Silly Putty was not initially intended to be a child’s toy.
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New England is the birthplace of many notable inventions, but these three in particular are prized for their contributions to parties everywhere.
In the early 1940s James Wright, an engineer from General Electric in New Haven, Connecticut, was trying to develop an inexpensive substitute for rubber to help the war effort. He came up with something he called “bouncing putty,” which was lots of fun to play with but had no industrial advantages. Then, in 1949, Wright took it to a party and entertained his friends by rolling it, stretching it, and lifting images off a comic book with it. A local toy store owner was present and decided to advertise the stuff in a catalog. Marketed in colored plastic eggs for $1 each, “Silly Putty” soon racked up yearly sales in the millions.
Want to know more about Silly Putty? Read 17 Surprisingly Practical Uses for Silly Putty.
Without the benefit of formal education, Percy L. Spencer, a Maine native, hit upon the idea of cooking by radio. While working around a magnetron in Raytheon’s labs in 1945, he discovered that a candy bar had melted in his pocket. though he hadn’t felt any heat. The next day he placed Indian corn in front of the device and watched the kernels pop. An egg exploded on an engineer who leaned too close. Spencer added a cabinet with trays to the magnetron, the creating the first radar range.” The microwave oven was first used commercially in the now defunct Thompson’s Spa restaurant in Boston the next year.
In 1858 Ezra J. Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut, patented the first can opener — a long piercing blade adjoining a shorter blade to catch on a can rim. A hammer and chisel worked just as well, and Warner’s device may have fallen into obscurity if the Union troops hadn’t been ordered to use it during the Civil War.
Excerpt from “’The New England Sampler,” Yankee Magazine, January 1993.