10 Random And Useful Things That Were Invented In Minnesota
Not gonna lie, It’s always so cool to see what was invented in your country or even your state. But honestly, the best part about it is if it’s like something extremely useful or insanely random.
Like when you find out that an American guy invented the household refrigerator in 1913, or how a NASA rocket scientist invented the super soaker. And it’s so crazy to think that because of these people, these things exist.
Well of course I had to know all the weird and cool things that were invented in Minnesota. And here are some of them. Like, we all know that the Pacemaker and Tonka Trucks were invented in Minnesota, but what about other random things?
There have actually been so many things invented in Minnesota but here are some of the totally random and useful things invented, all thanks to Minnesotans!
1. Furnace Thermostat (1885)
Okay well, this guy was born in Switzerland but when living in Minnesota, Albert Butz invented a “damper flapper” that allowed a coal-fired furnace to be regulated via the world’s first furnace thermostat.
Minn Post shares the following:
“The St. Paul business he founded to manufacture the product, the Butz Thermo-electric Regulator Co., would evolve into today’s Honeywell International. Honeywell became one of Minnesota’s most legendary and innovative companies, thanks to the high-design round thermostats it began to market in 1952.”
2. Grocery Bags with Handles (1912)
Did you know that until 1912 Grocers only delivered? Who would’ve thought we go from delivering to actually going, back to delivering being mainstream? Well anyways, Walter Deubener, who owned St. Paul’s first cash-and-carry grocery store, created a bag with a loop of string supporting the bottom that formed convenient handles at the top. This way his customers could carry their purchases.
“It was such a notable innovation that the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce still names its annual business awards after Deubener,” explains minnpost.com.
3. Packaged Cake Mix (1947)
While packaged cake mixes have existed since 1920, it really wasn’t until 1947 that they could last long.
General Mills, a Minnesota Company, mastered the food chemistry so cake mixes weren’t readily subject to spoilage. This was first introduced when General Mills put out Betty Crocker’s ginger cake mix in 1947 (a just-add water product). After that, just-add-water products became much more shelf-stable and highly accepted.
4. Snow Blower (1951)
I can not believe the snowblower was made here in Minnesota, but hey with all the snow we get (especially this year) it truly does make sense.
In 1951, Toro introduced the first walk-behind snow blower. “Toro’s current line ranges from a compact electric model to a massive heavy-duty model with a 342cc engine that can blast the white stuff up to 45 feet,” according to minnpost.com.
5. Black-Box Flight Data Recorder (1953)
Guess who invented this? Yeah, General Mills. While now firmly focused on food, General Mills made many intriguing excursions into other industries during the postwar decades.
Minn Post shares the following:
For many years, General Mills had a mechanical division that developed a variety of devices. One was the “black box” to record flight data on airplanes—crucial for determining the causes of a crash. The man behind the device was collision researcher James “Crash” Ryan in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Engineering, who worked with General Mills to perfect the technology.
Apparently, it took years of lobbying to get airlines on board, but now no airplane flies without one!
6. Climate-Controlled Shopping Center (1955)
Again, while one of the contributors to Climate-Controlled Shopping Centers (aka big indoor malls) is not native to Minnesota, it’s still pretty cool. The Dayton department store company and Austrian-born designer Victor Gruen created Southdale, which opened in Edina.
However ironically “Gruen had originally envisioned something more like a mixed-use downtown, and came to loathe the malls that Southdale pioneered and have since spread worldwide.” And Now the MOA is just a city away from the original.
7. Deep-Sea Submarine (1962)
Okay, can you guess who was behind this one? Once again, it’s General Mills with another helpful invention.
Apparently, it was General Mills that had the on-staff aeronautical engineer design ALVIN, a deep-sea submersible that could be transported aboard a ship instead of being towed.
Used by the U.S. Naval Institute, the three-passenger sub has performed a number of remarkable tasks, from locating a lost hydrogen bomb in 1966, to exploring the wreck of the Titanic two decades later. General Mills sold its mechanical division decades ago, but ALVIN (which has been upgraded several times) remains in use.
8. Skyways (1962)
I feel like this one is somewhat known but the skyways were first used in Minneapolis in 1962. Once again while we Minnesotans can be tough about our winters, our winters are just plain brutal sometimes and we figure out ways to live here and go out our lives, but without constantly battling the cold. And the Skyways reflect just that.
According to minnpost.com, “skyways first appeared in Minneapolis across Marquette Avenue, connecting the Northstar Center and the Northwestern National Bank building, where Wells Fargo Center now stands. The idea is credited to a real estate developer, Leslie Park.”
9. Microwave Popcorn (1982)
Golden Valley Microwave Foods’ Act II brand was the first shelf-stable popcorn you can make in the microwave. While they weren’t the first ones to discover popcorn, nor the first to sell microwaved popcorn, they ended up with the best. When doing research, I found out that before their final product Act II had microwave popcorn, but it had to be stored frozen due to the oil and the butter covering the popcorn.
10. Microwaveable French Fries (1992)
Another Microwave invention, but this one did not stick like the other. A decade after introducing microwave popcorn Golden Valley Microwave Foods decided it was time for another microwave version of a snack. According to minnpost.com, the Minnesota company that developed these delicacies has since been acquired by Omaha food-brand giant ConAgra.
All information is credited to the article from minnpost.com.