Over the course of a typical day, people interact with a number of objects that have come to be commonplace in the American household. Items including utensils, toiletries, and electronics have become so ingrained in our way of life that few of us pause to ponder where these cornerstones of modern civilization originated. In this edition of The StickerTalk, join us as we explore the eccentric inceptions of a few everyday objects.
Found in the drawers and cabinets of kitchens across the globe, forks have been assisting diners since ancient Greek chefs invented a primitive fork designed to carve meat. However, forks were not crafted with the plate-to-mouth trajectory in mind until the 11th century, A.D. A Byzantine princess is credited with introducing the fork to dining tables when she enjoyed a meal in Venice, Italy using the newfangled utensil. Despite the fork’s incredible offer of ease, the Italian people, especially clergymen, were appalled at the idea of using anything other than their fingers to eat since they believed God had designed and ordained fingers for the task. This controversy spanned a period of 500 years and ended with the acceptance of the fork into everyday dining routines.
What’s a birthday party without a cake and candles? While cakes adorned with candles are now almost exclusive to birthday celebrations, worshipers in ancient Greece offered candlelit confections to the goddess of the moon, Artemis. Many historians believe the Greeks baked circular cakes to resemble the moon’s shape and placed candles on the cake to mimic the moon’s calming glow. When the candles were blown out, ancient Greek tradition maintains that the smoke transported a person’s wishes to Artemis in her heavenly abode.
After a tiring day at school or work, few things offer greater comfort than your favorite pair of pajamas. Contemporary pajamas are often designed for both luxury and fashion, a trend sparked by designers during World War I. When the German military began employing airplanes and zeppelin balloons to bomb England in nocturnal air raids, the women of London started the search for nightclothes that were comfortable enough to sleep in yet stylish enough to wear in public in the case that they needed to evacuate. The favored design of the era was a cozy jacket worn over a loose-fitting pair of trousers, much like some of the pajamas still in stores today.
Fueled by an ever-advancing understanding of health and wellness, a quarter of Americans rinse with mouthwash on a daily basis. One of the most popular brands of mouthwash, Listerine, was originally marketed as surgical-grade disinfectant. In fact, Listerine’s antiseptic properties are so powerful, it was sold as a treatment for both diphtheria and small pox, floor cleaner, and even deodorant!
A preferred piece of exercise equipment, the treadmill’s history “runs” deeper than you may expect. The earliest form of the treadmill, called the tread-wheel, was invented in 1818 by a British engineer with a more severe purpose in mind than working off a few cheeseburgers. Used to punish prisoners, the tread-wheel was composed of 24 wooden spokes; prisoners would climb the spokes, turning the wheel. Tread-wheels were often connected to gear systems to pump water or grind grain so that the prisoners’ physical labor was harnessed for community service. Wardens often assigned unruly prisoners to eight-hour-long shifts on the tread-wheel, making the device a common cause of injury among inmates. The tread-wheel was eventually renounced as being too cruel a punishment, only to be resurrected as a form of aerobic exercise in the 1960s.