Hilary Greenbaum, a graphic designer at the The New York Times Magazine at the time, initially began "Who Made That" as a series of blog posts investigating the origin of curious, unusual, and/or mundane items. It eventually became a weekly column in the magazine, now written by Pagan Kennedy and on June 9, 2013 the entire magazine was devoted to this question.
Airbag (source: Paul Tullis, NYT Magazine 6/9/2013) After experiencing a near-miss car accident in 1952, retired industrial engineer John W. Hetrick began tinkering with how he could soften an accident's impact. A year later he received a patent for a "suchion assembly...arranged to be inflated responsive to sudden slowing" but the crucial advance came in the late 196's when Allen Breed came up with an inexpensive sensor - a magnet holding a metal ball in place that when freed by force, would trigger and electrical circuit to inflate the air bag. They were first offered by Ford and G.M. in the early 1970's but only became widespread in the early 1990's.
Ant Farm (source: Paul Lukas, NYT Magazine 6/9/2013)
A.T.M. Machines (source: Lindsay Crouse, NYT Magazine 6/9/2013) - invented by Luther George Simjian, the first A.T.M. was installed in New York in 1939 but "no one used it except a small number of gamblers and prostitutes and it disappeared after six months... the breakthrough came in 1969, when Donald C. Wetzel developed an automated teller machine encased in stainless steel five-eighths of an inch thick that would take eight hours to cut through..."
Band-Aid (source: Susan Dominus, NYT Magazine 6/9/2013) developed by Earle Dickson to help his New Jersey housewife, Josephine, deal with her frequent kitchen 'accidents.' At the time, Dickson worked for Johnson & Johnson (which already was marketing sutures, bandages and hygiene products) and the company immediately recognized the utility of Dickson's innovation. "When Band-Aids did not sell well in their first year or two, the company started distributing them free of charge to...Boy Scouts."
Brannock Device (source: Paul Lukas, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) - was patented in 1928. It is what shoe stores use to measure the length, width and arch length at one time. Before Charles Barnnock's device was used, measuring foot length was typically done with yardsticks.
Breath Mint (source: Marnie Hanel, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) "The ancient Egyptians placed pellets of boiled honey, frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon on their tongues. The Romans chewed parsley. Medieval men sucked fig-size gobstoppers made of clove and cardamom. Victorians favored Sen-Sen, licorice bits marketed as 'breath perfume'...altoids, invented n 1780, were sold as stomach clamative...The candy breath mint was truly born in 1912 when candy maker Clarence Crane in Ohio used a drug-store's pill press to create a candy for summer. He punched a hole through the middle...and named them for their nautical look-alikes, Life Savers...."
Bunsen Burner (source: Maggie Koerth-Baker, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Champagne Cork (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 12/21/2012)
Cleats (source: Lindsay Crouse, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) In he U.S. baseball and football cleats were used in the 1860's. According to Crouse, Henry VIII wore the first soccer shoes of record, but cleats got their biggest boost in Weimar Germany, 1924 when brothers Adolf and Rudolf founded the Dassler Brothers shoe factory, later to branch into Adidas and Pumas.
Currency (source: Jacob Goldstein, New York TImes Magazine, 6/9/2013) - this post traces the origins of different forms of currency from coins, to cowire shells, giant stone disks, cash, cigarettes, cacao beans and cotton cloth, wheat, wampum and electronic money.
Diet Soda (source: Daniel Engber, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Digital Camera (source: James Viahos, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) Steve Sasson, in 1974 went to his bosses at Kodak with a "filmless camera" that was the size of a small toaster and weighed 8.5 pounds. His Kodak bosses were not interested. Sasson and other Kodak engineers took the next two decades to develop the fundamental technologies inside digital cameras today. Kodak declared bankruptcy in 2012.
Digital Camouflage (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 5/10/2013)
Dental Floss (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine, 10/19/2012)
Dog Park (source: Jessica Gross, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Eye Chart (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 5/24/2013) In the mid-19th century, in a hospital in the Netherlands, Dr. Franciscus Donders devised a method for diagnosing vision problems and enlisted the help of colleague Herman Snellen. While the chart initially consisted of shapes, they were, at times, hard to describe and Snellen realized letters were more effective.
Flip-Flop (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 8/31/2012)
Frisbee (source: Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein, New York Times Magazine, 5/4/2012)
Glass Ceiling (source: Robb Mandelbaum, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Guitar Solo (source: David Marchese, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Ice Cream Cone (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine, 5/31/2013) - At the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis ice cream was introduced as was curled waffle cookie that was transformed to hold the ice cream. Anne Funderburg, historian, has collected seven legends about the invention of teh cone at the 1904 fair...read about it at this link.
Lacrosse Head (source: Wm. Ferguson, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Liquid Paper (source: Jessica Gross, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, a single mother working as a secretary in Dallas by day, and making commercial artwork for local merchants at night. Click on this link to learn how she did it and to find out another claim to fame she had.... mother of.... you'll have to click and read to find out!
Lipstick (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine, 4/12/2013)
Nose Job (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Parenting Milestones in the unending conflict between hovering and letting go (source: Maggie Jones, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013) This post discusses how and when various parenting issues surfaced from the scheduled baby, baby monitors, breast pumps, jogging strollers, timeouts and more.
PB&J (Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich) (source: Maya Lau, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Prom (source: Daska Slater, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Retirement Age (source: Maggie Jones, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Rock-Climbing Wall (source: Paul Tullis, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Salad Spinner (source: Dashka Slater, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Sleep-Away Camp (source: Dashka Slater, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
The STOP sign (source: Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein, New York Times Magazine, 12/9/2011) In 1900 William Phelps Eno wrote an article for Rider and Driver magazine, "Reforming Our Street Traffic Urgently Needed" proposing stop signs at intersections. It wasn't until 1935 that traffic engineers created uniform standards for US road signs. At first it reccommeded a yellow stop sign with black letters. In 1954 a revision called for a red sign with white letters because it was only then that they could produce a reflective material in red that would last, and because"red has always been associated with stop."
Tampon (source: Willy Staley, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Toothbrush (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine, 2/15/2013)
Universal Product Code (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine 1/4/2013)
Velcro (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Tines Magazine, 11/9/2012)
The Wave (source: Susan Dominus, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Web Page (source: Paul Ford, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
White Lab Coat (source: Maggie Koerth-Baker, New York Times Magazine 6/9/2013)
Zip Line (source: Keith O'Brien, New York Times Magazine, 6/9/2013)
Zipper (source: Pagan Kennedy, New York Times Magazine, 2/8/2013) - Developed in 1911 and patented in 1917, Swedish emigre, Gideon Sundback freed women from the struggle of buttons and hooks (which tended to pop open) with the zipper. He used pieces of metal shaped like tiny spoons that wove together in a row.
For more: Here is a link for the New York Times Magazine Who Made That? Archive. I included many but not all. IF you have the time and inclination, it's a fascinating world-opening 'trip'.
Thanks for your visit.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did. Please leave your favorites or your reactions in the comments.