Even though February 11 is National Inventors’ Day, Americans are constantly creating works of genius throughout the year. Several inventions from New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have revolutionized the world.
Around 1945, Brooklyn diner owners Ben and Betty Eisenstadt were out to eat when Betty spotted flies swarming around a sugar bowl. She asked her husband, "Wouldn't it be nice if sugar came in individual bags, like tea?” As they say, the rest is history. Ben and Betty owned a teabag machine and were able to use it to produce sealed packets of granulated sugar. In 1957, Ben and his son Marvin decided to create a sugar substitute and package it in a pink packet, so it would stand out in a sugar bowl. The name of the product, Sweet'N Low, was inspired by Ben’s favorite song. The sugar substitute received Federal Trademark Registration No. 1,000,000, and today, can be found in almost every restaurant across the country. Today, Sweet’N Low is produced by the Cumberland Packing Corp. in Brooklyn at the site of Ben and Betty’s original diner. Want to learn more about the company? Visit www.cpack.com and www.sweetnlow.com.
Although James Edward Johnstone was born in Ireland, his work in America – including his invention of an improved catcher’s mask for “America’s favorite pastime” – helped solidify his legacy in New Jersey. Johnstone was a minor league pitcher from 1894 to 1897, and a professional umpire from 1902 to 1915. At the time, the catcher’s mask consisted of a basic wire frame that failed to prevent injuries like broken noses and lost teeth. In 1922, Johnstone designed a new mask with a solid, one-piece aluminum casting that was lighter, yet safer. It was called the “Original Full Vision Mask" and was distributed by the Johnstone Baseball Mask Co. in Newark. Today, catchers still use masks based on Johnstone’s original design. Baseball enthusiasts will enjoy learning more about the evolution of the sport at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, New Jersey. At the museum, you can browse the exhibits on a guided tour or take a customized team and leadership workshop to help improve your skills on and off the field. Get more info at www.yogiberramuseum.org.
In 1943, naval engineer Richard James was experimenting with tension springs when one of the springs dropped to the floor and began to “walk.” After showing his wife, they named their invention “Slinky” – a Swedish word meaning sleek and sinuous. The first Slinky was sold at Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia in 1945, and Slinkys are still manufactured in Pennsylvania today. Still want to know more about the Slinky? Visit www.poof-slinky.com.
Not only did many inventions originally come from New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but several of them are still made in these states today. Whether it’s National Inventors’ Day or not, take some time to discover the history of local innovations.