Myth Trivia looks at inventions we rarely think about

Invention is the mother of necessity and we have invented some very useful things - from SOS soap pads to the flips of the Flops.

Vintage SOS soap pad advertisment

CHARLOTTE, NC, March 8, 2017 – Now and then it’s good to just go back to good old basic trivia so that’s our goal today.

Seems like those floppy rubber shoes we wear in the summertime have been around forever. After all, even the gladiators in Rome wore something similar.

Would you believe that “flip flops” were not invented until 1956 and the honor goes to…ta da, George and Ira Flop.

Most of us love a good old fashioned barbecue, but, believe it or not, the term comes from slow-cooking meat at a low temperature for a long time over wood or charcoal. BBQ originated in the late 1800s in American during cattle drives out west.

For the record, the chuckwagon, that portable kitchen that went along on every trail drive, was invented by Charles Goodnight in 1866.

Here’s an interesting invention credited to Ralph Teetor is all the more significant because he was blind. Ralph Teetor invented cruise control.

Early in the 20th century, scientists in Linden, New Jersey set about the process of trying to create useful products from gasoline by-products. The scientists from Standard Oil, which later became Exxon, invented isopropyl alcohol, otherwise known as rubbing alcohol. It was the first commercial petrochemical ever made and became ExxonMobil Chemical Company’s first product.

Speaking of firsts, Aaron Montgomery Ward sent out his first mail-order catalog in 1872. Now less than 150-years later, the mail-order catalog is as obsolete as the buggy whip.

We all know about Henry Ford popularizing the first gas-powered automobile in America, thanks in large part to his invention of the assembly line. What you probably did not know is that Ford had help from Thomas Edison when he invented the charcoal briquette in 1920.

Ed Cox of San Francisco was a clever chap. He invented the first pre-soaped pads for cleaning pots and pans. Perhaps most ingenious was designing the soap filled steel-wool pads as calling cards.

It seems that inventiveness ran throughout the Cox family. His wife called the pads S.O.S. meaning “Save Our Saucepans” and Mr. Cox quickly learned that his steel-wool soap squares were more popular than his pots and pans.

The name “taxicab”, now simply called a taxi most of the time, comes from the meter that measures the distance to determine the fare. Come back in 50 years when taxis are obsolete to find out what UBER calls their driverless cars.

Now here’s an invention Herbert Lapidus of Westchester, New York must have kept secret for years when he invented the odor-eater insole in the early 1970s to kill the stench of his wife’s horribly odiferous feet. Charcoal is the active ingredient which neutralize the odors.

When the first chain saw came into existence, its purpose was to remove human limbs quickly in surgery. German doctor and inventor Bernared Heine built his machine in 1830. Nearly 100 years later, Andrea Stihl invented the mobile, motorized, chain saw for outdoor use.

Nobody seems to know for sure where “legal pads” originated, but American Pad and Paper Company is still in business today and claims to have come up with the invention. Since no one else has disputed the claim, experts say it is fair to let them have the honor until a dispute arises.

Liquid soap came into being in 1980 when Minnetonka Corporation purchased the entire supply of plastic pumps needed for the soap dispensers. Colgate Company acquired the liquid soap business from Minnetonka and called their product “Soft Soap.”

Ever heard of a “pinball” machine. If you haven’t you probably will never see one either or know what to do with it. The first coin-operated pinball machine was invented by Raymond Maloney in 1931. Maloney founded the company known as “Bally Hoo” but did not use the term “pinball” until 1936.

And finally, French chemist Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal, also invented the first sunscreen in 1936 and the first synthetic hair dye in 1907.

If “necessity is the mother of invention, it appears that we are a veeerrry needy race.”

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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

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