The Greatest Inventions From Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. | © 12019 / Pixabay

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is under 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. This office grants U.S. patents, fulfilling the Constitution’s call to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” While D.C. is known for its politics and legislation, it’s rarely celebrated as a hub of innovation and invention. Here are the four surprising inventions from D.C.

Blood banks

Charles Richard Drew, a D.C. native, was an African-American surgeon credited with discovering how to store blood plasma, saving countless lives in World War II and changing the course of modern surgery.

Drew developed how to store plasma while at Columbia University. He earned his doctorate in 1940, the first black man to achieve this designation at Columbia. Drew spearheaded the World War II effort known as “Blood for Britain” and collected an estimated 14,500 pints of plasma. He also worked with the American Red Cross in 1941, before resigning over segregation policies.

He taught at Howard University in D.C. and served as chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital before his death in 1950.


Half-smoked, half-grilled, 100% delicious. The half-smoke is a style of sausage that finds its origins in D.C. While there is some argument as to who invented it, everyone agrees that it is delicious.

The half-smoke has more kick than your traditional sausage and is made with pork and beef. It’s most traditionally served on a hot-dog bun with chili and onions. You can find it at Ben’s Chili Bowl or Nats Park.

Try D.C.’s famous sausage, the half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Go-go music

New Orleans has jazz, and Nashville has country music. Washington, D.C., however, is home to go-go. Earmarked by its funk, blues and salsa influences, go-go music exploded in the District in the early 1970s. Originally, go-go was known as the dance clubs, but quickly the dance music also earned this moniker.

Go-go bands have horns, strings, percussions, and keyboards. Musician Chuck Brown is credited as a pioneer of go-go music. It failed to take off in other regions but stayed popular in D.C. through the ’80s.

The telegraph

This important communication tool was the predecessor to the telephone and texting. Invented by Samuel Morse (inventor of the Morse code), the telegraph transmitted electrical signals over wires. The first message was sent from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore in 1844 asking “What hath God wrought?”

A vintage telegraph set

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article