What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Cleveland?
Smoke stacks? Factories? Crying sports fans?
It’s true that Cleveland is known for its rust-belt image and never-ending losing streak, but did you know the city is also home to a number of inventions?
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Electric street car: The first electric streetcar went into operation on the streets of Cleveland in 1884, powered by a Brush Electric Co. generator. Although the line closed down the following year, it led to the introduction of the automobile in 1920.
- Wind turbine for electricity generation: Just three years later (1887) came the first automatically operating wind turbine for electricity generation, invented by Brush Electric Co.’s president, Charles Brush. The windmill reportedly ran for 20 years.
- Life Savers candies: In 1912, Cleveland candy-maker Clarence Crane was searching for “a sweet treat that would withstand the summer heat better than chocolate.” His answer? “Pep O Mint”-flavored Life Savers. (Did you know? Life Savers got their name because Crane punched holes in the middle of each candy – making them look like mini life preservers – to differentiate them from other products.)
- Electric traffic light: The world’s first electric traffic signal was installed on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street on August 5, 1914. Shortly after, the Cleveland Automobile Club published an article stating, “This system is, perhaps, destined to revolutionize the handling of traffic in congested city streets and should be seriously considered by traffic committees for general adoption.” Fun fact: This intersection was also the site of the first pedestrian button for control of a traffic light, which was first demonstrated in 1948 by a local boy named Louis Spronze.
- Madison Strap: You know I can’t write a post about Cleveland “firsts” without a nod to good ol’ Earl Atkinson! (For those of you new to the blog, Earl Atkinson founded Madison in 1929.) Legend has it that Earl was in need of a way to secure an old work box in a wall where there was no stud support. Being the inventive soul that he was, Earl looked around the room and saw an old Coca Cola can. It was from that can that Earl cut out the very first Madison Strap. This whole process happened at 102 Madison Ave., hence both the name of the company and the strap’s official part number.
- Superman comic: In 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster invented Clark Kent and his alter-ego from their houses on Cleveland’s East Side. Rumor has it the boys were so inspired they completed the first weeks of comic strips in just 24 hours.
- NFL “Monday Night Football” Game: The Cleveland Browns defeated the New York Jets 31-21 on September 21, 1970 during ABC’s Monday Night Football prime time debut. Even though the Browns played, Cleveland viewers couldn’t actually tune into the game on TV because NFL rules at the time stated that home games could only be televised if they sold out 72 hours before kickoff.
What did I miss? What other “firsts” would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
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Photo credit: All Things Cleveland, Ohio