star Can Company of San Francisco improved William Lyman’s can opener in 1925 by adding a serrated edge to the wheel.

7. Milk Bottle

Milk Bottles Of The Late 19Th Century

The New York Dairy Company is credited with having been the first company to mass-produce glass bottles for the distribution of milk. Prior to that, milkmen would fill a customers own jugs with milk; unpasteurized milk was delivered up to four times a day due to its short shelf life. The first patents for the Lester Milk Jar holds a milk container on January 29, 1878. Lewis P. Whiteman holds the first patent for a glass milk bottle with a small glass lid and a tin clip (US patent number 225,900, filed on January 31, 1880). The next earliest patent is for a milk bottle with a dome type tin cap and was granted September 24, 1884 to Whitemen’s brother, Abram V. Whiteman (US patent number 305,554, filed on January 31, 1880).


6. Vacuum Cleaner

2006 4 4B

The first manually powered cleaner using vacuum principles was the “Whirlwind”, invented in Chicago in 1868 by Ives W. McGaffey. The machine was lightweight and compact, but was difficult to operate because of the need to turn a hand crank at the same time as pushing it across the floor. McGaffey obtained a patent for his device on June 5, 1869, and enlisted the help of The American Carpet Cleaning Co. of Boston to market it to the public. It was sold for $25, a high price in those days. It is hard to determine how successful the Whirlwind was, as most of them were sold in Chicago and Boston, and it is likely that many were lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Only two are known to have survived, one of which can be found in the Hoover Historical Center.

5. Zipper

Zipper

An early device superficially similar to the zipper, “an Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”, was patented in the United States by Elias Howe in 1851. Unlike the zipper, Howe’s invention had no slider; instead a series of clasps slid freely along both edges to be joined, with each clasp holding the two sides together at whichever pair of points along them it was located. The true zipper was the product of a series of incremental improvements over more than twenty years, by inventors and engineers associated with a sequence of companies that were the progenitors of Talon, Inc. This process began with a version called the “clasp locker”, invented by Whitcomb L. Judson of Chicago (previously of Minneapolis and New York City), and for which a patent (No. 504,038) was first applied for on Nov. 7, 1891. It culminated in 1914 with the invention, by Gideon Sundback, of the “Hookless Fastener No. 2”, which was the first version of the zipper without any major design flaws, and which was essentially indistinguishable from modern zippers.


4. Velcro

Velcro

Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, invented the hook-loop fastener in 1948. The idea came to him after he took a close look at the Burdock seeds that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur on their daily summer walks in the Alps. He examined their condition and saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion. He developed the hook and loop fastener and submitted his idea for patent in 1951. It was then granted in 1955. De Mestral named his invention “VELCRO” after the French words velours, meaning ‘velvet’, and crochet, or ‘hook’. The uses and applications of the product are numerous.

3. The Toaster

2Estate2

Prior to the development of the electric toaster, sliced bread was toasted by placing it in a metal frame and holding it over a fire or by holding it near to a fire using a long handled fork. Crompton and Company, Leeds, England invented toasters for bread using electricity in 1893. The technology that makes electric toasters possible, a nichrome wire that can endure high heat, has existed for a long time. At least two other brands of toasters had been introduced commercially around the time GE submitted the first patent application for their model D-12 in 1909. In 1913 Lloyd Groff Copeman and his wife Hazel Berger Copeman applied for various toaster patents and in that same year the Copeman Electric Stove Company introduced the toaster with automatic bread turner. The company also produced the “toaster that turns toast.” Before this, electric toasters cooked bread on one side and then it was flipped by hand to toast the other side. Copeman’s toaster turned the bread around without having to touch it. Copeman also invented the first electric stove and the rubber (flexible) ice cube tray.


2. Soft Drinks

Sodafountain1891

Soft drinks trace their history back to the mineral waters found in natural springs. Ancient societies believed that bathing in natural springs and/or drinking mineral waters could cure many diseases. The first marketed soft drinks (non-carbonated) appeared in the 17th century France. They were made from water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. In the 1770s, scientists made important progress in replicating natural mineral waters. Englishman Joseph Priestley impregnated distilled water with carbon dioxide. Another Englishman, John Mervin Nooth, improved Priestley’s design and sold his apparatus for commercial use in pharmacies. Artificial mineral waters, usually called “soda water,” and the soda fountain made the biggest splash in the United States. Beginning in 1806, Yale chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman sold soda waters in New Haven, Connecticut. He used a Nooth apparatus to produce his waters. The American pharmacists selling mineral waters began to add herbs and chemicals to unflavored mineral water. They used birch bark, dandelion, sarsaparilla, fruit extracts, and other substances. Flavorings were also added to improve the taste. Pharmacies with soda fountains became a popular part of American culture.

1. Toilet Paper

1886 Apw Ad

Although paper had been known as a wrapping and padding material in China since the 2nd century BC, the first use of toilet paper in human history dates back to the 6th century AD, in early medieval China. During the later Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) a Muslim Arab traveler to China in the year 851 AD remarked:

“[The Chinese] are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper.”

During the early 14th century (Yuan Dynasty) it was recorded that in modern-day Zhejiang province alone there was an annual manufacturing of toilet paper amounting in ten million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets of toilet paper each. The first producer of ‘perforated’ toilet paper was the British Perforated Paper Company in 1880. Other forms of non-perforated toilet paper were available the same time and earlier, notably from the Scott brothers (Scott Paper Company) and Joseph Gayetty. Before this invention, wealthy people used wool, lace or hemp for their ablutions, while less wealthy people used their hand when defecating into rivers, or cleaned themselves with various materials such as rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and cob of the corn depending upon the country and weather conditions or social customs. I will close this list with a wonderful quote by François Rabelais, the sixteenth century satirist who considered the back feathers of a live goose to be the ideal medium for this job:

“He who uses paper on his filthy bum, will always find his bullocks lined with scum”

This article is licensed under the GFDL. It uses material from the Wikipedia articles: The Vacuum Cleaner, Zipper, Velcro, Toaster, Soft Drink, Toilet Paper

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • Samsung

    This is a really interesting list, I’ve always wondered how people “cleaned up” before toilet paper.
    Number 3 also cleared up a silly paradoxical question I’ve had in my head: what came first toast or the toaster.

  • Samsung: I am glad it cleared up two issues for you :)

  • 20Fan20

    I agree with TP being number 1!!!

    I love the pic of the lady and the vacumn cleaner. She is pointing to it like we won’t notice that giant hunk of metal at her feet!

  • 20Fan20: haha I didn’t even notice that :)

  • Jackie

    So if George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter how did that myth come about? Anybody know?

    My boyfriend made homemade peanut butter recently. He just ground up peanuts using our food processor (I believe they were raw, not roasted) and added a little vegetable oil and a little honey. It was slightly gritty but tasted good!

  • evan

    there is another very popular way of wiping oneself in the early 1900s here in America for the poor. It was to use the pages from the huge Sears and Roebuck catalogue that would come in the mail.

  • mix2323

    thank god for toilet paper

  • JOE ROSSON

    I can just imagine the booty funk one would get before TP, I bet oral sex was not as popular before this fine invention.

  • w00t Peanut Butter FTW. but who cant live without toilet paper.

  • Dr. Goodtimes

    No microwave?

    Toilet paper was a huge improvement over pine cones.

  • evan

    He doesnt know how to use the 3 shells

  • Evan: HAHA I love Demolition Man!

  • StewWriter

    I would totally have to add the toothbrush. Obviously, without which, we’d all be using some kind of twig or some such nonsense. Here’s the skinny:
    William Addis of England is credited with creating the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770 he had been placed in jail for causing a riot. While in prison, he decided that the method for teeth brushing of the time – rubbing a rag on one’s teeth with soot and salt – could be improved. So he took a small animal bone, drilled small holes in it, obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them in tufts, then passed the bristles through the holes on the bone and glued them.

    The first patent for a toothbrush was by H. N. Wadsworth in 1850 in the United States, but mass production of the product in America only started in 1885. The rather advanced design had a bone handle with holes bored into it for the Siberian Boar hair bristles. Boar wasn’t an ideal material; it retained bacteria, it didn’t dry well, and the bristles would often fall out of the brush. It wasn’t until World War II, however, that the concept of brushing teeth really caught on in the U.S., in partly because it was part of American soldiers’ regular daily duty to clean their teeth. It was a practice that they brought back to their home life after the conclusion of the war.

    Natural bristles (from animal hair) were replaced by synthetic fibers, usually nylon, by DuPont in 1938. The first nylon bristle toothbrush, made with nylon yarn, went on sale on February 24, 1938. The first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent, was introduced by the Bristol-Myers Company (now Bristol-Myers Squibb) at the centennial of the American Dental Association in 1959.

    In January 2003, the toothbrush was selected as the number one invention Americans could not live without, beating out the automobile, computer, cell phone, and microwave oven, according to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index

    That last part is worth note: The invention most Americans could not live without. I’d tend to agree.

  • caysha

    I would’ve added the ball point pen too. In any case the list, as always, is really interesting and informative – keep up the great work! :D

  • Gravy

    I agree with number one being the best, but I still like using my hand.

  • DiscHuker

    what about the concept of refridgeration? think of all of the things you wouldn’t be able to enjoy unless consumed immediately. hot soft drinks? no ice-cream? warm milk? yuk!

  • Yarr

    Funny.
    Guys?
    The greatest household invention ever is…
    The knife.

    Think about it.

    I’ll leave you to contemplate this then.

  • Peggy

    Yarr- I agree!!

  • yarr: the knife is on top 10 ancient inventions :) It is a prehistoric invention.

    Jackie: it probably came about because he did so much with peanuts in his life.

    StewWriter: thanks for that – what a fascinating comment – I didn’t know any of that history.

  • Before toilet paper there was water… Even today Turkish closets have their own tap (water) and many Turks on abroad feel uncomfortable by lack of water in closets.

    ‘though i dont know, I’ve never left the country yet.

  • Lol @ the peanutbutter description…

    And I can’t believe it took until 1880 for there to be commercially sold perforated TP! D= And the vacuum is a lot older than I thought. I bet it hasn’t changed much though.

  • ben

    cool list, the TP before TP has always baffled me. now im off to go use some TP..its halloween!

  • Yarr

    Well dude, bottles aren’t exactly modern marvels either, but they’re on here.
    In fact, few people even use the type of milk bottles pictured anymore anyway. Almost everybody still uses knives though, and besides, the list is called “Everyday Inventions”, not “Stuff I Didn’t Already Put On Another List”.
    Just sayin’

  • Fe

    I used to work at a fabric store and after reading about how the invention of velcro came about – stickers, how apropos :) – several years ago, I used to regale my customers with the trivia. Most of them thought I was slightly nuts, because then I went and looked up other common sewing supplies like scissors, zippers, etc, and added them to my repetoire. Had a customer pay me a high compliment once, when she said that she always looked forward to coming into the store since I was never boring.

  • Drogo

    (*gulp*) I think the toilet paper story may have given me something that would be described as Psychological induced Constipation. (wood shavings?,seashells?)

  • aplspud

    Neat list, its funny how we forget about that things were actually invented. There’s a show called “How its Made” and they pick some of the most random stuff.

    Yarr: Glass milk bottles were quite unique for their ability to be sealed, and it is really only recently that they have fallen out of use. In fact, many places still do use them. And many people collect them.

  • Yarr

    Well…

    I use knives, and I collect them. So there!

  • aplspud

    Yarr: I think you’d have a better argument for the fork, since its not so clearly a modification on a natural occurrence.

  • pretty good list…

    The zoomed in velcro picture helped me figure more out how it works

    NEATO

    haha that words funny :)

  • hmmmm, a very good list, however could not help but think the match would have been a good addition to the list…or at least worthy of comment…
    http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/matches.htm

  • luckyaz

    what about the condom????? all the lovin without a bread in the oven????? i think it is the greatest

  • I thought about the toaster for some random reason before I even read anything on this list. And look where it is!

  • mpw

    toilets!

  • jajdude

    Toilet paper is overused. A good shower works fine.

  • naz

    ha haha i didn’t know that

  • Marianne

    My names marianne and i think that toilet paper is not nessaasary becuase i just go in the bush and use leaaavees :)

  • LDPan

    Use Velcro as TP…

  • deviantmiss

    LDPan NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • nuriko

    nice!

  • rinne

    interesting list :P
    i thought stuff like the lightbulb would be on #1 tho :P
    toilet paper was a good one hahaha

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  • kristi

    i know nobody will comment again but i would like to say that i hate peanut butter… why are people so obsessed? also that pretty much everything was invented at some time… eg. just looking around me paper, computer, mobile phone, lamps/light, pencil/pen… they dont have to things you use at home

  • Leo

    Con was invented by a french Nicolas Appert “conserve”
    But he didnt wanted to depose a brand on it

    Then Peter Durrand, an english man stole the invention.

    check it and change the facts please

  • Teebs

    Leo, it says Durrand PATENTED the tin can, not that he INVENTED it.

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  • I was thinking about the good old fashion knife….Maybe that would fall in a category with razors???

  • I love top ten list….this is a good one. Ken is right….knives could be included!

  • Mahala

    PEOPLE STILL NEED TO CLEAN THEIR BUMS WITH WATER AND SOAP! GOD!

  • billysurf

    where is the ball point pen???!!!! even in this digital age, i couldn’t live with out!

  • Hiroashby

    how about someone make a top 10 inventions by women?

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  • Deneisha Clarke

    I love who created the thing for peanut butter cause its my favorite food umm i wish i could have some right now keep on inventin peeps

  • Katlinn Tohosky

    I didn’t know any of that untill I just read it and I’m glad that I did because now Ican go back to school and tell my teachers and my class mates about what I just read. The past is so interesting.

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  • cool man

    i like this

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