People wax lyrical about what the ancient Greeks or Romans have done for us (roads, democracy, blah, blah, blah…) but New York is the birthplace of many, arguably far more important, inventions. Thank you New York; you rule.
1. Toilet paper
While New York might not be considered the most hygienic of places, you can bet it would have been a damn sight less clean had it not been for this invention. The first pre-packed toilet paper was produced by Joseph C. Gayetty in 1857. If not for him, we’d still be wiping ourselves with leaves or old magazines. This dude deserves our undying respect.
2. Credit Cards
Can you live without your credit card in New York City? If so, you’re a better person than we are. In 1946, the first bank card was released by Brooklyn’s Flatbush National Bank and it was in a New York City restaurant that Frank McNamara came up with the idea for Diners Club when he forgot to bring cash – a faux pas your average New Yorker need not worry themselves about today.
3. Potato chips
What would a football game or evening soiree be without the humble potato chip? And did you know we’ve got a pissed-off New York chef to thank for them? The story goes that the head chef of Moon’s Lake House George Crum lost his shit when a customer complained that his French fries weren’t sliced thinly enough in 1853. Not being one to take criticism well, Crum sliced the hell out of those fries until they were so thin, crispy and salty, the only problem the customer could have had with them was that spicy salsa or cream cheese wouldn’t be invented for some time. Speaking of which…
4. Philadelphia cream cheese
We know what you’re thinking. Surely logic dictates that “Philadelphia” cheese would have been invented in Philadelphia. But when has logic even got anyone anywhere in life? Certainly not when Alvah Reynolds came up with “Philadelphia” as a better brand name for New York cheese manufacturer William Lawrence in 1880. Mainly because Philadelphia was more famous for cheese that New York was. But that creamy goodness all over your bagel is 100% New York, baby!
That’s right. Christmas was invented in New York City. As if you didn’t love this town enough, we go and drop the bombshell on you that New York is in fact the true home of Christmas.
OK, Jesus was obviously not born here- And Christmas had been celebrated for years around the world before NYC stepped in. But in 1800, Dutch settlers brought back the legend of Sinterklaas (sound familiar) and the tradition of exchanging gifts. New Yorker Clement Clarke Moore wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas shortly after and cartoonist Thomas Nast published an image of Santa Claus as we recognise him today, all of which came together to start what we know as modern-day Christmas.
6. Cell phones
While Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell takes credit for the telephone, it was in New York City in 1973 where the first successful cell phone call was placed by Martin Cooper, bringing us that bit closer to Candy Crush and Tinder. Standing on Sixth avenue near the Hilton, Cooper made dialled up his pal to the astonishment of NYC journalists. The phone weighed almost 2.5lbs, took 10 hours to charge and cost $3,500.
7. Eggs Benedict
Tell us this staple of the NYC brunch scene is not essential to life and we will show you a liar. Eggs Benedict is undeniably among the New Yorkiest of the breakfast foods. It was certainly invented here, but the exact origin is a matter of dispute. One story says a guy called Lemuel Benedict ordered the meal at the Waldorf Hotel. Another goes that Edward P. Montgomery sent New York Times food columnist Craig Claiborne the recipe on behalf of Commodore E. C. Benedict. Whatever happened; you can thank NYC for this eggy treat.
8. Chewing gum
Can you believe there was a time where people just walked around New York City without minty-fresh breath (well, maybe you can if you ride the subway)? Staten Islander Thomas Adams had the foresight to import the natural chicle gum from Mexico, ushering in the era of first date confidence and ruined carpets.
Featured cover image: Parade