Seven Inventions from the 1920s That We Still Use Today

Salesperson demonstrates a vacuum cleaner to a housewife in her

As the 1920s came roaring in, the United States was experiencing a time of economic prosperity. With that prosperity came a desire for convenience and more leisure time. For this reason, many inventions in the 1920s are related to entertainment and making domestic life easier. These inventions not only drastically shaped the 1920s but shaped the world as we know it today.

Check out these seven 1920s inventions that are still used today.

1. The Electric Automatic Traffic Signal

Early traffic signal invention and Garret Morgan, the inventor.

Garret Morgan is credited with inventing the first electric automatic traffic signal in 1923. Although other types of traffic signals were in use since 1868, Morgan’s design used a T-shaped pole and had three positions. The patented design was sold to General Electric for $40,000.

According to the United States Access Board, the United States had roughly 300,000 traffic lights in 2018. Just imagine how many are in use across the whole world!

2. Quick-Frozen Food

Can you imagine not having a pack of frozen peas in the freezer just when you need it? Or how about a frozen pizza for when a craving hits? Well, frozen veggies and food as we know them today haven’t always been a staple in every home! Clarence Birdseye invented and offered Americans the first quick-frozen foods in the 1920s after noticing how good a fish kept if it was frozen quickly rather than slowly.

3. The Band-Aid®

Young girl wearing a band-aid. The band-aid was first created in 1920

Earle Dickson, a Johnson and Johnson employee, created the first adhesive bandage for small wounds in 1920. Dickson invented the special bandage for his wife, Josephine, who seemed to cut and burn herself regularly while cooking. Now, she could easily dress a wound herself.

Johnson and Johnson mass produced machine-made Band-Aids® in 1924. Over time, these bandages have evolved to be made in a variety of shapes and sizes and in various materials. Some have added medication, and they can be a favorite decorative “sticker” to many children around the world!

Over 100 billion Band-Aids® have been made.

4. Water Skis

In 1922, Ralph Samuelson created a new sport—water skiing! It quickly became a favorite summer pastime. Samuelson first used a pair of boards as skis and a clothesline as a towrope. He tried his idea on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota, where his brother pulled him in a boat that reached 20 mph. It took him a bit of time to perfect the best position for skimming the water, but once he did, he never looked back!

aquaplaning came before water skiing. It was also an invention of the 1920s and early 1910s
Before water skiing, aquaplaning was a popular water sport.

Samuelson spent the next 15 years performing water skiing shows and teaching other people the skill.

5. Electric Blender

Are you a fan of milk shakes? The first electric blender made its appearance in 1922.

Stephen J. Poplawski is credited for the electric blender that was first used for making milk shakes and malts. In 1932, Poplawski received patents for a blender that worked well for fruits and vegetables.

The electric blender made cool creamy treats and pureed fruits and veggies easily. It quickly became a popular kitchen appliance in most homes.

6. Television

A family watches television

Oh, what would we do without the greatest pastime in this day and age—and yes, I’m talking about binge-watching the television. Inventors Philo Taylor Farnsworth, John Logie Baird, and Charles Francis Jenkins are credited with the idea and creation of televisions as we know them today.

Before electronic television, there was mechanical television. The world’s first electronic television is credited to Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927. Though other mechanical television inventors such as John Logie Baird and Charles Francis Jenkins had successes in television technology, Farnsworth’s invention is considered the direct ancestor of our modern electronic television.

Early ad of a vacuum cleaner

Some estimates say there are as many as 120.6 million TVs in homes across America today!

7. Vacuum Cleaner

Though the first vacuum cleaner can be traced back to about 1860, it was in the mid-1920s that the vacuum became much more efficient and easier to use. In fact, in 1920 Air-Way Sanitizer of Toledo, Ohio, introduced a vacuum cleaner with a disposable bag. In 1926, the popular vacuum company Hoover developed a positive agitation system that greatly increased dirt removal efficiency. Cleaning household carpets became a lot easier and much faster.

Today, vacuum cleaners come in all sorts of varieties such as cordless, upright, central, wet and dry, and even robotic! What do you think was your grandmother’s favorite 1920s invention? You can learn more about your ancestors in the 1920s by finding them in the 1930 United States census records. Find them now!

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