It is an interesting thing to think of the fact that since the first Australopithecine picked up a rock to knock open the side of an anthill to get to the crunchy and protein rich grubs, there have been inventions. From that first ant-gettin’ rock to the Space Shuttle, everything was invented. Someone created the idea and prototype of basically everything in your home, and some of them deserve your thanks for their weird inspiration.

One of those unsung heroes is a man named Seth Wheeler, of Albany, New York. In 1871, Wheeler became the official inventor of toilet paper by patenting rolled and perforated wrapping paper. The company he founded began selling the first toilet paper on a roll.

That settles it, over is always better.

Previous to this manufacture, toilet paper had existed since about the 6th century, and between 875 and 1317 AD, paper was produced in large sheets (2-foot x 3-foot perfumed sheets) for the Chinese emperor’s family hygiene.

As an aside, in 1935 Northern Tissue invented “splinter free” toilet paper. Seems like that should have been invented about two days after the first roll, but you know, sometimes it takes time…

Mrs. Melitta: The Savior of Us All

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz invented the paper coffee filter brewing system in 1908. She founded the company Melitta, which is still owned by the family. As a housewife, she found percolators over-brewed coffee, and espresso-type machines or pots left fine grounds in the cup. The filters in use for stove brewed coffee at the time were linen bags, which were hard to clean. She tried many different papers, and found that using blotting paper from her son Willy’s school exercise book worked best. Additionally, she invented the drip process by poking a hole with a nail in the bottom of a pot that contained the filter. The grounds-free, less bitter coffee met with general enthusiasm. The Kaiserliche Patentamt (Imperial Patent Office) granted her a patent on 20 June 1908, and after contracting a tinsmith to manufacture the devices, they sold 1,200 coffee filters at the 1909 Leipzig fair.

This man saved my life in college.

Momofuku Ando founded Nissin Foods, after trying to deal with food shortages in WWII Japan. The experience convinced him that “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.” On August 25, 1958, at the age of 48, after months of tweaking his flash-frying method, he marketed the first package of precooked instant noodles. The original chicken flavor is called Chikin Ramen. After Top Ramen was on the market for a number of years, he saw Americans eating the noodles with a fork by breaking the noodles in half, putting them into a paper cup, and pouring hot water over the noodles. This inspired him to package them in a Styrofoam cup so eating the noodles would then be as easy as opening the lid and adding hot water. Cup O’ Noodles was born.

This man made your house smell better.

Before Ed Lowe’s invention, people kept their cats outside. If it was necessary to keep them inside they used ashes, dirt or sand to fill their cat box. One day in January 1947, Mrs. Draper, Edward Lowe’s neighbor in Cassopolis, Michigan, asked him for some sand to use as cat litter. Her sand pile was frozen, so she had been using ashes and the cats tracked it all over her house. Instead of sand, Lowe gave her a type of clay called Fuller’s Earth, which were minerals capable of absorbing their weight in water. She found it worked far better than sand or ashes. In 1947, Lowe decided to sell the clay. He packaged it in five-pound bags and called it “Kitty Litter”. He suggested that a local pet store give it away free until people were willing to pay for it. Kitty Litter was a success. He later renamed it Tidy Cat cat box filler in 1964.

The best invention ever!

Ruth Wakefield and her husband opened the Toll House Inn in 1930. Ruth cooked and served all the food and was famed for her lobster dinners and desserts. People from across the region visited the Toll House, including the Kennedy family and other local notables. When she needed a new dessert one day in 1938, she added chopped up bits from a Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar into a cookie.  Her chocolate chip cookies soon became very popular. It is often incorrectly reported that the cookie was an accident—she deliberately invented the cookie. She said, “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with Toll House cookie.”

She also later sold the rights to print the recipe on Nestlé’s new “chocolate chips” for $2.00 and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Tony Moir is a cyborg who holds world records in synchronized luge and panda steeplechase. Or maybe he isn’t. But he lives in San Francisco with his lovely wife and three outstanding sons.

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