The Real Inventors of Some of History's Most Famous Creations
The Real Inventors of Some of History’s Most Famous Creations

The Real Inventors of Some of History’s Most Famous Creations

Larry Holzwarth - September 16, 2019

The Real Inventors of Some of History’s Most Famous Creations
Edison sits in a swivel chair, a device invented by another famous American named Thomas. Wikimedia

24. Thomas Jefferson and the swivel chair

The swivel chair is not the invention of a furniture maker, nor a lazy boss, nor a publican providing barstools for his patrons. It was devised by Thomas Jefferson while he was in Philadelphia for the Continental Congress which produced the Declaration of Independence. Whether Jefferson used the chair while writing the drafts of that document is disputed; it may not have been ready in time. What is known is that Jefferson provided a Philadelphia furniture maker with the specifications for the chair. Jefferson took the chair to Monticello when he returned, and in his workshops there modified it exceedingly, an indication that he was not fully pleased with the product delivered in Philadelphia.

It was one of many inventions by Jefferson, which include his famous copying desk, and a pasta machine, to make the macaroni which he grew to love while in Paris and Italy. He is often credited with bringing ice cream to American, and developing an ice cream freezer, neither of which is true. There are written recipes in his own hand for several flavors of ice cream, which he provided to confectioners in Philadelphia, along with pastries to be served with it, but ice cream recipes appeared in American food books many decades before Jefferson became acquainted with them.

The Real Inventors of Some of History’s Most Famous Creations
Doubleday is widely attributed as the inventor of baseball, though the evidence indicates otherwise. Wikimedia

25. Abner Doubleday and the game of baseball

The story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball was deliberately created in 1908, by a group known as the Mills Commission, in order to separate the American game from the ancient British game of rounders. The commission was chaired by Abraham Mills, at the time president of the National League, and supported by American league president Albert Spaulding. The official story endorsed by the Mills Commission was that Doubleday invented the game and the rules in 1839, and the first game played under the rules took place in Cooperstown, New York, that year. The National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame officially recognizes Doubleday as the inventor of baseball, but to date has not inducted him into the Hall.

Whether baseball was derived from rounders or grew out of its own remains a disputed aspect of the game and American history. References in documents from American towns mention baseball by that name, as well as rounders, being played long before 1839. Spalding worked tirelessly to perpetuate the myth. In his book America’s National Game he pointed out the invention of America’s game by a man who had been a hero during the Civil War (including at Gettysburg) was highly appropriate. So while the preponderance of evidence is that baseball evolved over time (and continues to do so today) Abner Doubleday continues to be officially credited with its invention.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Invention of the Telescope”. Albert Van Helden. 1977

“The First Steamboat”. John H. Lienhard, Engines of our Ingenuity. University of Houston. Online

“Who invented radio?” Tesla Life and Legacy, Public Broadcasting System. PBS.org

“The Inventive Mind of Walter Hunt, Yankee Mechanical Genius”. Jimmy Stamp, Smithsonian.com. October 24, 2013

“Charles F. Jenkins”. Entry, Ohio History Central. Online

“Bell did not invent telephone, US rules”. Rory Carroll, The Guardian. June 17, 2002

“Buckminster Fuller, International Outlaw”. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker. December 31, 1965

“The Sweet History of Chocolate”. Christopher Klein, History.com. February 13, 2013

“American Inventors, Entrepreneurs and Visionaries”. Charles W. Carey. 2010

“The Story of Henry Ford’s $5 a day wages: It’s not what you think”. Tim Worstall, Forbes. March 4, 2012

“The Monopolization of Monopoly: The $500 Buyout”. Burton H. Wolfe, San Francisco Bay Guardian. 1976

“Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville: the phonautograph”. Entry, Thomas Edison National Historical Park. National Park Service. Online

“Louis le Prince, who shot the world’s first film in Leeds”. Ian Youngs, BBC Entertainment and Arts. June 23, 2015. Online

“Was Hollywood Built on Piracy?” Terry Hart, Copyhype. May 7, 2012. Online

“It’s the little things”. Entry, Benjamin Franklin: Inquiring Mind. PBS.org. Online

“History of the Helicopter from Concept to Modern Day”. Entry, Prime Industries. August 31, 2015

“Crime Fiction (The New Critical Idiom)”. John Scaggs. 2005

“The Cooke and Wheatstone Needle Telegraph Systems”. Entry, Electromagnetic Telegraphy. Harvard.edu

“Dr. Guillotin”. William Chambers and Robert Chambers, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal. 1844

“Who invented peanut butter?” Entry, National Peanut Board. Online

“Washington and the new agriculture”. Entry, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. Online

“Revolving Windsor Armchair”. Entry, Thomas Jefferson, Monticello. Online

“The Man Who Didn’t Invent Baseball”. Victor Salvatore, American Heritage Magazine. June/July 1983

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