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slides: 8 Great Inventions That Come from Worcester

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Inventive mechanics and forward thinking entrepreneurs laid a strong framework for a diverse and driven industrial economy beginning in the 1800's.

Here are some of Worcester's notable inventive firsts through the centuries!


Related Slideshow: Great Inventions That Come from Worcester

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The Rickshaw

The first Rickshaw was created in Worcester not Asia.

Despite their immense popularity in Asia, the first Rickshaw was a Worcester invention. In 1846, Albert Tolman built what was described as a “man-drawn lorry” for a missionary on his way to South America. From there, the Rickshaw made its way to Asia.

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The Typewriter

The first practical typewriter was invented by Charles Thurber of Worcester.

Patented in 1843, this bulky version had all the essential characteristics of today’s modern machine. Thurber was the first to place the paper on a roller and give it the ability to do accurate letter and word spacing. Thurber created the machine so that people with visual impairments could feel the raised keys and it could help the “nervous” with poor handwriting skills.

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Pizza Pie Mix

The first Pizza Pie Mix was marketed in Worcester.

In 1947, Frank A. Firoillo had the first pizza stand in Worcester. In 1952, he became the first person to market a pizza pie mix.

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Pressurized Space Suits

The first Pressurized Space Suits and Anti-G Suits were developed in Worcester.

As if that wasn’t enough firsts, the David Clark Company also created the space suit worn by astronaut Ed White in the first U.S. space walk in June of 1965. The company manufactured all of NASA’s Gemini space suits. Another company invention was the famous “Anti-G” suit that prevents pilots from blacking out when pulling out of high-speed dives . Pilots who wore the suits included Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong.

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The Bicycle

The first bicycle made in America was built in Worcester.

The idea for the first bicycle originated in England so it was appropriate that it was  made by an Englishman, W.H. Pierce. It was constructed in 1878 at Stowe’s shop on Cypress Street in Worcester. In April 9th of the following year, the Worcester Bicycle Club was formed. Bicycles continued to gain in popularity with 175 sold in Worcester during 1888.

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Valentine's Day Card

Esther Howland was the first person to mass-produce valentines in the U.S.

Esther Howland, a graduate of Mount Holyoke, was an artist and businesswoman who generated the Valentine’s Day greeting cards mass appeal in this country. In 1847, elaborate Valentine’s were only imported from Europe and were not available to the average American. Howland was a Worcester native, whose father owned the largest book and stationary store in Worcester so armed with supplies, she made up a dozen samples at home. Her brother took them out on his next sales trip and returned with $5,000 in orders. By 1874 she was using the name “The New England Valentine Company.” Her business eventually grossed $100,000 per year and she became known as ‘the Mother of the American Valentine”.

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Monkey Wrench

The first monkey wrench was invented in Worcester.

In 1840, Worcester knife manufacturer Loring Coes, of the Coes Knife Company, invented the first monkey wrench which was patented in 1841. For the next eighty-seven years, the Coes family filed numerous patents and manufactured extensive  wrenches at their Worcester plant.

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Insane Asylum

And last but not least...Worcester State Hospital was the first publicly financed Insane Asylum in the state.

Worcester Insane Hospital opened on January 12, 1833. During the first year, 164 patients were received. It continued to operate until on July 22, 1991 Worcester State Hospital, as it was known then, was mostly destroyed by fire and ending up closing later that year.


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