Aside from the stock market crash that occurred in 1929, the 1920s was a period of great economic growth. Due to advertising and the expansion of chain stores across the country, a consumer society emerged. Consequently, many products that were invented during this decade saw relatively good success. In fact, some products remain popular in American households today.
While working as a fur trader in Canada, Clarence Birdseye realized that fish caught during the winter froze almost immediately after being pulled from the water. Birdseye soon realized that he could leave the fish frozen for up to a month while retaining the flavor. This led him to discover the technique of flash-freezing foods. His most popular technique used evaporated ammonia to freeze foods in a short amount of time. Along with flash-freezing techniques, Birdseye created several innovative ways to package frozen foods to retain the product's texture and flavor. Although the microwave had not yet been invented, frozen food greatly decreased the amount of time it took to cook foods in the 1920s.
Gen. John Taliaferro Thompson, a West Point graduate and small arms expert, began to design what would later become the Tommy Gun during World War I. Thomson failed to complete his prototype before the end of the war, so he spent the next few years perfecting his design. His efforts resulted in a popular, accurate and easy-to-use gun. “Tommy guns” began to be manufactured in 1921, and they were immediately ordered by police departments around the U.S. and branches of the military. Private citizens also purchased many Tommy guns during the 1920s. The Tommy gun was later used extensively during World War II, earning the nickname "English Tommies."
Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson & Johnson during the 1920s, is credited with inventing the simple yet efficient design of the Band-Aid. The idea for this product came about when Dickson married his wife, Josephine, a woman prone to frequent nicks and cuts. Unsatisfied with the only bandage option at the time, which was bulky and lacked adhesive, he affixed squares of sterile gauze to surgical tape. Dickson approached his bosses with his design, and by 1924, Band-Aids were a popular household product.
Another product introduced during the 1920s that was influenced by an inventor's wife was the Q-tip. After watching his wife place cotton on the ends of toothpicks, Leo Gerstenzang created a product called Baby Gays in 1926. This product was originally marketed for children. Later, the packaging was changed to reflect the new name, Q-tips, and the product was marketed to all age groups. The original design of Q-tips is still the same today.
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