Pick Me Up! --- The History Of Toothpicks
April 21, 2017 1:31pm CST
Toothpicks are the oldest devices for tooth care. *STOP!* Make a guess, how old? When some anthropologists were cleaning a tooth found in Tanzania, dating back as far as 1.8 million years (you didn‘t guess that, did you?), they found some strange grooves in it, tiny, parallel lines that repeated along the sides of the tooth. They guessed they'd found (from the net) " . . . early traces of toothpick use. . . the hominids may have used pieces of bone, or grit on a stick may have caused the grooves.” Toothpicks aren’t only the oldest device for tooth care, the use of toothpicks is also one of the features which distinguishes human beings from animals. It’s a behaviour unique to our genus. Modern-day apes don't use toothpicks although they’ve been recorded using sticks as tools in other ways. Why would our ancestors in their caves pick their teeth in front of the fire? It’s believed that toothpick use became common about the same time meat turned up in the diet of the early hominids. Do I see veggies turn away? Wait! Just remember your last meal with tomato sauce, what did you do when you discovered some tomato pips had got stuck in your teeth? Did you pull faces and produce vulgar sucking noises in order to get them out or did you take a toothpick, cover your mouth with one hand while using it with the other as is the polite way to deal with lodged fragments of food? Supposedly, the toothpick was first used in the U.S. at the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Boston, opened in 1826. I’m sure you want to know that 90% of the country’s wooden toothpick supply is produced in Maine. A certain Mr Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America and to promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine in his restaurant and ask for toothpicks. In 1872 a toothpick-making machine was patented in the USA, it converted a block of wood into toothpicks. How many toothpicks can be made from a cord of wood (a cord = 128 cubic feet / 3.62 cubic metres)? *STOP!* Make a guess! Sorry, wrong again, the answer is 7.5 million! Toothpicks aren’t only made of wood. In 1832 Monsieur Soyez, a Frenchman who raised geese to produce downs for pillows and blankets and fine quality writing instruments had an inspiration: he used a sanitised goose quill he had sharpened to clean his teeth and thus invented a device which, according to his devoted followers, has made the wooden toothpick quite inadequate. Soon the demand exceeded the availability of goose quills. With the invention of high impact plastics, an even better way was found to make ‘quill’ toothpicks. The plastic variety is more durable and retains its fine cleaning qualities even with much use. In our times over one million ‘Cure-dents’ are passed out each day at the Soyez factory in France. Any other materials? In 1882 a Joseph Mayer opened a store, saloon and stagecoach station near Phoenix, Arizona, where he sold green-horn tourists cactus thorns he claimed were genuine Indian toothpicks. I’ve got a flat silver toothpick in my wallet and whenever I feel like picking, I take it out discreetly. --- Photo: pixabay
26 people like this
• United States
You have one very fancy toothpick!! I do like the wooden toothpicks that are mint-flavored. Was hoping this vegetarian would be free from toothpick use, but eating popcorn often requires a toothpick when a kernel shell becomes lodged between the teeth.
7 people like this
• United States
Interesting! I figured that early humans used toothpicks made of splinters because eventually all that food between teeth would become painful and/or irritating. But I did not know toothpicks were manufactured so long ago! I also use toothpicks when I cover cake/cupcakes with plastic to prevent the plastic sticking to the icing. I test if a cake is done with a toothpick before taking it out of the oven. I used to use toothpicks to spread glue on tiny little crafty stuff and draw designs with glue that I would cover in glitter. They have a lot of uses!