Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The 1910 World of HPL

HPL was about 20 years old ... writers take note !

By Heather Whipps

The first decade of the 1900s was an exciting time to be alive, with inventors continuing to make major strides in all disciplines. The early years of the century saw the general public finally able to enjoy the fruits of what was achieved in electrical engineering during the previous century. By 1910, many suburban homes had been wired up with power and new electric gadgets were being patented with fervor. Vacuum cleaners and washing machines had just become commercially available, though were still too expensive for many middle-class families.

The telephone was another hot new commodity in 1910, with millions of American homes already connected by manual switchboard. Those who did not have a phone to call their neighbor still had to rely on the paper for their news, however; though radio technology was in its infancy, regular broadcasts were still several years away.

In transportation, those first years of the 20th century began the age of the airship, marked by a craze for dirigibles such as the Zeppelin and the Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Henry Ford introduced his landmark Model T in 1908, making automobiles available and affordable to the masses for the first time.

Chemistry also charged full steam ahead in 1910. Advances in the use of gases chilled the world out with the release of the first electric refrigerators and air-conditioning units, while French inventor Georges Claude harnessed neon in glass tubes and debuted neon lighting in Paris, changing the face of seedy advertising forever.

Other new inventions, both influential and inane, that were making waves one century ago included:

•Bakelite plastic
•Instant coffee
•Disposable razor blades


The world was modernizing quickly by 1910, but some everyday things we take for granted now were then still just a glimmer in their inventors' eyes.

Men were still relying on buttons and women on painful corsets until 1913, for example, when clothing technology got a boost with the development of the zipper and modern brassiere. Unfortunate zipper accidents likely healed better with the invention of the modern Band-Aid, which came about seven years later.

Steel turned rusty until mid-decade, when the stainless variety ushered in a new era of efficient gun barrels and, later, shiny appliances.

Finally, though the pop-up toaster first hit the market in 1919, the public had to wait almost ten years for its practicality to be fully realized. The "greatest thing" of the modern age, the one invention against which all others are now compared—sliced bread—was born in Missouri in 1928.

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