As we move forward into 2023, it’s only natural to reflect on the products, inventions and discoveries that have their roots in a history that is now 100 years old, especially those that continue to have an impact on American life and culture.
In January 1923, Sir Frederick G Banting, Charles H Best and JJR Macleod at the University of Toronto were awarded U.S. patents on insulin and the method used to make it. They all sold these patents to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Banting famously said, “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” Later that year, Eli Lilly become the first manufacturer to mass produce insulin and in October 1923 they began shipping the first commercial supply of insulin, forever changing the quality of life for diabetics around the world.
In October, John Harwood received a patent for the technology behind the self-winding watch, today a feature that is taken for granted. Harwood’s patent was for a centrally pivoted weight that swings while the watch is worn approximately 230 degrees between sprung buffers. It’s said that he got inspired while watching children playing on a see-saw.
In November 1923, a patent was granted to Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 – July 27, 1963), an African-American inventor and community leader, for a traffic signal. Morgan had witnessed a serious accident at an intersection and filed a patent for a traffic control device. The evolution of his invention can now be found at intersections around the world.
If you have cotton swabs in your home, you owe this multi-purpose product to Leo Gerstenzang, who in 1923 invented the “Q-tip” after attaching wads of cotton to a toothpick. Initially named “Baby Gays”, Q-tips went on to become the most widely sold brand name. Representatives from Unilever, the company that now owns Q-tips, say over 25.5 billion Q-tips are produced each year.
Nineteen-twenty-three was also the year that Warner Brothers Studio was founded, Harry Houdini freed himself from a straight jacket while hanging upside down, Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food, the now iconic Hollywood (then reading Hollywoodland) sign was dedicated, the first issue of Time magazine was published, and, as we closed the year, the first transatlantic radio broadcast took place on January 31, 2023. It also marked the year that Yankee Stadium opened in the Bronx as the home ballpark of the New York Yankees, and Beatrice Alexander introduced Madame Alexander dolls to generations of children and doll collectors, two stories we share in this month’s issue.
While these were all ground-breaking and game-changing contributions to American life and culture, perhaps the greatest attention that year was paid to the unfolding discovery of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s tomb, and then three months later, on February 16, 1923, his burial chamber by British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team. Carter’s discovery, which included King Tut’s sarcophagus, well-preserved mummified body, death mask cast in gold and over 5,000 artifacts depicting his life and for his afterlife, is considered to be one of the greatest archeological finds of the modern age. With the centennial anniversary of Carter’s discovery, King Tut is now on a “Final World Tour,” with over 150 objects found in the pharaoh’s tomb on display in London, continuing on to Sydney, and finishing at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, King Tut’s final resting place. Closer to home, you can catch “Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience” at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. and then in select cities around the country. For more information about this fascinating discovery that has captured the world’s attention for 100 years, read King Tut on page XX in this month’s issue. For location information and tickets, go to www.beyondkingtut.com.
Opening to less fanfare in October of 1923 was The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, started by Walt Disney and his brother Roy as a way to produce a series of short films Walt had created that has come to be known as the Alice Comedies. From there, Disney went on to release its most famous creation in 1928 with Steamboat Willie, which introduced the world to Mickey Mouse, one of the most famous brand ambassadors of the 20th century. This year, the Disney family has a legacy to celebrate and like King Tut, Mickey will be everywhere leading a global celebration of 100 Years of Wonder.
So what will the next 100 years be like? If patent filings from 2022 are any indication, we can expect a future that includes, among other things, a virtual reality remote valet parking; parking robots; a cognitive scribe and meeting moderator assistant that among other things takes notes on the different topics that were discussed and transforms the topics into action items for the members of the meeting; and virtual paper, a system that uses the user’s coordinates to determine the representation of the images in the environment to create a computer generated reality environment; a lot to wonder but sadly not a lot to collect.
Happy New Year!