8 Everyday Things That Are Much Older Than You Think

You probably assumed the name Tiffany originated in the 20th century. You would be wrong.
Moviegoers were donning these glasses to take in a 3D film way before you thought they were.
Moviegoers were donning these glasses to take in a 3D film way before you thought they were. / Francesco Carta fotografo/Moment/Getty Images

When do you think the first 3D movie came out in theaters? If you guessed the 1950s, you’re off by a few decades. And it’s not just 3D movies that are older than you think: From sparkling water to condoms and everything in between, these everyday things trace their origins back a lot further than you may have realized.

The Name Tiffany

If you’re an elder Millennial or a younger Gen Xer, you probably grew up with a Tiffany or two—or 10. Or maybe you’re Tiffany. 

According to the Social Security Administration, Tiffany was America’s 11th most popular baby girl name of the entire 1980s—which might make it seem like a pretty recent invention. But people have actually been christening their babies Tiffany for centuries. The moniker derives from the Greek Theophania, meaning “the appearance of God.” Theophania became the Old French Tifaine, which showed up in English circa 1200. Baptism records for babies named Tiffany date as far back as the 1500s.

But because the late 20th century birthed so many Tiffanys, it just feels wrong whenever a character named Tiffany appears in a period piece set long before then. In a 2008 interview, author Jo Walton dubbed this phenomenon “the Tiffany problem”—basically, a lot of historically accurate things seem anachronistic because they don’t match our perception of history.

3D Movies

On June 10, 1915, patrons filed into New York City’s Astor Theatre to witness a landmark moment in film history. It was the first 3D movie ever shown in a theater.

Technically, it was three shorts. First, some rural shots from across America; then some footage from a movie set; and for the grand finale, a trip to Niagara Falls. Audience members donned red and green glasses to get the full 3D experience, achieved by combining sets of images captured two-and-a-half inches apart.

The first 3D feature film to hit theaters was The Power of Love, which debuted at the Ambassador in Los Angeles in September 1922. One experiment of the time was cutting edge even for today, allowing viewers to choose between two conclusions: look through one lens for a happy ending, and the other for a sad one.

Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming was a vaudeville fad that found its way to the silver screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Picture Esther Williams in films like Million Dollar Mermaid (above) and Bathing Beauty. In fact, the phrase synchronized swimming wasn’t even coined until 1934, when the Modern Mermaids wowed the crowd at the World’s Fair in Chicago. The sport didn’t become an Olympic event until 1984, which is now called Artistic Swimming.

But it turns out that ancient Romans enjoyed a good water ballet on at least one occasion. Only it didn’t take place in a pool, per se—instead, they just flooded an amphitheater. The 1st-century poet Martial described the performance in a series of epigrams, translated by Kathleen Coleman in 2006: “A well-trained troupe of Nereids [sea nymphs] was frolicking all over the surface and decorating the compliant water with various formations.” These included a “menacing trident,” a star “shining its welcome to sailors,” and a ship with “broad sails billowing in distinctive folds.”

Not everyone is convinced that that’s synchronized swimming—because maybe it could be considered dancing in the water instead—but still, that routine would probably score well at today’s Olympics, and would definitely impress your local community pool.


Lawsuit Seeks To Ban Oreo Cookies In California
Oreos date all the way back to 1912. / Justin Sullivan/GettyImages

Oreos aren’t quite so ancient, but they have been around for way longer than you’ve been dunking them in the milk of your choice. (The optimal dunk time for an Oreo is roughly three seconds, by the way—the cookie absorbs roughly 80 percent of its potential liquid after two seconds, and it maxes out after four.) When the Oreo first hit shelves in 1912, it wasn’t marketed as a dunkable sensation that belonged in every kid’s lunchbox. It was way more of a luxury. Here’s how one ad from that year described the dessert: “A dainty, tasty chocolate biscuit with cream filling. Very expensive, but Oh! how good.” At 45 cents per pound, “expensive” was no exaggeration—that’s about $14 in today’s money. 

Juicy Fruit Gum

Chew And Relax
An ad for Wrigley’s gums from the 1950s. / Picture Post/GettyImages

Speaking of storied American snacks, Juicy Fruit gum arrived on the scene in the ’90s … the 1890s, that is. It was the brainchild of William Wrigley, Jr., who initially sold soap. He gave out baking powder with every soap order, which was so popular that he started selling baking powder. That came with a freebie, too: chewing gum. And then the gum was such a hit that he started selling that instead. 

The man loved a business pivot, and a free gift with purchase—especially one that had nothing to do with the purchase itself and everything to do with what the purchaser might want. You know, a coffee grinder, a cheese cutter … maybe some lace curtains for the buyer’s wife.  According to a 1915 edition of the advertising magazine Printers’ Ink, those were just a few of the freebies that Wrigley gave to one grocer who stocked his gum. Others advertised in newspapers include a mandolin, a solid oak clock, a hand saw, a “100 candle power lamp,” and a souvenir spoon from Maine. 

Wrigley introduced Juicy Fruit gum to the public in 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago, and the rest is history. Well, except for the actual flavor of the gum, which is still top-secret. A Wrigley Company spokesperson reportedly told a fan in 2002 that the flavor profile mainly features “lemon, orange, pineapple, and banana notes.”


Frankfurt Music Fair
Zildjian K Cymbals at the Frankfurt Music Fair. / Ralph Orlowski/GettyImages

When it comes to making music, it doesn’t get much more basic than banging a metal disc. So it’s not hard to believe that cymbals have been around for thousands of years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses one dated between 2300 to 2000 BCE, during the Early Bronze Age. (Yes, it was made of bronze.)

What’s more surprising is that Zildjian, one of today’s leading cymbal manufacturers, has been in the game for four centuries. In Constantinople in 1618, a 22-year-old Armenian chemist named Avedis was trying to make gold when he accidentally concocted the perfect metal alloy for making cymbals instead. It’s some combination of copper, tin, and silver, but the exact recipe is just like Juicy Fruit’s: confidential.

The Ottoman Empire commissioned Avedis to craft the royal cymbals and was so pleased with his work that he gave him a special surname: Zildjian, meaning “family of cymbal makers.”

So Avedis Zildjian went off and founded his own foundry in 1623, and eventually taught his son all his cymbal-making secrets. Things more or less continued like that for the next 15 generations of Zildjians. It’s still a family business today: The current president and executive chair is Craigie Zildjian, who also served as CEO from 1999 to 2019. We’re not sure about everyone else, but we’re fine with nepo babies in the cymbal industry. 

Sparkling Water

Dr Joseph Priestley
Portrait Of Dr Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Get off your high horse, La Croix—sparkling water existed in natural mineral springs for thousands of years before humans finally figured out how to make their own [PDF]. For that, we have pig bladders to thank. That’s what English chemist Joseph Priestley used in the late 1760s as part of a contraption that combined gas bubbles with water. 

Priestley didn’t do it out of thin air—there was over a century of discoveries and innovations leading up to his contraption, but we really like viewing history in terms of “one dude did something,” so historians tend to treat Priestley as sparkling water’s First Man. He detailed his process in a 1772 paper called “Directions for Impregnating Water With Fixed Air.” 

The pig bladder turned out to be kind of a problem: To put it frankly, some people thought Priestley’s impregnated water tasted like pee. One such critic was John Nooth, who unveiled his own seltzer-maker just a couple years later.

Priestley was initially disgruntled about the urinous allegations—he even implied that one of Nooth’s assistants might’ve been peeing in the water before Nooth ran it through Priestley’s machine. But eventually even Priestley acknowledged that Nooth’s mostly glass apparatus was better than his.

So the next time you crack open a cold seltzer, cheers to pig bladders. Or to the absence of them in today’s carbonation techniques.


Condom Made From Sheep Intestine
Condom made from sheep intestine, circa 1800. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

While we’re on animal bladders, let’s talk about condoms. According to Greek mythology, King Minos of Crete was cursed with semen full of snakes and scorpions. Needless to say, this was pretty dangerous for his sexual partners, and it also prevented his wife, Pasiphae, from getting pregnant. So in one version of the story they use a goat’s bladder to catch the scorpions and everyone is happy.

Sure, this is technically a legend, and nobody knows for certain if King Minos ever even existed. But as historian Vern L. Bullough wrote in his 2001 Encyclopedia of Birth Control, “it seems logical to argue that what appeared in mythology reflected, in part, reality, and barriers of one kind or another made from bladders might well have been used by the Greeks and probably their Roman successors.”

The oldest condoms that archaeologists have actually unearthed aren’t that different from Minos’s legendary goat bladder. Excavated from beneath England’s Dudley Castle in the 1980s, they were dated to the 1640s and made from fish and other animal intestines. Archaeologist Stephanie Ratkai told UPI that “They look like leaves of brown paper, and at first we thought they were parchment.”

But that’s not the only old condom discovered—in Sweden a reusable condom was found that had an instruction manual. According to the directions, soaking it in warm milk before each use would prevent disease. Not something we recommend under any circumstances.

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