When most of us think of the process of inventing something new, the image of a mad scientist standing in a laboratory running all sorts of crazy and exciting tests is often the first image that springs to mind. But despite the fun imagery that the scientist presents, as this list will demonstrate, items are often invented under extremely odd circumstances. Whether it be an accidental discovery, a technology better suited for an alternative purpose, or a product searching for a human use, it’s amazing how some of humankind’s most beloved items have been discovered. Prepare to be astounded with this list of 10 Products Originally Intended For Very Different Purposes.
It seems that many of the best sodas of the twenty-first century find their origins with quite peculiar ingredients. 7Up is a perfect example of a soda that although today is one of the best ways to revitalize oneself after a tough game of hockey or the latest NHL video game, originally was loved for reasons that had less to do with flavor and more to do with effect. 7Up’s name is supposedly based on the fact that the original recipe started with seven key ingredients: water, sugar, sodium citrate, citric acids, citric oils and an incredibly shocking seventh ingredient: lithium citrate! Supposedly the lithium in the original recipe had mood altering properties similar to the effects of modern day antidepressants and mood relaxers that utilize lithium medicinally, which accounts for the “Up” portion of the name. No one could feel down while drinking a 7Up! It’s amazing what brand owners used to get away with serving people before the days of food regulation. Although the recipe was changed over 70 years ago, the name was popular enough that the brand decided to stick with its popular logo and switch out the lithium for sugar. Just as tasty today and perhaps just as happiness encoding, however less pharmaceutically potent! 7Up is loved around the world for its delicious lime-lemon flavor that offers a much less sweet taste than some of its cola relatives. Try grabbing a bottle the next time you’re in need of a refreshment or a pick me up and discover how the flavor is able to still cheer up a customer on a glum day.
Many are familiar with their favorite non-stick pan, however most are completely unaware of the curious way in which it was developed. Teflon coated cookware has been saving us from sticky and unsalvageable messes for decades, however it has a very surprising origin story. Teflon actually was created when researchers were experimenting with different gases, attempting to find the best gas to use in aiding with refrigerating techniques. Roy Plunkett left a cylinder filled with gas overnight and when he arrived the next morning, the gas had turned into a powder that was now sitting in the bottom of the pan. This discovery was absolutely groundbreaking and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) went on to become the beautiful non-stick coating known as Teflon that fills kitchens across the globe. PTFE has many more important uses that are less commonly well known like in both the automotive and medical industries. The properties of PTFE are extremely valuable as it is extremely resistant to heat and light, very strong and durable, and has a low ability to conduct friction. All in all, a pretty impressive invention for something that was never intended to be discovered! Who would have thought that someone trying to figure out the best strategy for refrigeration, would end up discovering one of man’s most useful creations. This is proof that there’s no use crying over spilled milk because accidents can make miracles!
8. Tea Bags
The true invention of tea bags has been long disputed. Despite the original patent belonging to Roberta Lawson & Mary Molaren, it’s thought that the first teabag prototype was invented accidentally about a decade prior through an unlikely situation. Thomas Sullivan was trying to figure out a way to send tea samples out to his customers in order to increase sales. He provided the tea samples in small silk pouches that people could take home. His idea was that people could use the loose leaf tea with their home kettles and tea steepers. Supposedly, customers actually directly placed the silk pouches into the hot water, in a way creating the first accidental tea bag! Sometimes the consumer is the one who comes up with the brilliant idea for a product’s use long before the designer or creator ever develop the idea on their own. Over ten years later Mary & Roberta would work at designing the perfect individual tea bag and are now credited with its true invention and discovery. From that point forward, the tea industry would be forever changed. It’s amazing that although tea has been a commonly used product for thousands of years, it was only about 100 years ago that someone developed the tea bag that now fills millions of homes. Amazing how a simple invention can change everything!
Everyone has witnessed that infamous scene, either on TV or in their own dining room, when someone spills red wine all over a beautiful white table cloth during a special meal. If the spill itself isn’t embarrassing enough, red wine spills are given a heightened sense of shame as many are well aware of the difficulties a red wine stain presents in attempting its removal. Jacques Brandenberger who himself had witnessed this instance was not at all perturbed by the problem. Instead he was inspired to figure out some sort of solution. This issue caused the entrepreneur to attempt to create a transparent table cloth that could be used on top of white table cloths. In his attempts, cellophane was born! After very quickly discovering the multiple uses that the product had, its original intention was quickly kiboshed and Brandenberger was left with the infamous food waste security system that so many know and love. Although in 2020 there is a big push to move towards reusable items in order to reduce plastic waste, credit must be given due to one of the most brilliant accidental inventions of all time. It’s amazing how sometimes the search for one solution can provide millions more in the process!
6. Chewing Gum
Oftentimes in human history, the search for one product has given birth to the development of an entirely different item. One of these scenarios can be seen with the invention of chewing gum. Before delving into traditional modern chewing gum, it’s important to note that the idea for chewing gum was given to colonizers by various groups of indigenous peoples around the world. Different tribes would chew on various natural materials such as birch bark and sap from pine trees. Although many developers had been slowly working with chewing gum, it would not be until chicle- a product long used by the indigenous people- was brought to America by the Mexican president for help with developing a new type of rubber, that chewing gum would be revolutionized. Although the chicle was not useful in producing rubber, Thomas Adams was able to use the chicle to develop the newest type of chewing gum. Despite the chicle no longer being used today, it was an essential aspect of chewing gum’s history and integral to its popularity. The additional use of chewing gum by baseball players through the 20s all the way to the 50s was also a large proponent in the spread of gum popularity. Although the original purposes of chewing resin used by indigenous cultures were health related, like many inventions, technology has progressed this item into a symbol of joy and relaxation. No one can feel sad with a huge pink bubble from a piece of sticky chewing gum!
The story of Listerine’s invention is perhaps one of the most wholesome and awe inspiring that one can behold. When Dr. Joseph Lawrence, the inventor of Listerine, heard about the first surgery performed using anti-septic, he was absolutely inspired. He could not believe that Dr. Lister had been able to save so many more lives with the use of antiseptic during his surgeries. Wanting to help in the life-saving pursuit of antiseptic creation, Lawrence crafted his own brand of antiseptic and named it Listerine, after the doctor who has encouraged his noble pursuit. Despite originally being sold as a cure for many ailments, in the late nineteenth century, the product began being marketed as an oral health product and the rest is history! Although he may not have developed the surgery antiseptic that he was originally intending, Lawrence had inadvertently created a product that would help customers to preserve their oral hygiene for decades to come. Not only does Listerine help to decrease mouth bacteria and provide fresh breath to the user, it can seriously help to improve self esteem. It’s also a common part of millions of citizens’ everyday routine and it’s crazy how it all started by one man who wanted to save lives. As Thomas Rhett would say, “ain’t it funny how life changes!”
The true history of Coca-Cola is one of the most well known on this list of products originally intended for alternate purposes. Although Coca-Cola is now the most popular soft drink around the world, originally it was not intended to quench people’s thirst at theme parks on hot summer days. Coca-Cola was actually originally invented as a sort of wellness drink featuring many medicinal products and properties. Some of the most notable ingredients included both alcohol and actual cocaine! This is where the name Coca-Cola actually came from, indicating both the use of the cocoa bean for the cocaine factor and the caffeine from the kola nut. Despite the fact that the cocaine was dropped from the recipe over 100 years ago, the name had already begun to resonate with customers and therefore the owners decided to leave it alone despite several major changes to the recipe. Nowadays both the cocaine and alcohol have been removed from the beverage and it focuses on quenching people’s cravings for sugar and caffeine rather than illegal substances. One of the interesting facts about Coca-Cola is that it originally was marketed to cure several ailments. These ranged all the way from headaches and hangovers to indigestion. Although today it is usually only used for hydration purposes, many still use it and swear that the caffeine has incredible effects on migraines and headaches! Incredible how years later one of it’s medicinal purposes still somehow shines through!
Every once in a while, in the pursuit of science, an invention comes long before an actual use has been discovered. The microwave is one of those rare products that’s actual use for humankind was discovered long after scientists discovered its existence. In attempting to work with military radar, a system developed for tracking boats, planes, missiles and other military objects, Percy Spencer was tasked with working directly with the radar waves themselves. While working, Percy suddenly realized that the candy bar within his pants pocket had completely melted. It was a eureka moment for Percy! Although microwaves had previously been discovered, scientists were perplexed by their potential benefits to mankind. With one melted candy, the idea for the microwave oven grew as scientists and engineers finally discovered the immense power that these tiny invisible rays held within. By 2000, over 90% of American households had at least one microwave in the home. Meals suddenly went from hour long activities to hot and prepared in minutes! One fact that is truly funny in regards to microwaves is the fact that the first ever food intentionally cooked by microwave radiation is also one that is still commonly attributed to the microwave oven itself, popcorn! Microwaves changed the at-home meal making game, and at home move night, for generations to come!
The process of making alcohol is typically the same regardless of the type of booze that is being bottled. Some sort of natural product like barley for beer, grapes for wine, and potatoes for vodka, must be fermented in order for the ingredient to produce its naturally occurring alcoholic components. The same can be said for the production of brandy, however it has one additional step. Centuries ago when ship merchants would carry goods across the globe, one merchant decided it would be a good idea to remove the additional water from his batches of wine. What occurred in the process is actually a sort of second distillery process that intensified the alcohol. He figured that the water could be added back into the mixture upon arrival at a new port in order to conserve space on the ships and allow for larger quantities to be moved at any given time to any given location. In this attempt, brandy was born! Brandy supposedly has a similar flavor to whiskey, however it is slightly sweeter as fruit is used in opposition to barley and wheat. In the pursuit of the party, a new liquor had been procured! It’s incredible that sometimes the most simple of concepts can have the most incredibly surprising results!
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? What about the wine bottle or the corkscrew? Many may be shocked to learn that people were utilizing wine bottles for many years before the corkscrew was invented. In fact, the corkscrew was invented for the soul purpose of uncorking bottles, but more specifically, bottles with broken corks. Before the invention of the modern corkscrew, bottles would only be “semi-corked” and the top of the cork would stick out of the top of the bottle to allow for easy removal. Unfortunately as many are probably aware, corks are less than industrial and often break upon removal. A corkscrew was needed for removing these stubborn broken pieces and the inspiration for its development came from an extremely surprising place. Learning that corkscrews were originally modelled off of a tool used for guns is absolutely shocking to some of even the most well rounded wine connoisseurs. After a musket was fired, there would sometimes be a misfire in which a gun worm would be used to remove the uncharged round. This spirally object was used nearly 100 years before the first true corkscrew was invented nearly 300 years ago! Everyone knows what it’s like to find an item at home with the perfect alternative purpose. In this case, that item became a crucial kitchen tool! The corkscrew is not only the most fascinating item on this list of accidental inventions, but perhaps one of the oldest as well!