Greetings, this answer is probably way too esoteric, but I've just had my first coffee so here goes. That type of chain, also known as block chain goes back to the 18th century, possibly earlier, some early trucks and automobiles used a chain as part of the connection from the transmission to the rear wheels. It's only natural that it was used on bicycles, how else you gona do it. As manufacturing and the want to have more gears evolved the half inch pitch evolved, easier to go up and down a freewheel.
Oscar Juner always said that half inch pitch chain did not belong on the track, not strong enough, although I did break one in a sprint.