Call it the decree of an invention; Innovations with unintended applications, many would be surprised just how many world famous, civilization-altering products were invented by mistake, Take Penicillin, for example. The man who discovered it, Sir Alexander Fleming, simply forgot to clean up his work station one night and returned to discover the world’s first antibiotic growing right there in his unwashed petri dish.
But that’s not what this particular list is about. All the inventions here were invented very much on purpose – they just didn’t end up being used in the way their inventors had intended. Only after these inventions were repurposed – often in wildly unexpected ways – did they become famous. I guess the moral of this blog is to appreciate the beauty of reinvention. I’m sure many of us have all heard the expression “if at first you don’t succeed, than try again”
Well here are 5 famous products originally conceived for something else!
Play-Doh, that strange, brightly coloured, salty clay that all of us grew up moulding and poking (and, occasionally, nibbling), was first invented in the 1930s by a soap manufacturer named Cleo McVickers, who thought he’d hit upon a fantastic wallpaper cleaner. It wasn’t for another twenty years that McVicker’s son, Joseph, repurposed the goop as clay for pre-schoolers and called it Play-Doh, a product that remains wildly popular among the under-5 crowd today.
Listerine was invented 133 years ago, first as a surgical antiseptic, but also as a cure for gonorrhoea (don’t try that at home). An article from 1888 recommends Listerine for podiatric problems.” Over the course of the next century, it was marketed as a refreshing additive to cigarettes, a cure for the common cold, and as a dandruff treatment. But it was in the 1920s that the powerful, germ-killing liquid finally landed on its most lucrative use as a magical cure for bad breath.
The chewing gum company got its start offered as a popular freebie. William Wrigley, Jr. founded the company in 1891 with the goal of selling soap and baking powder. He offered chewing gum as an enticement to his customers, and eventually the customers didn’t care about the baking powder; they only wanted the gum.
Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most famous brand names, was originally invented as an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and relieve anxiety. Coke’s inventor, John Pemberton — a Confederate veteran of the Civil War who himself suffered from a morphine addiction — first invented a sweet, alcoholic drink infused with coca leaves for an extra kick. He called it Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. It would be another two decades before that recipe was honed, sweetened, carbonated and, eventually, marketed into what it is today: the most popular soda in the world.
Rather remarkably, Ferruccio Lamborghini initially made his name producing not luxury sports cars but tractors. Indeed, Lamborghini Trattori was established to sell the farming vehicles in 1948 and was successful by itself; as a result, with the help of a handful of other lucrative businesses, Lamborghini fancied a new challenge after making an impressive mark on the agricultural industry; regardless, he went on to establish Lamborghini automobiles in 1962 with the intention of producing a sports car to rival a little known fellow Italian car manufacturer that went by the name Ferrari!
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