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9 Great Inventions that come from ... Connecticut?

It happens to everyone. One minute you're exchanging pleasantries with a perfect stranger; the next minute they're up in your face talking trash about Connecticut. Well, you don't have to take it anymore. History buff, and friend of the Floss, Streeter Seidell expands on why Connecticut might just be the most ingenious state in the Union.

1. The State that gave us the Cotton Gin

Depending on how you look at it, the cotton gin was one of the best or one of the worst inventions in American history. In 1794 Eli Whitney, a Yale man, patented a device to separate cotton from its seeds and set up a factory in New Haven. Inadvertently, Whitney's invention breathed new life into the slave trade simply because of how effective it was. More cotton being processed required more slaves to pick it, unfortunately. Not content to be remembered for one thing, Whitney went on to popularize the idea of interchangeable parts, which he then used to manufacture guns. As such, Whitney was both the cause of (ongoing southern slavery) and solution to (through the North's manufacturing superiority) the Civil War.

2. The Colt .45 Revolver

a.colt.jpgOne doesn't normally think of a tiny New England state as the birthplace of the gun that tamed the West, but Samuel Colt, inventor of the Peacemaker, was indeed a born and bred Connecticutian. Colt's Manufacturing Company was and is based in Hartford, CT, the state capital. Of Colt's famous gun someone once said, "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal." And they couldn't have been more correct. For better or worse, Colt's revolver was easy to use, effective and powerful, making all men equally deadly. A bigger, more powerful .45, the Whitneyville Walker Colt was produced specifically for the Texas Rangers. Only 168 are known to exist and can fetch around $100,000 at auction. Talk about some serious bang for your buck"¦

3. The Can Opener

a.canopener.jpgWe've all heard that juicy tidbit about how the can had been around for fifty years before someone invented the can opener (true!). And that someone was none other than Connecticut's own Ezra Warner. Warner, a Waterbury, CT. native, created what PBS calls an "intimidating" contraption featuring a bayonet and sickle to open cans in 1858 (canned food debuted in 1810). The bayonet would hold the can in place while the sickle would saw around the edge. The whole process was pretty primitive but it sure beat the earlier method of opening can, which involved a hammer and a chisel. Despite the obvious improvement over the hammer/chisel arrangement, Warner's can opener was not for novices; grocers would open cans at the store before shoppers took them home.

4. The Portable Typewriter

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George C. Blickensderfer may have a funny name but what he invented was all business... literally. After moving to Stamford, CT. from Erie, PA. Blickensderfer put his fertile mind to creating some competition for the Remington desk typewriter, the standard of the day. At the 1893 World's Fair, he unveiled his challenge to Remington, the Model 1. He also brought along a scaled down version of the Model 1 called the Model 5, which featured far fewer parts and was intended to a less wealthy market. It was the Model 5 "“ lightweight, portable and cheap "“ that took off and just like that, Blickensderfer had invented the portable typewriter (or "˜5 pound secretary,' as it was called). Remington, Corona and other typewriter manufacturers would eventually drive Blickensderfer out of business after they wised up and produced their own portable machines, but Blickensderfer will forever be known as the man who gave legs to the typed word. He'll also be known as the man with the funniest last name in this article.

5. The Submarine

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Like with most inventions executed before the Internet, there are competing claims to the invention of the submarine. What isn't being challenged is the fact that Saybrook, CT native David Bushnell's Turtle saw action during the Revolutionary War, which seems to give it a leg up credibility-wise. In 1776 a man trained by Bushnell, Ezra Lee, piloted the Turtle into New York Harbor and attempted to attach a bomb to the hull of The Eagle, a British Warship anchored in the bay. The plan didn't work and, later, the Turtle was sunk by the British while in transit. Perhaps even stranger though is what happened to Bushnell. After the war was over and he had blown his fortune on failed business ventures, Bushnell started calling himself Dr. Bush, moved to Georgia and got a job teaching at a local school. Nobody in Georgia ever had any idea that their kindly teacher was the man responsible for submarine warfare until after his death in 1824.

6. The Nuclear Submarine

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Wait a minute, didn't I just write about how Connecticut is responsible for the submarine? What's the big difference between a regular submarine and a nuclear submarine? Quite a bit, it turns out. As The Historic Naval Ships Association points out, before the U.S.S. Nautilus hit the water in 1954 submarines were really submersibles; boats that could go underwater but not for very long. The Nautilus, built in Groton, CT. by the Electric Boat Company and running on nuclear power, could stay underwater for months at a time because it created its own power. Part publicity stunt, part "˜hope you're watching, Russia,' the Nautilus even took a trip under the North Pole ice. All of these facts have been drilled into the heads of bored Connecticut middle schoolers being forced to visit the docked ship on class trips.

7. The Frisbee

a.frisbee.gifThe stoners hippy athletes of our country owe a great debt of gratitude to Connecticut for giving them half of the name of their very own sport: Ultimate Frisbee. While throwing a disc through the air is nothing new (see: ancient Greece), calling it a Frisbee certainly is and the coining of such a term deals with three major players: Yale University, the Frisbie Pie Company and Wham-O toys. Bridgeport, Connecticut's Frisbie Pie Company had been supplying the hungry students of Yale University with pie for many years. At some point during those years, a student discovered that the empty pie tins made for great throwing. Thus, the "˜Frisbie' was born on Yale's campus. Meanwhile, Wham-O toys had acquired the rights to a plastic flying disc called a Pluto Platter from an inventor (and UFO enthusiast) named Walter Fredrick Morrison. Looking for a more appealing name, the execs at Wham-O heard about the Connecticut colloquialism and registered the trademark "Frisbee."

8. Vulcanized Rubber

a.vulc.jpgConnecticut native (and descendent of a founder of the New Haven colony) Charles Goodyear is one of the state's most famous native sons. The man responsible for vulcanized rubber - you know, the kind we use in everything - spent most of his adult life destitute and his business acumen was less than enviable but, as Goodyear's story shows, it's hard to keep a good man down. Goodyear spent years experimenting with raw rubber before working out the process for making it a marketable product. After he had worked out the vulcanization process, he lobbied for replacing practically everything with rubber: his clothing, his flatware, even his business card. Goodyear, clearly, liked rubber and luckily, so did everyone else. He died in debt "“ like he had spent most of his life "“ but his tireless experiments and refinements have given us one of our most versatile and useful products. Also, it makes me smile in the sickest way when I think about how rarely a guy named Goodyear actually had one.

9. Sports on Cable"¦All The Time

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Many American males have wasted spent countless hours plopped in front of the TV watching SportsCenter. They have Connecticut to thank for that. ESPN, the brainchild of Bill Rasmussen, was founded and continues to operate out of Bristol, CT. Rassmussen was originally searching for a way to put UConn Huskie basketball on local Connecticut cable when he found out that for the same price he could throw the signal to the entire country. ESPN (originally just SPN) started off by broadcasting whatever sports footage they could get their hands on but found its first real hit with college basketball. The benefits were mutual and partly because of ESPN coverage, college basketball grew into the cultural giant it is today. EPSN, as we all know, has grown to become the name in sports television and no longer needs to broadcast slow pitch softball or demolition derbies, instead focusing more on the major professional sports: football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf and, yes, hockey...still. And to think, it all started in the little city of Bristol in the little state of Connecticut.

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Slice of Sauce
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This Ketchup Will be Sold by the Slice
Slice of Sauce
Slice of Sauce

Some have called it a food abomination. Others believe it will be the next big thing in food disruption. It’s ketchup taken out of its customary bottle or squeeze packet and distributed via cheese-like slices. And it may be coming to a store near you.

Slice of Sauce slices appear on a cutting board
Slice of Sauce

In March 2018, a company called Bo’s Fine Foods organized a Kickstarter for Slice of Sauce, a new—and highly controversial—method of packaging the condiment. Each retail pouch will contain eight “slices” of dried ketchup that Bo’s argues has several advantages over the bottled version. The ketchup won’t soak a piece of bread or sputter out in watery blasts: Consumers will get an even application of it every time, with the ketchup distributed equally among each bite. Each slice has 30 calories and 5 grams of sugar, with no high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives.  

As Vice pointed out, the idea is similar to chef Ernesto Uchimura’s “ketchup leather,” a novelty food hack he created in 2014.

While Slice of Sauce may help prevent apparel-related squirting mishaps, it’s not entirely clear whether people will embrace this rogue approach to dispensing tomato paste. The idea of freezing and then serving slices of peanut butter was met with scorn in 2017. Today reports that some Twitter critics have refused to acknowledge a “ketchup fruit roll-up” while others promise to “make a huge scene” if confronted with it while dining out. We’ll see if Slice of Sauce can dispense some unconventional success when it starts shipping to Kickstarter backers and select retail stores in June.

[h/t Today]

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19 Things You Might Not Know Were Invented by Women
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Necessity isn't the only mother of invention. Though it wasn't always easy to get patents or the credit they deserved, women are responsible for many items we use today.

1. THE PAPER BAG

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America got a brand new paper bag when cotton mill worker Margaret Knight invented a machine to make them with a flat square bottom in 1868. (Paper bags originally looked more like envelopes.) A man named Charles Annan saw her design and tried to patent the idea first. Knight filed a lawsuit and won the patent fair and square in 1871.

2. KEVLAR

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Lightweight, high-tensile Kevlar—five times stronger than steel—will take a bullet for you. DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek accidentally invented it while trying to perfect a lighter fiber for car tires and earned a patent in 1966.

3. THE FOOT-PEDAL TRASH CAN

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Lillian Gilbreth improved existing inventions with small, but ingenious, tweaks. In the early 1900s, she designed the shelves inside refrigerator doors, made the can opener easier to use, and tidied up cleaning with a foot pedal trash can. Gilbreth is most famous for her pioneering work in efficiency management and ergonomics with her husband, Frank. Two of their 12 children, Frank Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth, humorously wrote about their home/work collaborations in the book Cheaper by the Dozen.

4. MONOPOLY

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Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord's Game to spread the economic theory of Georgism—teaching players about the unfairness of land-grabbing, the disadvantages of renting, and the need for a single land value tax on owners. Fun stuff! Magie patented the board game in 1904 and self-published it in 1906. Nearly 30 years later, a man named Charles Darrow rejiggered the board design and message and sold it to Parker Brothers as Monopoly. The company bought Magie's patent for the original game for $500 and no royalties.

5. WINDSHIELD WIPERS

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Drivers were skeptical when Mary Anderson invented the first manual windshield wipers in 1903. They thought it was safer to drive with rain and snow obscuring the road than to pull a lever to clear it. (Another woman inventor, Charlotte Bridgwood, invented an automatic version with an electric roller in 1917. It didn't take off, either.) But by the time Anderson's patent expired in 1920, windshield wipers were cleaning up. Cadillac was the first to include them in every car model, and other companies soon followed.

6. DISPOSABLE DIAPERS

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Marion Donovan didn't take all the mess out of diaper changing when she patented the waterproof "Boater" in 1951. But she changed parenting—and well, babies—forever. The waterproof diaper cover, originally made with a shower curtain, was first sold at Saks Fifth Avenue. Donovan sold the patent to the Keko Corporation for $1 million and then created an entirely disposable model a few years later. Pampers was born in 1961.

7. THE DISHWASHER

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Patented in 1886, the first dishwasher combined high water pressure, a wheel, a boiler, and a wire rack like the ones still used for dish drying. Inventor Josephine Cochrane never used it herself, but it made life easier for her servants.

8. LIQUID PAPER

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In the days before the delete key, secretary Bette Nesmith Graham secretly used white tempera paint to cover up her typing errors. She spent years perfecting the formula in her kitchen before patenting Liquid Paper in 1958. Gillette bought her company in 1979 for $47.5 million. And that's no typo.

9. ALPHABET BLOCKS

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Children don't read books by anti-suffrage author Adeline D.T. Whitney these days—and that's probably for the better. But the wooden blocks she patented in 1882 still help them learn their ABCs.

10. THE APGAR SCORE

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Life is a series of tests, starting with the Apgar, named after obstetrical anesthesiologist Dr. Virginia Apgar. In 1952, she began testing newborns one minute and five minutes after birth to determine if they needed immediate care. About 10 years later, the medical community made a backronym—an acronym designed to fit an existing word—to remember the criteria scored: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.

11. MARINE SIGNAL FLARES

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Communication between ships was once limited to colored flags, lanterns, and screaming things like "Thar she blows!" really loudly. Martha Coston didn't come up with the idea for signal flares all by herself. She found plans in a notebook that belonged to her late husband. The determined widow spent 10 years working with chemists and pyrotechnics experts to make the idea a reality. But she was only named administratrix in the 1859 patent—Mr. Coston got credited as the inventor.

12. THE CIRCULAR SAW

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A weaver named Tabitha Babbitt was the first to suggest that lumber workers use a circular saw instead of the two-man pit saw that only cut when pulled forward. She made a prototype and attached it to her spinning wheel in 1813. Babbitt's Shaker community didn't approve of filing a patent, but they took full advantage of the invention.

13. RETRACTABLE DOG LEASH

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New York City dog owner Mary A. Delaney patented the first retractable leading device in 1908. It attached to the collar, keeping pooches under control, while giving them some freedom to roam. Incidentally, someone named R.C. O'Connor patented the first child harness 11 years later. Coincidence? Maybe.

14. SUBMARINE TELESCOPE AND LAMP

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It's difficult to find any in-depth information about early inventor Sarah Mather. Her combination telescope and lamp for submarines, patented in 1845, speaks for itself.

15. FOLDING CABINET BED

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Sarah E. Goode's folding cabinet bed didn't just maximize space in small homes. In 1885, it made her the first African-American woman with a U.S. patent. The fully functional desk could be used by day and then folded down for a good night's sleep. The Murphy bed came along some 15 years later.

16. THE SOLAR HOUSE

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Biophysicist Maria Telkes's place was in the house—the very first 100 percent solar house. In 1947, the Hungarian scientist invented the thermoelectric power generator to provide heat for Dover House, a wedge-shaped structure she conceived with architect Eleanor Raymond. Telkes used Glauber's salt, the sodium salt of sulfuric acid, to store heat in preparation for sunless days. Dover House survived nearly three Massachusetts winters before the system failed.

17. SCOTCHGARD

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Apparently, it takes a stain to fight one. In 1952, 3M chemist Patsy Sherman was perplexed when some fluorochemical rubber spilled on a lab assistant's shoe and wouldn't come off. Without changing the color of the shoe, the stain repelled water, oil, and other liquids. Sherman and her co-inventor Samuel Smith called it Scotchgard. And the rest is ... preserving your couch.

18. INVISIBLE GLASS

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Katharine Blodgett, General Electric's first female scientist, discovered a way to transfer thin monomolecular coatings to glass and metals in 1935. The result: glass that eliminated glare and distortion, which revolutionized cameras, microscopes, eyeglasses, and more.

19. COMPUTERS

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Women in computer science have a role model in Grace Hopper. She and Howard Aiken designed Harvard's Mark I computer, a five-ton, room-sized machine in 1944. Hopper invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code and coined the terms "bug" and "debugging" when she had to remove moths from the device. In 1959, Hopper was part of the team that developed COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages.

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