What would the world be like without New York? Certainly much less interesting. It would also be lacking certain integral symbols of daily life. Did you know these things were invented in New York? We didn’t, either.
1. The Teddy Bear – This most classic of stuffed animals was invented in Brooklyn by Morris and Rose Michtom. It was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, who on a 1902 hunting trip declined to shoot an injured bear. The name “Teddy” comes from “Theodore.”
2. Air Conditioning– In 1902, Brooklyn resident Willis Carrier invented a machine designed to prevent paper in printing plants from bending in the summer humidity. The machine’s ability to cool off a room was a happy coincidence that went on to revolutionize daily life in America
3. Toilet Paper– The first modern, commercially available toilet paper was invented in 1857 by Joseph C. Gayetty, who sold the paper in his Manhattan store. It was made of manila hemp and enriched with aloe vera extract. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) thing about it: every individual sheet was embossed with his name.
4. Scrabble –Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and anagram zealot from Jackson Heights in Queens, invented this beloved board game in 1938. Fun fact: the street where Butts used to live is marked with a sign in Scrabble language: “35t1H4 a1V4e1n1u1e1.” This jumble of numbers and letters includes the name of the street (35th Avenue) and the corresponding Scrabble letter values.
5. The Remote Control– This technology was developed by the New Yorker Nikola Tesla, who invented a radio-controlled boat in 1898. What at the time was almost impossible to believe is today an integral component of daily domestic life.
6. Eggs Benedict – In 1894, upon returning to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night on the town, the stockbroker and bonvivant Lemuel Benedikt ordered poached eggs, crispy bacon, toast, and hollandaise sauce. The legendary maître d'hôtel, Oscar Tschirky, found this combination so interesting that he added it to the menu and named it after its inventor.
7. The Hot Dog – The idea of serving a hot sausage in a bun came from the baker and Coney Island, Brooklyn resident Charles Feltman. Feltman sold his hot dogs at the unbeatable price of a dime ($0.10). The invention was a huge hit and made Feltman into an influential investor in Coney Island—at least until his former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened a shop of his own and began selling hot dogs for a mere nickel ($0.05).
8. The ATM (cash machine)– The first prototype for a cash machine was designed by Luther George Simjiam in 1939. Citibank was the first bank that volunteered to test the invention over a 6-month trial period. The test was unsuccessful: too few people used the machine, and those that did were mostly prostitutes and casino visitors.
The next time you take out money, eat a hot dog, play Scrabble, or change the TV channel, think of New York.