Inspiring Inventions: Toothpaste Tube

Art inspires science in the history of the toothpaste tube! Before the 1850s “toothpaste” was not actually a paste but more commonly manufactured as a powder & included chalk as a main ingredient. Later in the 1850s, as other ingredients were added to toothpaste which gave it a consistency we’re more familiar with today, manufacturers and dentists sold their toothpastes & powders in jars.

Many dentists, in fact, sold their own brands. One such dentist was Dr. Washington Sheffield of Connecticut who, is responsible for the invention of both toothpaste as we know it and the collapsible toothpaste tube. Sheffield got the idea on a trip in Paris with his son Lucius. They happened upon painters who were squeezing paints from collapsible tubes. Sheffield then devised a tube for his own ready-made toothpaste to distribute to his patients.

He created another common dental product that we still use today–mouthwash, or “elixir balm” as he called it.

After perfecting his ready-made paste by adding mint to it, in the mid-1870s Dr. Sheffield began his own manufacturing company called Sheffield Dentifrice Co. to produce the popular ready-made toothpaste and balms.


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Junkin Tips & Tricks: 5

Junkin Tips 5As always, Happy Junkin’so you can get to Steampunkin’!

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Inpsiring Inventions: The Telegraph

Thanks to the telegraph, smoke-signals, drum beats, marathon runners, and Pony Express riders on horseback-all inhibited by weather, distance, and geography-were no longer the sole means of communicating across country.

The telegraph revolutionized communication, and while its demise came with the invention of the telephone and the radio, it paved the way for many inventions.

The telegraph itself is basic: “a key, a battery, wire, a line of poles between stations, and a receiver.”

Video courtesy of

Here’s a brief history of the telegraph:

  • 1832-36 Samuel Morse, Leonard Gale, and Alfred Vail develop the telegraph which “worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations.”
  • 1830s Morse, with Vail, develops a code that “assigned a set of dots and dashes to each letter of the English alphabet and allowed for the simple transmission of complex messages” across long distances.
  • 1837 Morse files a patent for the telegraph!
  • 1843 Morse & Vail receive funding from U.S. Congress to test their telegraph system.
  • 1844 The very first message was sent via the telegraph. It read: “What hath God wrought!”–something that Vail often said to Morse.
  • 1845 A small group of investors purchased a license from Morse, Vail, & Leonard for the telegraph for $15,000. They formed The Magnetic Telegraph Company (later known as Western Union).
  • 1846 The first commercial telegraph line was completed. It ran from Washington, D.C. to New York City.
  • 1860 U.S. Congress passed The Pacific Telegraph Act approving the construction of a transcontinental telegraph line (in part because of the looming Civil War).
  • 1861 Western Union laid the first transcontinental telegraph line!
  • 1866 The first permanent telegraph cable was laid across the Atlantic Ocean with help from the U.S. Navy vessel the “Niagara.”
  •  1874 Thomas Edison made an improvement to the telegraph. Edison introduced the “Quadraplex system, which allowed for 4 messages to be transmitted simultaneously using the same wire.”
  • 1906 S.O.S. (…_ _ _…) is established as the worldwide emergency signal of distress. While S.O.S. was not an abbreviation of a saying, it was chosen for being easy to remember and differentiate, in popular usage, it came to mean “Save Our Ship,” “Save Our Souls,” and “Send Out Succor.” The most famous S.O.S. message sent was by the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912 when it hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. and then sank.

The telegraph  was a truly remarkable invention STOP


“Morse Code & The Telegraph” on 

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Junkin Tips & Tricks: 4

Junkin Tips 4

As always, Happy Junkin’so you can get to Steampunkin’!

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Notable Women: Mary Anderson

There are many inventions we use everyday thanks to great minds. One such mind is that of Mary Anderson who invented the windshield wiper!

The National Inventors Hall of Fame notes that while Anderson, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, was “touring the city of New York in a trolley car on a snowy day in the early 1900s. [Mary] conceived of her idea of a windshield wiper blade that could be operated from the inside by the trolley driver.” Mary patented her invention in 1903.

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In 1905, she tried to sell the rights to her invention, but she was rejected because it was not considered of “commercial value” to manufacturers (as the automotive industry had not yet skyrocketed). Her patent expired 1920, and only 2 years later Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to include windshield wipers among a car’s standard equipment.

Mary was successful, despite not profiting from her invention; she managed an apartment building in Birmingham and a cattle ranch and vineyard in California.

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Mary Anderson’s design for the windshield wiper is the basic one we use today (with some modern adjustments along the way). In fact several patents for reinvented windshield wipers are filed each year. From 2010 to now, there were a staggering 390 alone!

While there are no doubt many tweaks, adjustments, and reinventions–thanks to Mary Anderson we all drive safer because of her marvelous invention!


Dashka Slater, “Who made the windshield wiper?” NY Times Magazine.

“Mary Anderson.” The National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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Inspiring Inventions: The Singer Sewing Machine

The Singer Sewing Machine is mistakenly thought of as the first sewing machine for domestic use. However, Elias Howe (inventor & machinist), not Issac Singer, is the father of the sewing machine.

On Sept. 10, 1846 Elias Howe’s patent for the first sewing machine was granted. Howe’s sewing machine had a “needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and an automatic feed.” At first, the general public, and tailors especially, were skeptical of his machine. It was rudimentary and not without its flaws.

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It was Singer whose tweaks and adjustments that improved the machine who was able to sway the American public.

While it may not have been the first sewing machine invented, it was the first standardized technology to be mass marketed. Singer Sewing Machines were sold door-to-door and were promoted by Issac Singer, their manufacturer, as a way to free women from laborious and time-consuming hand sewing.

It was also widely successful. In the United States alone in 1896 between 600,000-700,000 sewing machines were sold. International consumption of American sewing machines generated $67,000,000 dollars from 1865-1895! says it best: “In the whole field of invention it would be difficult to find a device which has…brought gold to the rich, good wage to the worker, and best of all, sadly needed rest to weary fingers and aching eyes in many a cottage and garret.”

On a personal note, Singer Sewing Machines are dearly cherished in my family. I inherited mine from my Great Aunt Mary. I think of her every time I use it. Each of us (me, my siblings and cousins) grew up learning to sew on our mom’s and grammy’s laps. Those memories are close to my heart, just as the many beautiful sewn items made by them are.


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Happy National Pie Day!

Happy Nat’l Pie Day! I love pies, both eating them & baking them. To relax my eyes from taking apart tiny things I bake & cook.


Photo credit: Jessica Diehl, Scissortail Photography.

I also bake to have fun. For our wedding, I wanted to gather all of the ladies I love in my kitchen and bake pies for the next day with them. A little crazy, I’ll admit but it was such a blast. I will have the memory of dancing around, laughing, and baking pies for a lifetime.


Another wonderful memory–everyone telling us what their favorite pie was!

I’d love to share some of my favorite recipes with you.


Download my fun pie recipe cards below!

Wedding Recipe 2Wedding Recipe 4Wedding Recipe 3


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