Bikini Day

Today is Bikini Day. On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Réard unveiled a two-piece swimsuit at a swimming pool in Paris.

He named it the “bikini” after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where the U.S. had conducted an atomic bomb test only five days earlier. He believed his swimsuit would cause an “explosive commercial and cultural reaction.”

Two-piece outfits were not new. In 1960, while excavating the ruins of a fourth-century Roman villa, archaeologists discovered a mural depicting ten women they are informally referred to as “the bikini girls.” There’s no evidence to suggest the clothing was used for swimming.

bikini day

Villa Romana del Casale – “the bikini girls”

In the 1930s, European women began wearing two-piece bathing suits—a halter top and shorts—that bared a small bit of midriff and covered the navel entirely. During World War II, fabric rationing led to similar designs in the U.S.

In 1946, Réard wasn’t the only French designer determined to capitalize on jubilant postwar feelings of liberation. Jacques Heim re-introduced the “Atome,” a suit he’d designed in 1932, when exposing the belly button was still considered scandalous. He released it in June 1946, advertising it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

bikini day

Jacques Heim’s “Atome”

Réard’s swimsuit was smaller, constructed of a little bra top, two triangular pieces of fabric and string. He planned to unveil it on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor pool, promoting it as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.”

One issue threatened to derail Réard’s plan: He couldn’t find a professional model who would agree to wear the skimpy bikini. His solution turned out to be a stroke of marketing genius. He hired exotic dancer Micheline Bernardini, who had no problem with appearing nearly nude in public.

bikini day

Réard’s “bikini”

To show how confident he was of the headlines his bikini would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit’s material. The bikini was a hit and so was Bernardini, who reportedly received 50,000 fan letters.

In less than ten years, the bikini became a familiar sight on beaches all over Europe. By the 1960s, it was popping up everywhere in the U.S. as well. Seventy years after its introduction, the design continues to dominate the market. Réard summed up its sexy allure when he stated: “A bikini is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring.”

Happy Bikini Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 4 is Rube Goldberg Day

Today is Rube Goldberg Day. On July 4, 1883, Reuben Garrett Lucius “Rube” Goldberg was born in San Francisco, CA. In his 87 years on the planet, he was a cartoonist, engineer, inventor, author, sculptor and scriptwriter.

He is best known for his cartoons depicting absurdly complex contraptions used to perform simple tasks. One such device was an intricate system, triggered by the movement of a spoon, that would automatically mop one’s upper lip after taking a sip of soup as seen in the following commemorative stamp.

rube goldberg day

“Self-Operating Napkin” US Stamp, 1995

As an engineer and inventor, Goldberg often brought these cartoons to life. In 1930, he wrote and made a cameo appearance in a film called Soup to Nuts which featured some of his crazy machines and starred the men who would later become known as the Three Stooges.

In 1948, Goldberg was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoons. Few knew his work had aroused such anti-Semitic hatred during the war that he had insisted his sons change their surnames. They chose the last name George and it has remained the family name ever since; their children run a company called RGI (Rube Goldberg Incorporated) to continue their grandfather’s name.

rube goldberg day

Goldberg was a founding member and the first president of the National Cartoonists Society, the namesake of its Reuben Award, given to the Cartoonist of the Year. He is the inspiration for various international competitions, known as Rube Goldberg Machine Contests, many of which are sponsored by his descendants through RGI.

He is also immortalized in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Rube Goldberg
adjective Rube Gold·berg \ˈrüb-ˈgōl(d)-ˌbərg\
: accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply ; also : characterized by such complex means

Happy Rube Goldberg Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 29 is National Waffle Iron Day

national waffle iron dayToday is National Waffle Iron Day, a holiday that celebrates one of the world’s favorite kitchen appliances. Although today’s date doesn’t appear to have any historical significance and may have been initiated by manufacturers, the story of the waffle iron and its evolution is an interesting one.

The waffle iron’s earliest known predecessor is the Medieval fer à hosties, irons used to make communion wafers. Introduced during the 9th-10th centuries, the plates bore images of Jesus and his crucifixion which became imprinted on the wafers during heating.

The Belgian waffle we enjoy today got its start in the 1300s when two metal plates were hinged together and attached to a long pole that made it possible to cook over an open fire without risking burns. The plates often depicted a family’s coat of arms or other personally significant images.

In 1869, the first U.S. patent for an “Improvement in Waffle-Irons” was awarded to inventor Cornelius Swartwout, who revolutionized the waffle-making process. He fitted his design, meant for use on a stovetop, with an innovative handle for opening, closing and turning the cast-iron plates, which were joined by a hinge that swiveled in a cast-iron collar.

In 1911, General Electric made a prototype of an electric waffle iron but didn’t produce and sell the design until 1918. We’ve been unable to ascertain the reason for the delay but would guess that the company was perfecting the cooking process to create consistent results while adding safety measures to reasonably avoid fire hazards. (We say “reasonably” because this was a time when consumers were expected to take responsibility for common sense precautions and wouldn’t, say, sue G.E. if they left the iron on all day and burned down the house.)

Prize for the most creative use of a waffle iron goes to Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, an Oregon track coach trying to create a lightweight sole with excellent traction. Sometime in 1970, Bowerman was inspired by the waffles his wife had made for breakfast. He commandeered the waffle iron and filled it with melted urethane. Although Bowerman forgot to grease the iron and it glued shut, he persevered and the profit from the sneaker empire he created was more than enough to replace the family waffle iron.

To celebrate today, you don’t need to invent anything more involved than your choice of waffle toppings. Just grab a napkin and have a yummy National Waffle Iron Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 26 is Barcode Day

barcode day

Today is Barcode Day. On June 26, 1974, at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, OH, a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum became the first product bearing a barcode to be rung up by an electronic scanner.

That historic moment had been a long time coming. In 1952, American inventors Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver were granted a U.S. patent for a classification method and apparatus utilizing identifying patterns. Diagrams showed code in straight lines and concentric circles with varying degrees of reflectiveness. Unfortunately, they were ahead of their time and eventually sold off the patent for $15,000.

Railroads began to use bar codes in the late 1960s; companies encoded identifying information onto plates mounted on the sides of each car. Trackside scanners read them and transmitted the results so owners could keep track of their rolling stock on a grand scale.

As usage spread,  the establishment of a universal standard became imperative to avoid confusion between disparate systems.  In 1970, a company called Logicon, Inc. created the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC) for use throughout the retail industry.

The UGPIC evolved into the Universal Product Code (UPC) symbol set, still used in the U.S. today. The first piece of equipment built to use UPC was installed in the Troy, OH, grocery store which, along with that pack of gum, made history.

barcode day

visual approximation

In 2002, Forbes magazine reported that the same pack of gum was on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. While the scanner is housed there—no longer on view—a staffer has clarified that the 10-pack of Juicy Fruit accompanying it is not the 10-pack of Juicy Fruit, just a representation.

Our guess is that the gum was chewed over 40 years ago without a thought to its cultural significance, which is okay if you think about it. It served its purpose, maybe even got stuck to more than a few shoes—it had 50 sticks in it, after all.

Happy Barcode Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays