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Comfort in the Traveler’s World—A Brief History

© Courtesy of US Patent & Trademark Office Comfort

Photo: Courtesy of US Patent & Trademark Office

8000 B.C.

Early global nomads find their footing: the oldest pair of SHOES—woven out of sagebrush bark—dates back 10,000 years. On view at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene, Oregon (1680 E. 15th Ave.; 541/346-3024).

Circa 450 B.C.

While visiting Egypt, ancient Greek historian and storyteller Herodotus notes that the oil from a kiki plant is used to ward off bugs. The first INSECT REPELLENT is officially recognized.


Shelter from the storm: although the UMBRELLA was invented more than 4,000 years earlier, it isn’t until travel writer Jonas Hanway carries one around London that British gentlemen adopt the accessory (and umbrellas become known as "Hanways").


With individually locked rooms, indoor toilets and baths, and complimentary bars of soap, the Tremont House in Boston is the world’s first MODERN HOTEL.


Real luxury trains will come later, but Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley Railroad’s SLEEPER-CAR SERVICE—from Harrisburg to Chambersburg—makes it possible for riders to fully recline, with pull-down beds and basic linens.


Vacation packages arrive with the first TRAVEL AGENT: Thomas Cook of Leicester, England. His company launches with an all-inclusive trip to Liverpool and North Wales—just sign up and show up.


High-thread-count hotel bedding is born. FRETTE, PAYRE & CHABOUD open their first factory in Grenoble, France. The line gains popularity as 500 noble European families commission handmade linens. Hotels follow suit in 1899, beginning with the Royal Danieli in Venice.


No more neck cramps on overnight journeys. Edward G. Fast of Washington, D.C., invents the SLEEPING PILLOW, an inflatable, sausage-shaped apparatus (which looked silly from day one).


Cyclists rejoice: Ohio native Arthur Garford introduces the PADDED BIKE SEAT, known as the Garford Saddle, enabling longer, more pleasant rides. Within the first few years, more than 1 million seats are sold.


The MOVING SIDEWALK, fitted with chairs, debuts at the Chicago World’s Fair. It takes another 64 years for the invention to speed up travelers’ lives; in 1957, the 277-foot-long sidewalk, called the "Speedwalk," arrives at Hudson & Manhattan Railroad’s Erie Station in Jersey City, New Jersey.


Leave it to the French to make airline food more civilized. France’s Air Union serves the first ONBOARD HOT MEAL—a five-course lunch paired with wines.


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