Wayback Machine: Miracles In Spray Cans: Life Was Soooo Easy, 1957


Sigh. Remember those days when you didn't have to go to the farmers market and buy all that local seasonal vegetable crap covered in dirt from some guy in overalls, when you could just go to the supermarket and buy simple easy-to-use mashed potatoes in a can? The Madison Avenue guys say "Charley, if you can put a push button on it you'll make a fortune. Nobody can resist a push button." And they were filled with that wonder chemical, "fluorinated hydrocarbons, the same substances that keep the home refrigerator cold. The two principal brands are Freon, made by Du Pont, and Genetron, made by Allied Chemical & Dye." Just toss them in the garbage when you were done, no muss or soggy leftover vegetable cuttings. The memories. ::Modern Mechanix


America's love of ease and convenience has created a whole new aerosol industry almost overnight. Anyone who can remember World War II is able to span the complete history of aerosols. Two U. S. Department of Agriculture researchers started it all in 1944 when they discovered that insecticides could be dissolved in solvents and liquefied gases and dispensed under pressure. The result was the bug bomb, a heavy-duty aerosol that became as useful to the GI as his M-l rifle.

All wartime production was taken by the government. But when the shooting was over, dozens of insecticide makers, using the USDA's free patent, reduced the aerosol to hand size and put it on the market. Production amounted to only a few thousand in 1946, then jumped to 5-1/2 million the next year. The boom had begun. Consumers and industry in 1955 bought 235 million aerosols and the final 1956 figure is expected to be over a quarter-billion.

One of the keys to this phenomenal growth is adaptability. The industry has adapted more than 100 items to aerosol containers since the first days when only bug killers came with push buttons. Today you can press a button to grease heavy gears, paint a wall, apply shoe polish, give the ailing dog a shot of medicine, put on nail polish, squirt cream on strawberries, put out a fire, relieve the pain of sunburn, cover the Christmas tree with snow or administer a soothing drug to an asthmatic trachea.

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