What comes to mind when you think of Buffalo -- chicken wings, snow, or maybe our loud and proud sports fans? While these factors are all HUGE in building up our city, many are unaware of other famous creations discovered right here in 716. From air conditioning to breakfast cereal, instant coffee, and the electric chair (yes, you read that correctly) we can thank Buffalonian inventors for products used around the world on a daily basis, or maybe less frequently if we're talking about a chair that shocks people.
The City of Good Cereal
Written by Bria Meredith
A true Buffalonian has heard the phrase, “My city smells like cheerios!” or has even seen it written on a t-shirt! While driving down the skyway or taking a stroll along the dock at Canalside, you may smell the sweet aroma of cereal being produced at General Mills.
General Mills is a food manufacturer with a location in a large scale grain mill on South Michigan Ave in Buffalo, NY. This particular General Mills location has been producing Cheerios, one of the world's most popular breakfast cereals, since 1941. General Mills ships their cereal out to other markets, so a portion of the cereal does not stay local. If you have ever wondered if your Cheerios have been made in Buffalo, here is how to check! Look at the top of the Cheerio box at the big blue rectangle. If the letters “BU” are spotted, you have a winner! Your Cheerio box was made and shipped from Buffalo.
Other notable cereals produced at the General Mills in Buffalo include Wheaties, Lucky Charms, Corn Chex and Honey Nut Chex. Gold Medal brand flour is also produced at the General Mills in Buffalo. If you want to visit this General Mills location, be sure to stop and take a photo in front of the mural by Nicole Cherry. The painting features the biggest buffalo in 716 along with the Lucky Charms leprechaun and Cheerios honey bee. Next time you are downtown, be sure to take a whiff of the city that smells like Cheerios!
Keepin' it Cool in Buffalo: Air Conditioning
Written by Serena Leatherbarrow
We all know Buffalo is famous for its cold temperatures. From lake effect snow, to high winds, and -- air conditioning? We may only need it in the summer months, but modern day air conditioning was invented right here in Buffalo and has been saving 716ers from hot and humid weather for over 100 years.
Modern day air conditioning was invented by Angola native, Willis Carrier, in July of 1902. In his childhood days, Carrier lived on a farm where his mother taught him the basics of machines and engineering. In 1901 he graduated from Cornell and landed a job with Buffalo Forge Company. It was at this job that Carrier discovered the breakthrough while working to fix an issue with production.
After designing the machine, Carrier went ahead to improve and advance his idea further. With a finished product to be proud of, he worked with Buffalo Forge to manufacture systems and eventually broke off to create his own company, Carrier Engineering Corporation. Carrier Corporation produced systems for local businesses and in 1928 released the first air conditioners for homes.
In 1937, Carrier Corporation moved its headquarters to Syracuse, NY, just two and half hours east of its original birthplace. Since Carrier’s monumental discovery, modern day air conditioning has become a common element in the construction of buildings around the world. It is a feature that many of us are lucky enough to have in our homes and offices, but is often taken for granted. The next time an A.C. unit saves you from the sweltering summer months, think back to Willis Carrier’s breakthrough and the element of comfort that was developed.
The Electric Chair
Written by Kelsey Rhode
When you think of Buffalo you think of the famous foods like wings, sponge candy, beef on weck, but did you know that the electric chair was invented in Buffalo? This invention is definitely not at the top of the list when thinking of Buffalo inventions, but it’s a cool part of Buffalo’s history. Whether you support the death penalty or not, the invention of the electric chair is an iconic part of history and has been used to execute some pretty notorious serial killers including Ted Bundy.
The electric chair was invented by Alfred Porter Southwick who was a dentist and steam boat engineer and was born & raised in Buffalo. In 1881, he witnessed an old drunk man killed immediately after touching an electric generator. In the 1800s hanging was used to kill criminals, so Southwick thought that electricity could be an alternate option for executions. He used the dentist chair as an outline for the electric chair.
The first execution using the electric chair was on William Kemmler, a man charged with killing his wife with an axe, on August 6th, 1890. The first attempt with 700 watts failed after 13 seconds. They then charged the chair to 1,030 watts which killed Kemmler after two minutes. His execution was at Auburn Prison in New York. Between 1890 and 1963, hundreds of people have chosen the electric chair over lethal injection; most of the cases involve murder.
Although the death penalty has been abolished in New York State, the electric chair is still being used in many southern states. The electric chair will continue to be a cool stamp in history that Southwick has given to Buffalo.
The Story Behind the Pacemaker
Written by Marissa Packard
When thinking about Buffalo you think of wings, Bills, and the Sabres. Even growing up here that is what I think of as our identity and what Buffalo is best known for, our delicious food and our professional sports teams. But was I so wrong. While those things are part of the identity of the city in today's age, there are many more things that have come from our beloved city.
Our all-time greatest invention was the Pacemaker. Yes, an implantable pacemaker that could help a heart stay in rhythm. Wilson Greatbatch is the man behind the invention. He was born in 1919 in West Seneca. He grew up to be a radio man in the Navy and then eventually received his engineering degree from Cornell. While he was an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, he came across a pulse sequence that he thought would be helpful in creating a rhythm for the human heart. He worked on this project in a barn in the back of his home and seemingly joined the quest to find the first implantable pacemaker to help a human heart. Greatbatch also had sidekicks in this mission, Andrew Guage and William Chardack, who was Chief of Surgery at the VA in Buffalo. They would test their invention on dogs in the pretrial runs, which then they would hope that it would be used on a human.
These men did the impossible, on April 7, 1960 Greatbatch, Guage and Chardack successfully implanted the first pacemaker in a seventy-seven-year-old man. By implanting this pacemaker, he was given thirty more months to live. I can't fathom what that seventy-seven-year-old man could've been thinking in that instance. He was approached by these three men at the VA where they implanted a pacemaker to his heart not knowing if any of this would be successful but, in that moment, I think it’s the chance you take if you are looking to prolong their life. It was a trial well done. After this successful procedure, Greatbatch then patented the invention and in the following year Greatbatch and Chardack licensed their pacemaker to Medtronic. This pacemaker opened the doors to growth within the industry.
So next time you're telling your friends and family out of town about the iconic and unique food items that Buffalo has or how good our sports teams are doing, make sure to mention a little trivia to them that the first ever pacemaker was invented here. You never know when someone is going to end up on Jeopardy. This device went on to change lives and help many people. It was the first step in growing the medical industry.
Written by Alexis Dahn
Instant coffee has become a pretty important part of most people's daily routines, and you can thank Buffalo for that. Many people think that we are just a sports town, but we actually have a lot more history than you think. It is estimated that instant coffee can be traced back to at least 1850. Our records show that it had the most movement in the early 1900’s. It was used at this time during the Civil War to keep the soldiers' spirits up.
Historians can trace back the invention to three different people across the world in the early 1900’s. An american, Satori, was believed to create his product in Buffalo, New York at the Pan-American Exposition. This exposition will forever go down in history as the time President William McKinley was assassinated. He modeled his product based on tea because he originally worked in the tea industry. Instant coffee is made from dehydrated coffee. When making the beverage you will add water back into the product. His product was not too successful compared to George Constant Louis Washington. Washington had a pretty successful product during this time but most consumers still preferred their ground coffee beans.
During World War 1, the demand for instant coffee increased drastically. His product was a great energy boost for soldiers on the go. The taste of it wasn’t perfected at this point, as most regular consumers didn't have too much of it. By the 1920’s, Washington's soul consumer base was the United States military. Once the soldiers came home, they continued to drink Washington’s coffee at home as well.
Some advantages of instant coffee is that it can quickly dissolve in hot water, cheaper shipping price than coffee beans and it has a long shelf life. All of these can be taken advantage of for soldiers. Instant coffee is now pretty common throughout the world. In some countries, it can account for more than half of daily coffee consumption. This type of coffee is quicker & easier to make and cheaper than coffee beans.
The Bell Aircraft Company
Written by Louis Fabiano
Larry Bell established the Bell aircraft company in Buffalo, NY on July 10, 1935. The company developed the first jet fighter plane in 1942. The plane was called the Bell P-59 Airacomet. The fighter jet was built in total secrecy on the upper floor of what is now the Tri-Main building on Main Street in Buffalo. It was then shipped to California with a propeller attached to it as a disguise, according to Buffalo Architecture and History. Not only did Bell secretly build the first American jet plane, they also developed the first helicopter in 1943, as well as the first plane to break the sound barrier in the 1950’s. Bell’s helicopters were responsible for rescuing over 50,000 allied and American soldiers during the Korean War alone. Buffalo is known historically as a center of aviation innovation.
Additionally, Bell developed the Agena Engine in the 1960s. This engine powered the first U.S. spacecraft in the early 1960s, including the first U.S. spacecraft to go to the moon, Mars and Venus. In addition to the engine used to go to the moon, Spectrum reports that the simulator for astronauts to practice landing on the moon was made in Niagara Falls by Bell engineers, many of whom are still alive today. In fact, it is said that Neil Armstrong was so grateful for the training that he had in the Bell Lunar Landing training vehicle that he credited its accuracy to his crew’s successful moon landing in 1969.
Written by Amanda Ross
Buffalo is known for many things anywhere from wings to the Buffalo Bills. As 716ers we are passionate about everything Buffalo, and love to learn our history. When you think of Buffalo what are a few things that come to mind? Sponge Candy? Wings? Bills? How about daycare? Daycare was started in Buffalo to help working parents who needed supervised care over their young children. With the start of daycare it allowed parents to keep their jobs, while also keeping their children safe in a school environment.
Daycare first began in 1881, and it was started to help working mothers, who were not able to stay home and look after their children. Daycare was designed for out-of-home care for children, it helps to socialize them with other children in and around their age, while their parents are at work. It helps to keep the minds of young children active through education. Daycare is essentially the building blocks of socialization for working families, it allows the children to socialize with other children by playing games and learning. It is also said that daycare creates a smoother transition into kindergarten, and gives children a new found independence.
Buffalo is known for being a blue collar town that is very proud of its roots. 716ers are hardworking individuals who are constantly on the go and are fortunate to have access to daycare centers. So the next time that you are driving around Buffalo, see how many daycare centers you find nested in the city and the surrounding suburbs.
Written by Liam Cheasty
John R. Oishei founded the Tri-Continental Corporation in 1917. Tri-Continental introduced the first windscreen wiper, Rain Rubber, for the slotted, two-piece windshield wipers found on many of the automobiles of the time. Today Trico Products is one of the world's largest manufacturers of windshield wipers. Oishei established Trico after he struck a bicyclist while driving in a rainstorm along Delaware Avenue, according to a biography of him written for the foundation by Mary Rockwell. The bicyclist wasn't seriously injured, but the accident did bother Oishei, so he vowed to find a better way to keep motorists' vision clear. The invention of windshield wipers created an innovation in safety protocol for most automotive vehicles and machinery. Since then, Trico has become one of the largest manufacturing companies in the U.S.
After the invention of the windshield wiper, it was praised by motorists all over the country, making Oishei very wealthy. This ultimately led to the formation of many charities created on behalf of John Oishei. He made it his obligation to give back to his community and help others not as fortunate as himself. Today, the John R Oishei Children’s Hospital is one of the top medical centers in the country, thanks to numerous donations and funding from his family, to carry on Oishei’s legacy.
The Pony Express
Written by Conor Thompson
As someone who never grew up in Western New York, I have never heard of The Pony Express before. After researching, I learned that in the 1800s The Pony Express would transport people and goods by using stagecoaches. This transport service seemed better than Uber back in those days, because The Pony Express was twice as fast as all other competition. Since they wanted to stay the fastest transportation service, they even had a weight limit for their services.
For only 19 months did this service operate, with its collapse due to the use of the telegraph, The Pony Express however still delivered over 35,000 pieces of mail while also traveling over half a million miles. The Pony Express mostly brings up images of the Wild West, but what some 716ers may not know is that all of this started in Buffalo. William Fargo, who for a period of time was the mayor of Buffalo, moved here to work on a railway and that is where he met Henry Wells who would eventually become his business partner, (where the name for the bank Wells Fargo came from) and that is how the Pony Express in Buffalo was born.
The Grain Elevator
Written by Mary Kate Wirfel
When attending Riverworks right here in 716 you are fascinated by the giant grain elevators that stand at the edge of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie. Although grain elevators haven’t been used in years, at one time they were in business and invented right here in Buffalo, NY. The grain elevator was invented by Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar in 1842. This was to help with loading and transporting grain through the Erie Canal. They were also used for storage of grains as well as the loading of grain so it could be transported to farm land from shipping docks and railroads.
Joseph Dart got the idea to invent the grain elevator from Oliver Evans who invented the steam powered flour mills in 1804. Dart thought that with the same idea of using steam power, grain could be moved and transported. Dart received help from mechanical engineer, Robert Dunbar, so they could construct the steam powered grain elevator.
The purpose of grain elevators was to provide a facility to load, unload, handle, and store agricultural products such as corn, wheat, oats and barley. The grains then would be loaded on to boats and trains so they could be transported to farms and markets. This invention helped shape the industrial revolution in the United States.
The Great Northern elevator was built in Buffalo, NY in 1897. This was one of the largest grain elevators built in the United States at the time. This grain elevator was designed by engineer Max Toltz. The structure was built as an all steel elevator of the future and had the largest storage capacity in the United States. The grain elevators had house and tower-like structures. The loaders were also known as marine leg or marine towers. The Marine leg resembles an elephant's trunk that attaches onto a boat so the buckets inside the marine leg can scoop the grain and carry it into the marine tower on an endless steam powered conveyor belt. Marine towers could also be on wheels; imagine a tall house-like structure on wheels. Most railroad grain elevators were on wheels; the ones by the canals were solid ships that did most of the transportations. Scoopers or grain shovels operated to sweep and shovel all the grain out. Sometimes workers had to do this by hand so all the grain could be traveled down the marine leg and onto the trains and ships.
In the early 1900s several grain elevators became both gas powered or electric powered instead of steam powered. Buffalo's grain elevators closed in 1984, the Electric Elevator was also demolished that year. Several of the steam powered grain elevators are still standing today and are preserved by several different historical societies. You can visit the elevators when you go to Riverworks or Silo City in Buffalo. Grain elevators are still in use today by several farms and factories all over the world.