For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.


If nothing else, war time brings rapid innovation and invention for the military, which then trickles down to the civilian level. Here are five of the interesting inventions that came out of WWII:

Duck tape: Yes, the original spelling was d.u.c.k. As in, water off a duck’s back. Which was the one of the purposes of this tape—to be waterproof. Also, it was made from fabric called duck cloth. A quick search of Wikipedia turns up the idea came from a an ordnance-factory worker named Vesta Stoudt who was concerned about the seals being used on ammunition boxes. She thought a fabric tape would work better. Click here for the rest of the story.

Its original color was olive drab. After the war, the tape was found useful for duct work (d.u.c.t.) and the color changed to the more recognizable silver of today.

Aerosol can: I alluded to this yesterday in my post about hairstyles that had to be created without the help of hairspray. During the war, the U.S. government was looking for a way to distribute insect spray to help prevent malaria. The winning idea came from researchers at the Department of Agriculture.

Silly Putty: A happy accidental discovery when the folks at GE were trying to produce a synthetic rubber to compensate for the severe rubber shortage. It wouldn’t work for tires, but was fun for kids.

Slinky: Richard James, while trying to solve the problem of stabilizing sensitive equipment on battleships, knocked one of his springs over and saw it step down over things. (And now you’ll be singing the song for the rest of the day.)

Penicillin: the discovery and mass production of penicillin took a long and windy road, which accelerated during the war years. According to wikipedia:

“By June 1942, just enough US penicillin was available to treat ten patients.[31] In July 1943, the War Production Board drew up a plan for the mass distribution of penicillin stocks to Allied troops fighting in Europe.[32] The results of fermentation research on corn steep liquor at the Northern Regional Research Laboratory at Peoria, Illinois, allowed the United States to produce 2.3 million doses in time for the invasion of Normandy in the spring of 1944. After a worldwide search in 1943, a mouldy cantaloupe in a Peoria, Illinois market was found to contain the best strain of fungus for production using the corn steep liquor process”

Other inventions include the computer, jet engine, and microwave.