This year, as I return to my “today in history” series for the month of July, I have chosen a word for each day to represent the facts I will share.
I chose the word “innovation” to begin the month after my research brought up four interesting yet very much unrelated inventions/discoveries – sunglasses, the North Pole, a zoo, and Coca-Cola – stretching just over 700 years, and touching three different continents.
Innovation, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a new idea, device, or method; the act or process of introducing a new idea, device, or method.”
The first innovation I uncovered was sunglasses, which in their original form, were invented by the Chinese c. this day in the year1200. These served a special purpose that had nothing to do with blocking the sun; Chinese judges wore smoke-colored quartz lenses to conceal the expression in their eyes while in court. The sunglasses of today (which I am daily grateful for, no matter what the season), weren’t actually conceived until 1929, when Sam Foster found a market for them on the boardwalks of New Jersey, and the trademark wasn’t filed until November 1959. So I guess it’s up to you to decide the real date of invention. I say today.
The next innovation I came across was the discovery of the Magnetic North Pole on this day in 1831, by James C. Ross. He was the second in command on an expedition in search of the elusive “Northwest Passage” (which they weren’t able to find), and while being stuck in the icy waters he discovered that at 70° 5´ N, 96° 47´ W the magnetic field was determined to be quite vertical as far as his compass’ accuracy could show. The location of the magnetic north pole had been determined for the first time. As a result, when they returned home, his uncle (who was also the captain of the expedition) was knighted.
The third innovation also took place in the 19th century, on the eastern shores of the United States: the first American zoo was opened in Philadelphia on this day in 1874. It seems appropriate that this city was chosen for this occasion, as many of our country’s “firsts” happened there. A little more digging revealed that "The Frank Furness Victorian gates and gatehouses, and the Zoo's location, are the same today as they were on the day it opened. One of its assets, then and now, is John Penn's home, The Solitude, which sat on the land chosen for the Zoo. John Penn was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania."
The fourth and final innovation I found took place on July 1, 1916, also in the United States – The Coca-Cola Company introduced to the general public, the formula and taste that we have all come to know (and some to enjoy, although I prefer Pepsi myself). It was briefly changed in 1985 (anyone remember “new coke”?) but was quickly brought back to it’s original. Some refer to it as “Coca Cola Classic”. Apparently, the Supreme Court also ruled that “Coke” is a trademark name.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of history’s innovations from July the first; there will be many more random facts in the coming weeks, so buckle up!