The First-Ever Car
The first automobile was invented by Karl Benz. Its first ride was on an August day in 1888. This ride was after several years of trial and error by the inventor and numerous previous prototypes. His wife and two sons took the car on a ride without his knowledge or his approval, but they sowed the first seeds of faith in the new invention. A few years later, in 1894, Benz developed the world's first mass-produced car, manufacturing about 1,200 units. The first assembly line of mass car production, though, is credited to Henry Ford's Model T in 1908.
The First-Ever Bicycle
A prototype for the first-ever bicycles was invented in 1817 by a German baron named Karl von Drais. His bike is what you see in the picture above. They went out of fashion quickly but paved the way for many developments in the field. That is why he is considered the father of bicycles.
In the 1860s, several different French inventors developed bicycle prototypes with pedals. They were nicknamed boneshakers for the rough ride. The solution to that was the penny-farthing, a classic 1870s bike with a huge front wheel. In light of the hazardous nature of the penny-farthings (they weren't so balanced), they were also kicked to the historical curb. Penny farthings were replaced by the model we know nowadays, invented by John Kemp Starley in 1885. Starley's model featured a chain and two equally-sized wheels.
The First-Ever Website
The world wide web was launched by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee on August 6, 1991. On the first single website, people could learn how to use the web and create new web pages.
Many new inventions come from a need for a solution to a problem. Berners-Lee recognized a problem many failed to see: there was no way in which people could share information between different computers. Berners-Lee had developed HTML, HTTP, and URL- which may sound like Chinese, but these are actually the building blocks and coding languages for creating websites. He did all of this work on his NeXT computer, designed by no other than Steve Jobs himself. And the best part is, this fossil still exists! You can visit it here, but be warned - compared to today's websites, this one may seem a bit dull to you.
The First-Ever Sewing Machine
The road to the modern sewing machine was full of hardship. At the beginning of the 19th century, many inventors came up with different ideas and sketches for the sewing machine, but none of them actually made a manufacturable model. None, but one - Barthélemy Thimonnier. He patented his mechanical sewing machine in 1830 in France, but his factory was burned down TWICE by an angry mob of tailors, who were afraid of losing their jobs to the new gadget. Thimonnier managed to escape and save one machine, but he lost all his fortune and died in the poorhouse.
Now, buckle in for some old-timey gossip! Elias Howe was another inventor who had great success with his design for the sewing machine, but he had to sell the patent to get back home after an unsuccessful marketing tour. When he came back to the US, he found out that many other entrepreneurs copied his design. He went after each and every one of them and won every case in court, eventually becoming a millionaire thanks to royalties.
But the real success story actually belongs to another - one Isaac Singer. He was the one person wise enough to put a huge portion of his capital into strategic marketing. At the time, he was made fun of for that, but nowadays, we know it paid off well - because probably none of you have ever heard the name Howe, but all of us know that a Singer is almost synonymous with "sewing machine."
The First-Ever Actor
As I'm sure you all know, this one dates many centuries back. In the 6th century BC, there was an Ancient Greek man named Thespis of Icaria, who is believed to be the first-ever actor. On a November day in 534 BC, he appeared on stage while taking on a role of a fictional character in the first person. Prior to this, stories were told in the third person.
It is important to note, though, that acting was probably around even before that, maybe even in undocumented prehistoric times. This we infer from cave paintings that may suggest a rather intuitive assumption - humans have always told stories via improvisation, passing them on through generations. Thespis of Icaria is the first-ever documented human to act a written role, and that is what makes him a pivotal point in drama history.
The First-Ever New Year's Eve Celebration
New Year's wasn't always on December 31st. The earliest recorded festivities were in ancient Babylon, about 4,000 years ago, but they didn't use the same international calendar we use today. Their new year's celebrations served a political purpose - a time when either a new king was crowned or the current ruler's divine mandate was renewed.
A few millennia later, in 46 BC, the Roman emperor Julius Caesar established January as the first month of the year. This was to honor the Roman god Janus, the patron of beginnings. He was a two-faced figure, a characteristic that allowed him to look both back into the past and forward into the future simultaneously.
The First-Ever Nobel Prize Winner(s)
Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy were the two first-ever winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. Alfred Nobel created the Nobel Peace Foundation to create a legacy that celebrates humanity and human achievements. The prize is given to extraordinary advancements in 5 fields: literature, chemistry, medicine, physics, and peace.
According to the official Nobel Peace Prize website, Dunant won the prize "for his humanitarian efforts to help wounded soldiers and create international understanding." He was a Swiss activist who founded the Red Cross, the largest humanitarian network in the world.
Passy won the prize for "his lifelong work for international peace conferences, diplomacy, and arbitration." He was the founder of the first Universal Peace Congress and co-founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization supporting parliaments to promote peace, democracy, and sustainable development.
The First-Ever Superhero
Encyclopedia Britannica defines a superhero as a "heroic character with an altruistic mission, who possesses superpowers, wears a defining costume, and functions in the “real world” in his or her alter ego."
According to history's timeline, the Guinness World Records website, and several million opinions, the first-ever superhero is the Phantom. First published in a newspaper comic strip on February 17, 1936, Lee Falk's character, Kit Walker (and his alter-ego Phantom) wore a purple outfit that included a mask that blanked out his eyes. This is an element we see in many superhero masks to this day, the most famous one being Spiderman's mask. Phantom also matches the encyclopedic definition by Britannica, but two years later, DC introduced their Superman in Action Comics #1, and his success overshadows Phantom's until today. The rest is history.
The First-Ever Alcoholic Beverage
A tricky one, this is. Every so often, archeologists find new proof of ancient or even prehistoric alcoholic beverages, each new one more ancient than the last. But the most recent find is dated from about 7,000 to 6,600 BC. This one was found in Jiahu, a neolithic village in the Yellow River Valley in China. The remains of the drink were recovered from pottery, and a chemical analysis tells us that this fermented drink was composed of a mix of rice, honey, hawthorn fruit, and grapes.
The fermentation process is what made it alcoholic, and so it was preserved well without any means of refrigeration. This specific site in Jiahu was already famous for yielding some of the earliest musical instruments and domesticated rice. From that information, we can infer that this was a well-established civilization with a culture of its own.
The First-Ever Valentine's Day
The first officially recorded Valentine's Day in history was in the year 496. As for the historical background and the specific origins of this special day, we don't have one reliable source. The story consists of bits and pieces of information put together to form a whole picture. It goes something like this: the popular belief is that Valentine was a priest in Rome under the rule of the emperor Claudius II.
The emperor banned marriage because of his theory that married men make weak soldiers. But Valentine continued to arrange marriages in secret, and for that, he was sentenced to death. In jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter. When he was taken to his execution on February 14, he left her a love letter signed "From your Valentine," making his name synonymous to this day with the word "lover."
But how did this come to be an annual Christian celebration? Well, the Romans had a festival in the middle of February to celebrate the beginning of spring. Participants of this festival were coupled up for the celebration by a name-drawing ceremony. The church simply took this festival and converted it into a Christian holiday.