Inventions From the 1790s to the 1900s

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Thomas Alva Edison earned 1,093 patents between 1869 and 1931.
Thomas Alva Edison earned 1,093 patents between 1869 and 1931. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

As well as the year for the first State of the Union address and the first session of the Supreme Court, 1790 was the year America awarded its first-ever patent -- to Samuel Hopkins for devising a better way to mash potatoes. Globally in the 1790s, France invented the guillotine, England came up with ball bearings and more than a century of great inventions, both at home and abroad, was to follow. American life hadn't changed much before 1800, but by 1900, some inventions had changed society forever.

Agricultural Machinery

In 1793 Eli Whitney created the cotton gin, transforming the industry forever. Whitney's ingenious machine could perform a 10-hour manual process in just one hour. America expanded massively in the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution was driven by inventions that saved time and money. In 1836, Vermont blacksmith Jon Deere invented the steel plow, doubling the efficiency of its iron predecessor . Cyrus Hall McCormick, known as the "Father of Modern Agriculture" according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created the horse-drawn mechanical reaper in 1831. Reaping was labor intensive; McCormick's invention increased efficiency tenfold. Changing the face of farming even more was the tractor. Invented in 1892 by John Froelich, this high-power vehicle is pretty much the same today as it was then.

Eli Whitney is also credited with inventing mass production.
Eli Whitney is also credited with inventing mass production. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Communications

In 1832, Yale college graduate Samuel B. Morse realized that it was possible to send information via an electric current over telegraph wires. It wasn't until 1837, however, that he finally presented the public with a coded system of telegraphic communication that actually worked. The world had to wait until 1876, however, to speak on the telephone courtesy of Alexander Graham Bell. Bell had initially worked on developing a multiwire version of Morse's telegraph and ended up inventing the phone. The first telephone conversation took place between Bell and his colleague Thomas Watson on March 12, 1876.

Morse sent the first inter-city telegraph in 1844.
Morse sent the first inter-city telegraph in 1844. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Leisure

As new inventions made life easier for farmers, factory workers and society as a whole, Americans began to enjoy themselves more away from work and a whole new leisure industry began. In 1884 the roller coaster was invented by LeMarcus A.Thompson; in1889 the jukebox was produced by American Louis Glass; and slot machines, designed and patented by German-born Charles Fey, appeared in the 1890s. The world's first phonograph was also invented by one of America's most famous innovators, Thomas Alva Edison, in 1877, and soon people were able to listen to early musical recordings in their spare time.

Lights and Cameras

No list of 19th-century inventions would be complete without the incandescent light bulb, invented by Edison with a lot of help from Lewis H. Latimer, in 1876. This period of innovation was dominated by Edison and his team of development researchers who also came up with the first motion picture cameras in 1891. George Eastman revolutionized photography, creating photographic film in 1884, and the first portable camera was patented in 1888.

Lewis H. Latimer invented the carbon filament for light bulbs in 1897.
Lewis H. Latimer invented the carbon filament for light bulbs in 1897. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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