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WWI Inventions, From Pilates to Zippers, That We Still Use Today

October 29, 2018 in History

By Christopher Klein

Small inventions made life easier during—and after—the war.


Now a fashion icon, the trench coat first gained popularity among British officers during World War I because of its functionality. The water-resistant overcoats proved superior to the standard wool coats in repelling the rain and chill of the trenches—from which the garment gained its name.

View the 10 images of this gallery on the original article

While World War I redrew political borders and introduced modern weaponry such as poison gas, machine guns and tanks, it also spurred the development of practical innovations. From Pilates to Kleenex to drones, these World War I innovations now permeate everyday life.


Winston Churchill (right), as 1st Colonel commanding the Royal Scots Fusiliers, seen wearing a trench coat, 1916.

1. Trench Coats

Now a fashion icon, the trench coat first gained popularity among British officers during World War I because of its functionality. “They were different in cut and weight than the heavy overcoats worn by enlisted men,” says Jonathan Casey, director of the archives and Edward Jones Research Center at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The water-resistant overcoats proved superior to the standard wool coats in repelling the rain and chill of the trenches—from which the garment gained its name. They also featured flaps and rings for securing weapons and map cases. Within months of the war’s start, London retailers such as Burberry and Aquascutum were advertising trench coats to the British public.


Government poster from 1918 showing Uncle Sam turning clock to daylight saving time.

2. Daylight Saving Time

Come November, most Americans gain an extra hour—and then lose it again the following March. Although the idea of shifting time dated back centuries, Daylight Saving Time was first implemented in Germany in April 1916 as a wartime measure to conserve coal by having an extra hour of daylight in the evenings. Weeks later, the United Kingdom and other European countries followed suit. The United States implemented Daylight Saving Time in 1918.


A World War I blood transfusion kit including connecting tubes, needles and a glass storage jar.

3. Blood Banks

Doctors rarely performed blood transfusions prior to World War I. However, following the discovery of different blood types and the ability of refrigeration to extend shelf life, Captain Oswald Robertson, a U.S. Army doctor consulting …read more

Source: HISTORY

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