Perhaps one of the reasons why NYC is “the city that never sleeps” is because residents here are too busy coming up with new things. It might surprise you to know just how many useful creations were invented in New York — and had the residents of the past not done it, the world would have been completely different.
If it weren’t for Joseph Gayetty selling “medicated paper for the water closet” back in 1857, we might still be using old newspaper, leaves, or twigs (or just about anything you wouldn’t dare use today) to cap off the number 2 experience. And it’s almost impossible to imagine how this 2020 pandemic best-seller evolved from being made using pure Manila hemp (that was treated with aloe) to the commonly advertised to be ultra soft, gentle yet absorbent, 2 to 4-ply necessity we buy from the stores.
The toilet paper rolls we’re familiar with today usually come in the colors white, brown (often made from bamboo), or even black (or it may just be Kris Jenner who has it!). However, back then, this invention — that was first sold at 41 Ann St. — used to have a printed watermark with Gayetty’s name on every sheet.
As one of the fashion capitals of the world, of course, we’d want us and our fellow New Yorkers to look dapper. And, indeed, the tuxedo was invented by an affluent gentleman named Pierre Lorillard IV. In 1886, he wore a “tailless dress coat” when he attended a social club that he founded in Tuxedo Park. This rather exclusive club is — you probably guessed it by now — The Tuxedo Club.
NYC residents and natives may be infamous for having a bit of a temper (compared to people from other towns and states), but sometimes, great things come out of calling out things the New Yorker way! Take the head chef of Moon’s Lake for example — George Crum had a customer incessantly complain about his potato dish being too thick and soggy. He was so fed up, that he sliced the potatoes ever-so-thinly, over-fried, and over-salted the food out of pettiness and spite. The customer, however, loved the dish!
Fast forward years later, George Crum met Henry Lay — the US South-based businessman who ran the H.W. Lay and Company (that eventually became the Frito-Lay Corporation). And the rest is history!
Credit cards can either be a shopper’s savior or a spender’s scoundrel. Aside from the late fees and interest rates, if you think about it, credit cards are always there for our shopping convenience — and we have John Biggins (of Flatbush National Bank) to thank for those. He conceptualized the “Charg-It” program for customers who bought from Brooklyn merchants. And he issued cards for them to use. Thankfully, this card isn’t exclusive to Brooklyn locals anymore — credit cards are used almost everywhere in the world!
The origin of the Teddy Bear is a story that many are familiar with — Theodore Roosevelt didn’t want to shoot an already-injured black bear while he was hunting. Because of this heart-warming and animal-friendly story, Brooklyn candy store owners, Morris and Rose Michtom, made plush toy bears and called them “Teddy’s Bear.” They then displayed these stuffed toys in their candy shop — and it seems like the duo couldn’t have found a better calling for their careers. Because their teddy bears became so popular, Morris and Rose eventually opened a factory just to sell these cuddly toys!
The Empire State of Brilliant Minds can be found in NYC. Most things that were invented in New York were the product of New Yorkers of different backgrounds, lifestyles, and ideas — but all of them called the city their home. Thus, during these inventors’ lives, there’s a big chance that they were inspired by the Big Apple and how they wanted their fellow New Yorkers to live more conveniently and comfortably — first and foremost.