We’ve written several times about the concept of “creative Destruction” involved as technological innovations replace existing products and procedures. Here are some of them that have either been replaced or are in process of being phased out.

We’ve written several times about the concept of “creative Destruction” involved as technological innovations replace existing products and procedures. Here are some of them that have either been replaced or are in process of being phased out.

Studebaker Automobile [1852-1967]

My best friend’s dad bought one of these about 1950. It was torpedo-shaped in front and back—like an airplane that couldn’t decide which way it wanted to fly. The writer’s message, dated July 29, 2909, read, “The quality and reputation of al the Studebaker product maintains for us the great plant shown on the other side. Vehicle Headquarters at Kansas City, 13th and Hickory Streets., Send us your order.”

Pipe Organs

Wicks Organ Company incorporated in 1906 to make high-grade church organs which they have constructed all over the world and continue to do although their business has declined as churches have ceased using organs and colleges have followed suit by discontinuing organ majors.

Sears Roebuck

In 19th century rural America, general stores in the country and small hardware stores in country villages had limited product lines and some monopoly power. Most roads were dirt and when muddy kept customers homebound. As roads were paved and the USPO began offering parcel post, Montgomery Ward and Sears [1886] produced thick catalogs containing thousands of products—even houses. By the 1920’s these two stores were the centers of shopping in most small town squares.

Regrettably both failed to keep up with trends in merchandising—especially locating in suburban malls. Ward’s died and Sears is dying from discount competition from Wal-Mart and luxury competition from a variety of stores. They could have returned to their rural roots with smaller stores but the various “dollar” stores pre-empted that niche market. They could have returned to their catalog roots but Amazon et al pre-empted that market. Consequently, there doesn’t seem to be much market left for them.


Oleomargarine [Oleo] was solicited and rewarded by Napoleon who wanted a cheap alternative to butter. Butterine , which contains milk, was popular in the U.S. during the era of WWI. Oleo was made principally with hydrogenated cottonseed oil a naturally white substance giving the impression of lard. Packets of yellow dye were included in the package which our parents made us mix with the Oleo to give it the look of butter. Post-war this regulation ended and the industry developed a variety of Oleo substitutes in the margarine category. Health concerns have removed animal fats and hydrogenated substances from margarines.

Telephone Operators

Companies no longer have live persons answering and routing calls. It is maddening to hear “Please listen carefully as our menu has changed. If you want to place an order, press “1” etc. Employees are shielded from customers by these call routing systems. My thought is the whole idea is to eliminate telephone operators, secretaries, or any other live person who might actually help you and prevent the ones remaining from actually having to deal with the public. Land lines are going as private parties shift to cell phones.

Commuter Trains

Of course, commuter trains required a break-even amount of passenger in order to survive which limits them to the east and west coast corridors and a few large inland cities. But, small towns once had street cars which were quite similar to the commuter train pictured here. They were wonderful! Private car ownership killed them outside of metropolitan areas.

It is my understanding that the millennial generation prefers urban living with its public transportation. If it is like Toronto, great, but if it is like Detroit, forget it. And, don’t be misled by downtown streetcars ‘circulating’ folks around downtown for genuine commuter rail lines connecting suburbanites with the inner city. AAA estimates it now costs $0.60 per mile to own and drive your own automobile which prices many young and poor persons out of the car market. Uber is helping meet this need in the absence of commuter lines.

Sewing machines, Patterns

As a small child I sat and rocked back and forth on the ‘treadle’ of my Mother’s 1904 Singer sewing machine. Once a week she took me with her on the streetcar to the John A. Brown Dept. Store in downtown OKC where she shopped for patterns and piece goods. She made dresses for herself and my sister. When Mom took a sewing class at OU she was better than her professor! My wife’s graduation present from OSU was an electric portable Singer sewing machine which she used until it wore out. No doubt it paid for itself many times over. Most women used to sew a lot and now only a few do. Pity.

A Pound of Coffee

When the prices of goods like candy bars were controlled during WWII, companies evaded the problem by keeping the package and price the same while reducing the size of the bar inside. The coffee industry copied the practice until now I don’t think a true, 16 ounce “pound” can of coffee exists. The movies have their own version. They kept their X, R, PG, and G grades but drastically relaxed their definitions. The industry classification standards have undergone such a devolution they deliberately introduce prurient content into a G-rated to downgrade them to PG because audiences avoid movies they think are too clean.