Along with clearing snow, Canadians have sought ways to travel over it. Mechanic, inventor, and entrepreneur Joseph-Armand Bombardier sought for years to make the remote areas of Canada, including his isolated hometown of Valcourt, Quebec, more accessible in winter. He actually started working on his project as a teen, but he hadn’t yet perfected his machine so it would really work. Unfortunately, the problem of winter isolation hit very close to home for Bombardier in 1934, when his two-year-old son died from illness because he couldn’t get to a hospital. Bombardier doubled down on his efforts and in 1937 developed the first working snowmobile, which could hold seven people. When rural roads started being cleared more effectively, he switched “gears,” literally, to create a miniature, recreational snowmobile in 1959 he called the Ski-Doo—the same ones outdoor enthusiasts continue to use today.
In the 1950s, Winnipeg’s Harry Wasylyk used the flexible plastic polyethylene to create the first garbage bag, at the request of a local hospital looking for a sanitary way to dispose of waste. At the same time, a couple of other Canadians, Frank Plomp and Larry Hansen, were working on their own version of the plastic garbage bag. But it was Wasylyk’s that came up on top when Union Carbide Company bought his product and manufactured it for home use under the name Glad in the 1960s. In 1971, University of Toronto chemist James Guillet created a more eco-friendly, biodegradable version.
On the other hand, people thought these obsolete inventions were going to last forever!
Maybe the phrase should be, “as Canadian as apple pie,” since that’s where the beloved McIntosh apple originated. In the early 1800s, farmer John McIntosh of Dundela, Ontario, came across apple seedlings growing in an area he was clearing; he replanted them in his garden and all but one died. Recognizing that the taste of the fruit the lone tree bore was something special, he learned how to graft the tree to reproduce the same variety. His son, Allan, began selling them, and a fruit phenomenon was born. The apple variety became so popular that a computer scientist at Apple named their new machine “Macintosh” after it—changing the spelling for copyright reasons. To this day, every single McIntosh apple is descended from that one tree, which fell in 1910. Interested in owning a piece of Canadian history? The original McIntosh farm, now in disrepair, was put up for sale last fall.
Discover the weird ways pencils changed the world.