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Inventions Trivia

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In the early 1940s, Swiss inventor George de Mestral went on a walk with his dog. Upon returning home, he noticed that his dog's coat and his pants were covered with cockleburrs. His inventor's curiosity led him to study the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered its natural hook-like shape. This was to become the basis for a unique, two-sided fastener: one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his pants. The result was VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners, named for the French words "velour" and "crochet."

In the mid 1880s, until approximately 1910, American undertakers sold "Grave Alarm" Devices. These were elaborate rope and bell/pulley arrangements allowing those buried alive to summon help. The rope was placed into the hand of the (supposed) deceased, and it wound through a series of tubes to the bell outside the grave.

In the sixteenth century, a Dutchman named Zacharias Janssen developed the microscope lens to such a high degree of refinement that it magnified with little distortion. He became famous for his accomplishment, and was nicknamed "Father of Microscopy." Ironically, Janssen was not trained as a scientist.

In the world of dolls, Midge Hadley was Barbie's® best friend in the 1960s.

The ice cream soda was invented in 1874, when Robert N. Green ran out of cream for drinks made with cream, flavored syrup and soda water. Green substituted ice cream, and the ice cream soda was born.

The idea of using light in telephone communications is not new. Reportedly in 1880, Alexander Graham Bell invented a phone that used sunlight in place of wires.

Playing cards were invented by the Chinese as early as 1120.

The invention and development of the telegraph in the 1840s made possible the swift collection of information from widespread weather stations, and thus enabled the first weather maps to be drawn.

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the first American to have plumbing installed in his house, in 1840.

The invention of the Fresnel lens in 1822 greatly improved the lighting capabilities of lighthouses.

Prior to World War II, soybean oil was used to make enamel, glycerine, soft soaps, paint, linoleum, varnishes, waterproof goods, oilcloth, rubber substitutes, artificial petroleum, and ink. Soybean meal was used as a low-cost plywood adhesive. At Henry Ford's direction, the Ford Motor Company's laboratories discovered many industrial uses for the soybean. By 1935, a full bushel of soybeans went into the manufacture of each Ford automobile.

The invention of typing correction fluid is credited to Bette Nesmith, the mother of former Monkee Mike Nesmith. In the 1950s, Mrs. Nesmith was a typist. One day, she brought with her to work a small brush and a bottle of white paint which she used to correct her typos. She shared her "Mistake Out" with other secretaries, and was soon approached by an office supply company to market her invention. She later renamed the product Liquid Paper, and in 1979, sold the rights to the Gillette Company for $47.5 million.

Q-TIPS Cotton Swabs were originally called "Baby Gays." In 1922, Leo Gerstenrang, an immigrant from Warsaw, Poland, who had served in the U.S. Army during World War I and worked with the fledgling Red Cross Organization, founded the Leo Gerstenrang Infant Novelty Co. with his wife. They sold accessories used for baby care. After the birth of the couple's daughter, Gerstenrang noticed that his wife would wrap a wad of cotton around a toothpick for use during their baby's bath. He decided to manufacture a ready-to-use cotton swab. Gerstenrang developed a machine that uniformly wrapped cotton around each blunt end of a small stick of carefully selected and cured non-splintering birch wood, package the swabs in a sliding tray type box, sterilize the box, and seal it with an outer wrapping of glassine (later changed to cellophane). The phrase "untouched by human hands" became widely known in the production of cotton swabs.

The Japan Stationery Company marketed the first felt-tipped pen in August 1960.

Root beer was invented in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1898 by Edward Adolf Barq, Sr.

The largest light bulb was a 1-foot-long 75,000-watt bulb, hand-blown at the Corning Glass Works, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp.

Roulette was invented by the great French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. It was a by-product of his experiments with perpetual motion.

The man who invented shorthand, John Gregg, was deaf.

Rubber bands were first made by Perry and Co. of London in 1845.

The modern zipper, the Talon Slide Fastener, was invented in 1913 but didn't catch on until after World War I. The first dresses incorporating the zipper appeared in the 1930s.

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