There are multitude design products have evolved anonymously through a process of “natural selection” that is driven by practical need rather than by aesthetic concern. Such objects are in most cases superlatively functional, as their performance has been honed by successive generations of designers, craftsmen and manufacturers.
This article will cover most known and prosperous everyday design icons that have stayed as anonymous designs.
1. PAPER CLIP
The first bent-wire paper clip was patented in the United States by Samuel B. Fay in 1867. It was designed for attaching tickets to fabric, and in the process of exploration, it was discovered that the paper clip could be used to attach papers together.
Although it was admitted as a functional and practical design, Samuel Fay’s design along with the 50 other designs patented prior to 1899 are not considered as ancestors of the modern paperclip design known today.
There have been many paper clip designs made. You can take a look at them here.
The paper clip we use today is called Gem paper clip that has never been patented.
But it was most likely designed in Britain according to according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski.
2. CLOTHE PEG
Shaped wooden pegs that were made from a single piece of wood were invented by a celebate Quakers group named Shakers in 18. century. This group left persecution in England in 1774 and settled in Albany, New York.
The first clothes peg was patented in March 1832, it was described as a bent strip of hickory held together with a wooden screw.
The wooden screw proved to be totally impractical because rain or even dampness would cause the screw to swell, rendering the pin inoperable.
Only 21 years later David M. Smith of Springfield invented “a spring-clamp for clotheslines” in 1853. It was made of two wooden “legs” hinged together by a metal spring. Smith’s clothe peg is the forebare of everything we have on our washing lines today.
Take a look at really amazing clothe peg evolution collection here.
3. WINE CORK
Cork as a stopper was used by the Egyptians thousands of years ago. Ancient Greeks also used cork oak bark to make stoppers for vessels for wine and olive oil.
In the 1600s, a French monk called Dom Pérignon started to use cork as a wine bottle closure and from that time cork is still used as a wine stopper in our days.
Traditionally, containers that were holding sparkling wine had been plugged by wooden stoppers wrapped in olive oil-soaked hemp. But a monk Dom Pérignon observed that these stoppers often popped out. He successfully swapped the conical plugs for cork stoppers and cork soon became essential for wine bottling.
4. WINE BOTTLE
Wine has been known in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Winemakers saved their wares in clay flasks – amphorae. The Romans developed glass blowing and glass bottles were a perfect containers for storing wines because glass didn’t affect wine and it was easy to see what kind of wine is in it due to it’s transparency. At that time, each glass bottle was hand made and this created a huge variety of bottle sizes.
In around 1800s the industry had developed ways of creating standard sized bottles and regions adopted for their wines ideal bottle size.
Only in 1979 the US set a requirement that all bottles must be exactly 750ml.
Around the same time the European Union also requested winemakers to choose one size bottle for every region. The 750ml size has become adopted by many countries and the main reason was to ship wines to the US with ease.
To read precise information about wine bottle history, click here.
5. ZIP FASTENER
Elias Howe, inventor of a sewing machine, received a patent in the year 1851 for an ‘Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.’, but E. Howe didn’t pursue marketing his clothing closure and as a result,Howe missed his chance to become the recognized ‘Father of the Zip.’
Forty-four years later, Mr. Whitcomb Judson marketed a ‘Clasp Locker’ a device similar to the one that Howe patented. Clasp Locker’ was a complicated hook-and-eye shoe fastener. It was put out in the market, but his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper.
Swedish engineer Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback of Hoboken took off on the earlier prototypes and created the “Separable Fastener,” that was patented in 1917.
It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments. The bog boom of the zipper came when it could open on both ends.
Earliest locks come from the Roman Era, 500 BC–300 AD. They were known in early times by merchants traveling the ancient trade routes to Asia and China. The basic technological concept of the first door locks – a bolt that can slide in both directions through the use of a key.
The padlocks used today has evolved from a design that was created in England – dated 850 AD. It was made from wrought iron sheet using simple lever and ward mechanisms.
The earliest padlocks used in the US, called smokehouse locks, were made of a wrought iron sheet and employed simple lever and ward mechanisms. Around the middle of the 19th century, “Scandinavian” style locks were brought to America and became a more secure alternative to the prevailing smokehouse and screw locks.
In the early 1920s, Harry Soref founded Master Lock company and produced off a first laminated padlock. The entire stack of plates, loaded with the lock parts in it, was riveted together. This padlock was popular for its low cost and an impact-resistant laminated plate design. Nowadays many lock makers still copy this successful design.
- To see different types and shapes of padlocks click here.
- More information about history and types of padlocks click here.
- If you are interested to find out broad history of roman padlocks, click here.
Cave paintings show that early man discovered ways to remove hair from his face that are still being used today. Using two seashells put together, they plucked the hair out.
Tweezers are known to have been used in Ancient Egypt. There are drawings of Egyptian craftsmen holding hot pots over ovens with a double-bow shaped tool. Also, tweezers were used in beauty – people removed hair using tweezers. Asiatic tweezers, that were made of two strips of metal brazed together, were used in Mesopotamia and India from about 3000 B.C.
Roman shipbuilders pulled nails out of ship construction with plier-type pincers. Roman women used tweezers to pluck their eyebrows and remove hair from different parts of body.
From the very beginning tweezers were meant to be used for beauty and their main function hasn’t changed in our days.
8. WOOD SCREW
Wood screws didn’t undergo any major transformations until the very mid-19th century when machines were used to finish the head of screws. This took away the hand finished appearance of the bolt.
In 1908, square-drive screws were invented by Canadian P. L. Robertson. The Robertson screw is considered the “first recess-drive type fastener practical for production usage.”
Job and William Wyatt held the first patent for the industrial manufacturing of screws. Their patent outlined the process for creating screws with the help of a lathe and metal cutting tools.
9. BELT BUCKLE
Belts and buckles have been used for clothing since the Bronze Age. Both women and men used them off and on, depending on the current fashion. Although, it was not common in female fashion except in the early Middle Ages.
During the 2nd and 3rd century B.C. the Chinese semi nomadic people known as the Xiongnu wore belt buckles over long Tunics. This kind of belt buckles were highly decorated and were worn as a mark of status. Germanic invaders, imported animal motifs characteristic of Scythian-Sarmatian decorative arts for their belt and buckles. This decorative art often represented animals entwined in mortal combat.
Several 7th-century gold buckles with interlacing curvilinear patterns and cutaway tongues were found in the Sutton Hoo ship burial.
British sailors invented the very first belt buckle, and soon it became all the rage. Sailors attached them to leather belts and found them useful for holding up water-logged clothes, as well as easy to remove even with shivering fingers.
In the 1920s men started wearing buckles and belts everyday, as trouser waists fell to a lower, natural line. Till 1920s, belts served mostly for a decorative purpose, and were associated with the military.
10. BETTY TEAPOT
The original teapots came from a red clay that was discovered in the Stoke-on-Trent area of Britain, in 1695. It was unusual clay that seemed to retain heat better. That’s why it found use as the material for the teapot as early as the seventeenth century.
Early pots were tall and shaped more like coffee pots. The glaze on the teapot is based on a brown glaze developed by the Marquis of Rockingham on his estate in England in the late 1700s. This Rockingham Brown glaze and the Betty shape was eventually shortened to the affectionate term Brown Betty which we use today.
In the nineteenth century the pots began to take on the more rounded shape of the modern Brown Betty.
The Rockingham Glaze was brushed on the pot and allowed to run down the sides, creating a streaky finish as it was fired.
In the Victorian era, when tea drinking was special, tea was brewed in the Brown Betty because it was considered excellent. This was attributed to the design of the pot which allowed the tea leaves more freedom to swirl around as the water was poured into the pot, releasing more flavour with less bitterness.