Victorian Inventions Facts for Kids

  • During the Victorian period, many inventions were created. These inventions solved problems and made life better for people.
  • Many of them are still used today. Some have evolved and turned into beneficial everyday machines all of us use.

The Railway Network

London Euston was the first train station in London. It connected London to Birmingham. The trains also went everywhere in England and Wales.

The railway was a popular way to transport goods and people in Victorian times. It also helped the Industrial Revolution.

The Daguerreotype

Louis Daguerre invented daguerreotypes. He made them with a sheet of silver-plated copper, which he would make light-sensitive with fumes.

He would then expose the copper to bright lights. The daguerreotype was the first type of photograph that could be sold because it lasted for a long time.

Daguerreotypes were good, but they were stiff and heavy. The images could be broken, so you had to keep them in a case.

The Camera 

William Fox Talbot invented special paper that is sensitive to light in 1839. He worked out how to use a negative to develop and print a picture.

This made it so that ordinary people could have photographs taken by a special photographer with their camera box. Suddenly the way history was recorded changed because people could take pictures of what they saw in front of them instead of artists’ paintings.

The Motorcar

The first car was made in 1885 by a German engineer called Karl Benz. The car had three wheels and ran on gasoline.

Soon, cars were seen on the streets of Victorian England, but they looked very different from cars today. The speed limit for cars was 4 miles per hour, and there was one worker outside of the car holding a flag, walking in front of it.

People could not travel very far before the car was invented. Now they could go to other places without horses.

The Electric Bulb

Other people in Britain had made electric lights before Thomas Edison. They were called arc lamps and were very bright but did not work for long.

So Edison created a lamp that would last 1200 hours, and he invented the screw fitting we use today to attach it. He also made the meters to track how much electricity we use each day.

Pillar Post Boxes

A pillar post box is tall, and it stands in the street. It is where people can put their outgoing mail. The first pillar post boxes were built in Guernsey in 1852.

Early Victorian post boxes were green. The first red post boxes were erected in London in 1874, and it took nearly ten years for the remainder of the post boxes to be re-painted.

Wireless Radio

In 1895, Guglielmo Marconi sent a signal from Italy, which was the first time that people could transmit and receive messages wirelessly.

Then Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first wireless signal across the English Channel. In 1901, Marconi was able to receive a radio signal from Newfoundland all the way.

The Penny Black Stamp

Many years ago, people put stamps on the mail they sent.  The first stamp was called The Penny Black, and it had a picture of Queen Victoria on it. They were worth one penny.

Before stamps, people had to pay for the delivery of their letter when it arrived at their door. After stamps, they did not have to do that anymore.

The Penny Black was popular when it first came out, but after it got black ink, people couldn’t see the stamp. The Penny Red was much better because it had red ink that could be seen.

The Bicycle

Bicycles were built around the world in 1817. James Starley and Eugène Meyer created a new type of bike that had two wheels, but one was bigger than the other (like a penny and a farthing coin).

It was fast but unsafe to ride because it was easy to be thrown over the front. Queen Victoria owned one of these bikes, but we don’t know if she ever rode it.

The Telephone

Alexander Bell was a Scottish scientist, engineer, and inventor. He spent many years looking for ways to send a voice-only through wires.

He began working with Thomas Watson, and together they made the first-ever telephone call. In the first phone call, Alexander said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you!” Soon, thousands of people had telephones in their homes!

The Typewriter

A typewriter is a machine that prints letters, numbers, and symbols onto paper. It works when you press the keys on the keyboard, and it moves a stamp that presses ink onto the paper.

Scholes and his associates created a typewriter that could be sold in stores. It looked like a table with shelves to put papers on top of but had keys for every letter so people could type faster than they could by hand.

The Electric Telegraph

The telegraph was a way to send messages over long distances. It used wires that electric signals went through.

Samuel Morse designed a code in which each letter of the alphabet was represented by a unique pattern of dots and dashes. This is known as Morse Code.

In 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse sent his first telegraph transmission from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland. A telegraph line had been built across the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe by 1866.

X-rays

X-rays are a type of radiation that can’t be seen or felt. They go through your body at different speeds, and then a detecting machine points out where the radiation has been slower to pass through.

Before the invention of x-rays, doctors had to guess what was wrong with people by looking at them without seeing them inside their bodies. Wilhelm Röntgen first received Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901 because he invented x-rays and showed doctors how they could “see” inside people’s bodies.

The Underground Railway in London

Before creating the railway, if you wanted to travel from London to Edinburgh via horseback, it would take you 12 days. The world’s first underground railway opened between two places: Paddington and Farringdon. It used wooden carriages and was hauled by steam locomotives and lit by gas lamps.

It was a huge success with 38,000 passengers on opening day. Because there were no ventilation shafts, the smoke would accumulate, and the drivers would be coughing all the time.

The use of steam trains underground led to some health complaints, but when electric vehicles, such as trams were built in the early 1900s, the underground was modernized. Today, the 11 lines of the underground handle up to five million passengers a day!

The Sewing Machine

Elias Howe was an American who invented the machine that makes clothes. It took him five years to invent the machine, and he moved to England to sell it.

Isaac Merrit Singer made the most successful hand-operated sewing machine. It made sewing fast and efficient.

Mr. Singer was the best maker of sewing machines in 1860. He also made them in Britain after he opened his factory in Glasgow. In 1889, he invented the electric-powered sewing machine.

A seamstress could stitch a shirt in 15 hours, but this machine could make the same shirt in only two hours! In 1900, sewing machines were making dresses and tents, sails, bags, book bindings, and flags.

The Flushing Toilet

In the past, people would use holes in the ground or what we call chamber pots in bedrooms.

George Jennings was a plumber who had an idea for a toilet that he had never been seen before. This happened at the Great Exhibition of 1851. People liked it, and 827,280 visitors paid one penny to use it.

The saying “spending a penny” comes from people who had to spend a penny before they could get a clean seat at the toilet. For the penny, they also got their shoes shined, and their hair combed.

Thomas Crapper designed and patented many toilets, but not the modern toilet. He was the first person to have a shop where he could show his work.

Women had to fight for the right to use a toilet. When women began working in industries, they fought for the same rights as men.

Rubber Tires

In 1845, Scottish inventor Robert William Thomson patented the pneumatic tire, or “aerial wheel.” It was not until 43 years later that he put them on his child’s tricycle. In 1888, John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire again for bicycles and motorcars. The company is still making rubber tires today!

The Gramophone

Thomas Edison made the first sound recording and playing machine in 1877. It was recorded onto a round cylinder, which you could then play back only once. This wasn’t good because the sound quality was bad.

Emile Berliner invented a new kind of music recorder. People put sound on flat pieces of glass called records. The needle would go over the grooves and turn the vibrations into sounds. This was the gramophone.

Christmas Cards

In 1843, a wealthy man from Britain named Sir Henry Cole wanted to send a card that said “Merry Christmas” to people he knew. A friend of his, John Calcott Horsley, made the first Christmas card and sent it to him. The card had a picture of a typical family celebrating Christmas together and giving something to charity.

Ice Cream Manufacturing

Ice cream was invented in 1851. The inventor was Jacob Fussell. He made it on a large scale, but people have been eating ice and flavored ices for a long time.

Ice cream manufacturing was an accident. Jacob often had too much cream, and then he decided to turn it into ice cream. He made a factory that made lots of ice cream for everyone.

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