Where technology brought us 

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Today's disposable diapers a far cry from originals

By Tory Brecht, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

They've come a long way, baby.

Today's disposable diapers -- sized for age, tailored for boys or girls, easy to affix, with elastic leg holes and waists to let your little one wiggle comfortably -- are a far cry from the milkweed leaf wraps and animal skins used by primitive moms.

The convenient disposable is a relatively new invention -- created by a harried New York housewife named Marion Donovan in 1950. Mrs. Donovan, tired of washing, bleaching and air drying cloth diapers, cut up her shower curtain into plastic envelopes into which she slipped absorbent material. She used snap closures, rather than pins, to secure the new diaper on her children and dubbed her new product the ``Boater.''

When no manufacturer bought the idea, Mrs. Donovan called on New York department stores, which agreed to stock them. The disposables were an immediate success and Mrs. Donovan eventually sold her company for $1 million.

The evolution of baby bottom apparel prior to disposable diapers is a long -- and sometimes repellent -- story.

In Elizabethan times, babies were treated to a fresh diaper only every four days -- except royal tots, who got a fresh change once a day. The diapers themselves were squares of cloth secured by a string around the baby's stomach.

In the American West of pioneer days, mothers made all their children's diapers from available materials. Wet diapers were seldom washed, just hung by the fireplace to dry.

The first all-cotton diapers were made in America -- a 21 by 40-inch rectangle that could be folded, tucked and pinned.

World War II and the increase in working mothers brought about the advent of the diaper service. These companies would deliver fresh cotton diapers on an as-needed basis to moms tuckered out from building planes and tanks all day.

Not everyone celebrates the convenience of disposable diapers. Environmentalists are concerned about the number of non-biodegradable diapers buried in landfills.

With the average baby requiring eight to 12 diaper changes a day, the soggy bundles are a major trash item. Kathy Morris, director of the Scott County Waste System, said a 1993 study showed disposable diapers made up about 4 percent of all garbage in the main Davenport landfill.

Sources used in compiling this story include: ``Feminine Ingenuity: Women and Invention in America,'' Anne. L. McDonald, Ballantine Books, New York, 1992; and an article on the history of the diaper from Diapers Unlimited, Cotton Diaper Service, Kalamazoo, Mich.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.