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10 surprising facts about Canadian innovations

  • Dec 15, 2014
  • 639 words
  • 3 minutes
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Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing a selection of my favourite stats and feats from my new book Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures (in stores now!). If you enjoy trivia, particularly Canadian trivia, or have a particular fascination with Canadian facts and accomplishments, you’ll surely enjoy my book. In the hopes of further capturing your interest, I’ve been sharing a top-10 selection of items from each category that particularly stood out for me. This week: innovations.

1. If apple pie is a traditional American dish, the McIntosh Apple is as Canadian as it gets. In 1811, John McIntosh discovered an apple sapling on his farm near Dundela, Ontario, which subsequently produced a fruit with a great taste, texture, aroma and appearance. It was also ideally suited for growing in Canada’s colder climate. John’s son Allan established a nursery for the species and promoted it widely. It has since become one of the most popular apple varieties in Canada and around the world.

2. The nutritious baby food, Pablum, was created in 1930 by Alan Brown, Theo Drake and Fred Tisdall, to help prevent and treat rickets in children. The popular product improved the health of millions of children around the world and led to ideas for a number of other nutritious foods for infants. The three doctors at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids donated royalties from the product back to the hospital.

3. Here’s something nutty: Montreal’s Marcellus Gilmore Edson was the first person to patent modern peanut butter in 1884.

4. Spend any amount of time in the Maritimes and you’ll see a lot of fog. So is it any wonder the world’s first steam-operated foghorn was invented in New Brunswick? In 1854, after first-hand experience with the Bay of Fundy fog, Robert Foulis invented the device. The first was installed on the province’s Partridge Island in 1859. Nations around the globe subsequently adopted the use of the horn.

5. Thomas Edison gets all the recognition, but a Toronto medical student named Henry Woodward, with help from a city innkeeper named Matthew Evans, developed and patented a predecessor to Edison’s light bulb in 1874. The duo didn’t have the money to produce and sell the bulbs, and sold the patent in 1875 to Edison. His light bulb debuted in 1879.

6. A Canadian project during the Second World War to develop better Arctic clothing for the military led to the first patent for artificial fur.

7. What do you do when you screw up? Invent a new screwdriver. After cutting his hand using a spring-loaded screwdriver in Montreal, Peter Lymburner Robertson decided to improve the tool. The result: the Robertson Drive screwdriver, which was patented in 1909. The square-headed driver and screw could be driven more quickly and reduced the slipping common with other screwdrivers.

8. It’s oh, so simple! And saves countless backbreaking hours of work. Plus, it’s hardly changed in more than 80 years: the paint roller. It was invented by Norman Breakey of Toronto in 1940. Unfortunately, Breakey never got to roll in the profits, as he was never able to make enough rollers to profit from it before competitors made slightly different variations and sold it as their own invention.

9. The Jolly Jumper, the device designed for infants, was invented by Canadian Susan Olivia Poole in 1910. The original was made for Poole’s first child Joseph. It wasn’t until 1948 — and after all seven of Poole’s children had used the device — that the Jolly Jumper was mass-produced for retail. Today, there are three models available.

10. It’s a name synonymous with lady’s undergarments: WonderBra. And in 1939, the Canadian Lady Corset Company was the first to begin marketing bras under that brand name.


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