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Inventions Trivia

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Ivory Soap was originally named P&G White Soap. In 1879, Harley Proctor found the new name during a reading in church of the 45th Psalm of the Bible: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad."

James J. Ritty, owner of a tavern in Dayton, Ohio, invented the cash register in 1879 to stop his patrons from pilfering house profits.

James Mason, no relation to the film actor, patented the coffee percolator in 1865.

James Ramsey invented a steam-driven motorboat in 1784. He ran it on the Potomac River, and the event was witnessed by George Washington.

Johann Behrent built the first piano in America at Philadelphia in 1775 under the name "Piano Forte."

Johann Gutenburg invented the printing press in the 1450s, and the first book to ever be printed was the Bible. It was, however, in Latin rather than English.

John Greenwood invented the dental drill in 1790.

John Rand patented a collapsible tube for oil paints on September 11, 1841.

Joseph C. Gayetty of New York City invented toilet paper in 1857.

Joseph Glidden invented barbed wire on November 1, 1873.

Eli Whitney perfected the cotton gin in 1792. This simple device quickly removed the tiny seeds from cotton. Prior to the cotton gin, a slave produced one pound of lint in ten hours. The cotton gin increased the yield to nearly 1,000 pounds per day, which caused the cotton-producing U.S. states to increase their yield ten times over.

English philosopher and scientist Roger Bacon introduced a gunpowder formula to Europe in 1242.

European papermakers were the first to use watermarks. A watermark identified the manufacturer of the paper with the members of the trade organization. Just as trademarks were stamped into silver and fine firearms, a watermark quietly revealed that the paper was the creation of a skilled artisan.

Ferdinand Porsche, who later went on to build sports cars bearing his own name, designed the original 1936 Volkswagen.

Foam rubber is a flexible, porous substance made from a natural or synthetic latex, which is compounded with assorted ingredients and whipped into a froth. The finished product contains about 85 percent air and 15 percent rubber. It is also called sponge rubber or latex foam.

For a short time in 1967, the American Typers Association invented a new punctuation mark that was a combination of the question mark and an exclamation point called an “interrobang.” It was intended to be used to express incredulity or disbelief. It never caught on with the general public, and it faded away.

Four-wheel roller skates were invented by James L. Plimpton in 1863.

Frederick Winthrop Thayer of Massachusetts, and the captain of the Harvard University Baseball Club, received a patent for his baseball catcher's mask on February 12, 1878.

Frustrated at the lack of interest in his new toy invention, Charles Pajeau hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store during the Christmas season in 1914. This publicity stunt made the construction toy an instant hit. A year later, over a million sets of Tinker Toys had been sold.

George Ellery Hale was the twentieth century's most important builder of telescopes. In 1897, Hale built a 40-inch-wide telescope, the largest ever built at that time. His second telescope, with a 60-inch lens, was set up in 1917 and took 14 years to build. During those 14 years, Hale became convinced that he suffered from "Americanitis," a disorder in which the ambitions of Americans drive them insane. During the building of his 100-inch lens, Hale spent time in a sanatorium, and would only discuss his plans for the telescope with a "sympathetic green elf."

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