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Groundbreaking Inventions of the 19th Century



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For me the most important invention of the 19th century was made by a man called Joseph Fry in 1847 and it was a bar of chocolate, where would we be today without a readily available supply of chocolate? Whilst we're talking junk food the potato chip was also invented in this century in 1853 by a Mr George Crum. To wash these two things down we can say thank you to Dr John Pemberton for introducing Coca-Cola to the world in 1886. Ironically Basil Wilkinson also invented the first hydraulic dental chair in 1877 too much chocolate and coke everyone?

Liz Hurley must be grateful to Walter Hunt as because of his 19th century invention she made the jump from another hopeful nobody to a celebrity, yes the safety pin was invented in 1849. Whilst on fashion, the 1800s saw a number of inventions in this industry. The first of which was the sewing machine. The first functional sewing machine is believed to have been invented in 1830's France by Thimonnier, however the first successful one is claimed to have been invented in 1834 by Walter Hunt who unfortunately did not patent it. A man called Elias Howe decided to patent it in 1846. Skipping to the 1850s we see the mass production of sewing machines courtesy of Issac Singer. This lead to a patent war between Howe and Singer, which although won by Howe, everyone has heard of Singer sewing machines.

Another invention was the zipper, this was invented by Whitcomb Judson in 1893. I would say that nearly everyone uses this invention everyday.

Then we move to material, rayon was the first manufactured fibre developed in the world and was known in the 19th century as artificial silk. The first person to develop a crude artificial silk was Georges Audemars in 1855. His process used mulberry bark pulp and rubber, but was too slow to be successful. In 1894 Cross, Bevan & Beadle patented a safe and practical method of making artificial silk.

Now to the workforce, somehow we have to pay for our fashion and junk food fixes. The 19th century saw a lot of advances in office technology. The advent of the typewriter in 1868 had a huge impact and the qwerty keyboard is still used on computers today. A trivia tidbit about the invention of the typewriter is that when Christopher Sholes invented it he originally tried an alphabet keyboard, unfortunately the keys kept hitting each other and sticking and so the qwerty keyboard was created and embraced.

How could you run an office without a stapler or paper clips, both of which were invented in the 1800s. Brass paper fastners were already being used in the 1860s and in 1866 George McGill developed a machine to insert these fastners into papers and voila the stapler was invented. In 1835 John Howe invented a machine for making straight pins, he had originally developed this for tailors to use, but they also became a popular way to hold papers together. Sixty four years later in 1899 Johan Vaaler took Howe's idea and invented the paper clip as we know it today.

Now where would offices and government bureaucracy be today with out William Purvis' 1883 invention the rubber stamp?

Telecommunications also experienced a huge jump forward in the 19th century with the 1876 invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you' must surely be a widely recognizable quote. Before Bell's invention we saw the invention of the first fax machine in 1843 by Alexander Bain.

The Transport Revolution went full steam ahead and all of a sudden day trips were possible for the working classes. The first self-propelling steam locomotive was invented in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, although his locomotive was designed to be used on a road. George Stephenson invented the first steam locomotive for a railway and worked for the Stockton Darlington Railway which was the first public railway and opened in 1823.

Although it is believed that a steam powered car may have been built in China around the 1670s the first automobile patent was issued to Karl Benz in 1885. His car was powered by an Otto gasoline engine and is considered to be the first modern automobile. By the end of the 19th century there were several car companies and the beginning of the next century would see the mass production of these vehicles. The 1800s also saw the first traffic light, this was invented by J P Knight and was installed outside the Houses of Parliament in London. It was powered by gas and had to be operated by hand, installed on December 10th 1868 it had been there for only 3 weeks when it exploded injuring the person operating it. The following century would see them expanded on and improved until they became an integral part of everyday life.

There were also a lot of appliances for making home life easier for example the can opener (1858 by Ezra Warner), the vaccum cleaner (1860 by Daniel Hess), light bulb (1879 by Edison & Swan), carpet sweeper (1876 by Melville Bissell), nut cracker (1878 by Henry Quackenbush), coffee percolator (1865), clothes dryer & refrigerator, as well as the yale lock to keep all of these inventions safe (1860 by Linus Yale).

The clothes dryer was originally used in England and France in the early 1800s. An early type was called the ventilator and was basically a cylindrical metal drum with holes in it. You would wring out the clothes, place then in it and turn it by hand over a fire. It was successful in that the clothes would dry, but unfortunately they would always smell smoky, they sometimes picked up the soot and occasionally they even burned.

The first refrigeration machine was invented in 1805 by Oliver Evans, however the first practical refrigerator was built by Jacob Perkins in 1834. Carl von Linden, however patented a process of liquefying gas in 1876 that is still part of basic refrigeration technology to this day.

A couple of other notable inventions of the 19th century are toilet paper and the swiss army knife. Perforated toilet paper as we know it today was invented in 1877 by Seth Wheeler, now I consider toilet paper a necessity not a luxury so thank you very much Mr Wheeler. The Swiss army knife was invented in 1891 by Carl Elsene and all I can say is where would MacGyver be without one of these?

Other inventions that seem significant in today's society include the Colt revolver & metal detectors, machine guns & barbed wire, blue jeans & chewing gum, dynamite & ear muffs. I could not imagine life today without any of these inventions which, in my book, makes them all groundbreaking.

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