6 Bizarre Origins of Famous Companies

#3. Fanta Was Created Due to a World War II Coke Shortage


The Company You Know

The makers of those vaguely fruity-tasting drinks with the creepy dancers.

"I'd love to Fanta, but I should probably get tested first."

How It Got Started


In 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and within a few days, the United States was at war with both Japan and Germany. This put a German man by the name of Max Keith in quite a bind. You see, Keith was the head of operations for Coca-Cola in Germany, and the bigwigs at Coca-Cola America decided it would reflect poorly on them to keep delivering refreshments to their now sworn enemies. Still, Keith was determined to keep the German population's thirst slaked, lest they be reduced to drinking tap water.

"Nein! Ich trinkt urin, bevor ich wasser trinkt! Ferner ist mein Schwanz klein!"

This turned out to be trickier than anticipated. Without Coke's super-secret formula, Keith was growing desperate to deliver something to the public, so he did what all of us do in times of desperation -- he threw some shit together and hoped it worked. Specifically, the crap he picked up off the floor was whey (the liquid component of curdled milk), pomace (the crap left over after pressing fruit) and a shitload of fake sugar. Keith named it Fanta, an abbreviation of the German word for imagination.

While this unholy concoction of literal food garbage sounds like something you might haze a freshman with, the Germans loved it, especially toward the end of the war, when food was becoming scarce and it was discovered that Fanta made an excellent soup broth.

When the war ended, Coke stepped back in, and though they were impressed with Keith's ability to keep things running, they were undoubtedly horrified at what he had been selling and immediately discontinued Fanta, reasoning that it was inhumane to make people drink it, even if those people were Nazis. However, 10 years later, Pepsi began expanding their line of drinks, and Coca-Cola realized that it could no longer afford to be a one-trick pony. Recalling what Keith had done when he needed a new product as cheaply and quickly as possible, they revived Fanta (with slightly better ingredients), and it has enjoyed international popularity ever since.

#2. Zildjian Cymbals Were an Instrument of War


The Company You Know

Even if you're not a musician, you know this brand. You've seen it in any rock music video where they give you a good view of the drum set:


How It Got Started

An alchemical accident, and an intimidation tool for the Ottoman army.

Zildjian has been the go-to company for loud metal disks that you hit with things for almost 400 years, which makes them one of the longest continually operating companies on Earth.

Of course, when they first went into operation in Constantinople in the early 1600s, garage rock wasn't yet a thing. But the company's founder, Avedis Zildjian I, never really intended to make music. He had higher ambitions -- he was an alchemist, which means he was part of the impressively persistent (and futile by definition) 2,000-year search for the recipe for making gold. Alchemists figured that whoever could crack that secret would basically have infinite money.

"OK, now for the ingredients. Man, science is easy."

Zildjian may not have understood much about chemistry, or basic economics, for that matter, but in the process of mixing tin, silver and copper together in different ratios, he eventually discovered that he'd created an alloy with miraculous bouncy properties. You know, just like in Flubber. After (we assume) attempting to market it as some kind of new and improved "supergold," Zildjian found another way to make money from it.

The Ottoman Empire had a long history of using loud noises to intimidate their enemies on the battlefield, and if there was one thing that Zildjian's alloy did well, it was make noise. So Zildjian began selling his "noisemakers" to the military. The mehteran, the branch of the army dedicated to trying to scare the shit out of people, gradually moved away from scary noise and toward musical noise, forming the origin of what we now know as the marching band, and providing a nice segue for the Zildjian company after enemies started training soldiers not to retreat at the sound of loud noises.

"They're playing 'YYZ!' RETREAT!"

#1. Astroglide Sex Lube Was Made for the Space Shuttle

Tom Splasky

The Company You Know

The (in)famous makers of lube. For fuckin'.

How It Got Started

The space program.

Your tax dollars at work!

As it happens, the name Astroglide wasn't just chosen because it sounds cool. In fact, looking at it now, it doesn't even make sense. The reason it has that name is because its creator, Daniel Wray, originally developed it as a coolant for the space shuttle. In 1977, Wray was working as a chemist for NASA, experimenting with nearly 300 different compounds, when he stumbled upon a fortuitous water-based glycerin mixture that, it turns out, is perfect for slathering all over your most precious orifices and bodily protrusions (we'll leave you to imagine how exactly he came to that conclusion).

The glycerin formula Wray came up with almost perfectly mimics the body's natural fluids. It has a slightly acidic pH balance, which means that it helps prevent yeast infections, it has low toxicity, it's safe to use on condoms and it has a slightly sweet taste to it for any ... uh ... body-hole-to-mouth maneuvers you may be inclined to try. Compare this to the petroleum-based lubes that were common at the time, which had a myriad of potential reactions and side effects, because apparently shoving jellified dinosaurs up your hoo-hah can have some negative consequences. Who knew?

Like birthing a vaginasaur.

Even though the space shuttle thing ended up not working for Wray, he still managed to find a hugely profitable market for his product. While he undoubtedly laughed all the way to the bank, we have to imagine that no mother in the history of mothers has ever been more embarrassed than Wray's mom, who had to explain to friends and family that her baby boy had left his job as a rocket scientist to go make sex lube for butts and wieners and stuff.

"He ... he joined al-Qaida. And died."

When he's not founding Christian sex communes, Chris writes for his website and tweets. You can email him at here. S Peter Davis writes for Three Minute Philosophy.

For more origin stories of famous brands, check out 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck. Or learn about 6 Companies That Are Clearly Catering to Supervillains.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Creepy Ways People Can Make Money on Your Death.

And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which company made a fortune off of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's death.

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