So many cool things were invented in Brooklyn, and when we say cool we mean it literally: air conditioning was invented in Brooklyn! Last week we looked at all the delicious foods invented in Brooklyn, so now let’s take a peek at what other amazing things hail from here.
1. Teddy Bears
Did you know Teddy Bears were invented in Brooklyn? In 1902, Morris Mitchom, a candy store owner in Brooklyn, came across a political cartoon in the Washington Post. It made fun of President Theodore Roosevelt who refused to shoot a bear that was tied to a tree. Inspired by the story, Morris and his wife Rose created a stuffed bear and named it, “Teddy’s Bear”. It went on sale on February 15, 1903 and the rest is history!
2. Air Conditioning
When we say cool things were invented in Brooklyn, we mean it literally! The first modern Air Conditioning was invented right in Bushwick by Willis Carrier. He needed to find a solution to the humidity problem at Sackett & Wilhelms Printing Plant where he worked. He did it! The bonus was the workers were kept cool during Brooklyn’s unrelenting summer heat. It fundamentally changed how we live and work!
3. Roller Coasters
The very first roller coaster ever was created for Coney Island where we take you on our Pizza Tour. The Switchback Railway was invented by LaMarcu Adna Thompson in 1881 and opened in 1884. It went 6 miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. It sparked the first wave of roller coaster mania in the United States, also known as the Golden Age of roller coasters.
4. Mr. Potato Head
Brooklynite George Lerner invented Mr. Potato Head. He realized that kids played with food that they don’t want to eat and figured that vegetables with a little personality might have a better chance. So he created a set of silly face parts. The original package included eyes, nose, mouth, ears—28 different plastic facial features in all. Mr. Potato Head as we know it today is all plastic, but from 1952-1964 our playful friend was an actual potato. Can you imagine using a real potato?!
5. Children’s Museums
Brooklyn Children’s Museum was founded in Crown Heights in 1899. It was the first museum of its kind in the United States, and some say the world, that catered specifically to children with interactive exhibits and a hands on approach. It still stands there today and on September 20, 2008 it became the first green museum in New York City.
6. Bank Issued Credit Cards
Can you imagine a world without credit cards? Maybe you’d like to! Good or bad, you can thank John Biggins of Flatbush National Bank in Brooklyn who issued the first credit card in 1946. He offered a “Charge-It” program which was a way for local Brooklyn shop owners to offer credit to their customers. Merchants would deposit sales slips to the bank and then bill the customers.
And there you have it! From Teddy Bears to roller coasters, some of the world’s most important inventions originated right here in Brooklyn.
And if you’re ever in NYC, be sure and take one of our tours where you’ll learn lots of great stuff like this from our guides and more!