If you’re like most Americans, you’re bursting with pride for the state you call home. You want everyone to know why your state is special, and you’re always interested in learning fun facts about its history. We’re certainly proud to be located in the Cornhusker State. While Nebraska is perhaps best known for its beef and agricultural products, in fact, a great variety of important, fun, and tasty items were invented here. Scroll down to peruse some of the best things invented in Nebraska.
Things Invented in Nebraska
The Reuben Sandwich
If you combine corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread, what have you got? A Reuben sandwich! Reubens hail from the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, where a chef named Bernard Schimmel invented the scrumptious sandwich in the 1920s for a customer, Reuben Kulakofsky.
Another 1920s invention, Kool-Aid was invented by Edwin Perkins of Hastings, Nebraska. His goal was to create a juice-flavored drink concentrate in a powder form, which would reduce shipping costs. To celebrate the sweet and tasty drink, Hastings hosts an annual summer festival called Kool-Aid Days. (Note: The 2020 festival was cancelled due to COVID-19.)
Frozen TV Dinners
These days, almost all grocery stores offer a wide assortment of quick, convenient, single-portion meals. Back in the 1950s, however, this concept was more of a novelty, so frozen TV dinners made a big splash when they debuted. Although several companies offered similar products, Omaha-based Swanson was the first to sell TV dinners on a nationwide scale.
Many English students have relied on CliffsNotes to decipher Shakespeare, pick apart Orwell’s themes, and better understand the context behind Dickens’s epic novels. Although the booklets were invented in Canada, they made their US debut due to the ingenuity of Cliff Hillegass, who lived in Nebraska and purchased the American rights to the booklets in 1958.
911 Emergency System
The 911 emergency communications system, which saves millions of lives each year, is vital to the health and safety of all Americans. While it was first used in Alabama, many claim that it was invented in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, others believe that this is a Nebraska folk tale.
A popular sweet treat throughout the world, Baker’s Candies hail from Greenwood, Nebraska. Over three generations of the Baker family have produced the company’s delicious chocolate “meltaways.”
The Ski Lift
Inspired by the conveyor systems used to transport bananas onto cargo ships, Nebraskan engineer James Curran invented the design for the ski chairlift back in 1936. The first chairlifts were installed at a ski resort in Sun Valley, Idaho.
If you’re a fan of auto racing, you can thank engineers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for improving the safety of racetracks. They developed the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier, which is currently used on NASCAR and IndyCar circuit tracks.
The Eskimo Pie
Simple yet scrumptious, Eskimo Pies (which are chocolate-coated ice cream bars) were invented by Christian Kent Nelson, who sold them in his candy store in Onawa in the 1920s. When he took his idea to Russell Stover, who also lived in Nebraska, the delicious treat went into mass production and was shipped around the country.
Vise-Grip Locking Pliers
Patented in 1924 by William Petersen, a blacksmith living in DeWitt, Vise-Grip locking pliers were originally sold from the trunk of Petersen’s car. These handy tools ensure that pliers remain safely clamped onto an object.
Some things invented in Nebraska may surprise you, but everyone knows that Omaha Steaks hails from Omaha! The company was created by a Latvian father-and-son team, J.J. and B.A. Simon, in 1917. Today, Omaha Steaks is one of the largest direct-response marketers of gourmet steaks and frozen foods.
From safety technologies to delicious foodstuffs, you can’t deny that Nebraska inventors have made a positive impact on our country. Anyone else now in the mood for a Reuben sandwich, an Omaha steak, or an Eskimo Pie? Mmm!
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