Skyscraper, Rabies Vaccine Also Came Along in 1885 : It’s 100th Anniversary of Time Clock and Spark Plug

Associated Press

Many inventions and discoveries taken for granted today--the metal snap fastener, the time clock, the electrical spark plug, the skyscraper, Louis Pasteur’s rabies vaccine and women’s suits--came into being only 100 years ago, in 1885.

“The 1880s was a prolific era, characterized by great men with great ideas,” said Jane Flatt, publisher of “The World Almanac Book of Inventions.”

“They have had such a profound effect upon the world that we simply cannot imagine what our lives would be like without them today.

“For example, consider how much more difficult and time-consuming putting on and taking off clothes would be without the snap, which was invented in Grenoble, France, by Paul-Albert Regnault --or the zipper, devised by the American Whitecomb Judson about five years later, based on a system of interlocking small teeth.”


A Stroke of Daring

The steam turbine, contact lenses and the electric elevator were also introduced about a century ago, although in some cases both the dates and claims of credit for inventions can be controversial.

Few people in the modern world realize how ingenious the person was who designed shoes specifically for the left and right foot, Flatt points out. Up until the mid-19th Century, people had to have shoes made to measure if they wanted them to fit right.

In another breakthrough on the fashion scene, the business suit for women, complete with collar and lapels, was considered a stroke of daring when it was first introduced a century ago by the English designer Redfern. The first was worn by the Princess of Wales, Alexandra, according to the book.


Talking Doll

Although Cabbage Patch dolls are the current craze and Barbie dolls were the hit of the 1960s, 100 years ago every little girl’s fancy turned to the talking doll. The doll could say “mommy” and “daddy,” using the recording of a real human voice. It was created by none other than that most noteworthy of inventors, Thomas Alva Edison, who put the phonograph and incandescent light bulb on the map.

Scientific achievements were also making headlines a century ago. Louis Pasteur developed the first vaccine to counteract rabies in 1885. A few years earlier, the German Robert Koch, along with Pasteur the founder of the science of microbiology, had announced his discovery of the tuberculosis bacillus and the cholera vibrio, which caused their namesake diseases.

Local anesthesia came into widespread use in 1884 with the discovery of cocaine by Austrian ophthalmologist Carl Koller. General anesthesia--ether and chloroform --had been in use for nearly half a century.


Production of Aluminum

Working on both sides of the Atlantic, an American, Charles Martin Hall, and Paul Heroult, a Frenchman, in 1886 were independently doing experiments with bauxite, which would soon lead to the inexpensive production of aluminum.

The first skyscraper was erected in Chicago in 1885. Then, the first electric elevator, built in 1887 by the German firm of Siemens & Halske, made headlines when it climbed to a height of 72 feet in just 11 seconds.

Celebrating its centennial this year is that nemesis of workers-- the time clock--invented by W. L. Bundy, an American. When his invention came on the scene, Carl Zeiss had already fabricated in Germany a heat-resistant glass that contained boric acid and silicon. Today, this type of glass is known more familiarly as Pyrex.


Transportation was improved with the invention of the rubber tire and the motorcycle. In 1885, the German Gottlieb Daimler, who is recognized as the father of the automobile invented a decade later, built a motorcycle with a wooden frame and wooden wheels, powered by a four-stroke internal combustion engine. That same year, Frenchman Etienne Lenoir invented an electrical spark plug much like those in current use.

Three years later, John Boyd Dunlop, an Irish veterinarian, discovered the tire when he came up with the idea of attaching air-inflated rubber tubes to the wheels of his son’s bicycle.

In 1888, Marvin Chester Stone, an American, conceived the old-fashioned drinking straw, which at first was hand-rolled of paraffined paper.

Aids in the art of writing came in 1884 when L. E. Waterman founded the fountain pen industry, and in 1889, with George C. Blickensderfer’s invention of the portable typewriter.