5 Iconic Products With a Fascinating History

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Companies launch new products every day to varying degrees of success and failure, but some brands are so recognizable, it seems as if they’ve always been around. However, each one of these iconic items was once a fledgling label looking to establish themselves with consumers. While every product has its own story to tell, some brands have a more colorful history than others.

5 Gatorade

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Ever wonder what put the “gator” in Gatorade? No, the beverage isn’t named after those swamp-dwelling predators with the gaping jaws, but a gator that’s just as fierce on the football field—the University of Florida’s Gators. In 1985, the team’s assistant football coach and a team of university physicians worked together to create a drink that would help players combat heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. Soon after the players started drinking the water, sugar, salt and lemon juice concoction, the team started winning. Word spread and soon the beverage was being sold to other universities and the general public.

4 Airstream Trailers

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The sleek, hard-sided Airstream Trailers that glimmer so elegantly have a less-than-glamorous history. Back in 1929, its creator, Wally Byam, built his first makeshift “trailer” by erecting a tent on a Model T Ford chassis. The effort took hours and offered little protection from the environment. At his wife’s suggestion, Byam built a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter on the chassis that also housed a kerosene stove and a small ice chest. Byam then wrote an article on the process that was so successful, he soon began selling how-to instructions for $1 apiece.

3 Play-Doh

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It’s difficult to believe that Play-Doh—the malleable substance has been a childhood favorite for over half a century—wasn’t originally invented to be a plaything. The compound was originally manufactured as Kutol Wallpaper Cleaner in 1933. When the invention of easy-clean vinyl wallpaper threatened to make the substance obsolete, the Kutol Products company modified the dull, off-white product with colors and rebranded it as Play-Doh.

2 Graham Crackers

This semi-sweet cracker may be closely associated with desserts as a decadent crust or the “bread” of s’mores, but its inventor had health and spiritual benefits in mind during its creation. Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham believed certain foods, such as the bleached and refined flour preferred by bakers, were damaging to people’s health and souls. Graham soon became a vegetarian and made his crackers as a bread alternative made from whole-wheat flour. While his product never quite caught on as a bread substitute, it became a successful cracker.

1 Pepsi-Cola

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Given that soda is often reviled for its role in the obesity issues, it’s hard to believe that Pepsi’s inventor once believed the beverage had health benefits. That’s right, drugstore owner Caleb Davis Bradham concocted Pepsi-Cola from a recipe that included pepsin, which contained digestion-aiding enzymes. Known then as “Brad’s Drink,” Bradham sold the beverage at his in-store soda fountain with the slogan: "Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion."