15 Iconic American Things That Wouldn’t Exist Without Immigrants

Blue jeans? Burgers? Ketchup? Immigrants invented it all.

1. Blue Jeans

Jacob W. Davis — a Latvian-Jewish tailor who emigrated to America in 1854 — invented blue jeans in 1871 after partnering with Levi Strauss, who had immigrated from Germany. The two received a patent for their blue jeans design in 1873, and they went on to establish Levi’s jeans.

2. Hamburgers

The Library of Congress credits Danish immigrant Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch, a small lunch wagon in New Haven, Connecticut, with selling the first hamburger and steak sandwich in the U.S. in 1895.

3. Doughnuts

The first doughnut machine did not come along until 1920, in New York City, when Adolph Levitt, a refugee from czarist Russia, began selling fried doughnuts from his bakery. Fans of the pastry pushed him to make a device that churned out the dessert faster, and he did. After that, doughnuts became a booming business.

4. Budweiser Beer

After his father-in-law bought the Bavarian Brewery, a young German immigrant and beer connoisseur named Adolphus Busch started to tweak the brewery’s go-to recipe. He wanted to make a lager influenced by the Bohemian brews created around the city of Budweis, hence he renamed the beer Budweiser.

5. Apple

Steve Jobs’s biological father was a Syrian refugee. Yes, the human being who fathered the future of technology was a refugee.

6. Google

You know that thing you use to see how many chicken nuggets you can eat before engorging yourself? Well, that vital search engine and question-answerer was invented by Soviet-born American computer scientist Sergey Brin.

7. Sara Lee

Nathan Cummings was born in Canada (his parents were from Lithuania). He moved to Baltimore, Maryland and started to invest in multiple food companies, acquiring Sara Lee and turning it into the American dessert icon it is today.

8. Hot Dogs

Charles Feltman, inventor of the hot dog, emigrated from Germany to New York in 1856 at the age of 15. A Coney Island resident, Feltman opened a restaurant where he decided to sell sausages in a roll so that he could get around buying silverware and plates for his customers.

9. Basketball

James Naismith, a Canada native and physical education teacher, invented modern-day basketball in 1891. While teaching at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, he came up with an indoor game that was played originally by students shooting into two fruit baskets nailed to the balcony in the school gym.

10. The “God Bless America” Song

Siberian immigrant Irving Berlin wrote America’s unofficial national anthem during the summer of 1918 at Camp Upton, located in Yaphank, Long Island.

11. YouTube

Two of the three founders of YouTube are immigrants. Jawed Karim, an immigrant from Germany, moved to the U.S. as a child. After college, he got a job at PayPal, where he met Steve Chen, a computer programmer who had emigrated from Taiwan at age 15, and Chad Hurley, a design specialist. At a dinner party in late 2004, they all talked about a game-changing, video-sharing website. In less than a year, YouTube was born.

12. KISS

Casablanca / Mercury / Roadrunner Kiss / Universal Music Group / Via vegasnews.com

Kiss’ iconic bassist — known as “The Demon” — was born in Israel with the name Chaim Witz. Witz and his mother moved to Jackson Heights, Queens when he was eight. Upon entering the music industry, he changed his name to Gene Simmons.

13. American Cheese

James L. Kraft of ~Kraft Cheese~ was born near Ontario, Canada. His family emigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1902. By 1903, he was selling his own cheese from a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago. Talk about LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM.

14. Van Halen

Warner Bros. / Interscope / Via allmusic.com

Yes, you heard it here. American rock icon Eddie Van Halen was born in the Netherlands. The son of a classical musician, he emigrated to the United States as a child.

15. Ketchup

Henry John Heinz — who founded the H. J. Heinz Company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — was the son of German immigrants from Bavaria who entered the U.S, in the early 1840s.

American pride, right there.

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