Human history is littered with moments of ingenuity and progress. From the dawn of modern man to the present day, new breakthroughs and inventions have been constantly occurring. This progress is not only useful but also needed: when we cease to innovate, we cease in general.
Ultimately, many cities and countries have played home to a variety of innovations and inventions. More than 200 years ago, the United States formally became a nation, with much of its early history and progress being centered around the city of Philadelphia. Once the nation's capital, this city is ripe with tales, tribulations, and accomplishments, many of which were created by everyday people with something to offer.
Philadelphia is unsurprisingly home to a variety of useful and famous products and inventions over the years. As such, let's take a look at eight products in particular that are both famous and native to Philly.
While they may not be as popular as they once were, the Slinky once took the world by storm. Created practically by accident during wartime, the Slinky was initially a byproduct of the inventor (Richard James) tinkering with coils and springs to improve ship performance. The story goes that he inadvertently dropped the coil, observed its behavior and then decided that the would-be toy could have entertainment value if promoted efficiently. Within just a few years, Slinkys were among the most popular toys in the world – and to date, hundreds of millions of these simple yet entertaining contraptions have been sold.
Virtually everybody has spent at least a few hours at some point in their life playing the ever-famous game of Monopoly. A common gag about the game is its complexity
and tendency to last forever: many an unfinished game has occurred in the decades since it was invented. A variety of iterations was created, but the one we all know today was bought by Parker Brothers from Charles Darrow (a native Philadelphian) in 1935. Ultimately, Darrow became a millionaire from the transaction – and countless people still play the game to this day, hoping to become in-game millionaires in their own right.
The world of carbonated, flavored beverages these days seems ubiquitous. It's hard to imagine that at one point, there was nothing of the sort present on this planet. Yet roughly 200 years ago, a Philly pharmacist had a hunch and began to experiment with various flavored drinks. In 1807, Townsend Speakman created what is known as the first soda pop beverage available on the market. Known as Nephite Julep, this fruit-flavored and carbonated beverage was marketed as a water beverage that also possessed a variety of health benefits. One major reason why it sold so well was due to inventive marketing and packaging techniques. Remember, if you are designing your own products, try to avoid this mistake!
Perhaps the product most synonymous with the city of Philadelphia is the classic cheesesteak. This sandwich – consisting of thinly-sliced meat, onions, and melted cheese – first appeared on the streets of Philly in the 1930s. A man known as Pat Olivieri was actually a hot dog vendor in South Philly at the time and had a moment of creativity. He decided to take an Italian roll, cut up some steak, smother it with cheese and eat it. A passerby caught wind of the smell, wanted one, and the rest is history. Soon, the food tradition spread throughout the city and ultimately caught the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
The oldest invention from Philadelphia on this list, bifocal glasses were invented more than 200 years ago. Crafted by popular inventor and founding father Benjamin Franklin, these glasses provided wearers with the ability to see both near and far simultaneously. Invented in the 1770s, bifocal glasses truly revolutionized eye care in a variety of ways. Rather than needing two pairs of glasses – a costly endeavor for most at the time – this design technique made it possible for people to see seamlessly regardless of distance. This is one Philly invention that has truly transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people over the centuries.
Toilet Paper Rolls
It might seem difficult to imagine, but the notion of toilet paper – or even indoor plumbing – isn't exactly an old concept. Until the last century or so, many people (particularly those in rural areas) did not enjoy in-house toilets and comfortable, two-ply toilet paper. However, in 1890, two men (Irvin and Clarence Scott) came up with an amazing idea: rolled tissue. Sold by Scott Paper Company, the product would later become known as Scott Tissue and ultimately became the most popular form of toilet paper in the world. This Philly creation over the past century has led to a wave of improved bathroom hygiene (and perhaps some additional bathroom problems, too).
The No. 2 Pencil
Virtually every person on the face of the planet has used a No. 2 pencil at some point. Writing utensils have certainly evolved over the centuries, but it wasn't until the 1850s that somebody considered how both a pencil and an eraser could be combined to create one seamless, functional device. Hymen Lipman, a native of Philadelphia, first developed the idea and patented it in 1858. Ultimately, he did not see fortune directly from his invention, but the standard for pencils was created by a Philadelphian. With approximately two billion No. 2 pencils used in the US alone each year, this is one obviously famous and popular product to come out of the city.
Last but not least, we've all encountered that oh-so-confusing revolving door in a residential or commercial building. Designed to actually be more efficient at fielding larger volumes of traffic, the revolving door is just a bit over 100 years old. Devised in 1888 by Theophilus van Kannel, his initial motivation was to reduce the amount of draft that occurred whenever a door was opened. While this Philly invention does have multiple benefits, most people nevertheless prefer an alternative where possible. Still, we have to acknowledge how cool and intriguing the revolving door is in daily life.
Every city has much to offer the world, but some have been delivering just a bit more than others. Philadelphia, long known for its ingenuity and progress, has transformed daily life with a plethora of unique products – these eight are just a few of many innovations the city has given to the world.
published gloucestercitynews.net | April 17, 2019