What a world of we live in! Anything we could want seems only a click away and new inventions are cropping up all the time. But, some of the items we think of as modern have actually been around for a very long time. We imagine that things like soft drinks and cars are firmly 20th century inventions, but some of our favorite things were around even before the American Revolution and beyond!
10) Alfred E. Neuman
The face couldn’t be more recognizable to most of us. The MAD Magazine kid has features that are unmistakeable- missing tooth, uneven eyes, and an expression that implies mischief. But, this wacky image has a history that extends far beyond the humor magazine.
Starting around the turn of the century, the archetype for Alfred E. Neuman was being used in advertisements for sweets and medicines, and then later for a car parts distributers, restaurants, various other companies. After going to court to secure the rights after the widow of an artist claimed it was her husband’s invention, it was discovered that this concept predated even his art.
The substance which is now known only as a recreational drug these days was actually patented in 1912 by Merck Pharmaceuticals in Germany under the name methylsafrylamin. Now more commonly referred to by its street name of ecstasy or the clinical abbreviation MDMA, the drug was not tested on humans until 1927, before laying unstudied again until the 1950s.
8) Bustin’ a Move
Solo jazz dance moves date back to the golden era of jazz and a few of them give twerking a run for its money! Have a look in this 1933 clip of Duke Ellington performing at the Cotton Club with dancers Bessie Dudley and Florence Hill.
7) First Horseless Carriage
The first car of sorts was invented (and built!) before the American Revolution and was steam powered. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was a French engineer who, in 1769, built the first self-propelled vehicle. Conceived as a military tractor, it was heavy, hard to steer, and very slow. As with many steam engines, this vehicle was very inefficient and had to stop every 15 minutes to build up steam power again. It’s top speed was 2.5 miles per hour. No wonder it didn’t catch on!
6) Steam Engines
And speaking of steam engines, the first one was designed in the 1st century by a Greek inventor and scholar named Heron Alexandrius and was originally conceived of for temple ceremonies to create the impression that gods were opening doors. You might say that Heron was the first Wizard of Oz. His device is now referred to as an aeolipile.