If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that war is horrible. Nothing kills the mood faster than a bloody, painful death for a political agenda that you probably don't even fully understand. But you can't deny that armed conflicts gave us some pretty good things, such as major advances in everything from rockets to microwave ovens.
Oh, and also there's this stuff.
The biggest problem with war is that it tends to put holes in people, thus encouraging blood to take a scenic stroll through places it's not supposed to visit. Especially during World War I, when the dead and wounded toll hit the double-digit millions. And especially when a cotton shortage made the bandaging of dying soldiers a pain in the neck.
At the time, Kimberly-Clark was a paper mill company that realized you could do more with wood pulp besides just make it into paper. In fact, if you prepared the right combination of pulp, you could get a material that was five times more absorbent than cotton, yet significantly cheaper to produce. Kimberly-Clark named their newly discovered material cellucotton and the Allied Forces were on it like white on rice.
Or gangrene on trenchfoot.
Guess who else was on cellucotton like white on rice? Allied nurses on their lady-days. It turned out those super absorbent bandages worked really well as disposable sanitary napkins, something that was not readily available to women at that point. Back then, most women were forced to use literal rags, sponges or a whole mess of nothing during their periods.
So once the war ended, Kimberly-Clark had a ton of blood bandages on their hands and no one's blood to soak up. Until someone remembered that unlike the war, menstruation wasn't going to end anytime soon, and that those nurses LOVED using their bandages during their periods. With a quick re-branding that actually capitalized on their product's origin, Kimbery-Clark packaged cellucotton as feminine hygiene products and was hailed as the saviors of women everywhere.
And the bane of whipped boyfriends everywhere.
There is something about eating a Twinkie that just lets the world know you're not too keen on self-respect. Maybe it's because under "expiration date" Hostess just prints "LOL." Or maybe it's because you're eating something called a "Twinkie" and you're not five-years old. We're not judging; this is being typed one-handed, and there are Twinkie marks all over the space bar. So why do we have Hitler to thank for them?
If Hitler just stuck to inspiring delicious snack cakes.
Well, back in the 1930s, a baker named James A. Dewar invented a sort of strawberry shortcake snack for Hostess; yellow sponge cake with strawberries crammed inside. Because strawberries were only in season a couple of months out of the year, they eventually switched it up and filled them with bananas instead. People didn't exactly go crazy for them.
But then WWII began. The government started rationing all sorts of goods, so they could be used to fight the Nazis instead. Bananas were among these items, because apparently you can't stop a blitzkrieg without bananas. Maybe by littering the battlefield with peels so the Wehrmacht would slip hilariously on them.
In Charlie Chaplin's Wehrmacht, anything is possible.
Whatever the reason, Dewar and Hostess were clearly screwed. No strawberries, no bananas; all they had was their stupid empty yellow cakes. Dewar finally decided screw it, leave out the fruit completely and squirt some cheap cream filling in there. What else was he going to do?
People went absolutely nuts for it. Sales exploded, and the modern Twinkie was born.
Followed shortly thereafter by its cousin, modern obesity.
In 1943, naval engineer Richard James was working on a doozy of a problem. Delicate equipment aboard battleships had this way of getting knocked the hell around during high seas. So James was messing around with springs to support the phonogram machines or whatever, when what do you know? He dropped one of the springs. And instead of just sitting there like a punk, the little spring kind of stepped away in a very slinky-like manner.
"Holy shit! Jagged metal springs are the perfect child's toy.
Knowing that there was nothing kids loved more than coiled metal, James figured he just might have invented the world's greatest toy ever. Within two years, James found the perfect metal for his toy idea and scored a $500 loan to build his first batch, which he sold in 90 minutes. A few years later, probably still haunted by his failure to actually keep the battleship equipment safe, James gave it all up and ran away to join a cult. Go figure.
While the Slinky was discovered by accident, tons of government dollars worth of research were poured into Silly Putty. In 1943, the wartime rubber shortage was so bad that the government asked private companies to create a synthetic rubber substitute. General Electric had a whole team of scientists throw together every chemical they could think of in hopes that it would create something rubber-like.
Some successes were more notable than others.
One squishy mixture proved to have surprising qualities: It bounced and stretched, it would not stick and it only melted at very high temperatures. Things were looking up until someone pointed out that you can't make tires out of something with the malleability of wet chewing gum, even if it can totally copy the newspaper.
"Mr. President, I'd ask you to reserve judgment until you see it make Blondie look like she's blowing Dagwood."
It was so useless at replacing rubber that GE tried to send it to scientists around the world in hopes that someone, anyone, could figure out something to do with it. Eventually, a toy manufacturer mentioned that little kids will pretty much play with any goddamned thing you give them. He figured that he might as well try to sell the stuff by packing it in small eggs and advertising it through novelty catalogs. The rest is history. Cheap, $2 in a pink plastic egg history.
Finally, there's Walter "Fred" Morrison.
The patron saint of hipsters.
Fred, like most other college kids in the 1930s, spent a great deal of time throwing around pie pans from the Frisbie Baking Company. But it wasn't until he joined the Air Force that he learned about aerodynamics and he realized he was doing science during those pan-flinging sessions.
So, Fred took what he learned about basic aerodynamics from the Air Force and made a prototype of a better flying disc, that didn't have bits of pie crust stuck to it. And instead of tin, he went with plastic. He dubbed his creation the "Pluto Platter," which was ultimately renamed the "Frisbee" and went on to provide hardcore leaping motivation for extreme college kids everywhere.
It is impossible to say the word "extreme" without sarcasm.