The Surprising Origins of Child-Proof Lids


While the modern versions of child-proof lids have been around for decades, their history may extend back thousands of years.

Dr. Henri J. Breault of Tecumseh, Ontario, is credited with inventing the current-day child-proof cap in 1967. At the time, children were inadvertently ingesting household medicines intended for adults at a terrifying rate. It was a global epidemic, and Canada alone suffered 100,000 annual cases, claiming the lives of at least 100 kids each year.

Breault, a career pediatrician and father of two, just couldn’t take it anymore. “At three o’clock [one] morning,” recalled his widow, Monica, he came home and said, “‘You know, I’ve had it! I am tired of pumping children’s stomachs when they’re taking pills that they shouldn’t be having! I’ve got to do something about it.’”

After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally invented and patented a device dubbed “The Palm N' Turn,” and the rate of local child poisonings dropped by a staggering 91 percent. The ingenious device rapidly swept the globe and is responsible for saving untold numbers of young lives. In light of this remarkable service, Tecumseh established the Henri J. Breault Award in 2000 to reward its most honorable residents.

But while Breault’s achievements are certainly worthy of the highest praise, the ancient Mayans may have beaten him to the punch. In 1986, the University of Texas at San Antonio sent a group of archaeologists to examine the ruins of Río Azul in present-day Guatemala. Built by the Mayans in 500 BCE, the site contained a number of pots and bottles, one of which proved surprisingly difficult to open.

In the words of one team-member, “The lid to this unusual vessel ... twists off much like a child-proof cap on a modern medicine vial.”

So what exactly did this remarkable artifact contain? Chocolate.

Knowing the intense religious significance of chocolatey beverages to Mayan culture, archaeologist Grant Hall collected samples from the pot’s interior and sent them off to none other than the Hershey Laboratories for analysis. Their results proved conclusive: History’s first known child-proof lid had been created to protect a vat of chocolate.

George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]


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