Cleveland Inventions and Historical Firsts Worth Knowing About

Cleveland Inventions and Historical Firsts Worth Knowing About

Following up on the fun facts about Cleveland I shared recently, let’s talk today about inventions and other noteworthy “firsts” that have hailed from Cleveland.

As one of the largest cities in the United States at one point, Cleveland has been home to many great minds throughout history – and therefore many great inventions and innovations in several different fields.

Cleveland inventions

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Here are some things that originated or were invented in Cleveland:

Rock and Roll – Cleveland didn’t invent rock music, but we did invent the term to describe it! Back in the 1950s, the term “rock and roll” was coined by local disc jockey Alan Freed on his Moondog Rock and Roll Radio Hour.

Superman – The concept of the Man of Steel comes right from Cleveland, Ohio. Co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are from the city, and the character of Superman was created at Siegel’s house in the early 1930s.

Golf balls – The game of golf has been around for centuries, having been invented in Scotland way back in the mid-1500s. But back then, the game was played with a wooden ball, or one made of leather and stuffed with feathers. The modern golf ball that we all know was invented in 1899 by Coburn Haskell of Cleveland, who was the first to suggest using a rubber core.

Gas masks – African-American inventor Garrett Morgan invented the “Safety Hood” in Cleveland in 1912. The device was patented in 1914, and would evolve into the gas masks used during WWI. Morgan was an avid inventor, and also invented hair-straightening oil, and a new kind of traffic signal.

Standard Oil – While he wasn’t born in Cleveland, oil tycoon and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller spent the better part of his life in the city. He began the oil refining company that would eventually become Standard Oil right here in Cleveland.

Historical firsts in Cleveland

Cleveland Arcade at Christmas
Did you know the Arcade was the first indoor shopping mall in America?

Cleveland has been the location of plenty of “firsts.” Here are just a handful of them:

  • The first city with free mail delivery – Our modern postal system is all thanks to Clevelander Joseph W. Briggs, who began the first free home mail delivery system in Cleveland in 1863. He was later called to Washington to help implement his system across America.
  • First electrified public square – Public Square in downtown Cleveland was electrified in 1879, making the city the first to have an electrified public space. They used arc lights invented by local engineer and inventor Charles F. Brush.
  • The first indoor shopping mall – The Arcade (which is still open in Cleveland today) was considered to be the first indoor shopping mall in American when it opened in 1890.
  • The first full-body X-ray – Dayton Miller was a professor of physics at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was during his time there that he became interested in X-rays, and produced the first full X-ray of the human body in 1896 using a new machine he invented.
  • First automobile sale in the US – We all know about Henry Ford and his cars, but the first automobile sale in the US actually took place locally. Alexander Winton’s Cleveland-based Winton Motor Carriage Company sold the first automobile in the US in 1898. The buyer was Robert Allison of Pennsylvania.
  • The first electric traffic light – The first electric traffic signal in the world was installed at the corner of Euclid Ave. and East 105th St. in 1914. It was invented by James Hoge.
  • The first rock and roll concert – The very first rock concert, the “Moondog Coronation Ball,” was held in Cleveland in 1952. It was so well-attended that the police had to shut it down after just one song by Paul Williams and the Hucklebuckers.
  • The first African American mayor – When Cleveland elected Carl B. Stokes as mayor in 1967, it would be the first major US city to elect an African American mayor.
  • The first face transplant – Cleveland hospitals have pioneered a lot in the medical field. One of the coolest “firsts” in more recent years was the first near-total face transplant in the US, which was performed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2008.

Cleveland food creations

Banter Cleveland
The “Cleveland” kielbasa sandwich at Banter

When it comes to iconic Cleveland foods, some of them (like pierogi and paczki) were brought to the city from other places. But some were invented right here, like:

Polish boys – Also tied to the city’s Eastern European roots, the Polish Boy is a sandwich that consists of a link of kielbasa (Polish smoked sausage) in a bun, covered in a layer of french fries, and topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.

Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard – No Indians baseball game would be complete without a hot dog topped with this spicy brown mustard. It’s been around since Joe Bertman started Bertman Foods Co. in the 1920s.

Fun fact: Cleveland has a big brown mustard rivalry! We also have Stadium Mustard, the main competitor to Bertman’s. Personally, I’m a Bertman’s girl all the way!

READ NEXT: 12 Fun Facts About Cleveland


Did you know about all these Cleveland inventions and historical firsts?

Leave a Reply