Technology has changed more in the last 10 years than ever in human history, and I’ve got a drawer full of near-obsolete iPods, tablets, iPhones and other had-to-have gadgets to prove it – and some are just a few years old! And as much as I love all of these gadgets, sometimes the fleeting temporality of their usefulness wears on me.
Perhaps that’s why I take such satisfaction in ordinary products that never seem to change – not because the manufacturers are lazy, but because they just got it right the first time. So here’s 10 of my favorite inventions that haven’t changed in almost a century.
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The Pyrex Measuring Cup
Introduced in 1925, this iconic and omnipresent kitchen staple has graced the cabinets of millions of Americans for nearly a century. There’s even a Pyrex measuring cup in the Julia Child kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian! The design has barely changed in a century (if it ain’t broke), but Corning did swap out the original closed-loop handle for an open in in the 1980s, allowing you to stack even more Pyrex measuring cups within it.
Murphy’s Oil Soap
This iconic soap brand has been in constant production since 1910. While you may think of it primarily as a cleaner for wood, the petroleum-free soap boasts a myriad of uses that have kept it popular for so long — anything from cleaning and polishing horse tack, to removing brake residue from hubcaps, to dissolving water-based inks from acid-free paper. So next time little Timmy gets a bit… adventurous with the Crayolas, don’t panic. Just reach for your Murphy’s Oil.
Lodge Cast Iron Pans
Lodge has been manufacturing some of the most popular (and unchanging) cast-iron cookware since its founding by namesake Joseph Lodge in 1896. It’s still operating in its original location in South Pittsburg, TN, and is still run by descendant of its founder to this day. We swear by our Lodge cookware in our house!
Curiously Strong Altoids
Originally formulated to treat intestinal discomfort (yikes!), these curiously strong mints have remained in production since the 1780s. Many variants have come and gone over the centuries (chocolate-covered Altoids, liquorice-flavored Altoids, even sour Altoids), but the iconic, minty, kinda-chalky white pucks haven’t changed in almost 240 years.
Opinel No. 8 Folding Knife
The timeless Opinel No. 8 folding knife has barely changed since Joseph Opinel finalized the design in 1890. Crafted from carbon steel and beech wood, the Opinel folding knife originally proved popular with farmers, ranchers, and winemakers of the day, and remains a popular (an economical) option for every-day carry. It’s gained quite a design pedigree over the years, including an exhibition at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art as a ‘design masterpiece.’
The Inimitable Carmex
Anyone who grew up with cold winters should have fond memories of this legendary lip balm and its charming yellow-topped jars. Carmex was invented by Wisconsonite Alfred Woebling in the early 1930s, who produced the balm in his family kitchen until 1957(!), after which the Wobelings finally stood up a full production facility. Known for its tingly, effervescent feel, Carmex remains a small-but-mighty competitor in the crowded world of lip balms.
The Humble Q-Tip
Knocking on the door of its 100th birthday, these tiny-but-mighty earwax fighters first saw the light of day in 1923. Legend has it that Polish-American inventor Leo Gerstenzang watched his wife twist cotton onto the ends of toothpicks to clean nooks and crannies around the house, and viola! The idea for the Q-Tip (original name: Baby Gays) was born. Apparently, the “Q” stands for “Quality.”
The Zippo Lighter
It seems like these iconic lighters have been around forever, but the Zippo may be the real baby of this list. Invented in 1933 by George G. Blaisdell, the Zippo has been in continuous production ever since, with the company boasting its 500-millionth unit produced in 2012. The lighters really gained a foothold in WWII, when the company ceased domestic sales and dedicated all of its manufacturing might to the US military. Soldiers loved the Zippo’s “windproof” ability to stay lit in harsh weather – a feature enabled by the clever design of the windscreen. Even more impressive, the company boasts an unlimited lifetime guarantee for every Zippo in existence, no matter how old.
The Classic Face Cream Noxzema:
Introduced in 1914, this iconic face cream was originally formulated as a treatment for sunburn. The blend of camphor, menthol, eucalyptus and phenol hasn’t changed much in 107 years, and remains a popular option for facial cleansing and make-up removal.
The Most Powerful Toy in the World: Lego
While the Danish Lego Group began with wooden toys in 1932, it wasn’t until 1958 that the iconic plastic brick made its first appearance – and what an appearance it’s proven to be. Lego Group estimates that it produced more than 400 million lego bricks in its first 50 years, with current annual production estimated at approximately 36 billion pieces (that’s around 1140 every second). Lego can even be called the world’s preeminent tire manufacturer, as it produces more than 306 million Lego tires every year!