Posts Tagged ‘1920’s inventions’

Granddaddy & His Pontiac, Augusta, Georgia, February 11th, 1956, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Granddaddy & His Cadillac, Augusta, Georgia, February 11th, 1956, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Do you have memories of the “family” car? Riding backwards with your brothers and sisters in the cargo seat of a 1967 Chevy wagon? The smell of the dirt-bottomed garage where your great, great uncle stored his vintage 1930’s black Pontiac? A Sunday ride in your dad’s Oldsmobile convertible? Taking a cross-country vacation in a flat nose 1962 Ford Econoline van?

October is a milestone month for the production of cars. After the internal combustion engine was invented, cars began to be mass produced in the 1920’s. Every American family wanted to own a car. October is the anniversary of Henry’s Ford’s first production “Model T.”

According to Old Car and Truck Pictures:

The first production Model T Ford was assembled at the Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit on October 1, 1908. For the next 19 years, Ford would build 15,000,000 cars and trucks with the Model “T” engine. The only other car to exceed that number was the Volkswagen Beetle. Considering the years when Henry did it, 1908 to 1927, it is surely a record that will never be beaten. Henry Ford had succeeded in his dream of building a car for the masses.

In research through shoeboxes of old photographs, I discovered that many images were of family members proudly standing next to their cars. Remember the jingle, “See the USA in your Chevrolet…? ” One of my fathers was a Chevy man; he has always driven Chevrolets and still owns a Chevy truck to this day. Another drove Oldsmobiles and I remember his red Olds convertible with the white rag top. What kind of car did your father own?

Mom & Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, circa late 1930s, early 1940s, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Granddaddy In Pinstripes, along with Mom and Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, circa early 1940s, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Family Scrapbook — Fathers, Sons, Daughters, & Cars:

Mom & Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, circa late 1930s, early 1940s, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Granddaddy In Pinstripes, along with Mom and Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, circa early 1940’s, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

My grandfather was a GM man. He owned a Cadillac. And the day his son Jack graduated from high school, he was presented with a 1954 Pontiac Star Chief (which oddly I remember looking more like this 1953 Chieftain Catalina). I remember the car well; Uncle Jack died unexpectedly a few months before I was born and my mother inherited the Pontiac. It would figure prominently in my early childhood memories. I loved the way that Pontiac looked and smelled. And through my child-eyes, the orange hood ornament of Chief Pontiac, and the ornate grille and tail chrome, added a certain respectability and regalness to the way the car moved down the road.

If you think about it, cars were the Internet of their day, changing the way people communicated, socialized, visited with family, and, eventually, after the Interstate infrastructure was built by Eisenhower in the 1950’s, the way we moved around the country, sometimes never to return home. Cars changed America. (And we have our wildly fluctuating gas prices and chronic dependence on fossil fuels to prove it.)

Uncle Jack & His Pontiac, Augusta, Georgia, circa 1954, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Uncle Jack & His Pontiac, Augusta, Georgia, circa 1954,
photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

What memories do you have of the “family” car? Did you live on a farm where trucks were more important than cars? Was your father a man who would only buy American-made cars? Or did he believe VW’s and Toyota’s were better made and would last longer. What kind of cars did your mother own? How did the cars your family owned influence those you would buy as an adult?

There are two steps to this week’s Writing Practice:

(1) Make a list of all the cars you have owned; make another list of the cars your family owned when you were growing up. Be as specific as possible about year, make, and model. If you need help, dig through old family photographs and chances are you’ll bump into your family history of automobiles.

(2) Do a 15 minute Writing Practice on one of these car-related Topics:

  • How many cars have you owned? Make a list. After making your list, choose one and do a 15 minute Writing Practice about a memory connected to that car. Think about the way it smelled, the color, the way you felt when you drove it. Was it a stick, 5-speed, 4-on-the-floor, automatic, or 3-speed on the column? Write everything you know about that car. Start the Practice with — “The first time I drove my 19xx  _________…”


  • What was the first car you owned? Was it new or used? How old were you when you learned to drive? High school, junior high? Who taught you to drive? Do a Writing Practice on “My first car ________.” Be as detailed as possible. Include all the senses.


  • Write a memory of one of your family cars. I have memories of traveling across the Savannah River to visit with my Grandmother Elise and her singing to me along the way. Write about a childhood memory associated with a car your family owned. Write down the make, model, year of the car. Then beside it, write “I Remember______” and see what comes out. You might be surprised how far 4 wheels and a full tank of gas can take you in your writing.


Granddaddy & Uncle Bill, Augusta, Georgia, circa early 1950s, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Granddaddy & Uncle Bill, Augusta, Georgia, circa early 1950’s,
photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 12th, 2008

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Wonder X 7, November 2007, Central Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wonder X 7, November 2007, somewhere in Central Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Otto’s bread cutter
invention holds mystery
a slice of wonder

             Wonder, November 2007, Central Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Wonder, November 2007, Central Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Wonder, November 2007, Central Pennsylvania, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day), White Bread Revival, WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920’s INVENTIONS

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I love Q-Tips, love the way they swab the entire ear. I come dangerously close to sticking them too far inside the ear canal, each time pushing the little stick and its cotton puff a tiny bit deeper.

I’ve never had a Q-Tip mishap, never had to be rushed to the emergency room to get the cotton out from inside my eardrum. But it’s like playing with fire, stretching to scratch that itch. I know if I go too far, the pain, magnified by the chambers of my waxy inner ear, will be crazy-making unbearable.

I’ve known people whose ears produced so much earwax they have to take monthly trips to the doctor’s office to get big chunks removed. I can imagine the relief they must feel, like being brought up after an ear-bending dive, or brought down from the milky heavens, ears popping their way to normalcy until finally, ah, stillness.

A co-worker once told me how he almost fainted from getting his earwax removed. He described a firehose-like contraption, jets of water so strong I imagined the wax being blown from inside one ear out the other. As he talked, flopped in his chair like a ragdoll, I pictured torture contraptions, the doctor a balding man with an eye monocle. I felt grateful that on a scale of zero to mucho waxo, I rated average.

Ears have always been part of our family lore. The big Dumbo floppy ears of Sandy. Narciso was said to have the biggest ears among Sandy’s brothers. All of them had stiff hairs growing out from the inside and blackheads on the backs of their ears.

Mom had Maniere’s Disease when I was a kid, and I can still recall the onset of an episode. How she’d panic, behind the wheel of the Caprice or in the check-out line at Safeway’s. I remember the two of us fleeing the store without our groceries, peeling off in the big blue Caprice down Griegos Road for home. Mom’s eyes wild, and me, meek and scared in the front seat. I knew once we ran through the front door she’d fling herself into the entryway bathroom and puke her guts into the green toilet. Later, after crawling down to the bathroom off her bedroom, she’d spend the rest of the day curled on the bathroom rug, calling for help — water, a wet cloth — while I crouched in my closet, crying.

Mom says the reason she got Maniere’s was because Grandma used to treat ear aches by having Robert pee into a cup and pouring the hot urine down the offending ear. Can you imagine? Mom told us later, when we were adults. Yeah, but isn’t pee antiseptic, I always said, trying to be helpful.

I never remember Q-Tips in the house as a kid. Mom used Bobby pins to clean her ears. I can still see her circling the pin inside her ear, round and round, as if she were a wind-up doll. She used the curved end of the Bobby pin, and she pushed hard, much harder than one would expect. She always mined plenty of wax, cleaned out the pin and put it in the drawer for next time.

I wonder if ear cleaning, like manners or a person’s voice, the color of eyes, gets passed on through DNA. I bet if I took a poll, I’d find that every one of my siblings loves the feel of a good ear cleaning with a sturdy Q-Tip. We might eschew Bobby pins; unlike Mom we’re willing to spend money on equipment made for the job. But I know we all probably inherited the kinds of ears that pop while flying and carry an almost constant, faint tinnitus.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920’s INVENTIONS

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Vintage. I love vintage. I was looking at old black and white photos in the studio last week: a scrapbook of army shots, Easter in Tennessee, the summer of 1965, Mom on her wedding day in the late 50’s. The beautiful, classic vintage wedding gown would knock your eyeballs out.

Mom had a hairdryer in the late 1960’s; it all fit into a portable suitcase: plastic bonnet, motor of questionable horsepower, a short pink hose that only allowed her to go as far as the end of the couch. I remember when she had to get up to answer the door, run downstairs to tend the laundry, or stir chili on the stove — she’d unhook the tube with a turn of the end cuff, and walk with the dangling hose next to her side, bonnet still on her head.

Women used to sit under gray metal hairdryers with pin curls and purple plastic rollers, the smell of permanent fixings filling the parlor, shouting to each other over a magazine. Beauty parlors were the hub of the town, always bustling with electricity.

But if you ask any woman, I bet they will tell you the greatest invention ever made is the tampon. I didn’t research its meager beginnings. But I should have. We should all pay homage to not having to wear those nasty boards between our legs anymore. Those and garter belts that left red welts mashed into the tops of your thighs, just had to go!

I wish I still had that 1963 Austin-Healey Sprite, red with a black roll bar. The muffler was always falling off and I had to wire it up with a coat hanger but I loved that car. Black Pontiac, my grandmother drove one of those. I am drawn to photograph vintage cars but only as I see them on the street. I’ve never gone to a car show. But I have tooled down University Avenue near Porky’s to check out the vintage cars and motorcycles that clog up the main artery of Frogtown between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

There are times when I long for the simpler ways cameras and toasters and projectors worked. Liz and I went to a garage sale a few weekends ago and came away with some vintage camera equipment: Argus slide projector with manual cartridge, old 8mm Kodak projector, two black manual camera bodies, a cigar-shaped Shure microphone, and 4 old tripods, one with wooden legs, that they threw in for free. There were a couple of old wine crates from Europe and even an 8-track player. The 8-track part didn’t work. But I grabbed the 8-tracks. Big and clunky as they are, I couldn’t help myself.

I used to have an 8-track player bolted to the floor of my 1968 powder blue VW Squareback. I loved that car. It was in perfect condition when I bought it from a friend in Missoula, Montana in 1976. It wasn’t warm in the mountain winters. But it drove like a dream with that big old steel blue steering wheel. The analogue 8-tracks and cassettes sound better than their digital counterparts, the closest thing to live music. But people have forgotten that. I thought of it again when I was reading about 1920’s inventions.

These days you just don’t hear about people in Hastings, Nebraska holing up in their garage and inventing another liquid sugar drink. Or the likes of a new-fangled Band-Aid hitting the market, invented by a woman in her farm kitchen in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.

Where are the new inventors? What towns and cities are thriving with entrepreneurs taking new chances on an old dream. I kind of wish they’d come out with a half-decent garden weeder. None of the ones I’ve tried work. I still get a sore wrist after every dance through the compost of our garden gates.

There’s a tree swing on an ancient oak next to our driveway. I saw the neighbor kid’s grandmother swinging on it last weekend. Flying high out over the lower elm, do you think she wondered who invented the tree swing? Or more about if the rope wrapping was going to hold close to the branch?

The inventions of our time define who we are. Old-style mechanics are the way to go. The less moving parts, the better. Who can work on their own cars these days? They are way too computerized and digital. And one closed circuit shuts down the whole engine; I have to walk home from the store. I’ll be sure to put a Spider-Man Band-Aid on those blisters.


UPDATE:  I had to look. Check out this great article on the history of Who Invented Tampons?, June 6th, 2006, on The Straight Dope (LINK). Though women are connected to the origins and beginnings of the invention of the tampon, there are lots of surprises there. The ancient Egyptians invented the first disposable tampons from softened papyrus; the ancient Greeks from lint wrapped around a small piece of wood (recorded in writing by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C.)

And guess what? Our old friend Johnson & Johnson (the Band-Aid inventors) are connected to the first commercial sanitary pad — Lister’s Towels, first manufactured in 1896.

Commercial tampons were probably available by the late 1920s or early 1930s, but they didn’t gain mainstream acceptance until Tampax appeared on the market in 1936. (In 1935, Kimberly-Clark was offered the patent rights but thought it would be like throwing money out the window. Not a good move. The product became Tampax, the first tampon with an applicator patented by Dr. Earl Haas.) Here’s what the article says about Earl’s product:

After failing to get people interested in his invention (including the Johnson & Johnson company), on October 16, 1933 he finally sold the patent and trademark to a Denver businesswoman, Gertrude Tenderich, for $32,000. She started the Tampax company and was its first president. Tenderich was an ambitious German immigrant who made the first Tampax tampons at her home using a sewing machine and Dr. Haas’s compression machine.”

I guess the tampon was another great invention rooted in the 1920’s!

-posted on red Ravine, Monday, June 23rd, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – BAND-AIDS® & OTHER 1920’s INVENTIONS

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Band-Aid Freak!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Band-Aid Freak!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I’m a Band-Aid® freak. I love Band-Aid® Brand Adhesive Bandages. I’m famous around the office for stocking a plentiful amount in the metal bin above my cube. Paper cut? No problem. Spider-Man, Batman or SpongeBob SquarePants to the rescue!

Band-Aid® Bandages were invented in 1920 by a New Jersey man named Earl Dickson. Earl worked as a cotton buyer for a small start-up company called Johnson & Johnson. His wife Josephine (formerly Josephine Frances Knight) was always picking up nicks and cuts in the kitchen. Earl invented a ready-made bandage by placing squares of cotton gauze at intervals along an adhesive strip and covering them with crinoline (petticoat material!).

First Poison Ivy Of The Year!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.First Poison Ivy Of The Year!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.First Poison Ivy Of The Year!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Band-Aid® was born.

But the new product only sold a total of $3000 the first year. It was the Boy Scouts who put Band-Aid® on the map after an unlimited number of free Band-Aids® were distributed to Boy Scout troops across the country. The long history of innovation continued, and as of 2001, over 100 billion Band-Aid® Brand Bandages had rolled off the assembly line.

In the 1970’s,  John Travolta, Terri Garr, and Brooke Shields all appeared in Band-Aid® commercials. And remember that little jingle, I am stuck on Band-Aid® ’cause Band-Aid®‘s stuck on me? It was penned by Barry Manilow (and will surely get stuck in your head!). Barry did pretty well in the jingle business and is also responsible for Like a good neighbor…well, you know the rest.

Earl Dickson didn’t do too bad for himself either. Johnson & Johnson eventually made Dickson a vice president at the company, a position in which he remained until his retirement in 1957. He was also a member of the board of directors until his death in 1961. At the time of his death, Johnson & Johnson was selling over $30,000,000 worth of Band-Aids® each year.

As much as I love Band-Aids®, they weren’t the only invention of the 1920’s. It was a decade quick to embrace wild ideas and new technologies. Here’s a video and a short timeline of other 1920’s inventions:

               Crazy 1920’s Inventions from Aaron1912 on YouTube


  • Hair Dryer (1920)

Prior to 1920, woman dried their hair by inserting a hose in the exhaust of a vacuum cleaner and blowing themselves dry. But in 1920, hand held dryers were introduced by the US Racine Universal Motor Company (Wisconsin), and the Hamilton Beach Company.

  • Combustion Engine Car (1920)

Invented by Henry Ford, cars powered by combustion engines were affordable to the American public and mass produced. The ‘Model-T’ was the first car to roll off the assembly line. (If the price of gas is any indication, the love affair lives on!) 

  • Kool-Aid (1927)

Edwin Perkins of Hastings, Nebraska created the most important invention in American history: Kool-Aid (originally called Fruit Smack). Perkins was a chemist who owned “Perkins Product Company” which sold perfume and calling cards. The original Kool-Aid flavors? Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Grape, Orange, Root Beer, Strawberry, and Raspberry.

  • Liquid-Fueled Rocket (1926)

Robert Goddard’s liquid-fueled rocket and methods of propulsion are still used by the North American Space Association. His oxygen and liquid fuel lifted the original rocket 184 ft.

  • Q-Tips (1923)

Polish-born American Leo Gerstenzang was married to a woman who used to cotton swab each end of a stick to clean her baby’s ears. Leo took her innovation and put it on the market. Then called ‘Baby Gays”, the wood was replaced by white cardboard, and Gerstenzang started the “Infant Novelty Company” to sell Q-Tips.

  • Lie Detector (1921)

John A. Larson was a medical student at the University of California when he invented the Polygraph, or lie detector. The device measured heartbeat and breathing to determine if a person was lying, and later included a skin monitoring system to measure sweat.

  • Bread Slicer (1927)

Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Iowa got the idea for a bread slicer in 1912, and in 1927 invented a machine that could successfully cut and wrap a loaf of bread. The machine was later improved by baker Gustav Papendick.

  • Bulldozer (1923)

In 1885, engineer Benjamin Holt built a crawling tractor, which he called “caterpillar.” Later, scraping blades were attached and in 1923, LaPlant-Choate Manufacturing Company produced the first bulldozer.

  • Traffic Light (1920)

Police officer William Potts from Detroit, Michigan was the inventor of the traffic light. Using red, amber and green lights, and $37 worth of wire, he built a light for the corner of Woodward and Michigan Avenues in Detroit. Around the same time, African-American Garrett Morgan invented the automated traffic light. It worked the same way railroad lights work today and was the concept on which four way traffic lights were built.


History is pregnant with writing possibility. Pick a 1920’s invention — the combustion engine, the lie detector, the hair dryer — and write about how it changed the future.

Do a Writing Practice on the first childhood memory that comes to mind when you think of Kool-Aid, Band-Aids®, or Q-Tips.

Maybe you hate the feel of a Q-Tip in your ear; or maybe it’s something you look forward to after a morning shower. When’s the last time you tasted Kool-Aid? Did you know it was invented in Nebraska (along with CliffsNotes and the Vise-Grip)?

What’s the greatest thing ever invented? Ten minutes, Go!

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

-related to post, If You Could Go Back In Time…

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