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Blasts From The Past - 1890's

In the decade which saw the Boer war and the publication of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, many new inventions appeared which were to immeasurably change the way we live.


The construction by Henry Ford in 1896 of his hand-built Model 'T' Ford, which became the forerunner to 18 million built on the assembly lines, is representative of a period rich in developments in the field of automotive power. Hildebrand and Wolfmuller mass-produced the motorcycle, Clement Ader's steam powered plane 'The Eole' made the first take-off, and André and Edouard Michelin produced the first pneumatic car tyre.

Meanwhile Wilhelm Maybach produced the first carburettor, later modified by Karl Benz's butterfly valve; and Rudolph Diesel gave his name to the sparkless engine he produced. Otto Lilienthal invented the hang glider and made hundreds of flights in the bat-wing shaped craft before losing his life whilst flying one of his own machines. Even travel up and down stairs was transformed by the newly launched escalator.


Giant strides in the world of entertainment and communications saw the invention of sound recording by Danish engineer Valdemar Poulson, the movie projector by Le Roy was used to show two films from Edison's kinetoscope, and the first Cinematographe presentation by Louis and August Lumiere was so realistic that spectators were terrified by the images of the entry of a train into La Ciotat station. Guglielmo Marconi made the first wireless transmissions over distances of up to 2400 metres. Medical advances such as Röntgen's X-rays, Hapfkine's and Wright's new vaccines for cholera and typhoid respectively, and Hoffman's aspirin tablet would soon transform the treatment of millions, whilst Scipione Riva-Rocci's new sphygmomanometer would enable accurate blood pressure readings to be taken for the first time ever. In the laboratory, Ferdinand Braun created the first cathode-ray tube and Karl von Linde succeeded in liquefying oxygen for the first time.


Breakfast time would never be the same as Henry D Perky's innovation of shredded wheat was shortly followed by William Kellogg's cornflakes. A regular Sunday shortage of ice cream led Smithson to develop a special treat, renamed as an ice cream sundae when the original name Sunday upset the local puritan-minded citizens. When James Naismith invented basketball, he can scarcely have realised how the game would develop over the next hundred years, and William G Morgan would surely be surprised to discover that his game, volleyball, is still widely played throughout the world.


Glimpses of the changes to come in home life were evident in the electric kettle and electric fire, Crosset and Bevan's new viscose fabric, later known as rayon, and Whitcomb Judson's forerunner to the ubiquitous zip-fastener.


In the next hundred years, many crimes would be solved by Sir Francis Galton's fingerprint identification system and millions of tonnes of Francois Hennebique's reinforced concrete would be used in construction, although Herman Hollerith's card sorter gave no hint of the developments in information storage and retrieval.


The 1890's

Related further reading...

Further Reading:

Boer War

Henry Ford with the first and ten millionth Model T

Hildebrand and Wolfmuller introduced the first mass-produced motorcycle

Andre and Edourd Michelin founded an international manufacturing giant

The first escalator was a Coney Island Ride

Otto Lilienthal in flight



Wilhelm Maybach

(Right) Rudolph Diesel Commemorative Stamp


(Below) the Lumiere Brothers astounding Cinematographe projection 'La Ciotat'

Valdemar Poulson

Aspirin and new vaccines made their debut

Scipione Riva-Rocci (R) and his sphygmomanometer 

Early Projector

Ferdinand Braun's Cathode Ray Tube

James Naismith

Morgan's Early Volleyball

Gadgets du Jour - the electric kettle and fire


Hollerith punched card tabulator and operator

Sir Francis Galton (Right) and his fingerprinting system


Röntgen's first 'Medical' X-Ray of his wife's hand.  The blob is her wedding ring

Karl von Linde


and his cornflakes

Perky's Shredded Wheat

Click to expand

Whitcomb Judson and his fastener

Smithson's Sundae

Hennebique's reinforced concrete patent drawing (Click to expand)


More... Inventricity articles

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