The Most Famous Invention from Every State
Which great American invention comes from your state?
While it’s impossible to pinpoint the sport’s exact origins—other South Pacific groups had their own versions of surfing—Hawaiians are attributed with perfecting and popularizing the sport. Learn about the biggest wave ever surfed and other crazy world records from every state.
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Philo Taylor Farnsworth was a teenager working on his family farm in Idaho when he had a vision for an invention. Other inventors working on televisions were toying with a mechanical-powered device, but he thought electricity would be a better choice. He later moved to Utah, then California, before his idea came to life, but Rigby, Idaho, still deems itself the birthplace of television.
Illinois: Cell phone
Motorola innovator Martin Cooper invented the first working cell phone in Schaumburg, Illinois, in 1973. The ten-inch, 2.5-pound device was nicknamed The Brick at that point and wouldn’t hit the shelves for another ten years.
Indiana: Rearview mirror
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You can thank NASCAR’s predecessors for rearview mirrors. In 1911, during the first Indianapolis 500, driver Ray Harroun didn’t bring a rider in his motorcar to check traffic behind him. Instead, he hooked a mirror up to his dashboard so he could see for himself—and ended up winning the race.
In the 1930s, teen Iowa Hawkeye Circus gymnast George Nissen used scrap steel and tire inner tubes to create a “bouncing rig” for his act. Nissen, whose nickname when performing in Mexico was Campeón de Trampolín, later started selling a portable version with his coach.
The owner of a Coffeyville, Kansas, Dairy Queen didn’t have a soda fountain, so he froze bottles of soda to serve to customers in the late 1950s. Five years later, he introduced the ICEE machine to whip up pourable frozen, carbonated drinks.
Kentucky: “Happy Birthday to You”
While the writer of the lyrics you sing over cake has been lost in time, its tune came from Louisville sisters Mildred and Patty Hill, which they used in their 1893 song “Good Morning to All.”
A 1916 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune made the first known mention of “jas bands.” It’s impossible to pinpoint the first jazz player, but more than 100 years later, the city is still known as the Birthplace of Jazz.
Maine native Chester Greenwood couldn’t ice skate for as long as he wanted when he was young because he was allergic to wool caps, so his ears would get frostbite easily. He had his grandmother help him attach beaver fur or flannel pads—historians disagree which—to a wire ring. He was initially teased, but eventually the headpiece caught on, and he built a factory in the 1880s to mass-produce his earmuffs.
Maryland: Bottle caps
While Irish-born inventor William Painter was living in Baltimore, he noticed the cork, metal, and porcelain bottle stoppers used at the time were loose, meaning the fizzy drinks would flatten when customers took them to go—and some of the materials were even toxic. Painter mad the seal tighter in 1891 with a simple “crown cork,” designed as metal with a corrugated edge attached by hand or with a machine. A thin layer of cork kept toxins out of the drinks.