1865 Web Offset Printing
William Bullock introduced a printing press that could feed paper on a continuous roll and print both sides of the paper at once. Used first by the Philadelphia Ledger, the machine would become an American standard. It would also kill its maker, who died when he accidentally fell into one of his presses.
1867 Barbed Wire
Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio, invents the product that will close down the open cattle ranges by closing in cattle onto individual plots of privately owned land. I.L. Ellwood and Company's Glidden Steel Barb Wire will dominate the market; by 1890 the open range will be only a memory.
1870 Pneumatic Subway
Working in secret to hide his operation from Boss Tweed, who opposes it, Scientific American publisher Alfred Ely Beach builds a pneumatic subway under Broadway in New York. Beach's single subway car, which features upholstered chairs and chandeliers is driven along the 300 foot tunnel by a 100 horsepower blower.
Inspired by a Scientific American article featuring a British attempt at a typing machine, Christopher Latham Sholes invents his own. In 1873 he sells an improved prototype to Remington and Sons, gunsmiths, of Ilion, New York, who begin to mass produce the machines. Among the first works to be produced on a typewriter is Mark Twain's "Adventures of Tom Sawyer."
1874 Structural Steel Bridge
Captain James Buchanan Eads finishes the bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis. Using steel supplied by Andrew Carnegie, Eads incorporates a triple arch design, with spans measuring 502, 520, and 502 feet. The construction amazes the engineering world; Eads will be the first American engineer to be awarded the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts in London.
1875 Electric Dental Drill
George F. Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan, replaces the agony of tooth decay with the anxiety of the dental drill when he invents an electric powered device to drill teeth.
While using paraffin in an attempt to invent and improve telegraphy tape, Thomas Alva Edison discovers a way to make duplicate copies of documents instead.
Alexander Graham Bell patents his telephone, built with the assistance of young self-trained engineer Thomas A. Watson. Elisha Gray, who developed a similar device at about the same time, will unsuccessfully challenge Bell's patent.
Working with a team of engineers at his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratories, Thomas Alva Edison perfects a system of sound recording and transmission. The first recording replayed is a voice saying "Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow."
1879 Incandescent Light Bulb
Backed by $30,000 in research funds provided by investors including J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts, Thomas Edison perfects an incandescent light bulb. The first commercial incandescent system will be installed at the New York printing firm of Hinds and Ketcham in January, 1881.
1880 Hearing Aid
R.G. Rhodes improves on the ear trumpet with another primitive hearing aid. The device is a thin sheet of hard rubber or cardboard placed against teeth which conducts vibrations to the auditory nerve.
1882 Electric Fan
The world becomes a cooler place, thanks to the work of Dr. Schuyler Skaats Wheeler. His two-bladed desk fan is produced by the Crocker and Curtis electric motor company.
1884 Thrill Ride
L.N. Thompson, founder of Coney Island's Luna Park, invites the first passengers to board his new thrill ride, the roller coaster. Thompson calls his new attraction the Switchback.
After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago has become a magnet for daring experiments in architecture. William Le Baron Jenney completes the 10-story Home Insurance Company Building, the first to use steel-girder construction; more than twenty skyscrapers will be built in Chicago over the next 9 years.
1887 "Platter" Record
Edison's tube recording system produces distorted sound because of gravity's pressure on the playing stylus. Emile Berliner, a German immigrant living in Washington, DC, invents a process for recording sound on a horizontal disc. The "platter" record is born.
1888 Kodak Camera
In Rochester, New York, George Eastman introduces a hand-held box camera for portable use. The camera is pre-loaded with 100 exposure film; after shooting the photographer returns the whole camera to the manufacturer for development and a reload.
After ten years work and numerous prototypes, Mrs. WA Cockran of Shelbyville, Indiana, eases kitchen labor everywhere by producing a practicable dishwashing machine.
1891 Peep Show
Thomas A. Edison and William Dickson perfect their kinetoscope, a forerunner of the movie projector. Viewers watch through a small peephole as images pass between a lens and an electric light bulb at a rate of 46 frames per second. While the kinetoscope would lead directly to the development of moving pictures and the kingdom of Hollywood, Edison considered the kinetoscope as no more than a toy.
Jesse W. Reno, introduces a new novelty ride at Coney Island. His moving stairway elevates passengers on a conveyor belt at an angle of 25 degrees. The device will be shown at the Paris Exposition of 1900, where it is called the escalator.
1892 Gasoline-powered Car
In a loft in Springfield, Massachusetts, brothers Frank and Charles Duryea fabricate the first gasoline-powered automobile built in the United States. It will make its first successful run on the streets of Springfield in September, 1893.
At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Whitcomb L. Judson introduces his clasp locker, a hook-and-eye device opened and closed by a sliding clasp. Improvements in the device by other inventors will continue; workers at B.F. Goodrich will coin the name "zipper" in 1923.
1896 Automatic Hat
James Boyle, of Washington, DC, makes public courtesy much more convenient for the modern gentleman. His new hat tips automatically.
1897 Player Piano
Edwin S. Votey, patents his self-playing piano, which he calls the pianola. The instrument uses instructions recorded on perforated paper to drive a set of artificial wooden fingers poised above a piano keyboard. Later versions placed the entire mechanism inside the body of the piano, eliminating the fingers.
The J.P. Holland torpedo boat company launches the first practical submarine, commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The test is successful. Holland gets orders for six more.
King Camp Gillette, former traveling hardware salesman of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, takes the risk out of shaving with his new double-edged safety razor. By the end of 1904, he will have sold 90,000 razors and 12,400,000 blades, but he will die in 1932 with his dream of a utopian society organized by engineers unrealized.
1902 Air Conditioning
Working as an engineer at the Buffalo Forge Company, Willis H. Carrier designs the first system to control temperature and humidity. He will go on to found his own company, the Carrier Corporation, to produce air-conditioning equipment.
At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright break the powered flight barrier with their gasoline-powered "Flyer I." The first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight in history lasts 12 seconds. Wilbur pilots the machine. On a flight later that day, Orville will remain aloft 59 seconds and travel 852 feet.
1908 Model T
Car maker Henry Ford introduces his Model T automobile. By 1927, when it is discontinued, 15.5 million Models T's will be sold in the U.S. Ford owes much of his success to his improved assembly line process, which by 1913 will produce a complete Model T every 93 minutes.
1911 Self Starter
Charles F. Kettering, who developed the electric cash register while working at National Cash Register, sells his electric automobile starters to the Cadillac company. This device increases the popularity of the gasoline-powered car, which no longer needs to be started with a hand crank.
1914 Panama Canal
After 36 years' labor, the bankruptcy of thousands of investors, and the deaths of more than 25,000 men, the Panama Canal is finished. The canal cuts the sailing distance from the East Coast to the West Coast by more than 8,000 miles.
U.S. troops arrive on the battlefields of Europe, where new technologies have created the bloodiest conflict in history. Armored tanks, machine guns, poisonous gas, submarines and airplanes will force military commanders to rethink traditional strategies of war.
Alexander Grahams Bell's "Hydrodome IV" sets a world record of 70 mph for water travel. The boat weighs over 10,000 pounds and uses underwater fins to raise the hull of the boat and decrease drag between the hull and the water.
The first regular commercial radio broadcasts begin when AM station KDKA of Pittsburgh delivers results of the Harding-Cox election to its listeners. Radio experiences immediate success; by the end of 1922, 563 other licensed stations will join KDKA.
The first electronically-transmitted photograph is sent by Western Union. The idea for a facsimile transmission was first proposed by Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1843.
In an effort to make capital punishment more humane, the State of Nevada introduces death by gas chamber. Convicted murderer Gee John takes 6 minutes to die.
Robert H. Goddard, Professor of Physics at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, makes the first successful launch of a liquid-fueled rocket at his aunt Effie's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. The rocket reaches 41 ft. in altitude.
Philo Farnsworth demonstrates the first television for potential investors by broadcasting the image of a dollar sign. Farnsworth receives backing and applies for a patent, but ongoing patent battles with RCA will prevent Farnsworth from earning his share of the million-dollar industry his invention will create.
1929 Frozen Food
Clarence Birdseye offers his quick-frozen foods to the public. Birdseye got the idea during fur-trapping expeditions to Labrador in 1912 and 1916, where he saw the natives use freezing to preserve foods.
1931 Radio Astronomy
While trying to track down a source of electrical interference on telephone transmissions, Karl Guthe Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories discovers radio waves emanating from stars in outer space.
Working at the research facilities at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. William Bennett Kouwenhoven develops a device for jump-starting the heart with a burst of electricity.
1937 Chair Lift
Skiers no longer have to climb hills to enjoy their sport. Engineers from the Union Pacific Railroad build a chair lift for the Dollar Mountain resort in Sun Valley, Idaho. Dollar Mountain follows with an order for six more.
A team of researchers working under Wallace H. Carothers at E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company invents a plastic that can be drawn into strong, silk-like fibers. Nylon will soon become popular as a fabric for hosiery as well as industrial applications such as cordage.
1939 Digital Computer
John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry of Iowa State College complete the prototype of the first digital computer. It can store data and perform addition and subtractions using binary code. The next generation of the machine will be abandoned before it is completed due to the onset of World War II.
Karl K. Pabst of the Bantam Car. Co., Butler, Pennsylvania, produces a four-wheel drive vehicle that will become famous as the jeep. Given its name by its military designation, G.P., or general purpose, the jeep will be used for numerous transport applications throughout World War II, and will become a popular domestic vehicle after the war.
1942 Atomic Reaction
A team working under Italian refugee Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago produces the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. This experiment and others will result in the development of the atomic bomb.
1945 Atomic Bomb
A team led by J.R. Oppenheimer, Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi and Léo Szilard detonates the first atomic bomb at the Los Alamos Lab near Santa Fé, New Mexico. Following the tests, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan -- one at Hiroshima, one at Nagasaki -- that claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Excerpted from "American Experience"; full technological timeline, 1752-1990, can be viewed HERE