Household Item Inventions
Current Category: Household Items.
Ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, our homes are continuously being filled with goods and products that makes our lives easier. The following is a list of household items and a summary of their invention history. Click on the link to learn more.
Alka-Seltzer was first launched in 1931 by the Dr Miles Medicine Company. It was invented by Maurice Treneer in Elkhart, Indiana. Today, millions of people from around the world benefits from its antacid and pain relieving properties.
Where would we be without batteries now? These tiny electrical storage units that power mobile phones, laptops, cars, watches and a myriad of other devices have changed our lives thanks to Alessandro Volta and alleged discoveries made in Iraq.
Once dubbed the “King’s Game”, chess has been played for least 1500 years. This two-player strategy board game is played by millions worldwide and even has a world championship. It can last from 10 minutes to 6 hours and has spawned a musical, books and films.
Now loved by millions of children worldwide, colored crayons have only been around for a little over 100 years; before that the only color they came in was black due to their oil and charcoal mix. There are now 133 standard Crayola crayon colors.
Corrective lenses have been used for over two thousand years since Emperor Nero watched Gladiators through an emerald, although eye glasses (spectacles) were first perched on the wearer’s nose in the 13th century. It wasn’t until the 1720s that frames and arms were attached, making them more useable. Now millions can read and drive thanks to eyeglasses.
Glue has been used for over 200,000 years when birch bark tar was used in arrow making. Other ingredients used since have included plant gum, pitch, egg, flour and rubber. We now even have Super Glue, a product invented by Dr Harry Coover in 1942. Glues are now used in anything from sticking paper to attaching heat resistant tiles to rockets.
There is controversy as to who invented ink; some say the Egyptians, others the Chinese. In China, it can be traced back to the 23rd century BC when philosopher Tien-Lcheu used graphite, gelatine and water. Today, more than 90% of inks are printing inks. Forms of ink are now also used in food in tattoos.
A Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen, invented the world’s favorite toy in the 1940s. Named from the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning play well, it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in New York in 1998. 600 billion LEGO® elements have been manufactured made up of over 4,200 different elements in the range, in 58 different colors.
The Chinese invented nail polish back in 3000 BC. During the Chou Dynasty gold and silver nail polish were prevalent among royalty, the Indians used henna to color theirs and in Ancient Egypt Cleopatra would often wear red varnish. Today it is a refined version of vehicle paint and is sold in an almost endless range of colors and finishes.
James Wright invented the product that would later become Silly Putty. It was originally made as a possible rubber substitute in World War II. Six years later, Peter Hodgson decided it would make a great toy, and marketed it. Over 300 million eggs of Silly Putty have now been sold; even to Apollo astronauts who used it to secure their tools in zero-gravity.
Nicolas Leblanc created a type of soap using sodium carbonate in 1791, but a French chemist called Michel Eugène Chevreul created the first bar of soap in 1811. A formula for a very early soap-like substance consisting of water, cassia oil and alkali was recorded on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC.
In 1984, Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert invented the technology, protocol and rules that allowed for text messaging. Neil Papworth was the first person in the world to send a text message in 1992, which said Happy Christmas!
The Air Conditioner
The ancient Egyptians used a basic form of air conditioning using damp reeds hung from window frames. Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first true air conditioner in 1902, using concepts created in the 19th century by British inventor Michael Faraday. Carrier’s invention controlled temperature as well as humidity.
The Barbie Doll
Ruth Handler first gave Barbie to the world on March 9th, 1959, Barbie’s official date-of-birth. She wanted an adult type doll for her daughter Barbara, and found inspiration from a doll in Germany. She’s had dozens of family and friends in the last 50 years (who could forget Ken?) and now even has her own official Twitter account!
Baron Karl von Drais created the first 2-wheeler in 1817, the forerunner to the bicycle. Pierre and Ernest Michaux later added pedals and Eugene Meyer adjustable spokes. Children’s bikes were introduced just after World War I and it is now more than just a cheap form of transport, but part of an Olympic sport.
Herminie Cadolle invented the brassiere, more commonly known as the bra in 1889. Her business, Cadolle Lingerie, is still running today with Patricia Cadolle, sixth-generation of the Cadolle family, at the helm. Vogue magazine first used the term brassiere in 1907 and four years later it made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Frenchman Blaise Pascal invented the first calculating machine in 1645 after 3 years of trying. Thomas de Colmar’s arithmometer was the first commercially successful machine, manufactured over two hundred years later in 1851. This was a huge leap in mathematics, after the Sumerians and Egyptians first used the Abacus before 2000 BC.
The camera has a long history, since the Chinese came up with the idea for a camera-like device early in the fifth century. The first references to the principles behind the pinhole camera or camera obscura belong to Mozi (470 to 390 BC), a Chinese philosopher and the founder of Mohism and Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 to 322 BC). However, the first massively commercially cameras with film came to us from George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak.
The Cell Phone
Martin Cooper invented the cell phone (mobile phone) while working for Motorola in the 1970s. It weighed 1kg, cost $3,995 and was known as ”The Brick”. Now weighing as little as 50g, they are used to make phone calls, text, take photos, use the internet, mobile banking, watching TV, as route finders and so much more.
The measuring of time has been widely used since ancient times; sundials, sand clocks, water clocks and candle clocks were all used. The first mechanical clock was invented in China by Su Sung in 1092. The Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain patented the electric clock in 1840 and the electromagnetic pendulum in 1841.
The first compass was invented in China around the 4th century BC and was made from lodestone. It was adapted for navigation in the 11th century during the Song Dynasty and the British electrician, William Sturgeon, invented the electromagnet in 1825. It is a tool which points to the magnetic north pole, approximately 1,000 miles from the true geographic North Pole.
The Computer Mouse
Douglas Engelbart invented the first computer mouse in 1963. Originally with tiny track wheels, the mouse with a rotating ball was invented by Bill English in 1972. In November 2008, the Swiss company Logitech built their billionth mouse.
The first automatic dishwasher was invented by a woman named Josephine Cochrane in 1887. William Howard Livens invented a small dishwasher suitable for domestic use in England in 1924. These days a dishwasher can even be used to cook foods including salmon, as long as it is sealed!
The Duct Tape
Duct tape was invented in 1942 by Revolite, a division of Johnson & Johnson, for the US military. However, the first material called “duck tape” was used forty years earlier to protect things like shoes and steel cables against corrosion or wear. It has been used to repair military vehicles, weapons and later as a household essential.
The First Computer
Charles Babbage invented the first programmable computing machine in England in 1822 and is considered the “father of computers”. Another Englishman, Alan Turning, invented the first electronic digital computer between 1945 and 1947. Once the size of a large room, computers are now small enough to fit in your pocket.
The original Frisbee came about when bored New England (USA) students used empty pie dishes from the Frisbie Baking Company to throw and catch. Walter Frederick Morrison later invented a plastic version specifically as a toy. Ed Headrick designed the modern version of the Frisbee and also founded The International Frisbee Association (IFA).
The Hair Dryer
Alexandre Godefroy invented hair dryers for use in his French salon in 1890. However it was heavy and not handheld like the ones commonly used today. New safety standards, lightweight plastics and more advanced electrical motors have transformed them.
In 1875, Mathew Roper invented the QWERTY keyboard when he produced the first commercial typewriter. However, Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter itself a few years earlier. They were responsible for what we now know as computer keyboards.
The Light Bulb
Thomas Edison invented the first commercially practical light bulb in 1879. Alessandro Volta demonstrated a glowing wire in 1800 which led to this invention. Edison was granted a US patent on January 27th, 1880 and founded the Edison Illuminating Company, the place where Henry Ford first became an engineer.
Emile Berliner, a German-born American inventor, invented the microphone in 1876, for use with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. His aim was improve the sound quality. English physicist Robert Hooke created the “lovers’ telephone” made of a stretched wire with cups attached at both ends, often the first “microphone” used by children today.
The Microwave Oven
Dr Percy Spencer of the Raytheon Corporation accidentally discovered the microwave in 1945 from radar technology developed during World War II. The first microwave oven was tested in a Boston restaurant and in 1947 and was shortly followed by the first commercial microwave.
The Paper Clip
Samuel B. Fay invented the paper clip in 1867. The most common type of paper clip still in use today, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but was most likely produced by The Gem Manufacturing Company in Britain in the early 1870s after being designed by William Middlebrook.
Paper made from papyrus was made by the Ancient Egyptians as long ago as 3500 BC. Ts’ai Lun is credited with the discovery of paper in China in 105 BC, using a paste made from bamboo. Today’s paper is commonly made from cellulose pulp derived from grass, wood or rags and is used for letters, newspapers, toilet paper and of course money.
Nicolas Jacques Conte, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s officers, invented the pencil in 1795. Pencil comes from the Latin word pencillus, meaning little tail, in reference to its pointed tip. Although called lead, the central part of the pencil is actually a mix of finely ground graphite and clay powders.
The Post-It Notes
Arthur Fry, who worked for Minnesota Mining Manufacturing, also known as 3M, invented Post-it notes. First launched in 1977, they debuted in American stores as Post-it notes on April 6th, 1980. Digital Post-it notes are now available on computer desktops, performing the same function as the paper ones. In Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith Grey and Dr McDreamy exchanged their wedding vows on Post-it notes.
Xerox 1200 was the first non-impact printer, designed by optical engineer Phil Chen. The laser printer was invented in 1969 by Xerox researcher Gary Starkweather. Hewlett-Packard released their first home office printer product in 1988; it was a Desk Jet inkjet printer.
Many have been involved in the invention of radio, starting with Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell who proved mathematically that electromagnetic waves could generate through free space. Nikola Tesla demonstrated the transmission and radiation of radio frequency energy in 1892 and Guglielmo Marconi successfully sent a radio transmission across the Atlantic in 1902.
William Cullen demonstrated the first artificial refrigeration at the University of Glasgow in 1748. American inventor Oliver Evans, the “father of refrigeration” invented the vapor-compression refrigeration machine in 1805 and Carl Von Linden, an engineer from Germany, discovered a process for the liquefaction of air, leading to the fridges we are used to today. This invention played a major part in decreasing food poisoning.
Shoes evolved rather than were invented. Sandals have been discovered dating from approximately 7000 BC. The world’s oldest leather shoe dates back to 3500 BC and Ötzi the Iceman’s shoes are believed to be from around 3300 BC. London born Thomas Beard became America’s first recorded shoemaker in 1629, after travelling to the New World aboard The Mayflower.
Skateboarding first began in California in the 1950s, as a kind of dry land surfing. Nobody knows for sure who first invented it but things got really fun when Frank Nasworthy invented a new type of skateboard.
King Louis XV owned a stapler; in fact, each of his staples was inscribed with the insignia of the royal court. About a century later, George McGill invented the stapler press, with its patent being awarded in 1866. Today, surgeons even use surgical staplers in place of sutures to close cuts or openings in human skin.
We can thank Alexander Graham Bell for the invention of the telephone. German Johann Philipp Reis and Italian-American Antonio Meucci have also been credited with pioneering work leading to its invention. A lesser known fact is that Bell also established a school for the deaf-mute in Boston, and was a friend of Helen Keller.
John Logie Baird was the pioneering Scottish engineer who invented the world’s first fully functioning electronic television. It was first demonstrated to the Royal Society in London in 1926. On 2nd November 1936 the BBC transmitted the world’s first public television service from Alexandra Palace in North London although the earliest commercially made TV sets were sold by Baird in the UK in 1928.
Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) gave us the first true thermometer, using mercury. However, the Ancient Greeks and some European scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries had also worked on the theory of temperature measurement. Anders Celsius first proposed a scale with a zero to 100 degrees; now the world’s most widely used thermometer scale.
Sir John Harrington invented the flush toilet in 1596. It was called a “water closet” and he made it for Queen Elizabeth I, his aunt. Although Thomas Crapper is often thought of as its inventor, he made improvements to Harrington’s contraption, and was awarded a Royal Warrant by Edward VII.
The Toilet Paper
An unknown Chinese inventor was the first to give the world toilet paper in the 4th century; before this people used whatever was at hand, including grass, leaves and sponges. Later in 1857 Joseph C Gayetty sold toilet paper in bulk, although the toilet paper business didn’t really take off until the late 1800’s. Americans use an average of 23.6 rolls each every year; varieties include white, pink, moist, quilted and scented.
The Babylonians are credited with the first use of a kind of toothbrush, really a stick and hog bristle, back in 3500 BC. Later, Napoleon’s toothbrush was made with horse’s hair and after Wallace Carothers created nylon in the 1930s, bristled toothbrushes we know of today were first manufactured.
A Persian musician named Ziryab created toothpaste in the 9th century, although the Greeks and Romans had used tortoise blood, goat’s milk with oyster shell and crushed bones as abrasives. Pre-mixed toothpastes were first created by Dr Washington Sheffield in 1892, but this product didn’t overtake the popularity of tooth-powder until World War I. Leonard Lawrence Marraffino made the first striped toothpaste in 1955.
The origins of the typewriter come from Italian Pellegrino Turri in 1808, William Austin Burt who created the typographer in 1829 and Samuel Morse known for inventing the electric telegraph. The Sholes and Glidden typewriter in 1873 was the first commercially successful typewriter and the first to use a QWERTY keyboard.
In 1830, James Smith and Sons were the first to sell umbrellas commercially in London. The Ancient Greeks, Persians and Egyptians used a type of umbrella to shield from the sun, and the Ancient Chinese were the first to use them to protect against rain. Hans Haupt’s pocket umbrellas appeared in 1928.
The Vacuum Cleaner
Leading up to the invention of the vacuum cleaner, Daniel Hess created the first carpet sweeper in 1860 and Ives W McGaffey invented the Whirlwind in 1868. Melville Bissell invented the vacuum cleaner in 1876 for his wife. Hubert Cecil Booth of England claimed to invent the motorized vacuum cleaner in 1901. Today you can even buy an iRobot, a robotic wet vacuum cleaner that applies cleaning solution, scrubs the floor and vacuums the dirty water into a tank!
The concept of Velcro came to George de Mestral in 1941, although it wasn’t patented until 1955. The burrs of burdock kept attaching themselves to him and his dog, and this led to the idea of hooks and loops to bind material together.
The Washing Machine
American, James King designed the first modern-style washing machine in 1851 and seven years later, Hamilton Smith created the first rotary powered washing machine. The first electrically powered washing machine is thanks to Alva J. Fisher in 1908.
Elias Howe and Whitcomb Judson invented precursors to the zip, but it wasn’t until 1913 that Gideon Sundback created the zip with parallel sets of teeth pulled together by a knob or chain. The zipper name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company in 1923 who first used them for closing boots and tobacco pouches.