Try imagining a world without a cell phone or movie theaters. At the turn of the 20th century, the world of technology and innovation looked much different than today. Communication and entertainment methods were much simpler and different from today's technology-heavy environment. Many new technologies were invented in the late 1800s that changed the way people worked and spend their leisure time. According to statistics from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the number of U.S. patents rose from under 30,000 in 1860 to 640,167 by the year 1900. While the late 19th century was a time of rapid innovation, it would soon be surpassed by the 20th century, which saw the number of U.S. patents grow ten-fold to over 6 million patents granted.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the “electric speech machine,” or telephone, in 1876. The telephone quickly revolutionized the way people communicated both at work and with friends. Bell set up the first telephone exchange in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878. The telephone exchange provided the switching service that enabled telephones to connect with one another.
Jesse Reno created the first version of the escalator as an entertainment ride at Coney Island, New York in 1891. This inclined moving stairway had a vertical rise of seven feet and moved at a speed of 75 feet per minute. Reno partnered with the Otis Elevator Company to develop the first commercial escalator in 1899.
On October 17, 1888, Thomas Edison submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office his ideas for a motion picture device that would record and produce objects in motion. He called his invention the “Kinetoscope." After showing off a prototype of his invention at the National Federation of Women's Clubs on May 20, 1891, Edison filed patents for his Kinetoscope on August 24, 1891. Edison’s invention built upon the earlier Zoopraxiscope, which had been developed by photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1879.
The modern typewriter was created by Christopher L. Shole in 1873. His Sholes & Glidden Type Writer introduced consumers to the QWERTY keyboard, which is still the standard keyboard arrangement on personal computers today. Sholes’ typewriter only used capital letters, but some competing models, such as the Caligraph, began typing in both lowercase and uppercase letters by the late 19th century.
Louis Pasteur made significant contributions to human health with his germ theory of disease along with his vaccines for rabies and anthrax. These vaccines have been used to prevent the deaths of both animal and human populations. Ten years after Pasteur introduced his anthrax vaccination in 1881, more than 3.5 million sheep had been vaccinated with a mortality rate of less than one percent.
- Guinness World Records: First Escalator
- Enchanted Learning: Gramophone, Phonograph, and Records
- Library of Congress: History of Edison Motion Pictures: Origins of Motion Pictures--the Kinetoscope
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Table of Issue Years and Patent Numbers, for Selected Document Types Issued Since 1836
- Xavier: The Classic Typewriter Page: A Brief History of Typewriters
- Xavier: The Classic Typewriter Page: Caligraph
- MIT: Inventor of the Week Archive: Pasteurization/Vaccines
- History: Alexander Graham Bell
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images