Consumer Products

Famous Products Invented for the Military

5. Aviator Sunglasses
> Date invented: 1937

The characteristically dark shades of the aviator sunglasses were at one time necessary for test pilots pushing the limits of the airplane. At high altitudes, a pilot’s eyes could either be severely damaged by the extremely bright light in the upper atmosphere, or they could freeze in temperatures approaching -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In such conditions, goggles with dark lenses and a tear-drop shape were ideal. A design that prevented as much sunlight as possible from reaching the eye led to Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses, which became standard gear for men enlisted in the military during World War II. Since the war, Ray-Bans have made prominent appearances in movies such as Taxi Driver and Top Gun, and were famously worn by celebrities such as Michael Jackson.

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6. Feminine Hygiene Products
> Date invented: 1910

During World War I, Kimberly-Clark began to actively manufacture cellucotton, a type of cellulose wadding derived from wood. Initially, cellucotton was used during the war to bandage soldiers, but then nurses began using it also during their menstrual cycle. Soon after the war, Kimberly-Clark began selling cellucotton to women, eventually deciding on the brand name Kotex — based on the words “cotton texture.” Initially, according to the company, it struggled to market Kotex due to social taboos. In an effort to sell more of its wadding, the company, using a slightly altered ingredient blend, began producing Kleenex tissues.

7. Silly Putty
> Date invented: 1943

Silly Putty was born out of desperation during World War II. Japanese forces had invaded rubber producing nations, limiting American access to the material. As a result, the U.S. military requested the private sector to create an alternative for the rubber used in boots and tires. In 1943, James Wright, an engineer with General Electric, developed the putty from boric acid and silicone oil. While the material had no practical uses, it caught-on very quickly as a novelty. Silly Putty became particularly popular after Peter Hodgson, who had first marketed the putty for a store in New Haven, recognized that people liked the goo for its unique properties — it stretches and bounces but can be easily snapped into pieces. Hodgson began targeting children in the Silly Putty ads and selling it in the now-famous egg-shaped container. He eventually died a wealthy man.

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8. Super Glue
> Date invented: 1951

Super Glue was inadvertently first created by Harry Coover and Fred Joyner, Tennessee-based employees of Eastman Kodak, in 1951. At the time, they were looking to find a substance that could be used as a heat-resistant coating for jet cockpits. But not until seven years later, in 1958, did Super Glue, which did not need heat or pressure for the adhesive to work, hit the market. The product never made its acknowledged inventor, Coover, wealthy. The product eventually had both medical and military uses — it could be used in medical procedures and was used to treat wounded troops during the Vietnam War.

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