Unraveling the Unexpected Histories Behind Common Objects

The Strange Origins of Everyday Things

Do you ever put your shoes on and wonder where the idea for them came from? Or pick up a toy and think about how it’s made? What about those office supplies you use everyday? If you haven't, you will after reading about the origins of these everyday objects.

Did you know that the high heel was originally invented for function and not style. The streets of medieval England were the dumping ground for everything from dirty water to trash. Horses and other animals walked the streets and their droppings where left where they fell. The horror of what you could get on your expensive shoes and clothing became the motivator for the first high heel. This shoe was used as an “overshoe.” Instead of being worn all of the time, the wearer would slide it over the everyday shoe to elevate the wearer above the sewage on the streets. When the wearer got to their destination, they would remove the overshoe and wear their clean shoes into the building. Do you know the strange history of Play-Doh? It wasn’t always the fun toy it is now. In its first life, Play-Doh was a product used to clean wallpaper. In the 1930’s, most houses were still being heated by coal. This left residue on the surrounding wallpaper. This residue was almost impossible to clean with soaps available at the time. The answer was a clay-like putty made from salt, flour, water and other toxic ingredients. During the next 20 years, this product was a huge success. However, the 1950’s saw an increase in the use of gas. Without coal stoves, there was no need to clean the wallpaper. Without the sale of this product, the company was slowly going bankrupt. It wasn’t until the inventors sister told him that she gave the cleaning putty to the children in her nursery school to play with, that the idea of Play-Doh emerged. After replacing the toxic substances with coloring and almond scent, this wall cleaner was re-branded and became the product kids have played with for 65 years. Interested in learning the history of more everyday items, look no further.

Book List | History of Everyday Objects

Holy Spokes
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum
Perfection of the paper clip curious tales of invention accidental genius and stationery obsession
The elements of a home
Play-doh Pioneer Joseph Mcvicker
Consider the fork a history of how we cook and eat
Chilled how refrigeration changed the world and might do so again
Women from the ankle down the story of shoes and how they define us
Glass a short history
How we got to now six innovations that made the modern world
Light bulb
Field guide to household technology
Fabulous fashion inventions
Toys amazing stories behind some great inventions
An Uncommon History of Common Things
How the wheel changed history

Book List | World History Through Objects

A History of Earth in 100 Groundbreaking Discoveries
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Smithsonian: History of the World in 1,000 Objects
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
A History of the World in 12 Maps

Book List | Just Down Right Interesting History Titles

A History of Photography in 50 Cameras
The Cat in the Box: A History of Science in 100 Experiments
A History of Medicine in 50 Objects
A History of Life in 100 Fossils
A History of Art in 21 Cats
The World History of Animation
Concise History of Science & Invention
Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up
Spiders of the World: A Natural History
Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s
Beetle: A Comprehensive Illustrated History of the World
Turn it Up: A Pitch Perfect History of Music
Fifty Ships that Changed the Course of History
A History of Food in 100 Recipes

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