Charles Forster, inspired by the hand-carved picks used by Brazilians, saw huge potential in mass-producing wooden toothpicks in the US. He got Boston inventor Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant to create a machine that was capable of producing millions of toothpicks a day by 1870.
The real genius was in Forster’s marketing campaign: One of his ploys was to have Harvard men eat at restaurants and demand a toothpick after their meal. They’d make a fuss when none was available, and when the toothpick salesmen came around a few days later, the restaurant managers bought in.
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(The Slate article is a kind of condensed version of Amazon.)‘s book The Toothpick: Technology and Culture, which can be bought on
Image taken by C R.