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3 Great Inventions That Came From Chicago

Dec 21st, 2020

If you live in our luxury Chicago apartments, then no one needs to tell you about how great of a city Chicago is. 

You’ve seen the detailed architecture, the varied culture, the diversity and the innovation that exists in every nook, cranny and crevice in the city, and it’s been that way ever since the city first laid its roots along Lake Michigan’s watery banks.

There’s a lot that the rest of the country (and, indeed the world!) has to thank Chicago for. From delicious Chicago dishes like deep dish pizza and the classic Chicago hot dog to skyscrapers and even the telephone itself, Chicago has been the birthplace of innovation and creation since its founding.

Here are some of the inventions and firsts that came out of Chicago. Who knows what the great minds of Chicago invent next?

3 great inventions that came from Chicago

The telephone

If you’re reading this on your phone, then you can be extra grateful for this invention!

There’s actually a little bit of drama when it comes to the origin story of the telephone. History books credit Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish inventor, with inventing the device in 1876 in Boston, Massachusetts. However, an inventor living in Chicago, Elisha Gray, submitted his own patent for a telephone on the exact same day as Bell did: February 14, 1876.

Bell’s application was processed through the patent office first because his lawyers had offered to pay the processing fee first, even though Gray’s patent arrived earlier. As a result, Bell received the patent for the telephone, and less than a month later he made the very first call on a telephone.

Over the years, more and more evidence has shown up to suggest that Bell may not have been entirely honest with his patent. Drawings in Bell’s notebook are eerily similar to Gray’s early telephone patents, and even another inventor’s telephone prototype mysteriously disappeared from Bell’s lab before showing up in Bell’s very own designs years later. 

The whole situation is a little messy, to say the least, but we do know for certain that a certain Chicago inventor submitted a bona-fide patent for a telephone long before Bell did. And if that’s not something to be proud of, we don’t know what is!

The game of softball

The origin of many sports lies in long histories, oral traditions and steady updates and changes to whatever game is being played. 

It’s hard to point out a specific moment in time for any sport’s origin, let alone a sport that we still play today. However, we can trace it back as far as we can go to see what we find, and what we’ve found is that the dearly-beloved game of softball may very well have started right here in Chicago!

Interestingly enough, softball’s origins lie in an 1887 Harvard-Yale football match, a boxing glove and a broomstick. George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, watched a Harvard fan smacking a soft boxing glove with a broomstick during the celebration festivities, and he thought that there was something there worth expanding on. 

His first crack at his new game included a boxing glove tied together with string so that players could catch the soft “ball” without needing gloves to protect their hands. By this point, baseball had already been around for a few decades, so people were familiar with the basic concept of the game.

The very first league started in the winter of 1889 right here in Chicago, where the game was played indoors where anyone could stay warm and have fun. As the game grew in popularity, the Minneapolis Park Board officially adopted the game in 1913, and even Toronto, Canada, had a local league.

Despite being played throughout the region for two decades already, the game didn’t have an official name until 1926. Up until that point, the game’s name would change based on where it was being played, with some calling it Mush Ball, Pumpkin Ball or Cabbage Ball. It wasn’t until a Denver YMCA official suggested the name “Softball” that the game finally had a real name.

The sport’s popularity skyrocketed in 1933 after a Chicago fan organized a tournament at a fair. Over 350,000 people came to watch the games, and by the end of World War II, softball had spread to the United Kingdom, continental Europe and even all the way to Australia!

Film criticism

If you’ve ever wished that watching Netflix or streaming Hulu could be your full-time job, then don’t lose hope! The very first movie critic in the United States came from right here in Chicago!

In 1914, the Chicago Tribune hired Jack Lawson to be their first full-time film critic, where his sole job was to rate and review the newest films hitting the film industry. Lawson was replaced a short while later after getting killed in a car accident, and a woman named Miss Audrie Alspaugh took the film critic’s place. Alspaugh wrote under the pseudonym “Kitty Kelly,” and soon her column became wildly influential in the Midwest’s film industry. 

Chicago didn’t just have the first full-time film critic, but it was a Chicago journalist who won the very first major writing prize for film criticism. In 1975, Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times won a Pulitzer Prize for his noteworthy criticism work. He reviewed films from each and every genre out there, including films like “The Godfather,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and even “Jaws.” 

Roger Ebert is considered to be one of the greatest film critics of all time. Check out this little video about him 


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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/12019

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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