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Seeing orange traffic cones is engrained in our daily lives. Whether we are driving down the street or walking around a reconstructed sidewalk, it is very common to see cones of all sizes on a regular basis. But when did safety cones become so mainstream? And who invented the first traffic cone? Well, let’s find out!
The history of the shiny orange safety cone dates back 80 years. A Los Angeles street painter named Charles P Scanlon created a hollow, cone-shaped marker made of used tire skins sewn together to notify drivers of wet paint in 1940. After some tweaks, he patented his design in 1943. His road safety marker featured a heavy base to handle wind, feet to prevent the majority of the base touching wet paint, and an overall resilient material from car damage.
With mass production beginning in 1947 at Interstate Rubber Products Corporation, Los Angeles was the first to adopt them city-wide. As interest grew and more cities saw the potential of these rubber safety cones, the MUTCD (The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) first added the safety cone to their publication in 1961, with detailed requirements further expanded upon in every MUTCD update from thereafter. The original rubber traffic cone started with a black base, yellow painted body, and a red painted trim top!
Though we have been making flow-molded PVC All Orange Cones™ at our production facility in St. Charles, Illinois since 1969, cones continue to grow in usage and popularity today. The MUTCD continues to mandate the safety requirements for all traffic cones, such as 28” traffic cones are the minimum size required on any highway usage and safety cones used at night must include specific-sized reflective collars based on cone height for increased visibility. While the amount of options offered when choosing a safety cone have increased, their importance in keeping everyone safe has never been more vital.