If you’ve lived here your whole life, it’s easy to feel like you already know everything there is to know about Maryland. After all, we love our state, with its picturesque views and close proximity to all things awesome. But, guess what? Maryland still has a few secrets up its sleeve!
Check out our list of ten things you probably had no idea were invented right here in Maryland:
Crown Bottle Caps
That’s right, those caps you see on the tops of old school soda bottles were invented right here in Maryland by William Painter, who came from his native Ireland to live and invent in Baltimore. He earned nearly 100 patents during his time as an inventor, but his crown bottle cap design turned out to be the most enduring of his creations.
We’re guessing you never would have imagined that the divisive ouija board game was created right here in Maryland around 1890. In fact, the grave of its inventor, Elijah Bond, can be found in Green Mount Cemetery with, yes, a ouija board replica carved into the tombstone.
Old Bay Seasoning
Old Bay seasoning is a staple in homes across Maryland, and for good reason — this beloved spice blend was invented in our state over 75 years ago by German-Jewish refugee Gustav Brunn, whose extraordinary story of creating Old Bay in Baltimore after being released from a concentration camp can be learned in great detail at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Everyone loves their snowballs in the hot summer months, but did you know that it was this very treat that helped paved the way for the invention of more well-known (outside of Maryland, at least) summer treats, like the snowcone?
Snowballs are another Baltimore creation that developed in the 1800s, when ice houses sent wagons carrying blocks of ice to states like Florida. When the ice wagon passed through Maryland in the summertime, children would regularly ask if they could have some of the ice as a cool down treat. This led to families creatively adding their own flavorings, such as egg custard. While treats made from ice shavings are popular in various styles all over the country, there really isn’t another ice shaving quite like the snowball that started it all.
You may not hear much about linotype machines these days, but Maryland resident Ottmar Mergenthaler‘s invention of this typesetting machine back in the early 1880s completely changed the publishing industry for the better. The linotype machine was used to set the type for newspapers and other paper works before the advent of more modern inventions, like computer typesetting.
Before the linotype machine, the ability to do things like set the text for a document was an extremely long and tedious process. Have a free Saturday coming up? Check out a real life linotype machine from 1936 at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where live demonstrations are regularly conducted.
Even today, the name Black and Decker is synonymous with power tools. These famous tools first came to be in Maryland, when S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker formed the Black & Decker Corporation. They were the first to invent the cordless, electric drill, which went on to not only improve lives, but to inspire future power tool inventions. Decker is even an alumnus of McDaniel College, where the Summer Science Academy is held, and the namesake for The Decker Student Center and Decker Auditorium.
Noxzema Skin Care
Initially invented as a way to treat sunburns, Noxzema has a bit of a complicated history in Maryland, as it is credited to two pharmacists, George A. Bunting and Francis J. Townsend. Bunting, it seems, is the one who actually holds the patent from its development in the 1900s, but Townsend apparently gave the formulation behind his sunburn cream to Bunting, who then crafted his own take on the skin cream.
Sold in classic blue jars, Noxzema went on to achieve such incredible popularity that, even today, you can still find the skin care line on shelves and in cabinets across the country.
In the 19th century, novels were expensive and not easily purchased by citizens who were not upper class. Circulating libraries offered a way for the middle and lower classes to read a variety of literature styles for a small fee. The first circulating library to be invented in America was in Annapolis, MD in the 1700s. While these libraries were groundbreaking for their time, it’s nice to know that today we can visit the local library for free.
Saccharin, the precursor to sweeteners you know by name like Sweet ‘N Low and Equal, was invented completely by accident thanks to a researcher at John Hopkins University. Legend has it that its discoverer, a chemist named Constantin Fahlberg, forgot to wash his hands after time in the the lab, and noticed an especially sweet, non-sugar taste while eating. He then rushed back to the lab to determine the source.
Together, with the chemistry department’s founder, Ira Remsen, Fahlberg published a paper detailing the apparent wonders of saccharin. At the time, the idea that something besides cane sugar could be just as sweet as the real thing was positively shocking, and saccharin has been both accepted and banned at various intervals throughout its history. Of course, these days, the safety of these sweeteners is heavily debated, but it’s still fascinating to know that its beginnings arose by accident in Maryland.
Have Your Own Adventures in Science
You can experience your own taste of cooking science during our summer science academy. Concoct your own spice like Gustav Brunn or create a dessert as refreshing as the snowball. Our cooking science course is apart of our third summer session this year, running from July 8th – July 12th.
Would you rather experiment in your own lab like Ira Remsen and Constantin Fahlberg? Our first summer session, from June 17th – June 21st, offers a real world physical science laboratory experience. While a year of chemistry or physics will serve you well before beginning this course, it isn’t required, and you’ll get to use state-of-the-art laboratory equipment during the session.