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The top 5 Toronto inventions of all time

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 16, 2014

Toronto inventionsThe best Toronto inventions of all time are a little tough to settle on. Of Toronto's many gifts to the world--peameal bacon sandwiches, table hockey, the motor technology behind the Scarborough RT (you're welcome, Detroit and Vancouver)--many are modest and designed to elicit pleasure. We've given the world a popular soft drink, a gentler version of 10-pin bowling, and a way of simulating farts. Where would humanity be without that?

Here are five things proudly invented in Toronto, some serious, some not.

Canada Dry ginger ale
Before it was bought out by U.S. beverage giant Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the makers of 7 Up, A&W Root Beer, Clamato, Yoo-hoo, Canada Dry was a Toronto soft drink. Inspired by soda fountains in New York City, John James McLaughlin, a pharmacist by training, made "Tona-Cola," a local version of Coca-Cola, "Hop-Tone" bitter-sweet tonic, and, later, Canada Dry. "It has a snap and a tingle; a smart spry taste," early ads boasted. It was "the champagne of ginger ales."

The nationwide popularity of the drink, which was appointed to the Royal Household of the Governor General of Canada, hence the crown-shaped logo, made McLaughlin's company a household name. The business and manufacturing plants left Toronto in the 1920s after the death of its founder in 1914.

The human body was the real inventor of insulin, but it was two University of Toronto scientists, Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod, who discovered and developed the pancreatic hormone for the treatment of diabetes. Working out of the Connaught Laboratories, Banting and Macleod worked a number of experiments, eventually successfully giving the first injections to 14-year-old Leonard Thompson at the Toronto General Hospital in 1922, alleviating the symptoms of his diabetes. The pair were awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery.

The Whoopie Cushion
Not every Toronto invention is a life saver. The humble and still hilarious Whoopie Cushion was invented by JEM Rubber Co., a company located near Dundas West and Jane, in the 1930s. As Stan and Mardi Timm recall in the Toronto Star, before the classic rubber shape was perfected, novelty farts were produced by tiny bellows (let that delightful image sink in for a second.)

One distributor turned down the JEM product, calling it "indelicate" (such sensitive times,) but happily for pranksters everywhere, the Whoopie Cushion eventually found the mass audience it always deserved.

5-pin bowling
Ever looked like a wimp trying to roll a 10-pin bowling ball? Tommy Ryan felt your pain. The owner of the Toronto Bowling Club on Yonge Street, a 10-pin alley, noticed his high-end clientele was struggling roll 16-pound balls. By reducing the size and number of pins, Ryan struck gold.

In 1909, he debuted the game that made his name. Jamie Bradburn for Torontoist writes that Ryan, in addition to being a successful entrepreneur, was renowned practical joker, deploying electric handshakes and rubber hot dogs to great effect. He no doubt loved the Whoopie Cushion, too.

In 1930, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, like many other healthcare institutions around the world, was struggling to provide kids with a nutritious food that contained beneficial levels of vitamins and minerals. Pablum, a powered food that was essentially a loose biscuit mix, was developed by doctors Frederick Tisdall and Theodore Drake. It contained iron, vitamins A and G, calcium, phosphorus, and dietary fibre. Even better, Sick Kids received a royalty on every package of the popular formula.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: ssstevieb.



ScienceGrrl / August 16, 2014 at 01:35 am
It was Banting and Charles Best who co-discovered insulin. Macleod acted in an advisory capacity, provided the research facilities and a small amount of funding, which was used in part to pay Best for his research assistance. Later biochemist Bertram Collip was hired to help purify the substance.

Macleod, like any opportunistic faculty of medicine administrator astutely ensured his name was associated with the discovery once it succeeded. In response to the snub of Best by the Nobel committee I believe Banting gave Best part of his prize money.

I suggest you read Michael Bliss' excellent account of this historical event, "The Discovery of Insulin" before posting such egregious misinformation. These details should be basic knowledge to any Canadian elementary school child.
jd / August 16, 2014 at 02:57 am
Didn't Banting and Best sell the rights to UofT for $1 so that it could be affordable to all?
Sean / August 16, 2014 at 08:51 am
Is that "Merivale Bowling' picture from a bowling alley in Ottawa? There's no 5-pin bowling in Toronto anymore?
Peameal repeal / August 16, 2014 at 10:35 am
Peameal bacon sandwiches are not a gift to the world from Toronto; they were simply introduced here from Britain. Peameal bacon is nothing other than British style back bacon, with crushed corn (originally peas) rolled on. Back bacon sandwiches are widely eaten in England (bacon sarnies, or bacon butties, etc....). Toronto is just the only place in North America where you can still get them, that's all! :)
Cdn Back Bacon replying to a comment from Peameal repeal / August 16, 2014 at 11:27 am
Yes, back bacon is commonly available and consumed in England but not with the peameal/cornmeal trim. That apparently was created in Toronto by an English immigrant.

Peameal repeal / August 16, 2014 at 02:02 pm
Well, rolling standard back bacon in ground peameal, or corn does not make it particularly unique though, does it? It's not
like it changes the flavour or anything. The bacon sandwich was definitely not invented here. Many "Canadian" invented foods are just slight tweaks of food from other countries (eg. butter tarts, poutine, etc..).
Robin / August 16, 2014 at 06:35 pm
Please can you take McCloed's name off of the article? Insulin is a Banting and Best discovery x
Greg / August 17, 2014 at 12:46 am
Leave McCloeds name exactly where it is! He received a Nobel Prize for the invention, he deserves this. Forget the 2 bit hack internet trolls trying to bring McCloeds name down, appeal the Nobel prize then you shit turd!
links / August 17, 2014 at 10:13 am
More of these types of articles please :)
vonfunk / August 17, 2014 at 03:38 pm
Peameal bacon was developed in Toronto The full name as originally marketed (usually for export)is "sweet pickled Canadian back bacon", due to it been cured in a sweet pickling brine. The old name has now fallen out of favour. The only thing it shares with the British rasher is the same cut. The curing methods, texture and flavour are all different.
To say that peameal bacon is the same as English bacon is to say that bog standard streaky bacon is the same as pancetta.
Alin / August 17, 2014 at 05:10 pm
You have no idea what you're talking about! Insulin was invented by Nicolae Paulescu, a Romanian scientist. The Canadians stole his work and yes, perfectioned it. But the Nobel prize should have been split between the four.
Check it out!
Other than that, Canada rules!! :)
vonfunky bacon / August 18, 2014 at 09:35 am
I disagree. The pickling of bacon varied from town to town, and butcher to butcher. The taste also depends on the type of hog used. Bacon pickled in Dublin would not taste the same as that of London or Aberdeen. Each butcher had his own twist on it. My guess is that the first one to do it here simply followed exactly the same recipe he used back home. But in reality, the "peameal" bacon here and English style are of the same variety.
Streaky and pancetta, though, are completely different beasts. By the way, I've only heard of "rasher" to refer to individual slices of bacon, especially streaky. You are the first I have heard to refer to the entire cut of pickled pork.

The rolling of the bacon in crushed peameal was a tiny twist on the standard presentation, that's all. Not an invention.

Bet you two clogs to a thrupnee bit!
Grampa replying to a comment from Alin / August 18, 2014 at 04:32 pm
This isn't exactly true. An American scientist described virtually the same method for isolating insulin before Paulescu. The problem was that the American's and Paulescu's extract could not be used on humans.

I have heard Romanians argue passionately about Paulescu being robbed of the Nobel but ultimately his "invention" was preceded by previous work and he never developed a form of insulin that could be used on humans. Banting/Best and MacLeod deserved the prize because they made something useful that saved lives. Paulescu didn't.

Hulk / August 28, 2014 at 02:33 pm
user-pic! Hands down.
Look it up / August 11, 2015 at 07:22 am
Insulin was actually discovered by a romanian.
These articles are always interestibg, but blogTOs lack of fact checking and the general "did you hear!?" nature of the articles always makes me doubt anything I read here.
PC / August 11, 2015 at 09:59 am
Canada Dry ginger ale is a bland excuse for the real thing: Vernors ginger ale which was created in the 1860s and first brought to market in the 1880s in Detroit, Michigan.
CaligulaJones replying to a comment from Look it up / August 11, 2015 at 10:30 am
Sure, if you ignore the contributions of Paul Langerhans, Oskar Minkowski, George Ludwig Zuelzer, E.L. Scott and Israel Kleiner...

Banting and Best received a Nobel Prize because they were first to make it work. Theories are great, but they don't prove anything.
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