1850-1890 Inventions

The electric light bulb was invented in 1878.
The electric light bulb was invented in 1878. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The second half of the 19th century was a time of great advancement in the world of inventions. Many of the creations of that time have changed life as we know it. The most innovative inventions from that era include life-saving medical advancements as well as transportation and domestic devices that modern society could not easily live without.


Some believe that a hugely important advancement in the latter half of the 19th century was the work of the French chemist, Louis Pasteur. His experiments with fermentation and hypotheses about germs led to his invention of pasteurization, which changed food standards and human health for good. Several all-American foods came along during these years as well. Potato chips were invented in 1853 by African American chef, George Crum. The hot dog began in the 1860s with German immigrants selling sausages in buns from New York street carts. John Pemberton gave the world Coca-Cola in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia.


Major developments in the world of transportation took place between 1850 and 1890, both in practical and recreational travel. In 1857, George Pullman invented the Pullman Sleeping Car, which eased long-distance travel by train. Pierre Michaux invented the bicycle in 1861 and, that same year, Elisha Otis invented the elevator brake. This innovation allowed elevators to be stopped even if the cable snapped. The invention changed the world's landscape, allowing the creation of much taller buildings. In 1867, Sylvester Roper invented a coal-powered, steam-driven motorcycle. In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler followed up with the invention of a gas-powered motorcycle.

Appliances and Electronics

The latter half of the 19th century gave the world inventions for the home to make life easier and more convenient. Isaac Singer gave the world the sewing machine motor in 1855. In 1858, Hamilton Smith invented the rotary washing machine. The typewriter was invented by Christopher Scholes in 1867. 1876 brought about another of the world's most important inventions when Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone. Right on its heels came another monumental invention when, in 1878, both Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan created an electric light bulb. Further domestic convenience came in 1889, when Josephine Cochran invented the automatic dishwasher.


Not only did domestic life receive advancements during the 19th century, but war did as well. Much progress was made during these years in the field of weapons technology. In 1862, Dr. Richard Gatling invented the machine gun, a weapon capable of shooting 200 rounds of ammunition in one minute. This weapon greatly upped the ante in battles, as did the torpedo, invented by Robert Whitehead in 1866. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel created innovative weapons devices during this time, including a detonator in 1863, dynamite in 1867 and blasting gelatin made of guncotton and nitroglycerin in 1875.

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