Chicago December 19, 2017
Some People Don’t Know That Chicago Was The First To Do These 11 Things
Chicago has had many firsts, and we’re proud of them all. From things to make your like easier to things that make life sweeter, our great city has played a major part in curating some major aspects of everyday life across the nation.
Chicagoans love to boast their accomplishments, and these 11 inventions and creations are certainly at the top of the list. Check them out:
1. Vacuum cleaner (1869)
Made from wood and canvas, this invention was first called the "Whirlwind." It was designed by Ives W. McGaffey and required a hand crank to power. They were sold for $25 each in both the city and in Boston until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed all but two vacuums.
2. Farm Silo (1873)
Prior to this revolutionary invention, grain was stored in pits in the ground. A graduate of the University of Illinois (then the Illinois Industrial University) built the first silo on his family's farm in Spring Grove, changing the typical landscape of a farm from then on out.
3. Skyscraper (1885)
Though it was demolished in 1931, the Home Insurance Building was considered the world's first skyscraper. At 138 feet tall, it had 10 stories and was made of steel. Our largest building today (Sears/Willis Tower) is 10 times as tall.
4. Dishwasher (1887)
As far as firsts go, this one played a huge part in saving time for the average American. Though some had come up with concepts for this appliance in previous years, Josephine Cochrane was the first to invent the model that would later be used worldwide. It was originally known as "Lavaplatos."
5. Yellow pencils (1889)
These iconic writing tools were first introduced to the world in Paris, actually, but the American debut was right here in Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition. They were invented by a company in Austria and made with graphite from the Far East and 14 coats of paint (yellow was symbolic of royalty to some at the time).
6. Ferris Wheel (1893)
Designed for the World's Columbian Exposition, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. invented his famous wheel (originally called the Chicago Wheel) to be an astounding attraction - and it was. Today, you can enjoy a replica at Navy Pier.
7. Zipper (1893)
First named a "clasp locker," you wouldn't be able to keep your britches up without this invention. It was unveiled by Whitcomb L. Judson at the World's Columbian Exposition and was originally intended for shoes.
8. Brownies (1893)
This was yet another treat made to wow visitors of the World's Columbian Exposition. Created by the wife of a millionaire who owned the Palmer House, the bars were made with semi-sweet chocolate and topped with an apricot glaze and crushed walnuts.
9. Open heart surgery (1893)
Though it was technically the second surgery performed on a heart, Daniel Hale Williams is credited with the first recorded open heart surgery in the world. To make it even more astounding, it was certainly the first one performed by an African American surgeon, especially at a time when few African Americans were allowed to even work in hospitals. Williams opened his own hospital years prior to meet the needs of the African American community.
10. Gay Rights Movement (1924)
The Society of Human Rights was a short-lived organization that was known as America's first gay rights group. It paved the way for many that would come in the near future. The organization also produced a publication for the LGBTQ community.
11. McDonald's (1955)
Des Plaines is known as being home to the first McDonald's franchise in America. Though some others had popped up around the county, ours was considered the first to be designed with the signature arches and look of a Micky Dee's. At the time of this writing, there are plans to either destroy or relocate the popular museum replica of this Chicago first.
Get more information here.
Chicago has been lucky to be able to lay claim to these firsts. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a fair created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492. It featured a large reflecting pool made to represent the long voyage from Spain. Chicago competed with New York City, Washington D.C., and St. Louis for the honor of hosting the event. Chicagoans took this very seriously, and that’s why we came up with so many dynamite inventions.
If you’re loving all this Windy City history, check out
8 restaurants in Chicago with storied pasts.
What other firsts is Chicago responsible for? Share your favorites with us!