Illinois is famous for a lot of things. Deep dish pizza. Michael Jordan. But there are some awesome things we use every day that most of us have no idea originated in Illinois. Read on:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cell phones
The first handheld mobile phone - as opposed to the giant car phones that came before - was developed in the early 1970s by Motorola, which was based in Schaumburg.
Universal Fastener Company (now Talon Zipper), based in Chicago, debuted a simple zipper at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Whitcomb Judson was the man behind that particular iteration of the zipper, though Elias Howe had an earlier patent for a similar device.
An early model of a hand-powered dishwasher was introduced at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair by Josephine Cochrane, a wealthy woman who was tired of servants chipping her good china. She is famously said to have cried in exasperation, "If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I'll do it myself!"
4. Pinball machine
The history of the pinball machine stretches all the way back to the 17th century, but you can thank a bevy of Chicago-based companies for mass producing the coin operated machines in the 30s.
Dentistry as a profession, that is. At the turn of the 19th century, Greene Vardiman Black developed a number of materials, techniques, instruments, and research patterns that ushered in modern dentistry as a scientific pursuit. The American Dental Association has called Chicago home since 1918.
6. Barbed wire
The precursor to modern barbed wire was a simple wooden block with pointy wires sticking out to deter cattle from crossing a fence line. The invention, patented by Henry B. Rose, was on display at a DeKalb fair in 1873 when it was spotted by Joseph Glidden, who turned the idea into a marketable product.
7. Vacuum cleaner
Chicago inventor Ives McGaffey patented a sweeping machine in 1869; it was a hand-pumped contraption made of wood and canvas, but it provided the inspiration for later electric-powered devices.
8. Ferris wheel
One of the best-known Chicago inventions, the Ferris wheel was developed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. and debuted at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
It's widely assumed that softball is a derivative of baseball, but it was actually invented while Harvard and Yale alumni at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago waited for the results of a football match between the two schools. One chap threw a boxing glove at another, who hit it with a stick...and the rest is history.
This amazingly delicious chocolatey treat came to the world courtesy of the pastry chef at Chicago's Palmer Hotel in 1893. The hotel owner's wife asked for a treat that was cake-like but smaller and more transportable than cake.
11. Yellow pencils
Pencils got their recognizable color from their early European manufacturer, the Hardtmuth Company of Austria. Bright yellow, a symbol of royalty in China, represented the fine Chinese graphite used to make them. Yellow pencils were introduced to America at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 where they promptly became an American favorite.
The world's first skyscraper was the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago. Sadly, it stood for less than 50 years before being demolished.