Greatest Inventions To Come Out Of Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn | Courtesy Flickr  Payton Chung.
Brooklyn | Courtesy Flickr Payton Chung.
Photo of Peter Ward
Tech Editor8 June 2017

Brooklyn has a thriving startup scene, and the number of tech-savvy companies originating from the New York City borough is increasing by the day. That’s no surprise given its proud history of innovation. Here are six of the finest inventions to come out of Brooklyn.

Roller coaster

Brooklynites are no strangers to ups and downs. So, it’s fitting that the roller coaster was born there. In 1884 LaMarcus Adna Thompson created the first roller coaster made explicitly as an amusement ride in Coney Island. A ride on the first roller coaster cost just a nickel, but riders were required to get out mid-way through so the car could be switched to another track.

The Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island today. | Courtesy Flickr / emilydickinsonridesabmx

Teddy bears

In 1902, a Brooklyn candy shop owner and stuffed toy maker saw a political cartoon in The Washington Post. The cartoon was mocking President Theodore Roosevelt, who during a hunting trip apparently refused to shoot a bear that was tied to a tree.

Inspired by Roosevelt’s compassion, Morris Michtom created a new type of stuffed toy: Teddy’s Bear. Roosevelt ended up using the bear as a mascot for his re-election campaign.

A teddy bear in the park.

Sweet’N Low

Brooklynite Benjamin Eisenstadt and his wife Betty were out for lunch when she commented on the disgusting state of the sugar bowl. Using that moment as inspiration, Ben and his oldest son made the first sugar packet, and then later on developed Sweet’N Low to go in it.

The single-serve, zero-calorie sweetener is made of saccharin, dextrose and cream of tartar and was put into little pink packets and named after Ben’s favorite song, “Sweet and Low.”

In January 2016, Sweet N’Low manufacturing and packaging was shut down in Brooklyn after more than 70 years.

Sweet'N Low sweetner | Courtesy Flickr/Mike Mozart

Bank-issued credit cards

Imagine where we’d all be without credit cards. Debt-free or dirt poor?

It’s widely agreed that John C. Biggins thought up the idea for a universal credit card in 1946. Biggins was a banker and credit promoter working for the Flatbush National Bank in Brooklyn at the time. He called the new concept “Charg-It” and offered it to local stores as a way for them to offer credit to customers of the bank. The bank would pay the stores and then collect the debt from its customers.

A more modern version of plastic cash.

Mr. Potato Head

Some people might have owned the toy, more may just remember the character from Toy Story. Mr. Potato Head toys also have their origins in Brooklyn. Inventor George Lerner, born in Brooklyn, made plastic face parts ad accessories to stick into real potatoes. Hasbro saw the potential and made the toy the first to be advertised on TV when the company took it to market. In 1964 the non-edible version was first made available.

A Mr. Potato Head toy.

Children’s Museum

Brooklyn also has a history of entertaining and educating children. On December 16, 1899, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum opened in Crown Heights – the world’s first museum for children.

The Brooklyn Children's Museum | Courtesy Flickr . Diane Bondareff.