You may not realize it, but some inventions from the early 20th century are still widely used in our homes and businesses today. There have been many early 1900s inventions that have evolved beyond all recognition of the original product of the time, so they will not be making this list. But the inventions from the 20th century that are still easily recognizable qualify to be in this article, and we’ll be discussing who invented them, the year they were invented, and the process of creating such timeless items.
Air conditioning is an invention of the early 1900s that functioned very similarly to how it does now. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The first modern air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier, a New Yorker who experimented with humidity in an attempt to reduce the discomfort felt by those working at a printing plant. His system would send air through coils filled with cold water, which would simultaneously cool and remove moisture from the air. Air conditioning is widely used across the globe domestically and commercially for the same reasons now, and has become a luxury and necessity for many environments.
These inventions from the 20th century have become a quintessentially British stereotype that is available now filled with endless types of tea. Fruit, Earl Grey, you name it, it exists. The tea bag was invented in the early 1900s by Thomas Sullivan, an American importer of tea who made tea bags of silk to sell across the globe. This didn’t really take off in Britain, though, and it wasn’t until after the 1970s that Brits moved away from traditional methods of brewing tea to tea bags. Nowadays, most cheaper tea bags are made of filter paper or food-grade plastic, but there are still more expensive brands that use silk. Tea bags function now exactly as they did then.
Whether this is a blessing or a curse is up to you. Perhaps one of the most controversial inventions from the 20th Century is plastic. The first fully synthetic plastic was created in 1907 by Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland. Not only did his version of plastic have a dark brown wooden appearance that would make a great alternative to natural wood, but it could be mass-produced and easily molded into any shape, providing consumers with a quick and affordable, and supposedly inconsequential new material. He chose to venture into the field of synthetic resins deliberately to make money and to reduce the costs of using shellac which was derived from Asian Iac beetles. He is now known as “The Father of the Plastics Industry” which can be perceived in a few different ways.
Before the invention of aircraft hangars in the early 1900s, the few functional aircraft of the time were simply to be left to weather every storm that came their way. Fortunately, aircraft hangars were invented to reduce the level of deterioration visible after extended periods outside. They act as a defense against various weather conditions, including wet, sunny, and snowy. They’re great as a space for repair, maintenance, manufacture, assembly, and storage. Alliot Verdon Roe, a British aviation pioneer, built the first aircraft hangars in 1907, presumably to protect his own planes.
The early 1900s was a time of great experimentation and the discovery of things nobody had even dreamed of previously. Food waste was far less voluminous than it is today, between rations and the inability to store perishable foods for extended periods, consuming the food you bought was an integral part of keeping yourself fed while still having money. Fortunately, Clarence Birdseye was the first to perfect the method of freezing food in 1924. He worked as a fur trader in Canada and discovered that fast natural freezing of fish would allow them to retain their taste and texture even months after initial freezing. He evaporated ammonia to chill two hollow metal plates to -25°F and found he could freeze almost anything within less than two hours. Birdseye was the founder of the popular frozen food brand under the same name, which still thrives today, despite frozen food being inventions from the 20th century.
The Ballpoint Pen
Would you believe that the first ballpoint pen wasn’t invented and released to the public until nearly the 1940s? This is one of those inventions from the early 20th century that we couldn’t live without in modern society, removing technology from the equation of course. László Bíró was a Jewish-Hungarian journalist who noticed that newspaper ink dried far faster than the fountain pen counterpart. This inspired him to create a pen with enclosed ink which would allow the far thicker newspaper ink to be used as an ordinary pen would use liquid ink. The design of the ballpoint pen is almost identical to its appearance in the early 1900s and is just as functional.