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8 Everyday Items From the Past That Still Work Perfectly

Products we grew up with that are as good today as they were then

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Clockwise from top left: Getty Images; Kevin Britland /Alamy; Getty Images (4); Steve Cukrov/Alamy; Getty Images

We take for granted certain items that are part of our daily lives because they have been around since we were kids. We shouldn’t because if we didn’t have them, what would we use instead?

Here’s a recognition of eight items that are consistently relevant, work perfectly, and are unlikely to find a replacement in our homes, much less our hearts.

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Baking Soda

The German pharmacist Valentin Rose discovered sodium bicarbonate in 1801. In 1846, American bakers John Dwight and Austin Church established the first U.S. factory to produce baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. How can you not love this inexpensive miracle product in the yellow box?

It can be used to leaven bread and cookies, tenderize meat, polish silver, remove splinters, irrigate our sinuses, combat body odor, make refrigerators smell better, relieve itchy bug bites and sunburn and remove tough stains. It is also used as a mouthwash and teeth whitener, pesticide remover for fruits and vegetables, oil and grease fire extinguisher, weed killer, shoe deodorizer and canker sore soother. Is there anything else in the world that can do all that? I don’t think so.

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Patented in 1865 by chemist Robert Augustus Chesebrough, petroleum jelly, originally a byproduct from petroleum fields, is best known as a go-to moisturizer for every body part and a burn and scar healer. Chesebrough started the brand name Vaseline in 1870.

By 1875, Americans were buying Vaseline at the rate of a jar a minute. Sure, there are other petroleum jellies, but Vaseline’s triple-purified mixture of mineral oils and waxes is the genericide, the brand name everyone uses to describe the product.

The Blender

In 1922, Stephen Poplavski wired small spinning blades to an electric motor in a clear glass container to make the newly popular malted milkshakes. We still use the simple blender to make soups, sauces, bread crumbs, purees, smoothies, specialty coffees, cocktails and milkshakes. Whichever brand you use, you’ve got those blades at the bottom shredding up the good stuff.


in 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented their riveted denim work pants. Competitors in the denim market, Wrangler and Lee, appeared in 1905 and 1911, respectively.

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When cowboys wore them in Western movies, they quickly became a fashion statement. They morphed from being a symbol of cool in the 1950s to flower power and hippies to Americana as designer wear, big and baggy, low and sexy, skinny and comfy. Jeans remain as workwear for many outdoor — and indoor — workers.

Whatever look you want, we continue to have them as a staple of our wardrobe.


The first paper currency was introduced in the New World by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690. Wallets resembling those we now use soon followed. By the 1920s, Hermes started designing fashionable leather wallets. In many cultures, a wallet symbolizes wealth and prosperity, but a wallet doesn’t have to be expensive to become an integral part of your life.

It’s an accessory we are careful not to lose even if we only carry plastic and ID cards today. Most of us keep ours until it wears out and needs to be replaced.

Library Books

The Library Company was America’s first successful lending library and oldest cultural institution. It was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin as a subscription library supported by its shareholders.

During America’s early years, books were not widely available, and people like Franklin donated some of their collections. The ability to borrow books is so crucial that operating public libraries is a function of most local governments.

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Whether it is a matter of finances, shelf space or the availability of an out-of-print or hard-to-find book, the library book is something we can count on to open our minds to new worlds.

Ice Cream Cones

The first ice cream cone was produced by Italo Marchiony, an Italian immigrant who received a patent in December 1903. It resulted in a cone made by pouring batter into a mold.

A similar creation was independently introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Ernest Hamwi, a Syrian concessionaire. His creation eventually resulted in the rolled waffle cone.

For over 100 years, we’ve enjoyed these cones with our ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. Today, Joy Baking Group is the primary purveyor of ice cream cones in America today, baking more than 2 billion cones per year.

Wooden Matches

Even though we have lighters, torches, and matchbooks, there’s something ritualistic about lighting a fireplace and candles with a wooden match. It burns slower than a paper one without singing your finger. You usually only need to use one to get the flame glowing.

Friction matches were invented in 1826 by John Walker, a British chemist, who accidentally discovered that a stick coated with chemicals burst into flame when scraped across his hearth. Simultaneously, the first Lucifer matches, essentially the same as friction matches in that they ignite by being struck against most surfaces, were being manufactured in Mechanicstown, Maryland.

Little boxes of wooden matches are still available at the store and in certain dining establishments and are great to have around the house in case you want to fire up some heat or a little romance.

Share your experience: What household item have you used since childhood and still love? Tell us in the comments below.

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