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Fortune Cookies | © Ksayer1 / Flickr
Fortune Cookies | © Ksayer1 / Flickr
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10 Awesome Things That San Francisco Gave the World

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 1 October 2017
San Francisco has many great things. But there are some unexpected everyday items that first came to be in the city; here are just some of the great inventions for which we can thank the City by the Bay.

Denim jeans

Levi Strauss opened a dry goods store in San Francisco in 1853. And in 1873, Strauss, along with Jacob Davis, patented riveted pants, a.k.a blue jeans. The pair sold the new type of pants in Strauss’ San Francisco store, what is known today as Levi Strauss & Co. Today, jeans are one of the top bought and worn pieces of apparel in the world!

The cable car

The cable car is one of the most iconic San Francisco staples, and Andrew Smith Hallidie sent the first one down Clay Street on August 2, 1873. Although a series of brief incidents almost caused the removal of cable cars from San Francisco streets in the late 1940s, today, they are still right where they belong, transporting people around the city.

San Francisco cable car
San Francisco cable car | © Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

The slot machine

Charles Fey, a San Francisco car mechanic, invented the slot machine (first deemed the “Liberty Bell” machine) sometime between 1887 and 1895. Although the gambling machine was already developed in 1891, Fey’s re-manufacturing of it brought the slot machine to its caliber today.

The jukebox

The coin-operated phonograph was first commercially available in 1889 after being installed in San Francisco’s Palais Royale Saloon; it required a nickel for each play. In its first six months in the saloon, the machine earned over $1,000. This invention gave way to what we know today as the jukebox.

The martini

The exact location of the martini’s origin is slightly up for debate. While some say the cocktail originated in Martinez, California, others swear that its creation took place in San Francisco. Despite this disagreement, the story remains that the martini came about during the Gold Rush when a miner’s odd drink request resulted in what we know as the martini today.

Murphy bed

This invention comes with a bit of a love story attached. William L. Murphy created the Murphy bed in the early 1900s. While he wanted to invite a woman to his apartment, he was living in a studio, and at the time, it was improper for a lady to see a man in his bedroom. It was for this reason that Murphy invented the wall bed; he could hide his bed, creating a more appropriate environment. Murphy ended up marrying that woman too.

IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches

IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches have been a sweet San Francisco staple since 1928. The creation came about when George Whitney placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two delicious oatmeal cookies, before dipping the sandwich into dark chocolate. The well-known IT’S-IT was first sold at the Playland amusement park near Ocean Beach. Originally only offered in the Bay Area, people can now find IT’S-IT in several states, such as California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, and New York.

Popsicles

Like so many other great inventions, the popsicle came about completely by accident. In 1905, an 11-year-old boy living in the Bay Area was making a beverage by combining some powder and water in a cup. He left his drink outside overnight with the stirring stick still in it; the temperature dropped low enough that the mixture froze. The young inventor, named Frank Epperson, patented his creation in 1923. The exact location of Epperson when he created the first popsicle is somewhere between Oakland and San Francisco. History.com claims Oakland as its birthplace, while the Smithsonian and The New York Times believe it was in San Francisco.

Your popsicle’s melting
Your popsicle’s melting | © Kathy/Flickr

The fortune cookie

Despite popular belief, the fortune cookie is not a Chinese invention. The sweet, fortuitous treat’s creation took place in California; however, there seems to be some debate on the exact origin. In one claim, the story goes that Makoto Hagiwara either created the cookie in 1914 or purchased them in the San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo. Makoto, who was in charge of the Japanese Tea Garden, supposedly made (or gave) cookies with small thank you notes in them for the San Francisco mayor, who gave Makoto his job back after a previous mayor let him go. Another claim is by David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles, who says he invented the cookie in 1918.

Fortune Cookies
Fortune Cookies | © Ksayer1 / Flickr

Waterbed

The first modern waterbed came about thanks to academia. Charles Hall designed the bed in 1968 for his Master’s Thesis project at San Francisco State University. The waterbed exploded in popularity in the ’70s, quickly becoming an icon and well-known sex symbol of the era.