Flipping Through the History of the Flip-Flop

H/T   Heddels.com.

I am part of the generation that used to call them thongs but now call them flip flops.



Few, except the pettiest among us, will remember a 2005 controversy surrounding the Northwestern University’s women’s lacrosse team wearing flip-flops to the White House. In a world, only 13 years ago, when the folks visiting and working in the White House were expected to act with some level of decorum, exposed toes (and feet) caused a stir.

The flip-flop, as we know it, has been worn in the states since the end of the Second World War, but this skimpy little shoe somehow remains a topic of debate. From a surfing shoe to the scourge of middle school dress codes, the modern flip-flop has integrated itself into our daily lives.

In The Beginning(s)

the-history-of-the-flip-flop The Oldest Evidence of Sandals. Image via Art of Counting.

The Oldest Evidence of Sandals. Image via Art of Counting.

Liz Lemon from TV’s 30 Rock once said, “All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich.” But there may be one other thing… the sandal.

Although the earliest recorded evidence of people wearing sandals comes from Egypt, it appears that the majority of ancient cultures had their own variant of this simple and practical little shoe. Many of the internet’s most esteemed pseudo-historians have attempted to determine whether the sandal originated in the Mediterranean or somewhere in Asia and which culture eventually disseminated sandal culture around the globe.

One could just as easily argue that the sandal–like the wrapping of proteins in carbs (i.e. the sandwich)–is universal. Materials and design varied slightly between cultures, but the sandal seems a logical and simple approach to life in warm climates, as opposed to some elaborate trading situation. Sandals in Greece had the thong rest between the first and second toe, while in Rome, the same implement rested between the second and third. Mesopotamians’ sandals had the thong between the third and fourth toe, while the traditional chappal of India used a knob in place of the thong.

The Zori Becomes the Flip-Flop


Yojimbo, 1961. Image via Janus Films.

The flip-flop that we know and recognize, though, has its roots in Japan. As shown in the graphic below, there were several main types of traditional sandals worn in Japan. Research remains inconclusive as to whether or not these styles are indigenous to the island or not. Regardless; the everyday version of the sandal: the Zori, would act as the template for the soon-to-be Western beach sensation.

Typically made of rice straw, the sandal’s thong rested between the first and second toes. Unlike, the wood-platformed geta sandal, zoris were typically worn with tabi, white or black socks with the big toe divided from the rest. In the above image from Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune’s character (right) wears tabi with his zori sandals, while his more uncouth rival wears them barefoot.


Legend of Zori. Image via The New York Times.

Over the course of World War II, the Japanese had seized much of Southeast Asia’s natural resources and rubber was no exception. In 1945, devastated by its loss and occupied by its Western enemies, Japan set about establishing a cheap industry with which to rebuild its fragile economy. Using these rubber reserves from the war and replicating the simplest piece of Japanese footwear led to the creation of the flip-flop.

The Flip-Flop in the West


A young Goldie Hawn wearing flip-flops. Image via Pinterest.

Women and children were the first Americans won over by the cheap rubber sandals arriving from Japan in the 1950s. Returning GIs had bought Japanese sandals as novelty gifts, but the comfort and simplicity of the shoes clearly won people over.

Marketed in New Zealand as Jandals, a combination of “Japan” and “sandals,” the shoe was generically called a thong in the U.S., after the piece worn between the toes.


“Thongs” at the pool. Image via AOL.

The modified zoris on America’s feet in the 1950s started appearing in ever more vibrant colors and received the name “flip-flop” sometime in the 1960s, simply for the sound they made as they smacked on the wearer’s feet. They were interchangeably referred to as “thongs” until sometime in the 1980s, at which point that word came to stand solely for a well-known style of underwear.

Flip-flops in rubber, and later in plastic, were an obvious hit for beach-goers. Not only were they water and sand-proof, but they were easy to get on and off. Their ease of wear and general irreverence made them a hit with surfers and despite their early adoption in Australia, cemented the connection between thongs/flip-flops with California’s surf scene.

Flip-Flops Today

Founder Jay Longley glues up pairs of Rainbow sandals.

Flip-flops have remained largely unchanged since their arrival in the U.S. The y-shaped thong and flat sole have stood the test of time.

Two potential issues, however, loom with flip-flops in the modern world.

The first is social acceptability. The polemic when it comes to pretty much any open-toed footwear is: “where can I wear them?” There still seem to be nay-sayers among us who hate seeing flip-flops outside of their beach-going context, but exposed feet are the least of society’s problems. If you feel like letting your feet fly, go right ahead.

The second, and much more real issue, is environmental impact. Although quality flip-flops exist, most are much more disposable. People pick up a pair, trash ’em in a few months, and throw them away. Flip-flops are often made of plastic and most discarded ones wind up in landfills or the ocean, leaching their chemicals and not really decomposing.

If you buy flip-flops, try to make them ones that last. We have a few options below that fit the bill.

Rainbow Single Layer Premier

Rainbow has been turning out flip flops from their same design since the 1970s. Their take is slightly higher end and made from leather, which will hold up better than your garden-variety convenience store versions. They have a classic beachcomber look, the leather will patina well with wear, and come in quite affordable.

Available for $54 at Rainbow.

Hari Mari Scout Flip Flop

Hari Mari fuses old with new with a nubuck leather insole atop a memory foam wedge with arch support. Better yet, nearly all the synthetics are made from recycled and sustainable materials.

Available for $65 at Stag Provisions.

Waltzing Matilda Ace Sandal

The luxe of the luxe in basic flip-flops is this offering from Waltzing Matilda. Cut from Wickett & Craig tannery’s veg-tan leather, this pair is build to mold to one’s foot and age well while doing it.

Available for $88 at Waltzing Matilda.

The History Behind Your Plate

H/T discovey.hubpages.com.

The evolution of dinner plates.



Dinner Plates Have Come a Long Way

From flat shells to simple carved wooden bowls to slabs of hard bread to the modern porcelain we know today, plates have come a long way.

We use them every day, several times a day in fact. Dinner plates, bread plates, butter plates, dessert plates. But, have you ever sat down and thought about where your plate came from? Or, how it came to be?

I believe this to be one of the best simple inventions. The simple dinner plate.

banana leaf plate


banana leaf plate

The Earliest Plates

made by nature

It is thought that the earliest plates used by people would have been large leaves, gourd halves, or perhaps sea shells which would be used as simple bowls for holding food. Food items would be placed upon the large leaves or on other containers in the center of the eating area then eaten communally by all members of a tribe, family, or group.

People discovered early on though the uses of clay and made for themselves simple bowls, cups, jugs, and storage jars. Examples of the pottery dinnerware made by these early people can be seen in museums around the world.

The idea of individuals having their own plate to eat from is a fairly new idea. Originally in Europe food would have been brought to the table on platters and carved. People would then use their fingers to take what they wanted from the platters to eat. Breads and fruit would be placed in baskets on the floor for diners to help themselves.

wooden trencher


wooden trencher


and bread

Early trenchers would have been made of wood, earthenware, or metal. The most popular substance used for making trenchers though was bread. This lasted well into the 16th century.

These slabs of bread would be used to hold the meal, sauces, even salt for the diner. It was hard enough that the bread would be used as candle holders as well as being carved to hold food.

During a particularly elaborate meal, several trenchers would be carved for each diner. Well, they would be carved for the more important diners at the table. Those of lesser importance were expected to carve their own trencher from the nearest loaf.

Upon finishing the meal, bread trenchers would be thrown to the dogs to eat, or would be given outside to the poor as alms. After soaking up all the juices from the foods they would actually have been quite filling and nutritious. Certainly they would have been easier to chew.

It was a very hungry man indeed who would actually eat this bread. A very coarse flour would be used in the making of the breads then they would be left to sit and harden for several days before being sliced.

Wooden trenchers might also be used though less commonly than those of bread. These slabs were sometimes carved so that an indentation sat in the middle. More elaborate trenchers, such as pictured here, might have a smaller indentation carved for holding a salt cellar.

At the end of the meal, clean trenchers were expected when cheeses and other delicacies would be brought in.

It was from these smaller “dessert” trenchers that the modern dessert plate developed.

Obama inaugeration plate


Obama inaugeration plate

From Pottery to Plastic

The evolution of a plate

Over the centuries plates have evolved into those we use today.

In the middle ages, those who could afford them bought plates of pewter. The lead used in making pewter would leach out though, especially when highly acidic foods were placed upon them, causing lead poisoning. One food which especially caused this was the humble tomato, hence the origins of the belief that tomatoes were poisonous.

The poorer people could not afford plates of pewter, so had trenchers of wood instead. Hygienic practices were not as they are today though and these trenchers generally weren’t washed in between meals. The resultant bacteria and worms inside the wood caused people to develop mouth sores. This is where we get the phrase “trench mouth”.

Over time, plates became more elaborate. They went from being made of pottery to pewter and other metals. As techniques progressed, plates were made from finer porcelain and china.

Today, you can find plates that are very plain to very ornate. Fancy meals might be served on the best china, but for every day meals many families use plates of unbreakable plastic.

Plates for a Fine Tea Party

Plates for a Fine Tea Party


Plates for a Fine Tea Party

bread bowl


bread bowl

Everything Old Is New Again

the rebirth of the bread trencher

Today you can dine off the finest china or a cheap paper plate. The trencher of bread is a thing of the past.

These days it is made to be eaten, but if you want, you too can eat your stew or other meal in a plate or bowl made from bread.

You can buy a ready made loaf and hollow it out to create a bowl. Round loaves of crusty bread work best.

Or, you can make your own.

Cook Time

Prep time Cook time Ready in Yields

1 hour 45 min

35 min

2 hours 20 min

Makes 8 bread bowls

Bread Bowl

  • 2 packages active dried yeast
  • 2.5 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablepoons vegetable oil
  • 7 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn meal
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition.
  3. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  4. Punch dough down, and divide into 8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 4 inch round loaf. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water; lightly brush the loaves with half of this egg wash.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg mixture, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
  7. To make bowls: Cut a 1/2 inch thick slice from top of each loaf; scoop out centers, leaving 3/4-inch-thick shells. Fill bread bowls with hot soup and serve immediately.

The History of the Doughnut

H/T Smithsonian Magazine.

A look back at the doughnut.

A look back at the men, women and machines that made America’s favorite treat possible

(Jacqueline Moen)

At the National Museum of American History one day last July, an upright piano stood on a stage. Beside it, on a wooden pallet, was a strange metal contraption about five feet high. The Ring King Jr., once America’s most advanced automatic doughnut maker, had just been donated to the Smithsonian Institution by the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation. It was Krispy Kreme’s 60th birthday.

In my own sixth or maybe seventh year, I remember stopping in at the green, red and white Krispy Kreme place in Alexandria, Virginia. There was a wide glass window behind the counter, and you could look in there at all those shiny conveyor belts and racks filled with fresh glazed doughnuts, and half swoon at the warmth and sweet vanilla richness of it all. At the Smithsonian dedication, the Ring King was saluted as a milestone in American doughnut history. Then a singer, Cindy Hutchins, stepped up to the mike and drawing on the museum’s archive of popular sheet music (more than a million songs in all) sang, “Who made the doughnut with the hole in the middle? Just how it got there will be always a riddle.”

Well, yes and no. It is true that the humble doughnut does have a convoluted past that involves Dutch immigrants, Russian exiles, French bakers, Irving Berlin, Clark Gable and a certain number of Native Americans. And, yes, in its democratic ethos, its optimism, and its assorted origins, it does seem rather quintessentially American.

Of course doughnuts in some form or other have been around so long that archaeologists keep turning up fossilized bits of what look like doughnuts in the middens of prehistoric Native American settlements. But the doughnut proper (if that’s the right word) supposedly came to Manhattan (then still New Amsterdam) under the unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks–“oily cakes.”

Fast-forward to the mid-19th century and Elizabeth Gregory, a New England ship captain’s mother who made a wicked deep-fried dough that cleverly used her son’s spice cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with lemon rind. Some say she made it so son Hanson and his crew could store a pastry on long voyages, one that might help ward off scurvy and colds. In any case, Mrs. Gregory put hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, where the dough might not cook through, and in a literal-minded way called them doughnuts.

Her son always claimed credit for something less than that: putting the hole in the doughnut. Some cynical doughnut historians maintain that Captain Gregory did it to stint on ingredients, others that he thought the hole might make the whole easier to digest. Still others say that he gave the doughnut its shape when, needing to keep both hands on the wheel in a storm, he skewered one of his mom’s doughnuts on a spoke of his ship’s wheel. In an interview with the Boston Post at the turn of the century, Captain Gregory tried to quell such rumors with his recollection of the moment 50 years before: using the top of a round tin pepper box, he said, he cut into the middle of a doughnut “the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes.”

One likes to think that less was more. But in fact doughnuts didn’t come into their own until World War I, when millions of homesick American doughboys met millions of doughnuts in the trenches of France. They were served up by women volunteers who even brought them to the front lines to give soldiers a tasty touch of home. When the doughboys came back from the war they had a natu-ral yen for more doughnuts. (The name “doughboy,” though, didn’t derive from doughnuts. It goes back to the relatively doughnutless Civil War, when the cavalry derided foot soldiers as doughboys, perhaps because their globular brass buttons resembled flour dumplings or because soldiers used flour to polish their white belts.)

The first doughnut machine did not come along until 1920, in New York City, when Adolph Levitt, an enterprising refugee from czarist Russia, began selling fried doughnuts from his bakery. Hungry theater crowds pushed him to make a gadget that churned out the tasty rings faster, and he did.

Levitt’s doughnut machine was the first sign that the doughnut, till then merely a taste sensation, could, in production, become a public spectacle. And so generations of kids like me, and adults, too, have stood transfixed by the Willy Wonka-like scene behind the glass of doughnut shops, learning in the process that the doughnut hole is built in, not cut out. There before them a circle of dough, shaped like a perfect smoke ring, and about the diameter of a baseball, dropped off into a vat of boiling oil, circulated, got turned over to brown on the other side, and emerged from the oil on a moving ramp, one by one like ducks in a row.

The machines grew more refined. The idea spread. By 1931, the New Yorker was whispering to its readers, “We can tell you a little about the doughnut-making place in Broadway,” and described how “doughnuts float dreamily through a grease canal in a glass enclosed machine, walk dreamily up a moving ramp, and tumble dreamily into an outgoing basket.”

By then, Adolph Levitt’s machines were earning him a dreamy $25 million a year, mostly from wholesale deliveries to bakers around the country. A company spokesman breathlessly reported that Levitt’s machine had pulled the doughnut “out of the mire of prejudice that surrounded the heavy, grease-soaked product . . . and made it into a light, puffy product of a machine.”

He had a point. By the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, doughnuts were poster material, billed as “the food hit of the Century of Progress.” Seeing them produced “automatically” somehow made them part of the wave of the future. A doughnut cost less than a nickel, within reach of most of the Depression’s victims. They were base and beloved. In the 1934 film It Happened One Night, rugged newspaperman Clark Gable actually has to teach runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk. Often, doughnuts were sold with their own can-do philosophy. Singer Cindy Hutchins’ mother recalls buying them after seeing movies at Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Theater. They came with a slip of paper to bolster the downtrodden: “As you go through life make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.”

It was in the 1930s, too, and half a country away from Levitt’s busy Harlem bakery, that a Frenchman named Joe LeBeau made his way up from New Orleans to Paducah, Kentucky. Probably the hard times led him to sell his secret recipe (written out longhand on a slip of paper), and the name Krispy Kreme, to a local store owner named Ishmael Armstrong, who hired his nephew, Vernon Rudolph, and put him to work selling the treats door-to-door.

In 1937 young Vernon and two friends found themselves in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with just $25 between them. They borrowed ingredients (potatoes, sugar and milk) from a kindly grocer, stripped down to survive the heat of baking in July, and emerged with a fresh batch of Krispy Kremes, which they delivered in their 1936 Pontiac. That year, Joe Louis was heavyweight champ, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, and a popular song was proclaiming that you can live on doughnuts and coffee if “you’re in love.”

North Carolinians soon found their way to Rudolph’s operation, and because it’s hard to stay wholesale when the fragrance keeps issuing retail flyers for every batch, Rudolph, like Levitt before him, boosted local sales by letting the public see, as well as buy. Krispy Kreme still uses this wholesale/retail system, selling to grocery stores and to passersby who watch for the neon “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign to light up, signaling a fresh batch.

War seems to be a powerful stimulant to doughnut consumption. After all, doughnuts enlisted for World War II just as in World War I. Red Cross women, later known as Doughnut Dollies, doled them out. In his 1942 Army musical, Irving Berlin romanticized the doughnut further with a soldier who loses his heart at Broadway’s Stage Door Canteen and eats his way through some anxious waiting: “I sat there dunking doughnuts till she caught on.” Not surprisingly, Vernon Rudolph returned from military duty with thoughts of expanding his doughnut chain. And it was right about then, in the early 1950s, that the first Ring King started churning away in the back room.

By the late 1950s, in 29 Krispy Kreme store-factories in 12 states, individual Ring Kings like the Smithsonian’s model were turning out something like 75 dozen doughnuts an hour. They faced stiff competition. Dunkin’ Donuts, started in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1950, has been flourishing ever since. By the early 1980s, the Ring King Jr. was obsolete; a fond memory for doughnut aficionados, it was replaced by newer and more elaborate equipment. Sadly, for a while there, the doughnut itself seemed to be going into decline, especially in New York where it was being challenged by the more urbane bagel. But my friends and I, doughnut-deprived college students in a small North Carolina town, thought nothing of a 20-mile journey to Charlotte at 1 A.M. for solace: coffee steaming on the counter, the usual night owl clientele, and fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

These days the redoubtable doughnut, made by Krispy Kreme and others, is riding high. Krispy Kreme stores, long best known in the South, are spreading North and West, and sales climbed 20 percent in 1997. Last February, the New Yorker described the Manhattan store as a “shrine” and once more detailed the doughnut-making process. (The new machines make 800 dozen doughnuts an hour–more than ten times as many as the Ring King Jr.–but still use the secret formula and doughnut mixes shipped from Winston-Salem.) Dunkin’ Donuts has stores in twice as many states as Krispy Kreme, and in 37 other countries, and sells nearly five times as many doughnuts worldwide. In the United States alone, about 10 billion doughnuts are made every year, a mere 1.1 billion by Krispy Kreme. Small wonder one sees reprints of Robert McCloskey’s famous children’s book Homer Price, in which a major figure is a doughnut-making machine that runs amok.

Doughnut consumption figures do not encourage nutritionists, who like to point out that the average doughnut can carry a 300-calorie wallop, notable mainly for its sugar and fat. In fact, a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine bemoaned the unsaturated fat purveyed by the glazed doughnut. Famous chefs generally deplore the doughnut. But neither science nor culinary scorn nor outright scolding deters devotees, who variously describe Krispy Kreme’s hot “original glazed” doughnut with terms like “angelic” or even “sugar-coated air.”

David Shayt is one of the collections managers in charge of the Smithsonian’s ongoing (and never ending) effort to acquire for the future significant artifacts from American technology and culture, so that the future will have a permanent record. For him and his colleagues, the old Ring King Jr., though it is now retired to storage, is as significant as a Colonial cast-iron cooking pot also in the Smithsonian collection, only more complex. Shayt is pleased that the Institution also has in storage four empty paper sacks each labeled with the proper ingredients for Krispy Kreme doughnuts. “In 800 years, if America should lose the art of making doughnuts,” he says, “we could help reconstruct how to do it.” Maybe so. But to date nobody but Krispy Kreme has Joe LeBeau’s secret recipe. That stays locked up in a safe in Winston-Salem.

The History of Lollipops

H/T Candy Creek.

Today, lollipops are typically defined as a hard candy that is eaten off of a stick. Lollipops are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, and are enjoyed by people around the world. The history of lollipops, and where their name originally came from, is debated, but the story begins thousands of years ago, perhaps with cavemen.


Eating sugary substances off a stick has been a practice in many civilizations throughout history. It has been speculated that the first instance of this was cavemen collecting and eating honey from beehives with a stick. The next, and slightly more advanced, development in this practice is thought to be during the ancient ages. The Chinese, Arabs, and Egyptians used honey to preserve fruit and nuts. This mixture would be made on a stick to make it easier to eat as it hardened over time. In the middle ages, nobles ate boiled sugar with a stick. At this time, sugar was not produced in large quantities, making it a very expensive and luxurious treat, only accessible to the wealthy. Shortly after the end of the middle ages, this changed as technology improved and sugar cane was grown and produced in bulk.

Records show that in 17th century England, an early version of what we know as the lollipop was sold throughout London by street vendors. These sugary treats were made of soft candy since machines to insert the sticks automatically had not yet been invented. Although these candies were different in texture, and most likely appearance, than modern lollipops, the concept was the same: a delicious, sugary treat that can be eaten without making a mess, and enjoyed by children and adults alike.


The beginning of the 20th century brought about the modern lollipop. There is much debate about who first made hard candies on a stick, where the name lollipop came from, and who was the first to invent a machine to produce them. What we know for sure, is that during the first half of the 1900s, there were a few different people, in factories around the US, that helped shape lollipops as we know them.


In the 1880s, George Smith of New Haven, CT observed a chocolate company who was making chocolates and caramels on sticks. He found this an intriguing idea and decided to apply this technique to his own, hard candy business, Bradley Smith Company. In 1908, Smith named these candies Lolly Pops after a local race horse, and applied for a trademark on the name. It was years before he was granted the trademark as there were records of candies called this name in the past, but in 1931, Lolly Pops officially got their name. The Bradley Smith Company started out making the candies by hand, but in order to meet demand, they created their own patented machine to automate the process. These early lollipops were sold for a penny each.


There are records of another confectionery company in Connecticut, the McAviney Candy Company, also creating a product like the modern lollipop around the same time as the Bradley Smith Company. As the story goes, this happened almost by accident. The employees would use wooden sticks to stir the candy as it cooked, and throughout the day candy would accumulate on the stick. By the end of each day, there would be many left over “candy sticks” which employees would bring home to their children. Soon they started selling these candy sticks to the public.

fruit lollipops by candy creek in a glass jar

Also in 1908, the Racine Confectionery Machine Company in Racine, Wisconsin was creating hard candy on a stick. They created the Racine Automatic Sucker Machine which placed hard candies on the ends of sticks. Shortly after in 1912, Samuel Born invented the Born Sucker Machine in California, which automatically inserted sticks into hard candy. This invention was widely celebrated in San Francisco.

No matter who was truly the first to put hard candy on a stick, all of these endeavors helped create the modern lollipop, one of the world’s most popular candies.

The History of Zippers

H/T Back Then History.

Early Contributions

What would modern clothing be without them? Zippers are everywhere – but we rarely think about where they came from. Several inventors contributed to the creation of the zipper. In 1851, Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor of the sewing machine, filed a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure,” but he didn’t pursue the invention much beyond securing his patent. Then in 1893, inventor Whitcomb Judson marketed a “Clasp Locker,” which he debuted at the Chicago World Fair that same year. Judson’s fastener was not originally intended for use in clothing; instead, it was designed to be used in shoes. Judson partnered with Colonel Lewis Walker to create the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture his “Clasp Locker,” but it didn’t achieve much commercial success, in part due to design flaws.

The Modern Zipper

A Swedish-born electrical engineer named Gideon Sundback is the creator of the modern zipper. He worked for Judson’s Universal Fastener Company and improved upon the design by increasing the number of fastening elements; his fastener featured two facing rows of teeth that could be pulled into a single piece using a slider. (Sounds familiar, right?) Sundback’s “Separable Fastener” – the modern zipper we would recognize today – was created by 1913 and received a patent in 1917. Sundback also created the machine for manufacturing his new device.

What’s in a Name?

Zipper…the term seems to perfectly fit the object, but where did the name originally come from? The term “zipper” wasn’t coined by its inventor. Instead, the name “zipper” originated with the B. F. Goodrich Company, who used Sundback’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots. When they did so, they renamed Sundback’s “Separable Fastener” to “zipper” and the name stuck.

Image Credit: https://www.worthpoint.com

Early Uses

Boots and tobacco pouches were two of the first items to incorporate zippers into their design. It took a lot longer for zippers to catch on in the clothing industry. Much of the contemporary public saw the zipper as somewhat morally dubious, since it made removing clothing very easy. Earlier versions had exhibited design flaws and functional problems, so many people were also skeptical of the zipper’s quality and functionality. However, the US Army was one of the first entities to embrace zippered clothing, and WWI soldiers’ gear and uniforms featured zippers.

Popularizing the Zipper

In 1934, the Prince of Wales gave zippers a boost when he started wearing pants with a zip fly. It wasn’t until 1937, when the zipper beat the button in what’s now referred to as the “Battle of the Fly,” that the fashion industry really began to embrace zippers in clothing. Around this time, French fashion designers began to rave over the use of zippers in men’s pants, further bolstering the device’s fashion cred. During the 1930s, zippers were even advertised as a way to promote children’s self-reliance (since the zippers allowed them to dress themselves more easily)! The zipper’s place in fashion was solidified even further when zippers that could open at both ends hit the market, allowing them to be used on jackets and coats. But it wasn’t until 1954 that Levi’s first introduced a special zippered version of its 501Z overalls, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that zippers showed up on Levi’s jeans. Today, of course, zippers are everywhere – on shoes, suitcases, clothing, and more!

What Does YKK Mean?

You may have seen the letters YKK stamped on the pull tab of your zipper and wondered what it means. YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (which translates as Yoshida Company Ltd.). The Japanese company was founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida. Today, the company manufactures over 1.5 billion zippers per year to meet modern demand! Most zippers today are made by the big three – YKK, KCC Zipper, and Tex Corp – or by one of the many Chinese zipper companies in the industry. Most zippers are manufactured in the Qiaotou region of China.

The History Of Raisins

H/T CaliforniaRaisins.org.

I learned a lot of the history of raisins.

Raisins in Ancient times.  The word raisin is from the  Latin word racemus which means a cluster of grapes or berries.

History indicates that raisins were discovered for the first time by accident when they were found in the dried form on vines as early as 2000 BC. Wall paintings from ancient times show that dried fruits were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean regions of Europe. Historians tell us the ancient Phoenicians and Armenians took the first steps in perfecting viticulture, the process of grape growing and selection.

Between 120-900 BC, the Phoenicians started colonial vineyards in the areas of Malaga and Valencia (Spain), and in Corinth (Greece). About this same time, the Armenians founded their vineyards in Persia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq). These bountiful growing areas had the perfect climate for making raisins and were also close to Greece and Rome, the first markets for raisins. Muscat raisins, oversized with seeds and a fruity full flavor, were the primary crop in Malaga and Valencia. Currants, tiny seedless, tangy raisins were planted in Corinth, Greece, where historians believe they got their name.

The Phoenicians and Armenians then began to trade raisins with the Greeks and the Romans who consumed them in large quantities. As the popularity of the raisins grew, so did their value. They were given as prizes in sporting events, used as barter to trade, and used as a cure for what ails you.  Ancient physicians prescribed raisins as potions that could cure everything from mushroom poisoning to old age. Emperor Augustus feasted on small birds stuffed with raisins. Even Hannibal had raisins in his troops’ rations when he crossed the Alps.

11th Century

For all their popularity, though, raisins were not exported to the rest of Europe. Shipping methods were too poor to maintain the quality of the raisins for long travel. All of that changed in the 11th century. Knights returning from the crusades brought raisins back to Europe with them. They had sampled the dried fruit during their travels through the Mediterranean and Persia. When the knights went home and began to crave raisins, a huge demand was created. Fortunately, packing and shipping techniques had improved enough for raisins to be sent all over Northern Europe.

14th-16th Century

By the middle of the 14th century, currants and raisins were an important part of English cuisine. In 1374, prices in England skyrocketed to two pence and three farthings per pounds, which was very expensive at that time.

After a period of time, viticulture spread to France and Germany. Even the English tried to grow currants in the 16th century – but realized their climate was too cold for drying raisins.

Grapes and raisins had become an important part of European cuisine by the time European nations started to colonize the Americas. In Spain, where viticulture had been perfected, grapes were being used to make products such as dry table wine, sweet dessert wines and Muscat raisins. It was only natural that when the conquistadors colonized Mexico, wine and raisins were soon to follow.

18th Century –The Birth of California Raisin Country

Spain’s Queen Isabella sent missionaries to Mexico to teach natives about religion. While they were preaching and teaching, missionaries also passed on their knowledge of viticulture. They used grapes for sacramental wines and also grew Muscat grapes for raisins.

By the 18th century, the Franciscan fathers had settled as far north as present-day Sonoma, California. But, when Spain turned power over to the colonial government of Mexico in 1834, the mission system began its decline. Viticulture – and its strong influence on California agriculture – was one of the mission’s enduring legacies.

1851 – A marketable muscat for raisins, the Egyptian Muscat, was grown near San Diego. Since the area didn’t have sufficient water supply, farmers moved to the San Joaquin (wah keen) Valley which has a mild climate and extensive irrigation system perfect for the art of viticulture.

1873 – Legend says California’s first raisin crop was grown by nature, not farmers. A massive heat wave hit the valley before harvest, and most of the grapes dried on the vine before farmers could pick them.

1876 – English immigrant William Thompson grew a seedless grape variety that was thin-skinned, seedless, sweet and tasty.

Late 1800s – Armenians descended from the first founders of vineyards in Persia began settling in the San Joaquin Valley. The area now supplies raisins for nearly half the world, making it the largest producer anywhere.

Today, of  approximately 172,000 acres of raisin grapes are grown in California. Read full report here:  



Advertising History of the California Raisins

  Origin: In 1984 the California Dancing Raisin was introduced by the California Raisin Industry marketing staff to increase awareness and demand for California raisins. Television: The cost to develop the first animated and tested 30-second commercial was $300,000. It used singer and musician Buddy Miles as the vocalist for…

The History of Pillows

H/T BackThenHistory.com.

A brief history of pillows.

They Were Originally Made of Stone

Pillows have been around since ancient times, but back then, they served a very different purpose. The earliest use of pillows occurred in Mesopotamia around 7,000 BC. These early pillows were made of stone and carved into a cradle shape – they were not designed for comfort. Instead, these stone pillows were used to elevate the head so that insects wouldn’t crawl into a sleeper’s mouth, nose, or ears! Because stone was expensive, the pillows were only used by the wealthy. Ancient Egyptians also used pillows, but for a different purpose. They believed the head was the seat of spiritual life and should therefore be cherished. Egyptian pillows were made of marble, ivory, ceramic, wood, or stone. In addition to elevating the head in life, Egyptians also placed pillows carved with images of the gods under the heads of their dead to keep bad spirits away. In ancient China, society was advanced enough to create soft textile pillows, but the Chinese believed that soft pillows were a luxury that would sap the body of energy. They preferred hard pillows made of porcelain or bamboo, and those who could afford such a luxury slept on pillows made of bronze or jade.

They Largely Disappeared with the Roman Empire

The ancient Greeks and Romans introduced the idea of the soft pillow. Citizens used pillows made of cloth that were filled with natural materials like cotton, reeds, or straw. The wealthy used pillows filled with soft down feathers. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, soft pillows once again became a rarity as most people could not afford them. For anyone who could, they became a status symbol. During his reign, King Henry VII banned soft pillows for everyone except pregnant woman. By the 16th century, however, soft pillows had once again become more widespread. The stuffing had to be changed often, however, due to mold and vermin.

The Industrial Revolution Modernized the Pillow

The Industrial Revolution ushered in the biggest change for pillows. With the sudden surplus of affordable textiles available for purchase, nearly anyone could get their hands on a soft pillow to sleep on. People stuffed their pillows with whatever soft material was available. Often this was clean hay. Chicken feathers and – for those with money or the ability to hunt – goose down were also used. However, because the natural materials were still susceptible to mold and mildew, it was not uncommon for people to refresh the filling each season. During the Victorian era in England, decorative pillows for couches and chairs began to show up in homes for the first time, especially among the wealthy.

Pillow Options Have Continually Improved Since the 1960s

Pillows remained pretty much the same until the 1960s, when polyester filling was invented. Polyester filling was a new synthetic material that not only held its shape, but also lasted much longer than natural filling because mold and mildew were less of a concern. It quickly became a common choice that remains popular today. Like polyester filling, down filling is also still used today. New materials such as foam pellets, cooling gels, and NASA’s memory foam are also extremely popular. For the eco-conscious sleeper, environmentally friendly pillow fills like buckwheat and dried lavender pods are available. Pillows also come in different shapes and thicknesses to support your neck while you sleep. No matter what type of pillow you choose, today’s options are certainly a far cry from the stone pillows available in Mesopotamia!