Toronto inventions

The top 5 Toronto inventions of all time

The 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.

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