Timeline of United States inventions (1890–1945)

Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945), the American physicist and inventor who built and launched the world's first liquid-propellant rocket on March 16, 1926.[1] Goddard held 214 patents for his inventions and pioneering innovations in liquid-propelled, guided, and multi-stage rockets.[2]

A timeline of United States inventions (1890–1945) encompasses the ingenuity and innovative advancements of the United States within a historical context, dating from the Progressive Era to the end of World War II, which have been achieved by inventors who are either native-born or naturalized citizens of the United States. Copyright protection secures a person's right to his or her first-to-invent claim of the original invention in question, highlighted in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution which gives the following enumerated power to the United States Congress:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

In 1641, the first patent in North America was issued to Samuel Winslow by the General Court of Massachusetts for a new method of making salt.[3][4][5] On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the Patent Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 109) into law which proclaimed that patents were to be authorized for "any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any improvement therein not before known or used."[6] On July 31, 1790, Samuel Hopkins of Pittsford, Vermont became the first person in the United States to file and to be granted a patent under the new U.S. patent statute.[7] The Patent Act of 1836 (Ch. 357, 5 Stat. 117) further clarified United States patent law to the extent of establishing a patent office where patent applications are filed, processed, and granted, contingent upon the language and scope of the claimant's invention, for a patent term of 14 years with an extension of up to an additional 7 years.[6]

From 1836 to 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted a total of 7,861,317 patents[8] relating to several well-known inventions appearing throughout the timeline below. Some examples of patented inventions between the years 1890 and 1945 include John Froelich's tractor (1892),[9] Ransom Eli Olds' assembly line (1901),[10] Willis Carrier's air-conditioning (1902),[11] the Wright Brothers' airplane (1903),[12] and Robert H. Goddard's liquid-fuel rocket (1926).[1]

Progressive Era (1890–1919)

1890 Stop sign

A stop sign is a traffic sign, usually erected at road junctions such as a four-way intersection, that instructs drivers to stop and then to proceed only if the way ahead is clear. The idea of placing stop signs at road junctions was first conceived in 1890 when William Phelps Eno of Saugatuck, Connecticut proposed and devised the first set of traffic laws in an article published in Rider and Driver. However, the first use of stop signs did not appear until 1915 when officials in Detroit, Michigan installed a stop sign with black letters on a white background. Throughout the years and with many alterations made to the stop sign, the current version with white block-lettering on a red background that is used in the United States as well as emulated in many other countries around the world today, did not come into use until the Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices adopted the design in 1975.[13]

1890 Tabulating machine

The tabulating machine is an electrical device designed to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. The results of a tabulation are electrically coupled with a sorter while displayed on clock-like dials. The concept of automated data processing had been born. In 1890, Herman Hollerith invented the mechanical tabulating machine, a design used during the 1890 Census which stored and processed demographic and statistical information on punched cards.[14][15]

1890 Shredded wheat

1890 Babcock test

1890 Smoke detector

1891 Ferris wheel

The original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago

A Ferris wheel is a non-building structure, consisting of an upright wheel with passenger gondolas attached to the rim. Opened on June 21, 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair, the original Ferris Wheel was invented two years earlier by the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bridge-builder George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. in 1891.[19]

1891 Dow process

The Dow process is the electrolytic method of bromine extraction from brine, and was Herbert Henry Dow's second revolutionary process for generating bromine commercially in 1891.[20]

1891 Tesla coil

A Tesla coil is a type of resonant transformer circuit invented by Nikola Tesla around 1891. Nikola Tesla used these coils to conduct innovative experiments in electrical lighting, phosphorescence, x-ray generation, high frequency alternating current phenomena, electrotherapy, and the transmission of electrical energy without wires for point-to-point telecommunications, broadcasting, and the transmission of electrical power.[21]

1891 Rotary dial

1891 Pastry fork

1891 Schrader valve

A Schrader valve consists of a hollow cylindrical metal tube, typically brass, with the exterior end threaded. The interior end takes a variety of forms depending on its application. In the center of the exterior end is a metal pin pointing along the axis of the tube; the pin's end is flush with the end of the valve body. Generally, all Schrader valves are used on tires. They have threads and bodies of a single standard size at the exterior end, so caps and tools generally are universal for the valves on all automobile and bicycle pneumatic tires. Also, pressure valves can be used on Schrader valves in place of caps in order to measure the pressure of pneumatic tires. In 1891, George Schrader, the son of German-American immigrant August Schrader, invented the Schrader valve. A patent was issued on April 11, 1893.[26]

1892 Bottle cap

1892 Dimmer

1892 Bicycle seat (padded)

1892 internal combustion-powered tractor A tractor is a distinctive farm vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction. Agricultural implements may be towed behind or mounted on the tractor, and the tractor may also provide a source of power if the implement is mechanized. While steam powered tractors had been built earlier, In 1892, John Froelich invented and built the first gasoline-powered tractor in Clayton County, Iowa.[9][9][31][32][33][34]

1893 Zipper

Three zippers: Metal, plastic, and nylon

The zipper is a popular device for temporarily joining two edges of fabric. Zippers are found on trousers, jeans, jackets, and luggage. Whitcomb L. Judson was an American mechanical engineer from Chicago who was the first to invent, conceive of the idea, and to construct a workable zipper.[35] Using a hook-and-eye device, Judson intended for this earliest form of the zipper to be used on shoes. He also conceived the idea of the slide fastener mechanism in conjunction with the invention of the zipper. Patents were issued to Judson for the zipper in 1891, 1894, and 1905.[36][37]

1893 Spectroheliograph

The spectroheliograph is an instrument used in astronomy that captures a photographic image of the Sun at a single wavelength of light, a monochromatic image. The spectroheliograph was invented in 1893 by George Ellery Hale and independently later by Henri Alexandre Deslandres in 1894.[38]

1893 Pinking shears

Early 1890s Phantoscope

1894 Stadimeter

Quartermaster 3rd Class Jaren Briggs uses a stadimeter to measure range during an underway replenishment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf

A stadimeter, a type of optical rangefinder, is an optical device for estimating the range to an object of known height by measuring the angle between the top and bottom of the object as observed at the device. It is similar to a sextant, in that the device is using mirrors to measure an angle between two objects but differs in that one dials in the height of the object. The stadimeter was invented in 1894 by Bradley Allen Fiske, a Rear-Admiral in the United States Navy.[41] The first sea tests, conducted in 1895, showed that it was equally useful for fleet sailing and for navigation.[42] Likewise, the stadimeter proved useful during the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War. U.S. patent #523,721 was issued to Fiske on July 31, 1894.[43]

1894 Mousetrap

A mousetrap is a specialized type of animal trap designed primarily to catch mice. However, it may also trap other small animals. Mousetraps are usually set in an indoor location where there is a suspected infestation of rodents. The first mouse trap was invented by William C. Hooker of Abingdon, Illinois, exactly three years before James Henry Atkinson developed a prototype called the "Little Nipper". Atkinson probably saw the Hooker trap in shops or in advertisements, and copyied it as the basis for his own model.[44] Hooker received US patent #528671 for his invention, the mousetrap, in 1894.[45][46]

1894 Medical glove

A disposal surgical glove

Medical gloves are disposable gloves used during medical examinations and procedures that help prevent contamination between caregivers and patients. Medical gloves are made of different polymers including latex, nitrile rubber, vinyl and neoprene; they come unpowdered, or powdered with cornstarch to lubricate the gloves, making them easier to put on the hands. In 1894, William Stewart Halsted, the Surgeon-in-Chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital, invented the medical glove in an effort to make medical care safer and more sterile for patients and health care workers.[47]

1895 Cyclocomputer

A cyclocomputer or cyclometer is a device mounted on a bicycle that calculates and displays trip information, similar to the instruments in the dashboard of a car. The computer with display, or head unit, usually is attached to the handlebar for easy viewing. In 1895, Curtis Hussey Veeder invented the cyclometer.[48]

1895 Clipless pedal

1895 Volleyball

Three volleyball players performing a block

Volleyball is an Olympic sport in which two teams of 6 active players are separated by a net. Each team tries to score points against one another by grounding a ball on the other team's court under organized rules. William G. Morgan invented the sport first known as "Mintonnette" in 1895 while studying at a YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It was later renamed volleyball by Alfred S. Halstead.[50]

1897 Cotton candy

Cotton candy is a soft confection made from sugar that is heated and spun into slim threads that look like a mass of cotton. It was co-invented in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Wharton, candy-makers from Nashville, Tennessee.[51]

1897 Muffler

A muffler is a device for reducing the amount of noise emitted by a machine. On internal combustion engines, the engine exhaust blows out through the muffler. The internal combustion engine muffler was invented by Milton O. Reeves[52] who received a patent in 1897.[53]

1897 Tapered roller bearing

1897 Ice cream scoop

1897 Charcoal briquette

1897 Billiards cue chalk

1898 Candy corn

Candy corn is a popular treat for American children during Halloween

Candy corn is a confection in the United States and Canada, popular primarily in autumn around Halloween, that mimics the shape and coloration of corn kernels—a broad yellow end, a tapered orange center, and a pointed white tip. Candy corn is made primarily from sugar, corn syrup, artificial coloring and binders. It is generally thought that George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented candy corn in the 1880s.[60] However, the earliest references credit the Goelitz Confectionery Company, now known as the Jelly Belly Candy Company, for introducing candy corn or "chicken feed" to the American public in 1898.[61]

1898 Remote control

A remote control is an electronic device used to operate any machine, such as a television, remotely. Many of these remotes communicate to their respective devices through infrared signals and radio control. In Madison Square Garden, at the Electrical Exhibition, Nikola Tesla gave the first demonstration of a boat propelling in water, controlled by his remote control which he designed using radio signals. Tesla received a patent for his invention in 1898.[62]

1898 Semi-automatic shotgun

1898 Filing cabinet (vertical)

1898 Installer bit

1898 Sousaphone

1899 Wing warping

Diagram of the Wright brothers' 1899 kite, showing wing bracing and strings attached to hand-held sticks used for warping the wing while in flight

Wing warping consists of the twisting motion of the wings of an aircraft to produce lateral control. The entire wing structure twists slightly in a helical motion in the desired direction. The concept of wing warping is attributed to Wilbur Wright who in 1899, came up with the idea and with the conclusion that the roll of an aircraft could be controlled by the motion of that aircraft's wings. Exemplified by the twisting of a long, narrow box, the Wright brothers incorporated wing warping on their 1899 glider that used ropes to pull on the wings. Later on, the young French engineer Robert Esnault-Pelterie replaced wing warping in 1904 with the aileron on a copy he made of a 19th-century Wright glider. However, it was Henry Farman, a French aviator, who was the first to use the aileron as an integral part of the wing structure in place of wing warping in 1908.[67]

1899 Flash-lamp

The electric flash-lamp is a device that uses an electrical circuit to trigger a fuse to ignite explosive powder such as magnesium, for a brief sudden burst of bright light "flash" from a chemical reaction of flash powder burning. It was principally used for flash photography in the early 20th century, but had other uses as well. The flash-lamp was invented and patented on November 7, 1899 by New York City resident Joshua Lionel Cowen.[68]

1900 Duckpin bowling

Duckpin bowling is a variation of bowling that uses balls which are significantly smaller than those used in ten-pin bowling, weighing 1–3 kg (2.2–6.6 lb) each, which are devoid of finger holes. The pins are correspondingly shorter and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents. Hence, when the pins are knocked down, they resemble a "flock of flying ducks". While the rules remained almost identical to those of the Ten-pin game, one rule change was made: A bowler is allowed to use three bowls on each turn. Strikes would still be strikes and spares still spares, but when all pins were knocked down on the third ball, it counts as a score of ten. During the summer of 1900, some bowlers at Diamond Alleys in Baltimore, Maryland thought it might be interesting to resize the pins to match the 6-inch ball. Thus, the inventor of duckpin bowling, John Van Sant, used a wood turner to do exactly that.[69]

1900 Nickel-zinc battery

1900 Merrill-Crowe process

1900 Carbide lamp

1900 Fly swatter

1900 Thumbtack

1901 Key punch

1901 Mercury-vapor lamp

1901 Assembly line

1913 Ford Model T assembly line production.

Used globally around the world, an assembly line is a manufacturing process in which interchangeable parts are added to a product in a sequential manner in order to create a finished product more quickly than with older methods. This type of manufacturing greatly reduces the amount of time taken to assemble a product, thus reducing production, material, and labor costs so that an affordable product cost can be passed onto consumers. According to a book entitled Michigan Yesterday & Today authored by Robert W. Domm, the assembly line and its basic concept is credited to Ransom Olds, who used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash.[78] Olds patented the assembly line concept, which he put to work in his Olds Motor Vehicle Company factory in 1901.[79] This development is often overshadowed by Henry Ford, who perfected the assembly line by installing driven conveyor belts that could produce a Model T in ninety-three minutes.[78]

1901 Safety razor (disposable)

A safety razor protects the skin from all but the edge of the blade while shaving skin. King Camp Gillette, a traveling hardware salesman of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin invented the double-edged, disposable safety razor attached to a re-usable razor handle. Beforehand, dull razors were taken to barbers for sharpening. With Gillette's double-edged and disposable blades, a uniform shave on a man's face could be achieved with a fresh blade and disposed after it was used. Gillette applied for a patent in 1901. It was granted in 1904.[80]

1901 Windowed envelope

An example of a windowed envelope

A windowed envelope is a conventional envelope with a plastic window to allow the recipient's address to be printed on the paper contained within. Windowed envelopes save the expense of printing or labor of addressing, and in addition save time in preparing the message for dispatch when the customary addresses are already on the letter paper itself. Calling it the "outlook envelope", Americus F. Callahan of Chicago was the first to patent the windowed envelope.[81] U.S. patent #701,839 was filed on December 9, 1901 and issued on June 10, 1902.[82]

1901 Radio direction finder

A radio direction finder (RDF) is a device for finding the direction to a radio source. Due to radio's ability to travel very long distances and "over the horizon", it makes a particularly good navigation system for ships, small boats, and aircraft that might be some distance from their destination. The radio direction finder is the earliest form of radio navigation. It was first patented by American physicist John Stone Stone. He filed on January 23, 1901 and was granted the patent (U.S. Patent 716,134) on December 16, 1902.[83]

1902 Hearing aid

1902 Postage meter

1902 Teddy bear

1902 Periscope (collapsible)

1902 Mercury arc valve

1902 Air conditioning

Air conditioning units outside a classroom building

Air conditioning is the cooling and de-humidification of indoor air for thermal comfort. Using a system of coils as a solution to cool and remove moisture from muggy air in a printing plant that was wrinkling magazine pages, Willis Carrier invented and manufactured the world's first mechanical air conditioning unit in 1902.[89] Carrier's invention – encompassing the first system to provide man-made control over temperature, humidity, ventilation and air quality, was first installed as a solution to the quality problems experienced at a Brooklyn printing plant, Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. Air conditioning not only spawned a company and an industry, but also brought about profound economic, social and cultural changes.[11]

1903 Tea bag

A tea bag is a small, porous paper, silk or nylon sealed bag containing tea leaves for brewing tea. Tea bags were invented by Thomas Sullivan around 1903. The first tea bags were made from silk. Sullivan was a tea and coffee merchant in New York who began packaging tea samples in tiny silk bags, but many customers brewed the tea in them.[90]

1903 Offset printing press

1903 Airplane

The Wright Flyer II flying almost four circles over Huffman Prairie, about 2 and 3/4 miles in 5 minutes and 4 seconds on November 9, 1904.

A fixed-wing aircraft, or airplane, is a heavier-than-air craft whose lift is generated by air pressure differential between the upper and lower wing surfaces. The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, made the first powered and sustained airplane flights under control of the pilot in the Wright Flyer I on December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.[92][93][94] In the two years afterward, they developed their flying machine into the world's first practical fixed-wing aircraft.[95] By October 1905, the Wright Flyer III was capable and proven to circle in the air 30 times in 39 minutes for a total distance of 24.5 miles.[96] The brothers' fundamental breakthrough was their invention of "three-axis control", which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. This required method has become standard on all fixed-wing aircraft. From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on unlocking the secrets of control to conquer "the flying problem", rather than on developing more powerful engines as some other experimenters did. Charles Edward Taylor built the first aircraft engine and was a vital contributor of mechanical aspects in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.[97] Although there were many earlier attempts at heavier-than-air powered flight, some of which achieved successful short hops,[98] and disputed earlier claims of sustained flight,[99] the Wright brothers are officially credited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the international record-setting body for aeronautics and astronautics, as achieving "the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight".[100] In addition, U.S. patent number #821393 for the airplane, was filed by Orville Wright on March 23, 1903 and was issued in May 1906.[101]

1903 Windshield wipers

A windshield wiper with motorized arm

The windshield wiper is a bladed device used to wipe rain and dirt from a windshield. In 1903, Mary Anderson is credited with inventing the first operational windshield wiper.[102][103] In Anderson's patent, she called her invention a window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles. Operated via a lever from inside a vehicle, her version of windshield wipers closely resembles the windshield wiper found on many early car models. Anderson had a model of her design manufactured. She then filed a patent (U.S. patent number 743,801) on June 18, 1903 that was issued to her by the U.S. Patent Office on November 10, 1903.[104][105]

1903 Wood's glass

Wood's glass is a light filter used in communications during World War I. An "invisible radiation" technique which worked both in infrared daylight communication and ultraviolet night communications, it does not transmit visible light, leaving the 'invisible radiation' as a signal beam. Wood's glass was invented by Robert Williams Wood in 1903.[106]

1903 Wood's lamp

A Wood's lamp is a diagnostic tool used in dermatology which shines ultraviolet light onto the skin of the patient; a technician then observes any subsequent fluorescence. Though the technique for producing a source of ultraviolet light was devised by Robert Williams Wood in 1903 using "Wood's glass", not until 1925 was the technique used in dermatology by Margarot and Deveze for the detection of fungal infection of hair.[107]

Round hay bales near Elbląg Canal, Poland

1903 Baler (round)

A baler is a piece of farm machinery used to compress a cut and raked crop (such as hay, straw, or silage) into compact bales that are easy to handle, transport and store. Several different types of balers are commonly used, each producing a different type of bales – rectangular or cylindrical (round), of various sizes, bound with twine, netting, or wire. The round hay baler was invented by Ummo F. Luebben of Sutton, Nebraska, which he conceived with his brother Melchior in 1903, and then patented in 1910. The invention of the round hay baler revolutionized the laborious task of haying into a one-man, low-cost operation with a machine that automatically gathered the hay, rolled into a round bale, and ejected it.[108]

1904 Automatic transmission

An automatic transmission is an automobile gearbox that changes gear ratios automatically as the vehicle moves, freeing the driver from having to shift gears manually. Modern automatic transmissions trace their origins to an early "horseless carriage" gearbox that was developed in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts.[109]

1904 AC power plugs and sockets

1904 Banana split

1904 Pantograph (diamond-shaped)

1904 Dragline excavator

1905 Batting helmet

A batter wearing a batting helmet

A batting helmet is the protective headgear worn by batters in the game of baseball or softball. It is meant to protect the batter's head from errant pitches thrown by the pitcher. A batter who is "hit by pitch", due to an inadvertent wild pitch or a pitcher's purposeful attempt to hit him, may be seriously, even fatally, injured. In 1905, a New York Giants (the team now known as the San Francisco Giants) baseball player named Roger Bresnahan, after missing thirty days of the baseball season and lying in a hospital bed due to a head injury (or beaning), created, with assistance from the A.J. Reach Company, a crude, leather, vertically sliced football helmet over his cap that is considered to be the first batting helmet. The headgear was unpopular, even with Bresnahan at the time, and it wasn't until the mid-1950s that his idea was accepted.[115]

1905 Liquid ring pump

A liquid ring pump is a rotating positive displacement pump that is powered by an induction motor and is typically used as a vacuum pump or as a gas compressor. The liquid ring pump was invented in 1905 by Lewis H. Nash. Production soon began thereafter at the Nash Engineering Company.[116] Nash filed U.S. patent #1,091,529 on February 24, 1910 and was issued to him on March 31, 1914.[117]

1905 Ice pop

1906 Typesetting

1906 Flushometer

1906 Audion tube

1907 Curtain rod

1907 Electrostatic precipitator

1907 Paper towel

1908 Candy apple

A candy apple

Candy apples, also known as toffee apples outside of North America, are whole apples covered in a hard sugar candy coating. While the topping varies from place to place, they are almost always served with a wooden stick of sorts in the middle making them easier to eat. Toffee apples are a common treat at autumn festivals in Western culture in the Northern Hemisphere, such as Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night because these festivals fall in the wake of the annual apple harvest. Dipping fruits into a sugar syrup is an ancient tradition. However, the origin of the red candy apple is attributed to Newark, New Jersey candymaker who conceived the idea of dipping apples into a red cinnamon candy mixture he had on hand. In addition, dipping apples in hot caramel a 1950s American invention attributed to Kraft salesman Dan Walker.[127]

1909 Skee ball

Skee ball is a common game found in arcades and one of the first redemption games. Skee ball is similar to bowling except it is played on an inclined lane and the player aims to get the ball to fall into a hole rather than knock down pins. The object of the game is to collect as many points as possible by rolling balls up an incline and into the designated point value holes. Skee ball was invented and patented in 1909 by J.D. Estes of Philadelphia.[128]

1909 Paper shredder

Paper shredders are used to cut paper into chad, typically either strips or fine particles. Government organizations, businesses, and private individuals use shredders to destroy private, confidential, or otherwise sensitive documents. The first paper shredder is credited to prolific inventor Abbot Augustus Low of Horseshoe, New York. His patent for a "waste paper receptacle" to offer an improved method of disposing of waste paper received a U.S. patent on August 31, 1909.[129]

1909 Suppressor

1909 Gin rummy

1910 Headset

1911 Fifth wheel coupling

1911 Erector Set

1911 Binder clip

A single, large sized binder clip

A binder clip, or a banker's clip or foldback clip, is a simple device for binding sheets of paper together. It leaves the paper intact and can be removed quickly and easily unlike the staple. The binder clip was invented in 1911 by Washington, D.C. resident Louis E. Baltzley who was motivated by a desire to help his father, Edwin, a prolific writer and inventor, keep manuscripts in order. The original design was modified five times, but the essential mechanism has never changed.[135]

1911 Automobile self starter

An automobile self-starter is an electric motor that initiates rotational motion in an internal combustion engine before it can power itself, therefore eliminating the hand crank used to start engines. In 1911, Charles F. Kettering invented the automobile self-starter while working at National Cash Register and then sold them for installation on cars at the Cadillac company. There had been many attempts at producing an electric starter before, but none of them were successful. Most designs at that time called for the use of an electric motor attached to the engine's flywheel. However, in order to fit in the car's engine compartment, the device would have to be small, and therefore it would be unable to produce a sufficient enough amount of torque.[136][137]

1911 Road surface marking

Dead Man's Curve along the Marquette–Negaunee Road in Michigan shown in 1917 with the first hand-painted centerline

A road surface marking is any kind of device or material that is used on a road surface in order to convey official information for drivers and pedestrians. Edward N. Hines originated the concept of painting a line down the center of a road to separate traffic in opposing directions. They were first used in Wayne County, Michigan in 1911.[138]

1912 Autopilot

An autopilot is a mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic system used to guide a vehicle without assistance from a human being. Most people understand an autopilot to refer specifically to aircraft, but self-steering gear for ships, boats, space craft, and missiles is sometimes also called autopilot. The first aircraft autopilot was invented by Lawrence Sperry in 1912. Sperry demonstrated it in 1914, and proved the credibility of the invention by flying the aircraft with his hands away from the controls and visible to onlookers.[139]

1912 Electric blanket

An electric blanket is a blanket with an integrated electrical heating device usually placed above the top bed sheet. The first electric blanket was invented in 1912 by American physician Sidney I. Russell. This earliest form of an electric blanket was an 'underblanket' under the bed that covered and heated from below. In 1937, Electric 'overblankets which lie on top of the sleeping person were introduced in the United States.[140][141]

1912 Traffic light (electric)

Traffic lights in Spain

The traffic light, also known as traffic signal, is a signaling device positioned at a road intersection, pedestrian crossing, or other location. Its purpose is to indicate, using a series of colors, the correct moment to stop, drive, ride or walk, using a universal color code. The color of the traffic lights representing stop and go are likely derived from those used to identify port (red) and starboard (green) in maritime rules governing right of way, where the vessel on the left must stop for the one crossing on the right. In Salt Lake City, Utah, policeman Lester Wire invented the first red-green electric traffic lights.[142]

1913 Formica (plastic)

Formica is a hard durable plastic laminate used for countertops, cupboard doors, and other surfaces which are heat-resistant and easy to clean. Formica was invented in 1913 by Herbert A Faber and Daniel J. O'Connor of Westinghouse Electric.[143]

1914 Regenerative circuit

The regenerative circuit allows an electronic signal to be amplified many times by the same vacuum tube or other active component such as a field effect transistor. A regenerative circuit is often an AM detector, converting the RF signal on the antenna to an audio waveform. Their use of positive feedback greatly increases both the selectivity and sensitivity of a simple receiver. Positive feedback builds up the input signal to very high levels. Edwin Armstrong, invented and patented the regenerative circuit while he was a junior in college, in 1914.[144]

1914 Traffic cone

1914 Fortune cookie

1915 Skeet shooting

1915 Single-sideband modulation

1916 Hamburger bun

1916 Lincoln Logs

1916 Supermarket

The interior of a supermarket in Toronto, Canada

A supermarket is a self-service store offering a wide variety of food and household merchandise, organized into departments. It is larger in size and has a wider selection than a traditional grocery store. The concept of a "self-service" grocery store was invented by American entrepreneur Clarence Saunders and his Piggly Wiggly stores. Beforehand, customers would shop at a general store where a clerk behind a counter would fetch inventory in limited quantity for customers to purchase. With Saunders' new innovation of self-service, customers would be able to choose a wider selection of goods at competitive prices. Saunders' first store opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916.[151]

1916 Cloverleaf interchange

A cloverleaf interchange is a two-level interchange in which left turns, in countries that drive on the right, are handled by loop roads. To go left, in right-hand traffic, vehicles first pass either over or under the other road, then turn right onto a one-way three-fourths loop ramp (270°) and merge onto the intersecting road. The cloverleaf was first patented in the United States by Arthur Hale, a civil engineer in Maryland, on February 29, 1916.[152]

1916 Tow truck

1916 Condenser microphone

1916 Light switch (toggle)

An example of on/off toggle light switches mounted on a wall

A toggle light switch is a switch, most commonly used to operate electric lights, permanently connected equipment, or electrical outlets whereby the switch handle does not control the contacts directly, but through an intermediate arrangement of internal springs and levers. The toggle light switch is safe, reliable, and durable, but produces a loud "snap" or "click" noise when a person's finger manually flips the toggle light switch into the on/off position. The design for the toggle light switch was patented in 1916 by William J. Newton and Morris Goldberg of Lynbrook, New York.[155]

1917 Stream cipher

In cryptography, a stream cipher is a symmetric key cipher where plaintext bits are combined with a pseudorandom cipher bit stream, typically by an exclusive-or (xor) operation. In a stream cipher the plaintext digits are encrypted one at a time, and the transformation of successive digits varies during the encryption. Also known as a state cipher, the stream cipher was invented in 1917 by Gilbert Sandford Vernam at Bell Labs.[156]

1917 Marshmallow creme

1918 Superheterodyne receiver

1918 French dip sandwich

1918 Torque wrench

1918 Crystal oscillator

1918 Grocery bag

1918 Hydraulic brake

1919 Blender

1919 Silica gel

1919 Toaster (pop-up)

Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age (1920–1928)

1920 Eskimo Pie

1920 Jungle gym

1921 Polygraph

A modern polygraph system

Not to be confused with an earlier and different invention with the same name, a polygraph, popularly referred to as a lie detector, is an instrument that measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions, in the belief that deceptive answers will produce physiological responses that can be differentiated from those associated with non-deceptive answers. The polygraph was invented in 1921 by John Augustus Larson, a medical student at the University of California at Berkeley and a police officer of the Berkeley Police Department in Berkeley, California. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the polygraph was on its 2003 list of the 325 greatest inventions.[173]

1921 Flowchart

A flowchart is common type of chart, representing an algorithm or process, showing the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting these with arrows. Flowcharts are used in analyzing, designing, documenting or managing a process or program in various fields. The second structured method for documenting process flow, the "flow process chart", was invented by Frank Gilbreth to members of ASME in 1921 as the presentation "Process Charts—First Steps in Finding the One Best Way".[174]

1921 Adhesive bandage

Popularly known by the brand name Band-Aid, an adhesive bandage is a self-sticking taped and small dressing used for injuries not serious enough to require a full-size bandage. This easy-to-use dressing with adhesive tape was invented by Earle Dickson in 1921.[175]

1921 Headrest

An example of headrests in the interior of a BMW Alpina

In an automobile, the headrest or head restraint is a device attached to the top of the seat behind the occupant's head. Most headrests are cushioned for comfort, are height adjustable and most commonly finished in the same material as the rest of the seat. The automobile headrest was invented by Benjamin Katz, a resident of Oakland, California, in 1921.[176] U.S. patent #1,471,168 for the headrest was issued to Katz on October 16, 1923.[177]

1921 Garage door

A garage door is a large door on a garage that can either be opened manually or by a garage door opener. Garage doors are necessarily large to allow passage of automobiles and/or trucks. In 1921, C. G. Johnson of Detroit, Michigan invented the "Overhead Door", the first upward-lifting garage door. To market the garage door, Johnson mounted a small prototype of his door on the back of his Model T Ford and drove around the United States signing up distributors.[178][179]

1922 Blowout preventer (ram)

A ram blowout preventer is a large valve that can seal off a wellhead by using ram-types employing steel cut off rams to seal the borehole. During drilling or well interventions, the valve may be closed if overpressure from an underground zone causes formation fluids such as oil or natural gas to enter the wellbore and threaten the rig. In 1922, James Smither Abercrombie collaborated with Harry S. Cameron with the idea of creating a mechanically operated ram-type blowout preventer. A patent was issued in January 1926.[180]

1922 Convertible

1922 Water skiing

A water-skier making a turn

Water skiing is a sport where one or more persons is pulled behind a motor boat or a cable ski installation on a body of water wearing one or more skis. Water skiing began in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson used two boards as skis and a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota. The sport remained a little-known activity for several years. Samuelson took stunts on the road, performing shows from Michigan to Florida. In 1966 the American Water Ski Association formally acknowledged Samuelson as the first on record. Samuelson was also the first ski racer, first to go over a jump ramp, first to slalom ski, and the first to put on a water ski show.[182]

1922 Radial arm saw

A radial arm saw has a circular saw mounted on a sliding horizontal arm. In addition to making length cuts a radial arm saw may be configured with a dado blade to create cuts for dado, rabbet or half lap joints. Some radial arm saws allow the blade to be turned parallel to the back fence allowing a rip cut to be performed. In 1922, Raymond De Walt of Bridgeton, New Jersey invented the radial arm saw. A patent was applied for in 1923 and awarded to De Walt in 1925.[183]

1922 Audiometer

1922 Neutrodyne

1923 Bulldozer

The Caterpillar bulldozer

A bulldozer is a crawler or a continuous tracked tractor, equipped with a substantial metal plate or blade, used to push large quantities of soil, sand, or rubble during construction work. In 1923, a farmer named James Cummings and a draftsman named J. Earl McLeod co-invented and created the first designs. A replica is on display at the city park in Morrowville, Kansas where the two built the first bulldozer.[186][187]

1923 Cotton swab

Cotton swabs consist of a small wad of cotton wrapped around either one or both ends of a small rod. They are commonly used in a variety of applications including first aid, cosmetics application, for cleaning, and arts & crafts. The cotton swab was invented by Leo Gerstenzang in 1923, who invented the product after attaching wads of cotton to a toothpick. His product, which he named "Baby Gays", went on to become the most widely sold brand name, "Q-tip".[188]

1923 Instant camera

An instant camera is a type of camera with self-developing film. The earliest instant camera, which consisted of a camera and portable darkroom in a single compartment, was invented in 1923 by Samuel Shlafrock.[189] In 1947, Edwin H. Land invented a new camera that produced photographic images in 60 seconds. A colored photograph model would follow in the 1960s and eventually receive more than 500 patents for Land's innovations in light and plastic technologies.[190]

1924 Locking pliers

1924 Cheeseburger

A cheeseburger

A cheeseburger is a hamburger with cheese added to it. Traditionally the cheese is placed on top of the patty, but the burger can include many variations in structure, ingredients, and composition. The term itself is a portmanteau of the words "cheese" and "hamburger." The cheese is usually sliced, and then added to the cooking hamburger patty shortly before the patty finishes cooking which allows the cheese to melt. Lionel C. Sternberger is believed to have invented the "cheese hamburger" in the 1920s in the Northeast portion of Los Angeles County. The earliest year attributed to the invention of the cheeseburger by Sternberger is in 1924, while others claimed that he invented it as late as 1926. According to American Heritage, "a local restaurateur was identified as the inventor of the cheeseburger at his death in 1964. Cooking at his father's short-order joint in Pasadena in the early 1920s, the lad experimentally tossed a slice (variety unknown) on a hamburger 'and lo! the cheeseburger sizzled to life."[193]

1924 Earth inductor compass

The Earth inductor compass is a device for determining aircraft direction using the magnetic field of the Earth. The operation of the compass is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction with the Earth's magnetic field acting as the induction field for an electric generator. A variation generated voltage, thus allows the Earth inductor compass to determine direction. The earth inductor compass is an American invention. It was designed in 1924 by Morris Titterington at the Pioneer Instrument Company. Designed to compensate for the weaknesses of the magnetic compass, the Earth inductor compass provided pilots with a more stable and reliable reference instrument.[194]

1924 Gas chamber execution

1924 Moviola

1924 Radio altimeter

1925 Automatic volume control

1925 Masking tape

1925 Reuben sandwich

1926 Tilt-A-Whirl

1926 Garage door opener

A residential garage door opener. The motor is in the box on the upper-right

A garage door opener is a motorized device that opens and closes a garage door. Most are controlled by switches on the garage wall, as well as by a remote control carried in the garage owner's vehicle. In 1926, the electric garage door opener was invented by C.G. Johnson, the inventor of the garage door and founder of the Overhead Door Corporation.[179]

1926 Power steering Power steering is a system for reducing the steering effort on vehicles by using an external power source to assist in turning the roadwheels. In 1926, Francis W. Davis of Waltham, Massachusetts invented power steering.[205][206]

1926 Drive through A drive-through, or drive-thru, allows customers to purchase products without leaving their cars. In 1926, City Center Bank, which became UMB Financial Corporation under R. Crosby Kemper opened what is considered the first drive-up window.[207] In-n-Out Burger claims to have built the first drive-through restaurant in 1948. Harry and Esther Snyder, the chain's founders, built their first restaurant in Baldwin Park, California, with a two-way speaker to enable patrons to order directly from their cars without the intermediation of a carhop.[208]

1926 Liquid-fuel rocket

Used during the Viking program, NASA's Titan booster, a two-stage liquid-fueled rocket, was attached to two additional solid-propellant rockets

The liquid-fuel rocket is a rocket with an engine that uses propellants in liquid form. On March 16, 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts, Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the "father of modern rocketry", launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in history, which used liquid oxygen and gasoline as propellants.[1]

1927 Bread slicer Sliced bread is a loaf of bread which has been pre-sliced and packaged for commercial convenience. The automatic commercial bread slicer was invented in 1927 by Otto Frederick Rohwedder. His machine both sliced and wrapped a loaf of bread. In 1928, the bread slicer was improved by Gustav Papendick, a baker from St. Louis, Missouri.[209]

1927 Jukebox A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that can play specially selected songs from self-contained media. The traditional jukebox is rather large with a rounded top and has colored lighting on the front of the machine on its vertical sides. The classic jukebox has buttons with letters and numbers on them that, when combined, are used to indicate a specific song from a particular record. The Automatic Music Instrument Company built and introduced the first electric automated musical instrument which later became known as the jukebox during the 1930s.[210]

1927 Garbage disposal A garbage disposal is a device, usually electrically powered, installed under a kitchen sink between the sink's drain and the trap which shreds food waste into pieces small enough to pass through plumbing. The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by John W. Hammes. After eleven years of development, his InSinkErator company put his disposer on the market in 1968.[211]

1927 Pressure washer

A power washer used to clean the surface of the EA-6B Prowler at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

A pressure washer is a high pressure mechanical sprayer that can be used to remove loose paint, mold, grime, dust, mud, and dirt from surfaces and objects such as buildings, vehicles, and concrete road surfaces. Frank Ofeldt in the United States invented the steam pressure washer or "high-pressure Jenny" in 1927.[212][213]

1927 Resonator guitar A resonator guitar or resophonic guitar is an acoustic guitar whose sound is produced by one or more spun metal cones resonators instead of the wooden sound board (guitar top/face). The resonator guitar was invented in 1927 by John Dopyera.[214]

1927 Kool-Aid Kool-Aid is a powdered drink mix that comes in an assortment of different flavors. "Kool-Ade" was invented in 1927 by Edwin Perkins in Hastings, Nebraska. Perkins devised a method of removing the liquid from a drink called "Fruit Smack" so the remaining powder could be re-packaged in envelopes, which Perkins designed and printed, all under a new name to be called "Kool-Ade". The name of the powdered drink was later to be changed at a later time to Kool-Aid.[215]

1927 Corn dog

A cross section of a corn dog

The corn dog, pogo, dagwood dog, pluto pup or corny dog is a hot dog coated in cornbread batter and deep fried in hot oil, although some are baked. Almost all corn dogs are served on wooden sticks, though some early versions were stickless. Although a contending topic as numerous claims of the origins of the corn dog have surfaced, the earliest reference to what resembles a corn dog appeared in U.S. patent 1,706,491 filed in 1927 by Stanley S. Jenkins and issued in 1929. A competing claim to the invention of the corn dog is by George Boyington, the creator of Pronto Pups (made of pancake batter) who in 1938 or 1939, created a "batter-dipped, deep fried hot dog" after a rain storm in Rockaway Beach, Oregon ruined and made his hot dogs mushy.[216] Another story is that Neil Fletcher supposedly invented corn dogs, first selling them at the Texas State Fair in 1942.[217]

1927 Negative feedback amplifier

1927 Quartz clock

1928 Recliner

1928 Ice cube tray

1928 Bubble gum

1928 Clip-on tie

1928 Electric razor

1928 Iron lung

Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)

1929 Freon

1929 Tampon (applicator)

1929 Eyelash curler

1929 Sunglasses

A pair of sunglasses for women

Sunglasses or sun glasses are a visual aid which feature lenses that are coloured or darkened to prevent strong light from reaching the eyes. For centuries, Chinese judges had routinely worn smoke-colored quartz lenses to conceal their eye expressions in court. However, these were not intended for blocking sunlight from eyes. It wasn't until the 20th century that what is now considered to be sunglasses were invented. In 1929, Sam Foster invented and mass-produced the first tinted eyewear pieces solely intended to block out sunlight.[231]

1929 Frozen food

Frozen food is food preserved by the process of freezing. Freezing food is a common method of food preservation which slows both food decay and, by turning water to ice, makes it unavailable for most bacterial growth and slows down most chemical reactions. Clarence Birdseye offered his quick-frozen foods to the public. Birdseye got the idea during fur-trapping expeditions to Labrador in 1912 and 1916, where he saw the natives use freezing to preserve foods.[232]

1929 Cyclotron

1930 Tiltrotor

An example of a tiltrotor in operation, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey

A tiltrotor is an aircraft which uses a pair or more of powered rotors (sometimes called proprotors) mounted on rotating shafts or nacelles at the end of a fixed wing for lift and propulsion, and combines the vertical lift capability of a helicopter with the speed and range of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft. In September 1930, George Lehberger devised the basic concept of tilt rotor aircraft, that is, a relatively low disc loading thruster (propeller) that can tilt its axis from the vertical (for vertical lift) to the horizontal (for propulsive thrust).[234] On September 16, 1930, Lehberger was issued U.S. patent #1,775,861.[235]

1930 Car audio

Car audio/video (car AV) is a sound or video system fitted in an automobile. In 1930, the Galvin Corporation introduced the first commercial car radio, the Motorola model 5T71, which sold for between $110 and $130 and could be installed in most popular automobiles. Inventors Paul Galvin and Joe Galvin came up with the name Motorola when their company started manufacturing car radios.[236]

1930 Cheesesteak

A cheesesteak, or a Philly cheesesteak, is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures and what is often referred to as the "drip" factor. Other toppings may include fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, ketchup and hot or sweet peppers. The cheesesteak was invented in 1930 by Philadelphian hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri who one day decided to substitute beef instead of a hot dog in a hoagie bun. A taxicab driver noticed the alluring aroma and asked for his own sandwich. Through word of mouth, Olivieri's sandwiches the following day were highly sought after by taxi cab drivers around Philadelphia. Due to booming business, Olivieri soon opened up his own shop, Pat's King of Steaks on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. Eventually, according to legend, he added cheese to the steak. The cheesesteak is considered to be a cultural icon of the city of Philadelphia.[237]

1930 Bathysphere

1930 Chocolate chip cookie

1930 Thermistor

1931 Electric guitar

Body of an electric guitar

An electric guitar is a guitar using pickups to convert its metal string vibration into electricity. This is amplified with an instrument amplifier. The output is altered with guitar effects such as reverb or distortion. The earliest electric guitar, known as a "frying pan", was a hollow bodied acoustic instrument with tungsten steel pickups invented by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker in 1931.[241] The electric guitar was a key instrument in the development of musical styles that emerged since the late 1940s, such as Chicago blues, early rock and roll, rockabilly, and 1960s blues rock. Electric guitars are used in almost every popular music genre.[242] U.S. patent #2,089,171 was filed by Beauchamp on June 2, 1934 and issued on August 10 1937.[243]

1931 Strobe light

The strobe light, commonly called a strobe, is a device used to produce regular flashes of light. Modern uses of strobe lights serve a purpose for safety warning, and motion detection. Strobes can be found atop most police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. The origin of strobe lighting dates to 1931, when Harold Eugene Edgerton invented a flashing lamp to make an improved stroboscope for the study of moving objects, eventually resulting in dramatic photographs of objects such as bullets in flight.[244]

1931 Aerogel

Aerogel is a low-density solid-state material derived from gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. The result is an extremely low-density solid with several remarkable properties, most notably its effectiveness as a thermal insulator. It was first invented by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931, as a result of a bet with Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid inside of a Fruit preserves jar with gas without causing shrinkage.[245]

1931 Bug zapper

1932 Miniature snap-action switch

1932 Toilet brush

1932 Golf cart

1932 Staple remover

1932 Radio telescope

Full-size replica of Jansky's directional radio antenna, serendipitously the first radio telescope

A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. They differ from optical telescopes in that they operate in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where they can detect and collect data on radio sources. Radio telescopes are typically large parabolic or dish antenna used singularly or in an array. Karl Guthe Jansky started the field of radio astronomy serendipitous in 1932 when his directional antenna found radio static that he later identified as coming from the Milky Way.[252]

1932 Tape dispenser

A tape dispenser holds a roll of tape and has a mechanism on one end to easily shear the tape. Dispensers vary widely based on the tape they dispense. Clear tape dispensers are commonly made of plastic, and may be disposable. Other dispensers are stationary and may have sophisticated features to control tape usage and improve ergonomics. The first tape dispenser with a built-in cutting edge was invented in 1932 by John A. Borden, another 3M employee.[253]

1933 Landing Vehicle Tracked

A Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) unloading a Willys MB during World War II

A Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT), also known as amtracks, alligators, or in their fire support variants as buffaloes, were amphibious tracked vehicles capable of crawling out of the water and onto the beach and beyond. Used primarily by the United States Armed Forces in the Pacific War against the Empire of Japan during World War II, later versions were thinly armored, and some were equipped with a light tank turret to provide fire support, making them equivalent to light amphibious tanks. Highly versatile in their use, LVT's landed supplies ashore at Guadalcanal and soldiers ashore at Tarawa, other variations of the LVT were equipped with flamethrowers during the Peleliu Campaign. The LVT was derived from the Alligator, an amphibious vehicle invented by Donald Roebling in 1933 as a rescue vehicle for downed aviators in the Florida Everglades.[254]

1933 Multiplane camera

The multiplane camera is a special motion picture camera used in the traditional animation process that moves a number of pieces of artwork past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another, creating a three-dimensional effect, although not stereoscopic. Various parts of the artwork layers are left transparent, to allow other layers to be seen behind them. The movements are calculated and photographed frame-by-frame, with the result being an illusion of depth by having several layers of artwork moving at different speeds. The further away from the camera, the slower the speed. The multiplane effect is sometimes referred to as a parallax process. As a former director and animator of Walt Disney Studios, Ub Iwerks in 1933 invented the multiplane camera using four layers of flat artwork before a horizontal camera.[255]

1933 Frequency modulation

1933 Impact sprinkler

A full impact sprinkler watering a lawn

An impact sprinkler is a type of irrigation sprinkler that pivots on a bearing on top of its threaded attachment nut, and is driven in a circular motion by a spring-loaded arm that is pushed back by the water stream, then returning to "impact" the stream. This produces an intermittent diffusion of the stream that provides a uniform waterfall closer to the sprinkler. In 1933, the impact sprinkler was invented and patented by lemon tree grower and farmer Orton Englehardt of Glendora, California.[257]

1934 Trampoline (modern)

A trampoline is a gymnastic and recreational device consisting of a piece of taut, strong fabric stretched over a steel frame using many coiled springs to provide a rebounding force which propels the jumper high into the air. In a trampoline, the fabric is not elastic itself; the elasticity is provided by the springs which connect it to the frame. While the trampoline is an old invention which relied on crude and flawed designs, the modern trampoline was invented by George Nissen and Larry Griswold around 1934.[258]

1934 Acrostic (puzzle)

An acrostic is a type of word puzzle, related somewhat to crossword puzzles, that uses an acrostic form with lettered clues and numbered blanks. The acrostic puzzle was invented in 1934 by Elizabeth Kingsley, first appearing in the March 31 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.[259]

1935 Richter magnitude scale

1935 Black light

1935 Parking meter

1935 Surfboard fin

1935 pH meter

1935 Gomco clamp

1936 Reed switch

Examples of reed relays and switches

A reed switch is an electrical switch consisting of two ferromagnetic and specially shaped contact blades (reeds) positioned in a hermetically sealed glass tube with a gap between them and in a protective atmosphere. Operated by an applied magnetic field, reed switches are used as reed relays, automotive sensors, robotics sensors, security sensors and are found in many toys and games. The reed switch was invented in 1936 by W. B. Elwood at Bell Telephone Laboratories.[266]

1936 Phillips-head screw

The Phillips-head screw is a crosshead screw design lying in its self-centering property, useful on automated production lines that use power screwdrivers. The Phillips-head screw was invented and patented by Henry F. Phillips in 1936.[267]

1936 Stock car racing

The world-famous Daytona 500

Stock car racing is a form of automobile racing. Shorter ovals are called short tracks, unpaved short tracks are called dirt tracks, and longer ovals are known as superspeedways. On March 8, 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, promoted by local racer Sig Haugdahl.[268] The race was 78 laps (250 miles) long for street-legal family sedans sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for cars built in 1935 and 1936. The city posted a $5000 purse with $1700 for the winner. In 1948, stock car racing became a regulated sport when Bill France, Sr. created NASCAR.[269]

1936 Programming languages

A programming language is a machine-readable artificial language. Programming languages can be used to create programs that specify the behavior of a machine, to express algorithms precisely, or as a mode of human communication. The first programming languages predate the modern computer. In mathematical logic and computer science, lambda calculus, also written as λ-calculus, is a formal system designed to investigate function definition, function application and recursion. It was invented by Alonzo Church and Stephen Cole Kleene in the 1930s as part of an investigation into the foundations of mathematics, but has now emerged as a useful tool in the investigation of problems in computability, recursion theory, and as a fundamental basis and a modern paradigm to computer programming and software languages.[270]

1936 Compact fluorescent lamp

An example of a spiraled compact fluorescent lamp invented in 1976 by Edward Hammer

A compact fluorescent lamp is a fluorescent lamp designed to replace an incandescent lightbulb. Some CFL's fit into light fixtures formerly used for incandescent lamps and they are designed to produce the same amount of visible light found in incandescent light. CFLs generally use 70% less energy and have a longer rated life. In 1941, George Inman devised the first practical fluorescent lamp while working for General Electric.[271] The key patent for this light source, U.S. patent #2,259,040 was filed by Inman on April 22, 1936 and issued to him on October 14, 1941.[272] In 1976, Edward E. Hammer invented the first helical or spiraled compact fluorescent lamp, but due to the difficulty of the manufacturing process for coating the interior of the spiral glass tube, General Electric did not manufacture or sell the device. Other companies began manufacturing and selling the device in 1995.[273]

1936 Chair lift

A chair lift is a type of aerial lift, which consists of a continuously circulating steel cable loop strung between two end terminals and usually over intermediate towers, carrying a series of chairs. They are the primary onhill transport at most ski areas, but are also found at amusement parks, various tourist attractions, and increasingly, in urban transport. James Curran, an engineer from the Union Pacific Railroad, invented and built the first chair lift in the world. Known as the Proctor Mountain Ski Lift, it was located in Sun Valley, Idaho.[274]

1936 Strain gauge

A strain gauge is a device used to measure the strain of an object. As the object is deformed, the foil is deformed, causing its electrical resistance to change. The strain gauge was invented in 1936 by Edward E. Simmons, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, and re-invented in 1938 by Arthur C. Ruge, an earthquake specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[275]

1936 Bass guitar

The bass guitar is a stringed instrument played primarily with the fingers or thumb (either by plucking, slapping, popping, tapping, or thumping), or by using a plectrum. The bass guitar is similar in appearance and construction to an electric guitar, but with a longer neck and scale length, and four, five, or six strings. In 1936, the Audiovox bass, the earliest electric solidbody bass guitar made out of walnut and neck-through construction, was invented by Paul Tutmarc of Seattle, Washington. Later in 1951, the bass guitar was perfected when Leo Fender introduced the precision bass, a fretted, solidbody instrument.[276]

1937 O-ring

1937 Photosensitive glass

1937 Digital computer

1937 Shopping cart

A shopping cart filled with bagged groceries located in a parking lot

A shopping cart is a metal or plastic basket on wheels supplied by a shop, especially a supermarket, for use by customers inside the shop for transport of merchandise to the check-out counter during shopping. Often, customers are allowed to leave the carts in the parking lot, and store personnel return the carts to the shop. The first shopping cart was invented by Sylvan Goldman in 1937, owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City.[280]

1937 Sunglasses (polarized)

Polarized sunglasses are protective eyewear which incorporate oscillated lenses shifting the sun's rays in the opposite direction. Polarized sunglasses were invented in 1937 by Edwin Land.[281]

1937 Klystron

A klystron is a specialized linear-beam vacuum tube. Klystrons are used as amplifiers at microwave and radio frequencies to produce both low-power reference signals for superheterodyne radar receivers and to produce high-power carrier waves for communications and the driving force for modern particle accelerator. Russell and Sigurd Varian of Stanford University are generally considered to be the inventors. Their prototype was completed in August 1937.[282]

1937 Cyclamate

1938 Beach ball

The beach ball

A beach ball is an inflatable ball for beach and water games. Their large size and light weight take little effort to propel; they travel very slowly and generally must be caught with two hands, making them ideal for lazy games and for children. Their lightness and size make them difficult to use in even moderate wind. The beach ball was invented in California by Jonathon DeLonge in 1938.[284]

1938 Fiberglass

The technique of heating and drawing glass into fine fibers has been used for millennia. The use of these fibers for textile applications is more recent. The first commercial production of fiberglass was in 1936. In 1938, fiberglass was invented by Russell Games Slayter of Owens-Corning.[285]

1938 Xerography

Xerography, which means "dry writing" in Greek, is a process of making copies. Xerography makes copies without using ink. In this process, static electricity charges a lighted plate; a plastic powder is applied to the areas of the page to remain white. The photocopier was invented in 1938 by Chester Floyd Carlson who marketed his revolutionary device to about 20 companies before he could interest any. The Haloid Company, later called the Xerox Corporation, marketed it, and xerography eventually became common and inexpensive.[286]

1938 Nylon

1938 Operant conditioning chamber

1938 Soft serve ice cream

Soft serve ice cream in strawberry flavor

Not to be confused with regular ice cream of the slow, churned type which was invented in China over two millennia ago,[289] soft serve is a distinctive type of frozen dessert that is similar to, but much softer than, ice cream. In 1938, J.F. "Grandpa" McCullough and his son Alex co-invented soft serve ice cream, devising a new way to serve ice cream in its soft, creamy form that it takes before going into the deep freeze to make it scoopable. After Alex McCullough commissioned Harry Oltz in 1939 to design the first soft serve ice cream machine, similar to ones used for making frozen custard, the Dairy Queen franchise was founded when Sherb Noble opened the first store in 1940.[290]

1938 Teflon

In chemistry, polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic fluoropolymer which finds numerous applications. PTFE is best known by the DuPont brand name Teflon. PTFE was accidentally invented by Roy Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals in 1938.[291]

1939 Yield sign

In road transport, a yield sign or give way sign indicates that a vehicle driver must prepare to stop if necessary to let a driver on another approach proceed. However, there is no need to stop if his way is clear. A driver who stops has yielded his right of way to another. The yield sign, but not the yield traffic rule itself, was invented in 1939 by Tulsa police officer Clinton Riggs.[292]

1939 VU meter

A VU meter is often included in analog circuit, audio equipment to display a signal level in Volume Units. It is intentionally a "slow" measurement, averaging out peaks and troughs of short duration to reflect the perceived loudness of the material. It was originally invented in 1939 by the combined effort of Bell Labs and broadcasters CBS and NBC for measuring and standardizing the levels of telephone lines. The instrument used to measure VU is called the volume indicator (VI) instrument. Most users ignore this and call it a VU meter.

1939 Starting gate

1939 Twist tie

1939 Automated teller machine

A Suncorp Metway ATM

An automated teller machine (ATM) is a computerized telecommunications device that provides the clients of a financial institution with access to financial transactions in a public space without the need for a cashier, human clerk or bank teller. ATMs are known by various other names including automatic banking machine, cash machine, and various regional variants derived from trademarks on ATM systems held by particular banks. Financial transcationssuch as deposits, withdrawals, and transfers of accounts may be conducted at ATM's by inserting an ATM card. In 1939, Armenian-American inventor Luther George Simjian initially came up with the idea of creating a hole-in-the-wall machine that would allow customers to make financial transactions. The idea was met with a great deal of skepticism after Citicorp tested it. In later years and after Simjian filed 20 patents related to the device, the idea and the gradual usage of ATM's became more widespread around the world.[296]

1939 Vocoder

A vocoder, a portmanteau of the words voice and encoder, is an analysis and synthesis system, mostly used for speech. In the encoder, the input is passed through a multiband filter, each band is passed through an envelope follower, and the control signals from the envelope followers are communicated to the decoder. The decoder applies these control signals to corresponding filters in the (re)synthesizer. Research physicist Homer Dudley invented the Vocoder at Bell Labs in 1939 which served the purpose of improving the voice-carrying capabilities of his employer's telephone lines.[297]

1940 Fluxgate magnetometer

1941 Aerosol Bomb

1941 Deodorant

1941 Acrylic fiber

1941 Electric guitar (solid body)

1942 Bazooka

A soldier holding an M1 bazooka

A bazooka is a shoulder-fired, man-portable recoilless rocket anti-tank weapon that features a solid rocket motor for propulsion, allowing for high explosive (HE) and high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads to be delivered against armored vehicles, machine gun nests, and fortified bunkers at ranges beyond that of a standard thrown grenade or mine. The bazooka was co-invented in February 1942 by Edward Uhl, then a lieutenant in the United States Army, and Colonel Leslie Skinner.[302][303]

1943 Magnetic proximity fuze

A magnetic proximity fuze is a type of proximity fuze that initiates a detonator in a piece of ordnance such as a land mine, naval mine, depth charge, or shell when the fuse's magnetic equilibrium is upset by a magnetic object such as a tank or a submarine. In 1943, Panayottis John Eliomarkakis of Philiadelphia filed U.S. patent #2,434,551 which was issued on January 13, 1948.[304]

1943 Modern Coal Burning Steam Locomotive

This invention was only primarily used with steam locomotives that had booster valves or superchargers to heat the fire even hotter to produce extra power. The coal used was semi-bituminous and bituminous coal only inside the steam locomotives. Sadly, this invention lasted until 1960 when Diesel's fully replaced American railroads.

1943 Slinky

A Slinky or "Lazy Spring" is a toy consisting of a helical spring that stretches and can bounce up and down. It can perform a number of tricks, including traveling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum. The Slinky was invented in 1943 by American engineer Richard T. James while working in his home laboratory to invent a set of springs that could be used to support sensitive instruments on board ships and stabilize them even in rough seas. When he once accidentally knocked one of his springs off a shelf, James saw that, rather than flopping in a heap onto the floor, the spring "stepped" in a series of arcs from the shelf, to a stack of books, to a tabletop, to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright. In 1945, the James first exhibited his new toy at the Gimbels, a department store located in Philadelphia. He sold 400 Slinkys in 90 minutes which was the start of a sensation that continues to this day.[305]

1945 Microwave oven

A microwave oven with a turn table located inside

A microwave oven cooks or heats food by dielectric heating. Cooking food with microwaves was discovered by Percy Spencer on October 8, 1945, while building magnetrons for radar sets at Raytheon. Spencer was working on an active radar set when he noticed a strange sensation, and saw that a peanut candy bar he had in his pocket started to melt. Although he was not the first to notice this phenomenon, as the holder of 120 patents, Spencer was no stranger to discovery and experiment, and realized what was happening. The radar had melted his candy bar with microwaves. The first food to be deliberately cooked with microwaves was popcorn, and the second was an egg.[306] In 1947, Raytheon under Percy Spencer demonstrated the world's first microwave oven built at the company which was called the "Radarange".[307]

1945 Cruise control

Cruise control automatically controls the rate of motion of a motor vehicle. The driver sets the speed and the system will take over the throttle of the car to maintain the same speed. Cruise control was invented in 1945 by a blind inventor and mechanical engineer named Ralph Teetor. His idea was born out of the frustration of riding in a car driven by his lawyer, who kept speeding up and slowing down as he talked. The first car with Teetor's system was the Chrysler Imperial in 1958. This system calculated ground speed based on driveshaft rotations and used a solenoid to vary throttle position as needed.[308]

1945 Block heater

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