back to top

The South's Most Important Contributions To Society

We don't spend a lot of time thinking about who invented the things we see every day, but we should really know that some of the items we rely on the most were invented in the South. Here are a few things we're particularly grateful for.

Posted on


Jetta Productions / Getty Images

American entrepreneur, Clarence Saunder, came up with the idea of self-service grocery stores. He opened up the first Piggly Wiggly in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee, where people would come to the store and personally collect the items they wanted from shelves and then bring them to check out. After Saunders' store was met with success, other chains began popping up around the country.


Zero Creatives / Getty Images

In 1958, Congress noticed Great Britain had an emergency number anyone could dial for medical assistance, the police, or the fire department. The legal mandate for "9-1-1" was passed in the US in 1967, and the very first call was made in Haleyville, Alabama.

Cotton Candy

Charles Bowman / Getty Images

William Morrison and John C. Wharton — two Nashville candy makers — are considered the inventors of cotton candy because in 1897, they built a machine that used centrifugal force to push melted sugar through a screen. They introduced "Fairy Floss" at the 1904 World's Fair and impressively sold 68,655 boxes, and now it's one of the only reasons we venture into Central Park.

Windshield Wipers

Grant Faint / Getty Images

After a visit in winter to New York City in 1903, Mary Anderson was shocked to see that the driver of a trolley was steering with the front window open because he couldn't see through the sleet. When she returned to Alabama, she built what would be the first windshield wiper. And when her patent expired in 1920, automotive manufacturing companies made windshield wiper installation a standard procedure on all their vehicles.

Corn Dogs

David-Shih / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Neil Fletcher thought it would be fun to coat a hot dog in batter and then deep frying it for the Texas State Fair in 1942. It turns out he was incredibly right and today, we can get turkey dogs, vegetarian dogs, or chick dogs.

Ctrl + Alt + Delete

Steven Vona / Getty Images

in 1981, while working at IBM in Boca Raton, Florida, software engineer David Bradley came up with a simple way for his team to "reboot" their computers without shutting them off or having them freeze. Bradley chose the “Control,” “Alt” and “Delete” keys to perform the function because their locations on the keyboard make it almost impossible to hit them accidentally.

Space Shuttles

Mouser Williams / Getty Images

The concept of a reusable orbital spacecraft came about in the 1940s, but the design of the space shuttles we see today originated in the 1960s at NASA in Washington, D.C. The proposal, however, of what a spacecraft would look like that could return to earth and land horizontally was submitted by in 1954 by Walter Dornberger of NACA, in North Carolina.

Inspired By Two Of The South's Finest, Jeremiah Weed And ZZ Top

View this video on YouTube

ZZ Top was founded in 1969 in Houston, Texas, and they're one of the only musical groups to be together for over 40 years. Their style continues to evolve with each new record they put out, and they've designated their beverage of the summer to be Kentucky's Jeremiah Weed. Check out the video above to see how they've already started celebrating it.