The Surprising History of the Traffic Cone: Spring is here, Chicago!


They’re so ubiquitous now that it’s difficult to imagine a world without them, especially starting in Spring in Chicago: the tall, orange cones that were the bane of our first driver’s test and our constant roadway companions ever since. These bright triangles of helpfulness did not just spring fully-formed from the ground, however. They had their own history of development, with a few surprises along the way.

History of the Ever-Popular Traffic Cone

Designed in 1940 by painter Charles D. Scanlon, traffic cones were originally used solely to divert the flow of automobiles away from fresh paint. By 1943, the cones had been modified to make up for some weaknesses in design; by 1947, they were being mass-produced and used for a wider variety of traffic-control situations.

In 1958, the use of orange traffic cones spread across the pond. The first use of traffic cones in England coincided with the opening of the M6 Motorway, and they have been a traffic staple ever since. For some reason, these traffic-savers have become “inexplicably inviting to the intoxicated,”: many a U.K. sun rises to reveal a orange-cone-topped monument. (Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington Monument has been a target so many times that it’s actually nicknamed the Conehead Duke.)

Whether they’re used to merge traffic lanes, redirect traffic flow, or adorn the statue of a well-beloved public figure, there’s no denying that traffic cones are here to stay. The next time you’re out and about, try spotting as many as you can and identifying them with this handy Traffic Cone Field Guide.

If you’re wondering why we have traffic cones on the brain, it’s because we focus on keeping Chicago’s roadways and parking lots clear of snow and ice – but with Spring in the air, there’s a new item all over the roads – traffic cones! Construction season is here!

Remember that we here at Brancato Snow & Ice Management, our desire to keep you informed, prepared and educated – even if it’s about fun facts on traffic cones! For more information on our Chicago snow removal services and rates, please feel free to contact us.