Matchsticks were invented in 1805 . How did humans get fire in everyday lives before then?

Matchsticks were invented in 1805 . How did humans get fire in everyday lives before then?

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They would have needed fire to cook at least but how was it possible ?

Ordinarily fire was borrowed. In many places, like Scotland, there were rituals and customs where once a year all the fires would be put out and then renewed from one place, a sacred fire. To light fires while traveling there was a small kit, called a tinder box, that had a flint and steel in it. Here is a passage in the "The History of the Town of Lyndeborough" that is relevant:

It was not until 1835 that friction matches were used in Lyndeborough. They had been invented in England a few years before, but were so costly in those days when money was scarce, that they were not freely used. Therefore, for the first century in the history of the town, the flint and steel and tinder box method was the only one by which to produce fire. But this was a very troublesome way. Skill was required to strike the spark, catch it in the tinder and blow it into flame. There was a flint and steel in most families, but their main reliance was in care that the fire should not go out. It was carefully covered every night. The glowing coals were raked together and covered deep with ashes, and in the morning this heap of ashes would be opened, dry wood laid thereon, and soon a good fire was burning. But sometimes in spite of all care it would go out, and then some one would go to the neighbors to borrow fire. One old lady who lived on the mountain has told the writer of going to John Ordway's, who lived where Charles J. Cummings lives now, to get fire. Once both families happened to be destitute of the necessity on the same morning, and she had to go over to Robert Badger's, where Harry Richardson now lives, to get coals.

There is a certain kind of woody shrub that when dry and rubbed together will quickly make a fire. I forget the species. Such plants were used before flint and steel were common.

In ancient Gaelic custom there was a holiday pronounced "Shabane", which occurred on November 1, meaning the "Feast of Fire". On this day all the fires were put out and each householder would have to buy fire from the sacred temples and altars of the druids, thus each hearth was spawned from the holy fire. (See "Old Scottish Customs, Local and General" by Guthrie) After Christianization this holiday was turned into "All Saints Day", the day before being "all hallow's eve" or Halloween, as it is now known.

As others have mentioned, early peoples could have "borrowed" fire from natural fires, typically caused by lightning strikes. However, a more dependable source of fire was provided by simple tools.

Rubbing two sticks together to produce heat that eventually ignites dry tinder is a common technique taught in survival classes even today. Flint is also a well known fire starter.

Starting a fire with sticks (Video)


Life before artificial light

If we're looking for someone to blame, it may as well be William Murdoch (later known, for reasons unclear, as Murdock). The flammability of coal gas had already been established. Back in 1735, Dr John Clayton of Wigan had entertained the members of the Royal Society in London with an account of how he had burned a few lumps of the black stuff, released "the spirit of coal", captured it in animal bladders and, to the great amusement of his friends, set it alight.

But it was Murdoch who, in Britain at least, pioneered the practical use of this party trick for the purposes of lighting. An early steam buff, he worked out how to produce and store coal gas so that, by 1792, he was able to light his house in Redruth, Cornwall. Five years later, he illuminated the entrance to the premises of the Manchester commissioners of police, followed by the inside – and, to the wonder of the local populace, the outside – of James Watts and Matthew Boulton's famous foundry in Birmingham.

Darkness, our primordial dread, was about to lose its dominion. It did not take long for the satanic mills and factories of the industrial revolution to grasp the promising implications of this fine new invention for the number of hours that could profitably be worked in a day. By 1807, arguably the world's first gas-fired public street lamps, 13 of them, were installed along Pall Mall in London by a German-born inventor called Friedrich Winzer (or Frederick Winsor).

Similar progress was being made abroad. Philippe le Bon demonstrated a gas-fired street light in Paris in 1801, and various displays took place in America. But the honour of building the first commercial gasworks in the world went, in 1812, to the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, which used wooden pipes to light Westminster bridge in time for New Year's Eve, 1813.

Baltimore became the first US city to be lit by gas in 1816. Germany's inaugural gasworks opened in Hannover in 1825. By that year in London, more than 40,000 gas lights were burning bright along more than 215 miles of the capital's streets: the night, as mankind had known it pretty much since it first walked the earth, was on its way to being banished – along with the whole culture of customs, beliefs, rituals and fears that had grown up around it.

On the whole, at the time, this was probably a welcome development. Gas was not the first form of artificial lighting, but it was by far the most efficient: a single gas mantle emitted 12 times as much light as a candle or oil lamp, and was 75% cheaper.

No one really knows whether we were born with an instinctive fear of the dark, or we acquired it gradually as a result of the myriad awful dangers that emerged after night fell. What is certain, according to Roger Ekirch, author of a compendious and enthralling history of the night called At Day's Close, is that never in human history had we been more afraid of the night than in the period that immediately preceded our ability to vanquish it.

For starters, there were the imagined enemies. The darkness, pitch black and impenetrable, was the realm of the hobgoblin, the sprite, the will-o'-the-wisp, the boggle, the kelpie, the boggart and the troll. Witches, obviously, were "abroad" (a weighty word to describe the now-banal business of venturing outdoors after dark). If you were seriously unlucky, you could run into Satan himself. To ward off these evil spirits, we prayed – a lot. The superstitious "crucked" their thumbs inside their fists, or turned their pockets (even their clothes) inside out.

Then there were the real enemies. For the night was also the realm of the criminal: the vandal, the thief, the murderer. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes's greatest fear was "being knockt on the head for five or 10 pounds". Gangs of men with names such as the Mohocks, the Scowrers and the Hectors roamed the streets of England wreaking unimaginable havoc, slashing the faces of pedestrians and "misusing women in a barbarous manner".

In Munich, the nightly purpose of one such gang was to murder the first man they met. The murder rate per head of the population was, historians estimate, five to 10 times as high as today. Dissolute youngsters amused themselves by hanging dead cats from honest citizens' doors. Theft – of crops, animals, fish from ponds, trees from gardens – was rife. Graves were ransacked, outhouses pilfered, flimsy dwellings robbed. "Nightsneaks" intent on burglary would creep into houses during the day, and emerge from their hiding places after nightfall.

The only protection against all these ne'er-do-wells was the night watch, often a motley collection of easily corrupted incompetents, universally mocked. In an age of open fires, timber buildings and no running water, fire was an even greater danger, capable of destroying whole neighbourhoods in hours. Arsonists prospered, despite the threat of execution by burning or beheading.

Yet despite its many dangers, the night held a mighty appeal. "Large numbers of people came up for air when the sun went down," says Ekirch. "It afforded them the privacy they did not have during the day. They could no longer be overseen by their superiors." Night was not only a great leveller it overturned the social order of the day. Apprentices, servants, the poor, the excluded and the underprivileged could for once escape the eyes of their masters, employers and oppressors: darkness was their mask.

Those fearful of arrest could move safely under cover of darkness. Lovers could tryst, adulterers could couple, prostitutes could work, homosexuals could meet. Symbols of authority such as the crucifix and the coat of arms evaporate in the dark, and there were plenty to resent their reappearance with the arrival on our streets of the gas lamp – along, incidentally, with a proper police force, its job at long last made possible by the helpful transformation of night into day. The Metropolitan police was born in 1829, as gas lamps multiplied.

Street lighting was, self-evidently, a powerful weapon of both economic and social control, and in the urban riots that swept much of Europe in the 1830s and 40s, gas lamps were invariably one of the first targets, for symbolic as well as practical reasons. At the same time, advances in lighting seem almost to have foreshadowed advances in thought: Professor John Carey has noted that the dawn of the age of Enlightenment is usually put at the beginning of the 18th century, when street oil lamps first appeared in Paris, and that Nietzsche's announcement of "the death of God" coincided with the appearance of the electric light bulb, "invented" by at least 22 people before an improved version was successfully commercialised by Thomas Edison from 1879.

The pre-industrial night, however, was widely regarded with dread and fascination in equal measure: "I curse the night," confessed William Drummond in 1616, "but doth from day me hide." Or, as Thomas Tryon, a writer of popular self-help books, put it rather more pompously in 1691: "Let the night teach us what we are, and the day what we should be."

But those who had good reason, legitimate or illicit, to venture outdoors "during the night season" nonetheless developed a whole range of tricks to help them. In an age before widespread light pollution, the illumination of the moon and the stars was far more useful (on a clear night, starlight alone cast shadows). People knew their neighbourhoods intimately: every tree, every hedge, every post. On the Downs, great piles of chalky soil, known as "down lanterns", served as beacons. Bark would be cut from strategic trees to expose the lighter wood beneath. The senses of hearing (barking dogs), smell (a honeysuckle bush) and touch (a notch cut in a banister at a sharp turn in the stairs) became all the more important.

For before artificial lighting, indoors was just as treacherous as outdoors: in Sweden, it was common practice to push the furniture against the walls before retiring to bed, so you wouldn't bump into it if you rose in the middle of the night. Man had advanced, by the late 18th century, from the first flaming torches through primitive lights (made, as long as 15,000 years ago, by placing moss or some other fibre in a shell or hollow stone, and filling it with animal fat) to, on the continent at least, handsome pottery and metal oil lamps sporting sophisticated wicks and artfully sealed reservoirs filled with olive, sesame, fish, nut or plant oil.

In Britain, for some reason, we favoured candles. As a rough estimate, one 60-watt electric bulb generates the light of approximately 100 candles. By the late 1700s, most of our aristocratic homes would have been lit by a selection of candles made of expensive beeswax, or perhaps from even more expensive spermaceti, the wax extracted from the head cavities of sperm whales. The middle class used tallow candles, which stank to high heaven, smoked incessantly, dripped terribly, emitted a feeble light, but were a damn sight cheaper. The poor, overwhelmingly, made do with humble rush lights: reeds dipped in some form of animal fat. These burned even more unevenly than tallow candles and smelled worse, but did the job, more or less, for an hour or so.

What job were they required to do? What did decent folk do after dark? The upper-class young blades drank the night away. Men in towns and cities took themselves to an alehouse. Others had chores after the evening meal: furniture to build, tools to repair, beer to brew. Women carded and spun wool, and wove it. There were parlour games to play, folk tales to tell, gossip to swap, friends and family to entertain. The literate few read, or wrote. And then, by 9pm or at the latest 10, to bed.

Once there, Ekirch relates in perhaps his most fascinating revelation, pre-industrial man slept a segmented sleep. He has found more than 500 references, from Homer onwards, to a "first sleep" that lasted until maybe midnight, and was followed by "second sleep". In between the two, people routinely got up, peed, smoked, read, chatted, had friends round, or simply reflected on the events of the previous day – and on their dreams. (Plenty also had sex, by all accounts far more satisfactorily than at the end of a hard day's labouring. Couples who copulated "after the first sleep", wrote a 16th-century French doctor, "have more enjoyment, and do it better".)

Experiments by Dr Thomas Wehr at America's National Institute of Mental Health appear to bear out the theory that this two-part slumber is man's natural sleeping pattern: a group of young male volunteers deprived of light at night for weeks at a time rapidly fell into the segmented sleep routine described in so many of Ekirch's documentary sources. It could even be, Wehr has theorised, that many of today's common sleeping disorders are essentially the result of our older, primal habits "breaking through into today's artificial world".

Of all this have we been robbed by the onward march of industrial lighting. (By we, of course, I mean most people in the developed world. It's worth remembering that there are still large parts of the globe where it's still up at sunrise, and to bed pretty soon after sundown.)

In the west, the ongoing elimination of the night through the 19th and 20th centuries may have performed miracles for economic activity, encouraging the development of an entire nocturnal sector of clubs, bars, restaurants, even supermarkets now open 24/7, not to mention all-night TV. But in some ways, argues Ekirch, rather than making night-time more accessible, we are actually risking its gradual extinction.

City-dwellers, and many others, have now all but lost their view of the heavens, a source of awe and wonder since the beginning of time. And since affordable artificial lighting now allows all of us to go to bed so much later, consolidating our sleep into one more or less continuous spell, our dreamlife has been disrupted and our understanding of ourselves impaired. "With darkness diminished," he says, "the opportunities for privacy and reflection are lessened." Which is perhaps not entirely a good thing. So thanks, William Murdoch.

15 Kids Died All The Time

These days, if you’re in the industrialized world, it’s pretty uncommon for kids to die. Your expectation when you have a kid, by in large, is that the kid will live into adulthood. Obviously tragic accidents and diseases happen, but it is generally considered a shock when a child dies. Not so in the 19th century. Around one third of kids born in that century died before they reached adolescence: most families had lots of children, and it would have been considered unusual for at least one of them not to die. Childhood is generally thought to be a time of peace and safety, but nobody told that to kids in the 19th century. If you’ve ever walked by an old timey graveyard and wondered why there are so many small headstones, that’s why. That’s truly scary stuff for us, all the way here in the 21st century. You can only imagine how terrifying it was for the people who had to live through it.

30 Life-Changing Inventions That Were Totally Accidental

Yes, the world as we know it is predicated on happenstance.

Every day, we use products like microwaves and boxes of matches to make our lives easier. But believe it or not, these ingenious inventions that allow us to live out our lives hassle-free were not the product of trial and error, but were created entirely by accident.

Yes, you have serendipity to thank for a staggering amount of things in your life, ranging from delicious potato chips to the literal life-saving drug penicillin. Herein, we've gathered some of the most life-changing products that were accidental inventions. And for the flip-side (inventions that'll never come to pass), check out these 20 Long-Predicted Technologies That Are Never Going to Happen.


Percy LeBaron Spencer was working on magnetrons—high-powered vacuum tubes that generate short radio waves called microwaves—when he accidentally discovered microwave cooking. The engineer was doing his job as usual when he noticed that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. Quickly Spencer realized that it was the magnetrons that were causing this phenomenon. By 1945, he had filed a patent for his metal cooking box powered by microwaves.

As the Post-it website tells it, 3M scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was doing research on strong adhesives when he came across quite the opposite: one that "stuck lightly to surfaces but didn't bond tightly to them." Silver initially had no idea what to do with his discovery, but years later another 3M scientist, Art Fry, came to him with the idea to create a bookmark that could stick to paper without damaging it. Eventually, that bookmark became the Post-it note.


Saccharin, the first artificial sweetener, was discovered in 1878 by Constantin Fahlberg. The Russian chemist was working in the lab of chemistry professor Ira Remsen when he accidentally tasted some of the chemicals he was working with and realized how sweet they were. After some experimentation, Fahlberg came to the conclusion that the sugariness was caused by the reaction of o-sulfobenzoic acid with phosphorus (V) chloride and ammonia to create benzoic sulfinide—or, saccharin. And for more facts that you won't believe, don't miss the 40 Crazy Facts about the World's Tallest Buildings.


Discovered in 1928, Penicillin was one of the world's first antibiotics, but the man who discovered it—Dr. Alexander Fleming—never actually meant to "revolutionize all medicine," as he later described it. Rather, Fleming came across the antibiotic entirely by chance when he left out cultures of Staphylococcus aureus in his lab for two weeks and returned to find that their growth had been prevented by a mold called Penicillium notatum.


It's hard to imagine a world without chocolate chip cookies, but the delectable dessert wasn't actually invented until 1930. On the day that the cookies were created, Ruth Graves Wakefield, co-owner of the Toll House Inn, was preparing some chocolate cookies for her guests when she realized that she was out of baker's chocolate. Thinking on her feet, Wakefield decided to chop up a block of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate, assuming that it would melt and spread evenly throughout the batter. Instead, what came out of the oven was the very first batch of chocolate chip cookies, and modern dessert was never the same.

On November 8, 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was in his laboratory in Wurzburg, Germany, experimenting on a vacuum tube covered in cardboard when he noticed a mysterious glow emanating from a chemically coated screen nearby. Confused and intrigued, he named the new rays causing this glow X-rays due to their unknown origin—and after playing around some more with the new rays, he discovered that putting his hand in front of the glow allowed him to see past his skin to his bones, thus leading to the world's first X-ray.

Back in 1942, Harry Coover was looking for materials he could use to build clear plastic gun sights for the war, but what he discovered instead was a chemical formulation that stuck to everything it touched. However, his discovery was rejected because researchers didn't see a need for such a sticky formula, and it wasn't until 1951 that the same formula was embraced and repurposed by Coover and fellow Eastman Kodak researcher Fred Joyner as "Alcohol-Catalyzed Cyanoacrylate Adhesive Compositions/Superglue," as the patent reads. And for facts from the past, check out the 30 Crazy Facts That Will Change Your View of History.

An adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Buffalo, Wilson Greatbatch accidentally invented the pacemaker in 1956. When working on building equipment intended to record heart sounds, the scientist used the wrong transistor and discovered that instead of recording sounds, his device gave off an electrical pulse, mimicking that of the heart. Greatbatch presented his invention to William Chardack, a surgeon at Buffalo's Veterans Administration Hospital, in 1958, and together the two were able to successfully control a dog's heartbeat and, in 1960, a human's.


One of American's most popular snack foods, the potato chip was invented in 1953 by George Crum, a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge Resort in Saratoga Lake, New York, when one of his customers complained that their French-fried potatoes were too thick and mushy. As legend has it, Speck's solution was to thinly slice and fry some potatoes until brown, and the patrons loved what was to become the first-ever batch of chips.

You might not recognize it by name, but teflon is a synthetic polymer used to make everything from nonstick cooking pans to nail polish. And though it's a genius invention that changed the way we cook, clean, and groom, the man who discovered the product—Roy J. Plunkett—did so completely by accident. The scientist was working at the DuPont Company's Jackson Laboratory in 1938 researching refrigerants (which help to supply air conditioning and refrigeration) when he noticed that some of his gas had turned into a white power. After some testing, Plunkett concluded that the substance was heat-resistant with low surface friction, giving it the perfect properties for its many uses we see today.

G-stock studio/Shutterstock

Because they lived in such high altitudes, the monks of Champagne had plentiful access to all the best grapes. The problem? When the temperatures plummeted in the colder months, the fermentation process on the wine would stop temporarily—and when it began again in the spring, there would be an excess of carbon dioxide inside the wine bottles, which would give the wine unwanted carbonation.

In 1668, the Catholic Church decided that it was time to handle the situation, and so they brought a French monk named Dom Pierre Perignon over to Champagne to fix the fermentation problem. However, by the end of the 17th century, people had decided that they actually enjoyed this drink, and Perignon's task thusly changed into making the wine even fizzier. Eventually, Perignon developed the official process for making champagne known as the French Method, crowning him the inventor of the celebratory sip.


Though variations of chewing gum have been around since ancient Greece, the gum that we know today wasn't invented until the late 1800s. It was then that an American inventor named Thomas Adams, Sr., stumbled upon the chewy treat—but only after first trying and failing to turn chicle (the substance that gum is made out of) into rubber.


Believe it or not, the popsicle's creator was none other than an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson, who simply mixed some soda powder with water and left it out overnight with the stirrer still in entirely by accident. When he woke up in the morning, Epperson decided to lick his frozen soda blend, and he found that it actually tasted, well, pretty delicious. Originally, the young entrepreneur declared his concoction the Epsicle (combining the word icicle with his name), but he later amended the name to popsicle, as children would refer to the ice pops as "Pop's 'Sicle" anyway. And if you love food facts, then don't miss the 20 Worst Food Myths That Still Persist.


The man who created the syrup for Coca-Cola was not a chef—or even in the food industry. Rather, the soda's inventor was a pharmacist by the name of Dr. John Stith Pemberton, who was seeking to create a cocaine- and caffeine-filled alcoholic drink that people with chemical addictions to drugs (including himself) could use to wean off of morphine and other drugs. However, when Prohibition hit, Pemberton was forced to take the alcohol out of his formula (though the cocaine remained for decades), and thus the first bottle of Coca-Cola was made in 1886.

Though the explosive substance nitroglycerin was invented by Ascanio Sobrero, it was Alfred Nobel who used it to make dynamites. While in Paris, Nobel began to experiment with nitroglycerin, and eventually he accidentally found a way to tame the substance by mixing it with kieselguhr—though in the process, many people lost their lives, including Nobel's brother Emil.

In 1826, chemist John Walker discovered what are now matchsticks when he accidentally scraped a stick coated in chemicals across his hearth and found that it caught fire. Walker's "Friction Lights," as he called them, were originally made out of cardboard, but eventually he switched over to using wooden splints and sandpaper.


Though Viagra is one of the fastest selling drugs of all time, its current use is a far cry from what it was originally made for. Evidently, when Viagra was in its trial phase, it was actually marketed as a treatment for angina, a heart condition that causes pressure in the chest. And though the drug proved to be ineffective at helping angina patients, study participants did find that the little blue pill was able to increase the frequency and potency of erections.

One fateful day in 1903, scientist Edward Benedictus was working in his lab when he accidentally knocked over a flask. However, when Benedictus looked down, he noticed that rather than breaking into a million little pieces, the glassware had actually just cracked slightly while maintaining its shape. After looking into it a bit further, the scientist learned that what had kept the glass together was cellulose nitrate coating the inside of the glass—and thusly, safety glass was created.

In the 16th century, a Dutch shipmaster was trying to make wine easier to transport, and so he decided to use heat to concentrate the alcohol, with a plan to add water to it once he arrived at his destination. However, what he discovered was that the taste of concentrated wine is much better than that of watered-down wine, and so he forewent the water part of his plan and called his new alcohol brandewijn, meaning "burnt wine" in Dutch.


Quinine, the anti-malarial drug composed primarily of cinchona tree bark, was allegedly discovered by a South American Indian. While suffering from malaria, the man accidentally consumed some cinchona bark—thought to be poisonous—via a pool of water, and miraculously he started to feel better almost immediately.


While observing a slide of cells taken from a woman's uterus, Dr. George Nicholas Papanicolaou came up with the idea for the Pap smear to test for cancer. Originally Papaniculaou's intention was simply to observe cellular changes during a woman's menstrual cycle, but during his study, he discovered that one of his patients had uterine cancer—and that her cancer cells could easily be viewed under a microscope.


Though the inventor of dry cleaning, Jean Baptiste Jolly, did work in the clothing industry as a textile maker, his discovery of a revolutionary new cleaning method was completely by accident. It was only when his maid accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp over onto a tablecloth that Jolly observed that the kerosene actually made the cloth cleaner, thus spawning the idea for the very first dry cleaner.

Vulcanized rubber, used to make durable things like car tires, was accidentally invented in 1839 by Charles Goodyear. Though he had been trying to create a weatherproof rubber for years, he was only successful in doing so when he accidentally dropped some regular rubber mixed with sulfur onto a hot stove and found that it still maintained its structure.


Excited about the possibilities of what could be made with petroleum, 22-year-old chemist Robert Augustus Chesebrough decided to head to the town where the product had been discovered to play around with it a bit. While there, Chesebrough observed that the men drilling the petroleum would use a byproduct of the process on their skin to soothe and heal cuts and burns, and he turned this observation into the product known today as Vaseline.


Today, ice cream fanatics have a choice between enjoying their treat in a cup or a cone, but that wasn't always the case. According to the stories, it wasn't until the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair that someone came up with the idea to spin a wafer-like waffle into the shape of a cone, and this idea was birthed simply out of necessity. When an ice cream vendor at the fair ran out of dishes to serve his ice cream in, the vendor next to him—named Ernest A. Hamwi—came up with the idea to shape his waffles into cones as vessels for the frozen treat.

In the 1980s, San Francisco ophthalmologist was testing out new treatments for crossed eyes—and though he found it, what he also discovered was that his treatment had miraculous face-lifting side effects, leading to the creation of Botox.

Though two women first filed a patent in 1901 for a "Tea-Leaf Holder" made out of mesh, the invention of the modern tea bag is credited to tea merchant Thomas Sullivan. In 1908, Sullivan began shipping samples of his tea out in small silk pouches—and though his intention wasn't for people to use these as tea bags, customers did so anyway, and they loved the convenience of it.

Supposedly, inventor Walter Hunt was sitting at his desk trying to figure out a way to pay off some debts when he started to futz around with some wire. As he played around with the scrap of metal, he discovered that when coiled, it could clasp to itself and unclasp again— and on April 10, 1849, Hunt patented his idea for the safety pin.


During World War II, engineer James Wright was tasked with inventing a cheap alternative to synthetic rubber. While working on finding a substitute, Wright dropped boric acid into silicone oil and discovered that the resulting product was stretchy and bouncy, with the added bonus of being able to copy words from newspaper clippings and comic strips. However, Wright's employers weren't impressed by his "nutty putty," and it wasn't until a few years later that businessman Peter Hodgson saw the potential in it.

Engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes did invent bubble wrap on purpose—but when they made it, the intended use for the product was all wallpaper, not as packing material. However, when their bubbly wallpaper proved to be unsuccessful, the two entrepreneurs decided to pivot and market their product instead as greenhouse insulation and later, in 1960, as protective packaging. And for more amazing innovations, learn The Most Groundbreaking Invention from Every U.S. State.

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Here’s a List of 30 Inventions between 1800 and 1899

1. Invention: Battery

Date of Invention: 1800
Invented by: Alessandro Volta

Volta’s electric battery. Source: GuidoB/wikimwdia commons

A battery is a chemical reactor that stores energy, which can be used in electrifying. As a chemical reactor, the primary function of a battery is the production of electrons mobilized to go through or power an external device. Nowadays, batteries are needed everywhere and have been a better invention for the present world.

The known inventor of the battery is Alessandro Volta. He was born in Como, Italy, in the year 1745. Born into a wealthy home, he grew up to become a trained and physicist and chemist.

His batteries were made with Copper and Zinc discs and were parted by clothing soaked in saltwater. Electricity was conducted into the wires connected to both discs, through a stable current.
He was the first scientist to patent the battery. Through his invention, he became the pioneer of power generation and proved that electricity could be generated through a chemical medium. Other designs followed after the battery, but he is mostly recognized for inventing the battery.

2. Invention: Stethoscope

Date of Invention: 1816
Inventor: Rene Laennec

Stethoscope. Source: pinterest

When medical practitioners needed to check the heartbeat of patients, they were only limited to placing their ears carefully on a patient’s heart. There was no means of auscultation, and the old medium always does not yield the desired results.

In 1816, a man named Rene Laennec thought of how to listen carefully to the sounds in the chest. He couldn’t use the usual method to examine his fat patient. He started by rolling a sheet of paper into a tube shape, placing each end on the patient’s heart and ear.

The sheet of paper was later replaced with a hollow tube made from wood over the years. The wooden tube was changed, and improvements were made in this invention. Rene named his device the Stethoscope.

Today, a stethoscope has become a very vital piece for doctors. Modern Day stethoscope can amplify the sounds in the chest.

3. Invention: Matches

Date of Invention: 1826
Inventor: John Walker

Matches. Source: jef-infojef/Wikimedia Commons

Before this invention, lighting the fire was almost an unknown thing for everyone. The fire has been in existence for thousands of years, but no one knew how to create or start one ideally. The first idea of lighting a fire was brought about by a British Pharmacist, John Walker, in 1826.

This invention came by accident when Walker had to scrape off the coated gob while mixing chemicals with his mixing stick. The mixing stick struck against the hearth in his house and boom he cracked it. Walker sold his first set of matches in 1827, packed in a box, and came with a sandpaper piece.

Every other development came under this idea.

4. Invention: Microphone

Date of Invention: 1827
Inventor: Charles Wheatstone

Microphone. Source: Fiddlersgreen

Charles Wheatstone is formally known as a physicist and a father of many devices. He hailed from Gloucester, England, and was born 6th February 1802. Later after he invented the microphone, he became a professor of philosophy in 1834.

His invention was based on how to transmit sound waves through mediums from one place to another, regardless of the distance. His curiosity to come up with something to convey sound leads to the microphone being invented. A microphone can propagate weak sound waves to become audible.

Wheatstone is a household name in the field of physics. He would later contribute to many inventions.

5. Invention: Typewriter

Date of Invention: 1829
Inventor: W. A Burt

Typewriter. Source: Britannica

The first generation of the typewriter was invented in 1829 at that time, there were no other means by which people could write letters, or document anything other than writing. A typewriter is a manual machine with keyboards, used for typing out data.

An American inventor named William Burt was the first to patent the typewriter. From the start of the 1850s, the typewriter became very useful in offices and media houses. It would later be improved by contributions like Samuel Soule, Carlos Glidden, and Christopher Sholes.

They were the principal contributors to the booming success of the invention, after developing varieties of the typewriter.

6. Invention: Sewing Machine

Date of Invention: 1830
Inventor: Barthelemy Thimonnier

Sewing machine. Source: ABC

During the period revolution was still on in France, the year is 1830. In a city located in the south of Paris lived a tailor. He was popularly known as Bart. He developed the first mechanical tool known as the sewing machine.

The machine at the time was a hooked tambour needle operated in a chain stitch form. It was later rejected, and Bart’s workshop was destroyed after he began executing large contracts for the military.

Usually, local tailors at that time made money from stitching with bare hands the only crude means they had to settle for. The fear of losing their jobs to the mechanical machine made them hate Bart’s invention. This was the first type of sewing machine ever designed. The further upgrade was also recognized after Bart’s sewing machine.

7. Invention: Mechanical Reaper

Date of Invention: 1831
Inventor: Cyrus McCormick

Mechanical reaper. Source: Britannica

Before the 18th century began, farming was a bit tedious because everyone had to work with their hands. With crude handmade hoes, the farming process was always long and required energy until the industrial revolution came to man’s rescue.

Born in a remote farm in Virginia, the USA, in 1809, Cyrus McCormick grew up on the farm with his parents. Harvesting of crops took a lot of time, and a change was needed. He took over his father’s project decades after he tried inventing the mechanical machine to replace sickles.

In 1831 Cyrus successfully built a reaper that was efficient to replace hundreds of labor.

8. Invention: Corn Planter

Date of Invention: 1834
Inventor: Henry Blair

Corn reaper. Source: pinterest

Henry Blair was the known inventor of the corn reaper, the mechanical machine that hastened the planting of maize. Born in 1807, he grew up in Maryland as the dorm of a farmer. He is the second African American to patent an invention and is being referred to as a free man.

The popularity came in1834 when the corn planter he invented saved time and energy of planting for a long time. The corn planter helped control weed as well. Henry had to declare himself a free man before he could patent the corn planter.

9. Invention: Dishwasher

Date of Invention: 1886
Inventor: Josephine Cochran

Dishwasher. Source: Wikipedia

This invention was birthed from a personal interest, and it sold throughout the world after drawing much attention. The patent inventor, Josephine Cochran, was born into a skillful and wealthy home. She was 47 when she thought of creating a solution for her cracked dishes.

She and her husband were known for entertaining visitors most times she needed a solution to her plates, always breaking and getting cracked. Her friend aided her in developing a machine to wash dirty dishes instead of paying her staff and still losing plates.

The first set of dishwashers produced by Cochran was named after her. It later gained fame through the help of her businessman husband.

10. Invention: Bicycle

Date of Invention: 1839
Inventor: Kirkpatrick Macmillan

Bicycle. Source: Graces Guide

Before the introduction of wheel machines, there were no mechanical means of moving around or traveling. Kirkpatrick Macmillan completed the invention of the first pedal bicycle. The idea behind his design was a hobbyhorse he admired.

He was brought up in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and served as a blacksmith apprentice under his father. He acquired a few skills that allowed him to build a stable bicycle. After successfully riding through 14 miles in one hour, he wasn’t ready to patent the first pedal bicycle for business purposes.

Other pedal bicycles made after this first design help unleashed the potential of the bike as a means of transport.

11. Invention: Mechanical Calculator

Date of Invention: 1932
Inventor: Charles Babbage

Mechanical calculator. Source: Interesting engineering

The history of calculators can be traced way back from 1822 when Babbage began with a small model of calculator. His invention could sum up, differentiate or multiply numbers and could print mathematical tables. The machine was called a difference machine at that time.

It took him three years to come up with the difference machine. After the difference machine was built successfully, the British government approached him to help develop some similar machine. This project took him several years, just like a usual engineering project.

The said project was halted when there was a shortage of funds. But then, a working portion was already made. The complete project would later weigh about 13 metric tons. For this invention, Charles Babbage was often regarded as one of the fathers of computer.

12. Invention: Telegraph

Date of invention: 1834
Inventor: Samuel Morse

Telegraph. Source: Hp. Baumeler/Wikimedia Commons

The first telegraph was built by Samuel Morse, an invention that would later be worked on by other inventors. Morse was born in 1791 and was 43 years when he created the first telegraph. During the industrial revolution era, there was a need to access long-distance messages.

The telegraph was the first machine to transmit signals over to stations through a wired connection. Morse is an American, and his first telegraph was sent from Washington D.C. to Maryland. The telegraph had been accepted across Europe, in the year 1866, telegraph lines were laid across the Atlantic connecting Europe.

Recently, the availability of the internet, fax machine, and the telephone have limited telegraph usage. But it was the pioneer means of passing information, and it has paved the way for communication innovations.

13. Invention: Postage Stamp

Date of invention: 1837
Inventor: Rowland Hill

Postage stamp. Source: British Library

Born and brought up in England, Rowland Hill was working as a schoolmaster when he invented the postage stamps. After a few years of authenticating his innovation, the world’s first stamp was issued in 1840 in England. Rowland was later knighted as a reward for his invention.

His first stamp rates were judged on weight instead of size. Before the postage stamp came into existence, older means were not trusted to get the job done. He first described his postage stamp in his own words when summoned before the Commission for Post Office Enquiry.

14. Invention: Gyroscope

Date of invention: 1852
Inventor: Leon Foucault

Gyroscope. Source: Kenyon College

Leon Foucault was a French Physicist born in 1819. He’s the first to patent the gyroscope, a design that could tell the plane of earth’s rotation depending on its location’s latitude. He was born in 1819, and in 1852, he invented the first known gyroscope.

It took him some time, but his approach was clear he made a gyroscope out of a swinging rotating ball with a weighty rim. The period of rotation was dependent on the latitude of the location. The technique behind the investigation was almost not easy to prove as frictional forces slowed down the spinning system.

This idea is common among kids with a toy gyroscope.

15. Invention: Airship

Date of Invention: 1852
Inventor: Henri Giffard

Airship. Source: ThoughtCo

Born in France on the 8th of February 1825, Giffard grew up to become an engineer and a father of a few innovations. He made the first airship, after which other developments followed. A sufficient gas powered the airship with a propeller.

The size of this first airship consists of 125meter in length, 25 meters in diameter. The engine is a 3 horsepower steam type. The steam engine was joined to the propeller and flew seventeen miles at 5 meters/hour.

Over the years, different designs and structures of airships started appearing. Giffard owned this invention and became one useful surveillance craft for the military a few years later.

16. Invention: Glider

Date of Invention: 1854
Inventor: George Cayley

Glider. Source: fiddlersgreen
George Cayley was born and brought up in Yorkshire, England. He is the first known engineer and inventor to patent the glider. His aeronautical engineering skills made things easier for him during that time.

His first glider was a webbed aircraft built like an image of some bird. He saw the need to patent his invention after successfully flying the glider over a few miles with someone in the plane at the time of flight.

He died shortly after patenting the glider, and after then, various developers saw the need to improve the glider’s design. Popular contributors after George made the first glider was Otto Lilienthal and the Wright brothers.

17. Invention: Vacuum flask

Date of Invention: 1892
Inventor: James Dewar

Vacuum flask. Source: BBC

Vacuum flasks were popular for preserving cold liquids. The inventor, James Dewar, specializes in cryogenics, the science of cold. In recent times the vacuum flask has been a valuable part of almost everyone, helping us keep our liquids hot.

Dewar had to prevent cold liquids from evaporating he tried various means using different materials. He ended up designing a vacuum made with a double-walled flask. In-between the wall of both glasses, there’s no room for air.

The vacuum ensured that liquid stored inside the flask maintains its temperature due to the absence of air. Other designs of the vacuum flasks had silver coatings on the vacuum walls to prevent transmission of heat.

18. Invention: Gramophone

Date of Invention: 1887
Inventor: Emile Berliner

Gramophone. Source: Wikipedia

Emile Berliner wasn’t an American, as some people think. He moved from his country Germany to Washington D.C. Long before the music started recording on a disc, there was no means of having a personal music player to play your best songs repeatedly.

Emile made a stop to recording on cylinders in 1887, the year he also patented it. He made songs on discs and complemented it with a gramophone for playing the disc. A needle-like object attached to the arm of the gramophone transmitted the sounds and vibrations to the gramophone.

His gramophone gained more fame after he created a company and convinced artistes to record with his systems.

19. Invention: Traffic Light

Date of Invention: 1868
Inventor: John Knight

Traffic lights. Source: Science ABC

It was a year to forget for Londoners as the number of injuries and death caused by accidents was more than 2000. A railway worker, John Knight, proposed a signaling system on transport routes. His proposal was backed by his invention of the first traffic lights ever made.

The lights became a good bargain For Knight and the government. The traffic lights were first used at George and Bridge Streets. The lights consist of red and green color types for stop and proceed respective signaling.

These lights didn’t last till 1870, but they were a stepping stone for the recently improved technology in modern-day transportation.

20. Invention: Telephone

Date of Invention: 1876
Inventor: Alexander Graham Bell

Telephone. Source: IMGBIN

One of the most remarkable inventions that changed the world and aided smooth communication between people. Graham Bell was born in Scotland but became an American later in his life. He is the first scientist to receive the patent for inventing the telephone.

Despite his countless number of inventions, Bell loved to be regarded as a teacher of the deaf. He was born in 1847 to a teacher and an impaired organist mother. Growing up, he didn’t see himself as a bright student but had a talent for solving problems.

He once made a husk remover for his friend’s dad, who works on a wheat farm.

21. Invention: Carpet Washer

Date of Invention: 1876
Inventor: Melville Bissell

Carpet washer. Source: Bissell

Melville was born in Michigan and was a trader at the time he invented the carpet washer. He owns a tableware shop with his wife, Anna. Before the industrial revolution, floors were made of wooden material or cement, so it was easy to swap and clean with brooms.

When carpets and rugs started selling, and the carpet beating was such a hard task, there was a need to design a cleaner for them. Melville’s shop was laid with carpet, and all the goods came in wooden boxes that have sawdust in them. The sawdust would litter everywhere, and it became a thing of concern for Anna.

Melville made a carpet cleaner for her so that their business could run smoothly. He made her an opened wooden box with wheels that are being pushed with the help of a long handle.

22. Invention: Motorcycle

Date of Invention: 1885
Inventor: Gottlieb Daimler

Motorcycle. Source: Wired
The development of the first combustion engine that ran on two wheels and two other supporting wheels was the work of German engineer Gottlieb. He patented his invention of powering a wooden vehicle with the combustion engine on wheels in 1885. The two added wheels for support made people condemn the motorcycle.

The combustion engine was a four-stroke gasoline type. Production of motorcycles followed shortly after the invention of the bicycle. Gottlieb’s son was first to ride the motorcycle for nearly 10km. The support wheels on the first motorcycle would later be removed after recent improvements from other contributors.

23. Invention: Escalator

Date of Invention: 1892
Inventor: Jesse Reno

Escalator. Source:

The history of escalators could be traced back to the amusement park, where it first started for amusement purposes. A similar design that relates to Reno’s escalator was a machine designed in 2859. His escalator is a transport aid machine that works on a conveyor belt.

Its primary function is to move people from one height or distance to the other. Jesse Reno received the due credit for inventing the machine like this in 1892, a time where the industrial revolution was shaping Europe and America. It promoted urbanization and productivity as it is widely used today.

Reno’s novelty ride at Coney Island was created in 1895, designed from the original design.

24. Invention: Roller Coaster

Date of Invention: 1898
Inventor: Edwin Prescott

Roller coaster. Source: popsci

One of the major attractions in any amusement park to date is still the roller coaster. Some kids usually have the best time of their lives when they’re on a rollercoaster ride. The history of this fun machine is a simple science of centrifugal force, coined out by Edwin Prescott, a specialist in mechanics who hails from South Dakota.

It was first named the centrifugal railway when it was invented in 1898. It was dependent on centrifugal force and a loop that only allows 4 to 5 riders every 5 minutes.

The improved machines followed suit after Edwin’s.

25. Invention: Diesel Engine

Date of Invention: 1893
Inventor: Rudolf Diesel

Diesel engine. Source: DieselNet

Having studied engineering at the Munich Polytechnic Institute, Rudolf Diesel was a talented German engineer who grew up in France. His initial aim of inventing the diesel engine was to assist small business owners. Today, diesel engines are preferred in some parts of the world for major automobile producers.

The majority of the trucks and heavy-duty vehicles park on diesel engines, even plants. It is widely accepted by industrialists nowadays. Before inventing the diesel engine, he once worked as a thermodynamics engineer in France. This invention took helped the 1st and second industrial revolution era.

It cannot be erased from the history of innovations, save for Diesel’s death.

26. Invention: Automobile

Date of Invention: 1885
Inventor: Karl Benz

Automobile. Source: Pinterest

One of the world’s largest automobile brand to date started in Germany and are still relevant. The history of vehicles or automobiles could be traced back to 1885 when Karl Benz took it upon himself to design a life-changing motor, powered by a combustion engine. The patent for inventing the automobile was received in 1886.

He built all the parts of the automobile himself, including the spark plugs, carburetor, gear, clutch, ignition, and water radiator.

The first automobile to be produced by Karl Benz was a three-wheel vehicle called Motorwagen. The combustion engine depended on hydrocarbon to start. He also built the first-ever known four-wheeled vehicle in 1891 and started his business, which he called Benz and Company. He’s the first recognized, licensed driver in the world.

27. Invention: Barbed Wire

Date of Invention: 1868
Inventor: Michael Kelly

Barbed wire. Source: Wikipedia

Recent tales about how the barbed wire came into existence were traced to different inventors and contributors, but one known man was the brain behind this innovation. Michael Kelly was granted a patent of the barbed wire invention in 1868. Nowadays, barbed wires are used for fencing houses more than farmlands.

Barbed wires were handy in the 1800s it changed things in the west in its early days. Wires were used for fencing farmlands when wooden fences were expensive to afford.

It was essential to fence one’s farmland back then else, livestock will eat up the crops. On the other hand, lumber was short on supply deforestation would be on a high demand if wooden fences continued. Kelly turned things around with his invention.

The method of fencing was changed from wooden fences to wired fencing when barbed wire became common in the west.

28. Invention: Stapler

Date of Invention: 1841
Inventor: Samuel Slocum

Stapler. Source: Wikipedia
Pins are not only used for pushing threads into clothes, when the first set of conventional pins were made in 1835, little did we know that everything came to fall in place for today’s purpose. Slocum invented the pin making machine the pins came in solid heads and were used to tack a joint or make something firm. His eagerness to get pins stocked to papers led to his staple invention.

The essence of making the stapler was to create a machine that forces pins into paper from a grooved in a plate. The first stapler looks very different from what we know now. It was solely used for holding papers together when papers became everyone’s writing material.

29. Invention: Portland Cement

Date of Invention: 1824
Inventor: Joseph Aspdin

Portland cement. Source: Edubilla

Joseph Aspdin is an Englishman who grew up as a bricklayer to become a builder later in life. He is the first to patent a chemical process known for making Portland cement. This is one of the inventions that shook the world it came at the right time it was needed.

Portland cement is one essential substance needed for every construction. The chemical process involved stirring clay and limestone together to almost 1,400 degrees centigrade. It is later grinded to powder and mixed with sand to make a concrete, mix with sand and gravel.

The first major construction built with Portland cement is the Thames Tunnel, later it was used to build the London sewage system. After these, it was widely accepted.

30. Invention: Tin Can

Date of Invention: 1810
Inventor: Peter Durand

Tin can. Source: Interesting Enginnering

The tin can was first invented in 1810 it is surprising and unusual how well it has helped in food preservation and drinks storage in modern days. Little did Peter Durand knew he was doing the world a great favor when he first invented the tin can. The first company to produce tin can in quantities came after it was first developed.

John Hall and Bryan Dorkin took credit for mass production of the tin can, but they weren’t adequate to go round. Decades later, Henry Evans made a faster machine that could double the output. Durand’s tin can was hard to open, except if you have a hammer to bust it open.

Subsequent production had to focus on thinner walls and a key can opener that can still be found in modern cans like that of sardines.

24 Facts About The Colosseum

With nearly two thousand years of history, there is much to know about the Roman Colosseum. The arena once witnessed bloody gladiator battles, epic hunts pitting humans against wild animals, and gruesome executions of prisoners of war and criminals. If you’re visiting soon and want to impress your friends and family here you’ll find many interesting Roman Colosseum facts.

When was the Colosseum built?

Construction of the Colosseum began in 72AD, and it was completed in 80AD.

Who built the Colosseum?

The Colosseum was started under Emperor Vespasian, but he died before it was completed. Construction was finished under his two sons, Emperors Titus and Domitian. The actual building was done largely by Jewish slaves, overseen by Roman engineers and craftsmen.

How many people participated in its construction?

After gaining victory in the first Jewish-Roman war, the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem was sacked and many of the province’s inhabitants were made slaves. They were transported back to Rome and it is estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 were employed in the construction of the Colosseum.

How old is the Colosseum?

Construction of the Colosseum was completed in the year 80 AD, making the building 1,937 years old.

Why was the Colosseum built?

After the great fire of 64 AD, in which a substantial portion of the city burned, Emperor Nero ordered the construction of a magnificent palace for himself in the area that had been devastated. The palace was the Domus Aurea (which today is being excavated and can be visited). Needless to say, the citizens of Rome were not happy about this, so when Nero was deposed and Emperor Vespasian ascended to the throne, he had Nero’s palace complex torn down and ordered that the Colosseum be built on top what had been an artificial lake. The Colosseum was to become a grand amphitheater where all Roman citizens could seek entertainment.

What does the Colosseum’s name mean?

The Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, because it was built by Emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, successors to Nero of the Flavian dynasty. The name “Colosseum” likely comes from the colossal bronze statue of Emperor Nero that used to stand next to the building. This statue was itself modeled on the Colossus of Rhodes.

Emperor Vespasian was the first of the Flavian dynasty. He commissioned the Colosseum.

How big is the Colosseum?

The Colosseum is oval shaped. It is 189 meters long, 156 meters wide, and 48,5 meters tall. The entire building has a surface area of 6 acres.

How many arches does the Colosseum have?

The Colosseum’s outer walls are covered in three levels of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns, and each level has 80 arches. Of these, 76 are numbered with Roman numerals, still visible above them in some places. They served as guides so citizens knew where to find their seats. Out of the 80 arches that made up the external wall at the ground level, only 31 remain intact. They are what visitors see today when they visit.

What material was the Colosseum built from?

The Colosseum was built with an estimated 100,000 cubic meters or travertine stone, which were mined at the quarries of Tivoli, 20 miles away. The stone was held together by thousands of iron clamps.

What is underneath the Colosseum?

The Colosseum’s Hypogeum — which translates to underground. The hypogeum was an elaborate network of tunnels and chambers were gladiators, animals, and prisoners were kept before entering the arena. There were 80 vertical shafts to access the arena from the hypogeum, as well as an extensive network of trap doors through which scenery elements could be deployed during the spectacles.

How many spectators could the Colosseum seat?

The Colosseum could sit between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators.

How many people died in the Colosseum?

It is impossible to know with certainty, but it is believed that as many as 400,000, between gladiators, slaves, convicts, prisoners, and myriad other entertainers, perished in the Colosseum over the 350 or so years during which it was used for human bloodsports and spectacles.

What animals were used in the Colosseum?

Many species of animals were used in the Colosseum. Some in staged hunts, in which armed and trained humans would bring them down, others as “executioners” of people condemned to die in the arena. Lions, tigers, wolves, bears, leopards, wild boar, elephants, hyena, buffalo, hippopotamus, crocodile, and giraffe were all seen in the Colosseum at some point.

How many animals were killed in the Colosseum?

It is impossible to know exactly, but based on accounts that described hunts and spectacles and estimates on the number of events held, it is believed that the number is well into the millions. This is unconfirmed, but it is said the Colosseum was responsible for the eradication of certain species of animals from nearby regions.

What types of spectacles were put on in the Colosseum?

The most common and most well known were gladiator battles. The Colosseum also held hunts, executions (some by wild beasts, the famous damnatio ad bestias) and right at the beginning, a few Naumachia — staged naval battles for which the Colosseum was flooded.

Were gladiator fights as bloody as is believed?

Contrary to the popular vision of a gruesome free-for-all, gladiator fights were somewhat like contemporary boxing matches: fighters were divided into classes according to their size and fighting style, there were referees and doctors monitoring the fight, and often matches didn’t end in death. Match-ups were decided based on the experience, the record, and the styles of the fighters, and successful gladiators could become famous celebrities. Some gladiators had long careers in which they lost many fights without dying. However, this doesn’t mean they were bloodless, they were simply less chaotic than is often imagined. A very large number of gladiators did perish in the arena.

Were Christians martyred in the Colosseum?

Thousands of people perished in the Colosseum over the years, and some of them were undoubtedly Christian, however there is no conclusive historical evidence to support the connection between stories of Christian martyrs and the Colosseum.

Did the events depicted in the movie Gladiator really take place?

Yes and no. Commodus was a real Roman Emperor, and he was known to be a fan of gladiatorial combat and bloodsports generally, so much so that he would sometimes enter the arena himself and fight. However, when he fought he would often do so against handicapped or incapacitated opponents, or against non-predatory animals that couldn’t harm him. He was considered a sadist and these displays earned him significant antipathy from Rome’s citizens, purportedly contributing to his eventual overthrow. However, he didn’t die fighting a hero-of-the-people gladiator in the arena like in the movie.

Were gladiators slaves?

Not officially, but in practice they might as well have been. They were member of the infame class, and upon becoming gladiators (whether by choice or as punishment for a crime) they were stripped of all their rights and became property of their owners, their lives forfeit.

When was the Colosseum last used to host fights?

The exact date is unknown, but the last records of gladiator battles date from the year 435. The Colosseum was still used for hunts after the gladiator battles ceased, these went on for another century approximately.

Why did gladiator fights in the Colosseum stop?

Contrary to popular belief, gladiator fights didn’t cease because of the Empire’s move towards Christianity. Rather, cost was the determining factor. The Colosseum was in a state of decay by the 5th century, the Roman Empire was in steep decline, and the resources needed to maintain the building, pay for gladiators, and provide wild animals were hard to come by.

What catastrophes has the Colosseum suffered?

The Colosseum has experienced large fires at least three times throughout its history, and suffered from at least 4 earthquakes. These events seriously damaged the building and it has been repaired and rebuilt many times over the two millennia it has existed.

What has the Colosseum been used for other than as an arena?

After ceasing to be used as an arena for combat and hunts, at different points in history the Colosseum has been used as a cemetery, a place of worship, for housing, workshops for artisans and merchants, the home of a religious order, a fortified castle, and most recently as a tourist attraction.

How many people visit the Colosseum ever year?

The Colosseum receives over 4 million visitors every year. The Colosseum is the most popular attraction in Italy and one of the most popular in the world.

The Colosseum
Piazza del Colosseo, 1 00184 Rome, Italy Metro: Line B - "Colosseo"
Bus: Line 75/81/673/175/204
Tram: Line 3

American frontier–West of the Appalachians

Hundreds of thousands of pioneers pushed the frontier farther and farther west in the 1790s and early 1800s. From Maine to Georgia, Americans left their established homes and moved west over the Appalachian Mountains toward the Mississippi River. The first pioneers in the area were hunters who had no intention of staying when populations grew and wild game diminished. They usually built rough, three-sided cabins or lean-tos. Hunters were followed by "squatters." Squatters were pioneers who picked out a plot of unoccupied land and settled for a while. This second wave of pioneers hunted extensively but also built enclosed cabins and usually cleared up to 3 or 4 acres for planting corn. Once the population in the area increased, the squatters sold their property to settlers and moved west again toward the edge of the frontier. The third wave of pioneers consisted of entire families, settlers who had come to stay. Ideally they arrived in spring, in time to plant crops and build a solid cabin before winter.

Settlers brought only a few necessities with them. A rifle and an ax were top items on their moving list. Other essential items included a hoe, a metal V-shaped plow, a hammer, and a saw. Others tools were made at the settlement site. Livestock generally included a horse, a cow for milk, perhaps a few sheep herded by a dog, and a pig or two. Women brought an iron kettle, a few pots and pans, and a spinning wheel for spinning the sheep's wool into yarn for clothing. Blankets, a family Bible, and perhaps a few china plates were the only other items settlers brought to their new home.

Pioneer homes

A pioneer home was a log cabin 20 to 30 feet long and 15 to 20 feet wide. The pioneer chopped down trees with his ax, and neighbors gathered to help him raise the logs to build the cabin. Women and children filled the spaces between the logs with clay dirt, moss, or mud. Occasions when neighbors came together to help construct a cabin were called house-raisings. House-raisings generally turned into parties called frolics.

Since nails were not available, the boys of the family whittled wooden pegs to use for securing the cabin roof, which was made of overlapping boards. One side of the cabin included a large fireplace for cooking and warmth. The cabin had one door and sometimes one window covered by paper greased with animal fat. Greasing made the paper transparent (easy to see through) and resistant to rain.

At first, the cabin floor was dirt then the pioneers replaced it with puncheons, large logs split lengthwise in half. They were laid on the dirt flat side up to form a floor. Likewise, tables and benches were made from split logs of varying sizes. When time permitted, most families added a loft this was where the children slept. Besides providing room to cook and sleep, the cabin served as a workshop for making tools and whittling kitchen utensils such as bowls and forks.

Carving out a livelihood

Settlers worked from dawn to dusk to clear their land and plant a crop of corn. Seeds readily grew in the rich never-before-farmed land. With only a hoe and a plow, a farmer could produce 30 to 50 bushels of corn per acre. The corn was ground into cornmeal between two heavy stones. Cornmeal was used in baking a variety of breads. Settlers also made whiskey from corn. Peaches were generally the first fruit trees planted, because they bore fruit within two to three years. Peach brandy was a favorite frontier drink.

Pioneers hunted wild game such as turkey, duck, deer, bear, opossum, and rabbit. Wild turkeys were so fat they were easy targets as they sat in trees or walked along the ground. As livestock numbers increased, pork from pigs became a regular pioneer meat. Since there was no refrigeration, pioneers preserved meat by smoking, sun-drying, or salt-curing. Salt was a valuable necessity, but it was in short supply on the frontier and cost a great deal if it could be bought at all. Groups of settlers journeyed together to natural salt licks, where they gathered enough salt for a year. Milk supplied by the family's cow was the chief drink. It was also churned into butter.

Women and girls planted vegetable gardens. They grew turnips, pumpkins, beans, cabbages, and potatoes. Dill and sage were the most common herbs grown. Women and children also gathered wild fruits and nuts such as berries, plums, grapes, crab apples, walnuts, and hickory nuts. Wild greens were gathered for eating and for brewing tea.

Growing settlements soon had a blacksmith, a woodcrafter, and a frontier store or a peddler who brought basic goods from the east. Peddlers sold items such as cloth, nails, copper or iron pots, tools, lead for bullets, and gunpowder. The peddlers or storekeepers were generally paid in cornmeal, furs, or corn whiskey. Pioneers established a mill for grinding corn and a sawmill for processing logs into planks.


The mother in the frontier family was responsible for providing clothing. Store-bought clothes were rare. The first clothing of frontiersmen was made of deerskins, sewn together and decorated with fringe. Women disliked working with the animal skins they preferred to raise a crop of flax, from which linen could be spun. Sheep were sheared each year for wool. Both flax and wool were spun into yarn on a spinning wheel. Linsey-woolsey, a combination of flax and wool, was the favorite material for making clothing. Pure linen was cooler and therefore best for summer. Pioneers often did not wear shoes in warm weather. The shoes they wore at other times were made from animal hides.

Social gatherings

Settlers had little leisure time, but when a social occasion presented itself, they enjoyed the time immensely. House-raisings, weddings, harvest competitions, and quilting bees provided a much needed break from work. Weddings brought guests from miles away, and celebrations often lasted two or three days. Women prepared mountains of food for feasting corn whiskey and peach brandy flowed freely and dancing to a fiddler's music could go on all night. Regardless of the occasion, any men who were present usually engaged in sporting matches of wrestling, shooting, and racing.

Harvest fun included corn-husking contests. Groups of people sat around roughly equal piles of recently harvested corn. When given the signal to start, each group worked quickly to try to husk their entire pile first. Drinking, dancing, and sporting events accompanied the husking parties.

Quilting bees were more than women's sewing get-togethers. They generally included men and children. The men drank whiskey and talked of local happenings. Children ran and played among the adults. Dancing was also a favorite activity at quilting bees.

Isolation decreases

By 1815, frontier life was transforming. Roads and canals were reaching farther into the frontier (see Chapter 15). Communications with the East improved as east-west travel became easier. Thousands of settlers arrived in a steady stream. Larger towns such as Cincinnati, Ohio, grew into trading centers with markets four days a week. Pioneers cleared more and more land and began growing enough crops and livestock to sell at the markets. They used their profits to buy goods such as sugar, coffee, pretty cloth, and tools that could not be made at home. Prosperity increased, and those living as far west as the Mississippi River no longer had to live lonely, isolated lives.

Evolution of the wheel

Early humans in the Palaeolithic era (15,000 to 750,000 years ago) discovered that heavy, round objects could more easily be moved by rolling them than bulky, irregular ones. The realisation was made that some heavy objects could be transported if a round object such as a fallen tree was placed underneath and the heavy object rolled over it. However, diagrams on ancient clay tables suggest the wheel did not materialise for thousands of years until a potter’s wheel was used in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in 3500 BC.

The oldest wooden wheel discovered so far was found in Ljubljana, Slovenia and is believed to date back to about 3200 BC. It was about the same time that the wheel was first used for transportation on chariots. With a need for greater speed and manoeuvrability, the Egyptians created the spoked wheel around 2000 BC, while Celtic chariots a millennium later employed iron rims for greater strength. However, the wheel remained largely unimproved until the 19th Century when Robert William Thompson invented the pneumatic tyre, a rubber wheel using compressed air which paved the way for automobile and bicycle tyres.

Wheels through the ages

The wheel has been used extensively and improved upon throughout history, but how have humans harnessed its practicality?

As shown in the illustration above, early Homo sapiens realised that round objects could be easily moved by rolling them. Their descendants advanced this rolling technique into the transportation of large objects on cylindrical logs. The invention of the wheel and axle allowed a rolling log to be placed through a hole in a wheel to create a cart. Chariot racing was influential in the evolution of the spoked wheel as they allowed chariots to move much faster. The invention of air filled rubber tyres allowed wheels to be much faster, sturdier and stronger, ultimately redefining transportation.

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The Importance of Fire to Human Life

It’s “fire season” again in the American West. Then again, it’s been fire season here on Earth for a very long time now. While we humans have had a profound influence on fire regimes, fire itself predates us by hundreds of millions of years it appeared on Earth concomitantly with terrestrial plants, which both produced the oxygen necessary for fire and acted as a biomass fuel.

In their “A Burning Story” Juli G. Pausus and Jon E. Keeley review the role of fire in the history of life, with its “strong ecological and evolutionary consequences for biota, including humans.” There is evidence for fire 440 million years ago and charcoal in 400 million-year-old Devonian deposits. The Carboniferous, when oxygen made up 31% of the atmospheric mix (compared with 21% now), would have been fire’s greatest reign before hominids.

Soil and climate have traditionally been seen as the contexts for plant evolution, but new theories add fire to the mix. The ability of plants to sprout after fire, the development of thick barks, and smoke-stimulated germination are three factors discussed by Pausus and Keeley.

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They go on to discuss fire in the pre-industrial human world, going back to our ancestors in eastern Africa around 1.6 million years ago. Their date for the earliest non-controversial evidence of fire out of Africa, in the Near East, is approximately 790,000 years ago. Controlled fire — used in cooking, surviving colder climates, and, ultimately, farming – allowed for a transformation of human life.

Along with stone tools, the controlled use of fire is the most significant technology in human evolution, note Roebroeks, Villa, and Trinkaus. However, the question of when humans started using fire is much debated. They examined the evidence for habitual use of fire in Europe and dated it to 300,000-400,000 years ago, after humans moved into northern latitudes.

The great problem in the evidence is that anthropogenic fire produces the same signs as natural fire from lightning, volcanic activity, and spontaneous combustion: charred bone, charcoal fragments, heated flints and other stones. “Much of the debate on the history of human control of fire relates to the problem of the correct interpretation of possible fire indicators.”

But there’s no longer much debate on the importance of fire to life on earth, human development, and its future in a radically disrupted global climate.

Matchsticks were invented in 1805 . How did humans get fire in everyday lives before then? - History

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Timeline - The 1800s

The United States was expanded and explored in many ways during the first and subsequent decades of the 1800s. We bought territory from the French in the Louisiana Purchase, make roads for pioneers to reach the Mississippi River, then sent explorers with Indian guides to breech the passes of the Rocky Mountains and find a route to the Pacific Ocean.

More 1800s

Indian petroglyphs mentioned in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nemaha River, Troy, Kansas. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Historic New Orleans wharf scene along the Mississippi River. Courtesy Library of Congress.

U.S. Timeline - The 1800s

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November 1, 1800 - U.S. President John Adams is the first President to live in the White House, then known as the Executive Mansion and sixteen days later, the United States Congress holds its first session in Washington, D.C. He would be defeated for the presidency by December 6 by Thomas Jefferson.

Slavery is ended in the Northwest Territory, stemming from the Ordinance of 1787 establishing the territory and written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had proposed that all slavery be prohibited by the year 1800, but that proposal had been defeated by one vote.

January 20, 1801 - John Marshall is appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

February 17, 1801 - Thomas Jefferson is elected as the 3rd president of the United States in a vote of the House of Representatives after tying Aaron Burr, his Vice President, in the electoral college with 73 electors due to a flaw in the original vote for two system, which would be corrected in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.

March 4, 1801 - Thomas Jefferson is inaugurated for his first term as President of the United States.

February 11, 1802 - Lydia Child is born and would become a foremost author expounding the idea of an American abolitionist.

March 16, 1802 - West Point, New York is established. Four months later, the United States Military Academy opens on July 4.

May 22, 1802 - Martha Washington, the first First Lady of the United States, passes.

October 2, 1802 - War ends between Tripoli and Sweden, but continues with the United States, despite a negotiated peace, due to compensation disagreements.

December 20, 1803 - The United States of America takes title to the Louisiana Purchase, which stretches the United States from the Canadian border to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

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