Great Inventions from the Heartland

From agriculture to high tech, sports to personal comfort, inventors from America’s heartland and Canada have given us great inventions.

A Canadian gym teacher from Almonte, Ont., James Naismith, is credited with creating the game of basketball in 1891.

St. Louis, Mo., native John S. Thurman devised the world’s first powered vacuum cleaner in 1898 and named it the “pneumatic carpet renovator.” The enormous gadget had an internal combustion engine and traveled from house to house on a horse-drawn cart as part of a mobile cleaning service.

In 1913, aviation pioneers William Purvis and Charles Wilson were awarded a patent for the world’s first helicopter which they developed in Goodland, Kan.

Quebec-born Arthur Sicard produced the first snow blower in 1925, and today he is hailed from January to March by Canadians trying to clear their driveways.

And probably no one gave the world such a lift as Moses (Moe) Nadler. The Montreal-born Nadler invented the Wonderbra. Nadler was the founder and majority owner of the Canadian Lady Corset Company.

Women have been using improvised tampons for thousands of years – for instance, soft papyrus was the material of choice in ancient Egypt – but the first modern tampon featuring a tube within a tube applicator was invented by Dr. Earle Hass in Denver,Colo., in 1929.

One of the most notable and important Canadian inventions ever, insulin, was created by Dr. Frederick Banting, an Alliston, Ont., native and Nobel laureate. He shared credit with his colleague Dr. Charles Best.

A colossal 90% of land in Iowa is dedicated to farming, so it’s only fitting that the gasoline-powered tractor was invented in the state. John Froelich built the very first one in Clayton County back in 1892.

Next time you take out the trash, thank Winnipegger Harry Wasylyk, the man behind the modern-day garbage bag. He, along with Larry Hansen of Lindsay, Ont., invented a disposable green polyethylene garbage bag – they were first intended for commercial use at places like hospitals and quickly became a household must. The invention was marketed by Union Carbide as the Glad bag.

In 1936, Omaha’s James Michael Curran invented the first ski lift, without which the modern ski industry couldn’t function. Before Curran’s invention, skiers had to use tow ropes powered by horses or engines to get up the mountain. Seems strange that this one comes from a flat-lander!

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s Superman, a hero across the globe but one who was created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster in 1932.

Heart patients the world over have engineer Earl Bakken of Minnesota to thank for developing the implantable pacemaker. The battery-powered device was invented by Bakken in 1957 at the Medtronic workout in Fridley, following a blackout that killed one of his patients, who was dependent on a large, mains-operated pacemaker.

The classic breakfast cereal Cream of Wheat was first manufactured in 1893 by wheat millers in Grand Forks, N.D., and the semolina-based porridge fast became America’s most popular breakfast staple, enjoyed in homes up and down the country.

South Dakota-born nuclear scientist Ernest Lawrence was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for the cyclotron, the particle accelerator he patented in 1935, and the precursor to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

Known as the “Space Suit Father,” innovator Siegfried Hanson of Wisconsin developed the early Mark I space suit during the 1950s, playing an important role in the Space Race, which began in August 1955 and continued up until the early 1990s.

Illinois engineer Engineer Martin Cooper developed the first handheld mobile phone in 1973 while working at Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill. Dubbed “the brick,” the bulky device measured 10 inches and weighed a hefty 2.5 pounds.