Recession Inventions: Success Stories in Bad Times

The Best Recession Products

Nothing stirs American ingenuity like a bad economy.  More than half of the companies on this year’s Fortune 500 list were founded during a recession or bear market. The next breakthrough business could be yours. All you need is a good product. Unfortunately, as of the middle of this year, filings at the patents office had actually fallen by 2% from the previous year. Hopefully these success stories from our country’s past will inspire all you inventors and entrepreneurs out there to keep pushing your product ideas. Photo Credit: lookr Join MainStreet on Facebook! (opens in a new window, totally worth it)


Chocolate Chip Cookies

The world was a dark place before 1930, and not just because the Great Depression had hit the year before. Until that year, no one had ever eaten a chocolate chip cookie. But that year, Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally created the recipe while baking for guests in her toll house. She ran out of baker’s chocolate while making cookies and had to settle for cutting a chocolate bar into pieces. She assumed the chocolate would melt, but instead, it hardened into tiny chips. Her recipe eventually became the Nestle Toll House Cookie. Photo Credit: lookr


Fortune Magazine

Fortune did everything wrong. It released its inaugural issue in 1930, less than a year after the stock market crashed, and charged more money than other magazines at the time ($1). Not to mention the fact that it called itself Fortune and promoted stories of the wealthy in a depression. And yet, its circulation reached nearly half a million by 1937, while the economy was still in the trenches. These days, however, the magazine business has a new set of problems – falling ad revenue in particular. Photo Credit: Ballistik Coffee Boy


The Basketball

The game of basketball was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, a sports coach, but for the first three years, it was actually played with a soccer ball. Then in 1894, in the midst of a recession that lasted from 1893-96, Naismith encouraged A.G. Spalding to create a ball specifically designed for the new game. With few changes, this is the same Spalding ball you see on the courts today. Photo Credit: namestartswithj89 Join MainStreet on Facebook! (opens in a new window, totally worth it)


Miracle Whip

Kraft created Miracle Whip in the early 1930s in response to lagging sales of Mayonnaise. It premiered nationwide at the 1933 World’s Fair and gained popularity thanks to an intense advertising campaign and even a two hour radio show devoted to the product (a lesson that advertising in a recession pays off). By the end of the decade, Miracle Whip was selling better than all other brands of Mayo. Photo Credit: sanfranannie


Monopoly

This popular board game was created by Charles B. Darrow in the early 1930’s. In 1934, he introduced the game to Parker Brothers, but was rejected by the gaming giant. Undaunted, Darrow produced several thousand copies of the game himself and began selling them. Eventually, Parker Brothers took notice and partnered with Darrow to mass produce the game. It has since become the best selling board game in the world. Photo Credit: therealglen Join MainStreet on Facebook! (opens in a new window, totally worth it)


Scotch Tape

He may not be a household name, but Richard Drew is definitely the guru of adhesive products. In 1925, he invented the first masking tape. Then, in 1930, he introduced the first transparent adhesive tape, which was quickly rechristened Scotch Tape. Unlike some other products on this list, Scotch Tape was an obvious winner from the start. Cash strapped folks around the country found many uses for the tape, using it to patch up clothing and fix up the house. Photo Credit: Muffet


Coors Beer

Adolph Coors opened his first brewery in Denver during the Panic of 1873 (started by the stock market crash). Luckily, he had enough capital on hand to fight bad economic conditions and strong competition. Photo Credit: Photos 'O Randomness


The iPod

Steve Jobs and Co. (Stock Quote: AAPL) introduced the iPod less than two months after the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic downturn that followed. The product was an expensive luxury, and yet it sold modestly. As the economy picked up, and the design changed from year to year, the iPod became a staple for music listeners everywhere. Well over 100 million iPods have been sold to date. Photo Credit: Brian Lane Winfield Moore


Ketchup

Henry Heinz invented Ketchup in the early 1870s by adapting an old Chinese recipe (pickled fish sauce). But the company didn’t release the product until the tail end of the recession in 1876. It has since become the dominant condiment in this country. Photo Credit: Eden Pictures


Fluorescent Light Bulbs

The bulb was invented at General Electric (Stock Quote: GE) during the recession in the 1970s (caused by the oil crisis). At first, GE was hesitant to market the bulb, worried that they would need to create new manufacturing facilities for something they claimed wasn’t much different than existing incandescent bulbs. Eventually, the design leaked to other companies who recognized the energy saving potential, and it became a staple. Photo Credit: brionv


Twinkies

Twinkies are nearly 80 years old and let’s be honest, you could probably eat one from the original batch and it’d still be good. According to MSN, Jimmy Dewar invented these freaks of baking in 1930 “to keep his strawberry shortcake equipment productive when strawberry season was over.” Who would have thought it’d become a sensation? Photo Credit: norwichnuts


Photocopier

We admit, this one is a mixed bag. But as bad as life can be working with one, imagine how much worse it would be without. The original idea was patented by Chester Carlson in 1937, but it took nearly another decade before it got off the ground. Xerox, then called Haloid Corp, obtained a license to the product in 1947. Photo Credit: johnrawlinson


Diet Coke

The release of Diet Coke was a revelation for the beverage industry. The drink was introduced in 1982, in the midst of the turbulent economy in the early 80’s, and forced many other big brand beverage companies to enter a calorie marketing war. Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary


Meals to Go

It is the ultimate lunch box, an airtight and watertight container that keeps food at a constant t temperature on the go. It may not be the light bulb, but this product was invented during the current recession. Photo Credit: chanchan222 Join MainStreet on Facebook! (opens in a new window, totally worth it)


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