There are many things these days that are so commonplace that we completely take them for granted. Because we either don’t see these things in action, or we use them so regularly, we often forget that they are inventions at all. In reality, they were once things that people used to have to do without, until one day an innovative person used their imagination and intelligence, and changed everything. Everyone talks about planes, trains, and automobiles, but here are a few of the more subtle inventions that quietly changed the world.

Windshield Wipers

The invention of the automobile is obviously considered to be a turning point in modern global history, but the reality is that cars would be nothing without this simple but crucial invention. Generally accepted to have been invented by Mary Anderson, the windshield wiper was invented in 1903.


Proof that some good things can occasionally come from spending time in a correctional facility—and also that the British don’t deserve that “bad teeth” stereotype—Briton William Addis invented the toothbrush during his time in jail in 1770, by drilling a hole in a piece of bone and putting some tufts of bristles in it with glue.


Though it was originally conceived as an alternative for laces on shoes, there are few people who would be able to claim that they do not take advantage of the invention of the zipper every single day. The man to thank was Whitcomb Judson in 1892.

Wire Hangers

The year 1903 turned out to be a big year for the invention of mundane objects that changed the world—it was also the year in which the wire hanger was patented by Albert J. Parkhouse.

Ballpoint Pen

Though some of us may have a hard time remembering what it is like to write anything at all by hand, can you imagine if you were restricted to a pencil or ink that came from an ink well? The invention of the ballpoint pen by Laszlo Biro was only patented in 1938, but now it is just about the only kind of pen anyone uses.

Traffic Light

Aside from the windshield wiper, there is another invention that is absolutely integral in evolving the automobile to what it is today—the traffic light. If you have ever seen or been involved in an accident as the result of a run red light, you know just how important this invention is. Garrett Morgan actually invented it in 1922 after seeing one such accident.

Warehouse Automation

Where would we be without conveyor systems? Certainly without our Amazon deliveries, but also so much more. They are used in just about every industry, from automotive to agricultural, computer, electronic, food processing, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and so on, all thanks to Thomas Robins in 1892.

Vulcanized Rubber

The term “vulcanized rubber” sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is actually an incredibly important invention that allows for modern tires, shoe soles, hoses, and even conveyor belts such as the ones mentioned above. Though the invention is often credited to Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock actually patented it first.

So there you have a few of the most remarkable unremarkable inventions. Next time you brush your teeth, drive in your car, or hang up your coat, take a second to think of the person who allowed you do to it.


By:  Vincent Stokes