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10 World-Famous Products That Were Invented For Something Else

A crate of vintage Coca-Cola bottles

Many of the everyday products we take for granted have fascinating and often unexpected origins.

Some were developed out of sheer necessity or scientific curiosity.

Other products were born out of entirely different intentions and repurposed into the household names we know today.

Here are some of the most intriguing examples of popular products that were invented for strange and unconventional reasons.


Originally created by Dr. John Stith Pemberton in 1886, Coca-Cola was actually intended to be a medicinal tonic.


Pemberton, a pharmacist, developed the drink as a cure for ailments like headaches and fatigue.

It contained coca leaf extract (from which cocaine is derived) and kola nut extract, hence the name.

The initial formula was promoted as a brain tonic and stimulant before becoming the soft drink we know today.


Play-Doh started as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s.

The compound was invented by Noah McVicker for Kutol Products.

It was used to remove soot and dirt from wallpaper.

In the 1950s, with coal heating becoming less common, sales declined.

McVicker's nephew, Joe McVicker, discovered the cleaner could be used as a modeling clay for children.

The product was rebranded as Play-Doh and marketed to schools and toy stores.


Listerine, now known as a mouthwash, was initially developed as a surgical antiseptic in 1879 by Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Wheat Lambert.

It was named after Joseph Lister, a pioneer in antiseptic surgery.

Over time, its uses expanded to treat a variety of conditions, including dandruff and gonorrhea.

In the 1920s, it was re-marketed as a solution for bad breath, leading to its current popularity.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrap was invented by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes in 1957, but not as a packaging material.

The original intent was to create textured wallpaper.

The idea failed to catch on, but they discovered its potential as a cushioning material for shipping fragile items.

Today, Bubble Wrap is synonymous with protective packaging.

Corn Flakes

Kellogg's Corn Flakes were invented by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith Kellogg.

Believe it or not, they were developed as part of a bland diet to curb sexual desires, specifically to reduce masturbation.

Dr. Kellogg, a staunch advocate of abstinence, believed plain foods could decrease sexual arousal and thus created Corn Flakes as a solution.

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Viagra is now known as the little blue pill used for treating erectile dysfunction.

It was initially developed by Pfizer researchers looking for a treatment for angina (chest pain due to heart disease).

During clinical trials, researchers noticed the drug had a certain effect on men which it did better than treating angina, leading to new role.


The Slinky was invented by Richard James, a naval engineer, in 1943.

He was developing springs to stabilize sensitive instruments on ships in rough seas.

He accidentally knocked one of the springs off a shelf and watched as it "walked" down instead of falling.

Recognizing the potential as a toy, he and his wife Betty marketed the Slinky, which became an instant hit, and is still seen in toy shops 81 years on.

Post-it Notes

Post-it Notes were created by accident when 3M scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to develop a strong adhesive in 1968.

Instead, he created a low-tack, reusable adhesive.

It wasn’t until 1974 that his colleague, Art Fry, found a practical use for it by using it to anchor his bookmark in his hymnbook without damaging the pages.


WD-40, short for "Water Displacement, 40th formula," was created in 1953 by Norm Larsen for the Rocket Chemical Company.

It was initially developed to prevent rust and corrosion on the Atlas missile.

However, a shrewd marketing executive realised the formula’s success in the aerospace industry.

This led to its eventual consumer market release as a multi-purpose lubricant and rust-preventer, still massively popular today.

Chewing Gum

Modern chewing gum can trace its roots back to the ancient Greeks, who chewed a substance called mastiche made from the resin of the mastic tree.

However, in the 1860s, Thomas Adams Sr. attempted to use chicle (the latex of the sapodilla tree) as a rubber substitute.

Failing in that endeavor, he eventually began to experiment with it as a chewing substance, leading to the chewing gum we enjoy today.

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