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Ten Surprising Things That Originated In Baltimore

A few everyday items for which you can thank Charm City.

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1. Shopping Centers

Developed beginning in 1890, Roland Park is one of the earliest planned garden-style communities in the U.S. Designed as an upper-class streetcar suburb with gently curving roads and landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, Roland Park was envisioned as a dramatic departure from the monotonous grid of city living.

Among the innovative features of the community was a set of retail stores and offices set back from the street, with parking for customers -- a primeval strip shopping center that opened in 1907 and still exists today. (Source)

2. Bottle Caps

The crown cork, invented by Baltimorean William Painter in 1892, was the first highly successful disposable product. Within years, the crown cork cap was universally standard for bottled beer and soda pop. Painter invented machines for bottling and capping beverages, and also invented the bottle opener. His design for the bottle cap works so well it has changed little in more than a century. (Source) (Source ) (Source)

3. City Magazines

Bruce Goldfarb

City magazines are an urban media staple. Everybody's got them: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston...from Buffalo to Memphis, burgs large and small.

Baltimore magazine was first. After the Great Fire of 1904 destroyed much of the central city, the Chamber of Commerce was anxious to showcase the rebuilding of Baltimore -- improved and modernized, with widened streets and a sanitation system. In 1907, the CoC launched Baltimore magazine to let the world know that the city was open for business. Since then, the concept has spread from coast to coast. Published by the CoC until the 1970s, Baltimore is now privately owned. (Source)

4. Factory-Made Ice Cream

Library of Congress

Jacob Fussell ran a business delivering dairy products from York County, Penn., to consumers in Baltimore. In 1850, he had the opportunity to take over a small catering business that sold a frozen confection made of milk, eggs and sugar. Fussell figured that ice cream could be a solution for leftover milk and cream that resulted when demand for the products fluctuated. Although ice cream had existed for a long time, it was a rare treat until Fussell opened the first ice cream factory in the U.S. Fussell made ice cream an everyday item. (Source) (Source) (Source) (Source)

5. Romper Room

KATC publicity photo

First aired in Baltimore in 1953, Romper Room was one of the earliest regular television programming created for young children. Romper Room was developed by Bert and Nancy Claster, who previously booked variety shows at a local theater. On a set designed like a classroom, Miss Nancy read books and sang songs with children, encouraged young viewers at home to be "Do-Bees," and ended each program by naming children she saw at home in her Magic Mirror.

The Clasters franchised Romper Room, ultimately reaching 140 cities in the U.S. and in 35 countries around the word. Nancy Claster personally trained women hosting local Romper Room programs in her pioneering educational methods -- more than 500 in all -- while serving as host for Romper Room in Baltimore until 1964, when she handed over her Magic Mirror to her daughter, Miss Sally, who hosted until 1980. (Source)

6. Rubber Surgical Gloves

Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Rubber surgical gloves weren't developed for infection control during operations, but to relieve a lover's chapped hands. In the old days, surgery was usually a bare-handed affair. Some surgeons wore thin cotton gloves to get a better grasp of slippery tissues, but they were hardly sanitary.

At Johns Hopkins Hospital, the brilliant but troubled William Halsted was appointed the institution's first chief of surgery. In the winter of 1889, Halsted's scrub nurse and love interest, Caroline Hampton, complained that the carbolic acid and mercuric chloride solutions he used as antiseptics caused contact dermatitis of her hands.

Halsted asked the Goodyear Rubber Company to fabricate two pair of thin rubber gloves with gauntlets. The gloves worked well for Hampton, so more were ordered from Goodyear. An assistant who handled surgical instruments began wearing gloves too, and so did some surgeons.

Surgical assistants became so adept in gloves that they eventually preferred wearing them. They felt more expert than when working bare-handed. A Hopkins colleague, surgeon Joseph C. Youngblood, noted that the infection rate after hernia operations dropped nearly to zero when rubber gloves were used.

“Why was I so blind not to have perceived the necessity for wearing them all the time?” Halsted said.

Halsted took Hampton's hand in marriage the following year, and they remained together until her death in 1922. (Source)

8. Telephone Poles

Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr under Creative Commons license

During the 1830s and 1840s, Samuel B. Morse developed the single-wire telegraph system in a workshop in Relay, MD, a community just southwest of Baltimore near the Patapsco River.

In 1843, Congress appropriated $30,000 to create a 38-mile experimental telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., immortalized a year later by the transmission of "What hath God wrought" from a basement room of the Capitol to the B&O Railroad's Mount Clare station.

At first, Morse plan was to dig a trench and bury the telegraph line along the B&O Railroad right-of-way to Washington. But the the rocky terrain through Patapsco State Park to Ellicott City made trench-digging prohibitively difficult.

So instead, they suspended the telegraph like in the air by stringing it along a series of poles stuck in the ground. They were the world's first telegraph poles -- now ubiquitous as telephone or utility poles. (Source)

9. Mass Communication


In its time, Ottmar Mergenthaler's Linotype machine was as transformational as digital media has become today. Since Gutenberg developed moveable type almost six centuries ago, printing relied upon hand-set type -- a slow, painstaking and labor-intensive process. Before the 1880s, newspapers were a solid gray mass of densely set type. And no daily paper in the world was longer than eight pages.

Merganthaler, a Baltimore watchmaker and inventor, designed a huge clattering machine with thousands of moving parts that cast one complete line of type at a time in hot lead. Able to set type faster than a dozen skilled typesetters, the Linotype revolutionized publishing when introduced in 1886. The complexity and cost of printing plummeted, leading to an explosion of inexpensive newspapers and magazines. Books were no longer a luxury. Newspaper pages expanded and opened up with more accessible and visually pleasing designs. Literacy bloomed. The Linotype ushered in an era of mass communication. (Source) (Source) (Source)

10. Ouija

Gabriel Molina via Flickr under Creative Commons license

The iconic Ouija board was patented in 1890 by Baltimore attorney Elijah Bond, and produced by a group of local business people who formed the Kennard Novelty Company. William Fuld, who was a varnisher and supervisor in the Kennard factory, took over the company and is most closely associated with the Ouija board. Fuld is responsible for making the Ouija a popular hit. Parker Brothers, now a subsidiary of Hasbro, has owned Ouija since 1966. (Source) (Source) (Source) (Source)

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