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January 22: But Wait! There’s More!

Samuel Popeil, inventor of the Veg-O-Matic, which his son Ron (“But wait! There’s more!”) Popeil turned into one of the first hot television sale items in the 1950s, was born on this date in 1915. Sales of their gadgets were no doubt aided by the teleprompter, which was invented by Irving Berlin Kahn (a nephew […]

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August 9: Boop Boop Be Doop

Betty Boop made her debut on this date in 1930 in the animated film “Dizzy Dishes.” She was the creation of Max Fleischer (1883-1972), a Galitzianer immigrant whose pioneering animations brought Koko the Clown, Popeye, and Superman to the screen, among many other characters. He and his brother Dave patented the Rotoscope in 1915, a […]

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June 26: The Cyclone

The Coney Island Cyclone took its first thrilling ride (for a 25¢ fare) on this date in 1927. Its construction was commissioned by brothers Jack and Irving Rosenthal (musicians, the two of them) for $146,000 on a site that had hosted the world’s very first roller coaster, the “Switchback Railway” and the world’s first looping […]

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March 9: Barbie

Ruth Handler’s Barbie doll was introduced to society at the New York toy fair on this day in 1959.  Handler’s creation represented a quantum leap in the understanding of doll play among preadolescent girls, who, judging from the sales figures, were less interested in “mothering” their dolls than in projecting their sexual and social aspirations […]

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February 21: Polaroid Land Camera

Edwin H. Land, a Harvard drop-out, demonstrated the first instant camera (soon to become the Polaroid Land Camera) on this date in 1947. Land, whose parents were scrap metal dealers, had already founded the Polaroid company in 1937 after inventing an inexpensive polarizing filter used in film, sunglasses, optical microscopes and other gadgets. Land was […]

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December 21: Paul Winchell

Ventriloquist Paul Winchell was born on this date in 1922. With his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, Winchell hosted one of the most popular children’s television shows of the mid-1960s and (along with Shari Lewis) introduced the MAD magazine generation to the magic of ventriloquism. Winchell was also an inventor, the first person to […]

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