Throughout history, Americans have invented many ingenious items and products. Some we all know about like Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod and the Wright brothers’ airplane. Here is a list of some inventions that you may not know were created by Americans.
The Ferris Wheel
George Washington Ferris, an American engineer from Illinois, invented the Ferris wheel for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. Challenged to conceive of a monument for the fair that would be more impressive than the Eiffel Tower, he designed the wheel from which visitors would be able to view the entire fair. Millions of visitors enjoyed the very first Ferris Wheel and it continues to be a popular attraction at amusement parks and fairs.
The Ouija Board
If you’ve watched your share of spooky movies, you may be familiar with the Ouija Board. It is a classic supernatural game that lets you ask questions and a small heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic guides you for answers on a flat board marked with various letters, numbers, words, and symbols. It was invented by Elijah Bond in 1890 as a parlor game. While the Ouija Board has received criticism, today it is still manufactured by Hasbro and has been included in many books, movies, and television.
Yum! Cheeseburgers are so delicious and such an icon of American culture. While there are several competing claims as to who created the first cheeseburger, it appears to be an American invention by Lionel Sternberger. At the age of 16 in 1926, while working as a cook in his dad’s California sandwich shop, he created the cheeseburger.
We all have (or at least should) incorporating flossing as part of our daily hygiene routine. But did you know floss is an American invention? As early as 1815, floss was invented by Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans, Louisiana. While the early version was made from silk, today we use nylon or plastic floss for good dental care.
A more recent American invention is the Super Soaker, a high powered water gun. The Super Soaker was invented in 1982 by engineer Lonnie Johnson who created one out of PVC pipe, a plastic container, and a soda bottle. It was a great design that millions of Americans, kids, and adults buy and use yearly.
While you may think a swivel chair is a more modern invention, did you know it was invented in 1776 by none other than founding father Thomas Jefferson? Amazing right? Jefferson heavily modified the Windsor-styled chair such that the top and bottom parts were connected by a central iron spindle. This enabled the top half known as the seat, to swivel on casters. The original did not have wheels as many of our swivel chairs today include.
Duct tape began as a serious solution. During World War II, the U.S. military needed a strong, waterproof tape to help keep ammunition cases dry. The tape began as army-green colored but as its use expanded outside of the military, duct tape was offered in a gray color to match “ducts” – hence its name. Today, duct tape is found in most American homes as a very versatile tool.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
It’s such classic, simple and delicious cookie. Made from flour, butter, brown sugar and semi sweet chocolate morsels, it was made by accident in 1930 by Ruth Graves Wakefield who owned a restaurant in Whitman Massachusetts, called of the Toll House Inn. What a great mistake!
In 1893, Whitcomb L. Judson, an inventor from Chicago, created the “clasp locker” which we now know as the zipper. To save time and fuss with buttons, the zipper is a quick and easy fastener for clothing, accessories and more. Americans and people worldwide use zippers every day.
Can you imagine traffic without traffic lights? Thank goodness in 1912, Lester Wire, a policeman from Salt Lake City, created the first traffic light. They now efficiently manage the traffic of pedestrians and vehicles at intersections across the U.S. and worldwide. While originally only a red and green light, the yellow has been added.
Now commonplace in kitchens, the microwave oven was invented in 1945 by Percy Spencer. He was an engineer from Maine working for Raytheon on radar sets. He discovered that the microwaves he was exposed to at work, melted some chocolate in his pocket. This discovery paved the way to the microwave oven that can cook, thaw or reheat food.
The last invention we will mention on our list is one that saves lives. Defibrillator paddles are placed by doctors onto the chest of a patient to deliver a large dose of electrical energy to a heart affected with a variety of ailments. First used on human patients by Dr. Claude Beck in 1947, they were initially used during open chest operations only. Today, defibrillator paddles are such a common life-saving tool.