Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America's past. These stories are about Americans - people just like you - who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you. Kate Kelly

The things we take for granted today had to start out as someone’s good idea. From blue jeans to the weather service and the Brownie camera to traffic controls, read about how these items and more came to be.

The football huddle was invented in the 1990s by a quarterback at a school for the deaf. He wanted to prevent others to see his signing to his teammates.

The X-ray shoe-fitting machine may have been invented by either Dr. Jacob Lowe or Matthew Adrian. The machines became very popular in shoe stores for a time.

The shopping cart was invented in the 1930s by Sylvan, Goldman, an Oklahoma grocer who wanted a way to help people buy more in his stores.

Wheelchairs did not come into common use until the last 150 years, but various forms of them existed before the 1860s. Here's how they were invented:

The baseball catcher's mask was invented by a Harvard student named Fred Thayer in 1878.

Bessie Blount invented a device that helped wounded World War II veterans feed themselves without needing help from others.

Scrabble was the brainchild of an out-of-work architect named Alfred M. Butts.

Gail Borden, Jr., came up with the concept of a milk product that did not require refrigeration. He made it a reality by condensing the milk, and thereby launched a business that we still hear about almost 175 years later.

Elsie the Cow was the highly successful marketing mascot for Borden milk. It was created ad man Stuart Peabody and illustrator Walter Early.

The story of Elmer's Glue is about the creation of a new product but also about the strength of a top-flight marketing campaign.

The true inventor of the ice cream cone was Italo Marchiony, not Ernest Hamwi at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 as is often reported.

Bubble gum was first created by Walter Diemer, an accountant working at the Fleer Chewing Gum Company. The product was sold as Dubble Bubble.

The Woodcraft Indians were a precursor to scouting groups, and Ernest Thompson Seton formed the group in 1902 to encourage young people to enjoy nature.

Amanda Theodosia Jones (1835-1914) invented safer ways to preserve food through new canning methods and also contributed to better systems for furnaces that burned fuel oil.

The home security camera was first patented by Marie Van Brittan Brown, a nurse, was concerned about her own home security. It was the forerunner of all home security systems today.

Morrie Turner created the first integrated syndicated comic strip, Wee Pals.

Abraham Lincoln applied for and received a patent for a device to keep riverboat and steamships from getting stuck in shallow water or on sandbars. His patent was granted in 1849 while he was in Congress.

The polygraph--or lie detector machine--was invented by John Larson, an employee of the Berkeley Police Department. However, the device wasn't patented for about 10 years. Holder of the patent was Leonarde Keeler, also from Berkeley.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by the men behind a popular 19th century magazine, Youth's Companion.

The Pledge of Allegiance was the brainchild of the men behind a very popular 19th century family magazine, Youth's Companion.

The wire coat hanger was invented in 1903

The searchlight was invented in 1915

The first American to create a sunscreen product was Florida pharmacist and former military airman Benjamin Green who developed a product to protect World War II soldiers stationed in the South Pacific. He later sold to Coppretone

Anna Connelly received a patent for a fire escape bridge in 1887 (she did not invent the fire escape). Her contribution saved many lives.

Ann Moore received her first patent on the baby carrier known as the Snugli in 1969

Tabitha Babbitt invented the circular saw by building a larger version of an addition she had made to her spinning wheel. The Shaker people believed in working "smarter not harder" so patenting the invention was not important to her.

A time-saving device for curling hair (or straightening very curly hair) was invented in 1928 by Marjorie Stewart Joyner.

The idea for mass-producing valentines arose with Esther Howland (1828-1904), a young entrepreneur who learned card-making from her father.

Blue jeans were invented by Jacob Davis

Glen Holland was the first person to ever franchise an amusement park, and he did so with Santa's Village:

Crayola crayons are remarkable for their market staying power. Here's the story of the two men who created the company that makes them

The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was set up by construction workers, grateful for a paycheck in 1931.

Aaron Montgomery began the world’s first mail-order business in 1872.

Beulah Henry Louise had so many patents she was known as Lady Edison--among them, "Dolly Dips" soap-filled sponges and an umbrella cover that could be changed to match one's outfit...

Once the can was invented, Americans Ezra Warren, J. Osterhoudt and William Lyman each made improvements on the can opener...

Wonder Bread was first baked in Indianapolis in 1921

The bread-slicing machine was created by Otto Rohwedder (1880-1960)

The first American to patent a seat belt was Edward J. Claghorn of New York, N.Y. who was issued a patent in 1885 for a "safety-belt for tourists, painters, or firemen who are being raised or lowered." Claghorn's belt was not tested in cars until the 1920s.

In 1936 Pappy Hoel was the fellow who came up with the concept of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Carl Fisher, the fellow who built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was behind the creation of the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast planned road

A pill that could easily be dissolved in the stomach (known as a "friable" pill) was invented by William Upjohn (1858-1932)

The Yale lock (tumbler lock) was first created for banks in 1847 by Linus Yale, Sr. (1797-1858). It was adapted for use on other doors by Linus Yale, Jr. (1821-1868)

The first commercially produced chewing gum was created by John Curtis (1827-1897)

The first longlasting lipstick was invented by Hazel Bishop in the late 1940s.

The invention that contributed the most to advances in weather prediction and the creation of the national weather service was the telegraph in 1835.

The bullet-resistant textile known as Kevlar was invented by Stephanie L. Kwolek for Dupont.

In 1871 Margaret Knight devised a machine for creating the square-bottomed paper bag that is still in use today

Hattie Carnegie pioneered the idea of head-to-hem shops in the 1920s.

The disposable diaper was invented by Marion Donovan who also invented a pin-less diaper cover and several other practical, convenient inventions.

Groundhog Day came about in 1887 and was created by a group of Groundhog Hunters in Punxsutawney.
The concept of the presidential debates originated with Fred Kahn who was a Holocaust survivor. Kahn came to the U.S. and joined the Army. In 1956 while attending the University of Maryland on the G.I. Bill he began pushing for debates between the candidates to help educate voters.
The drunkometer was invented by Dr. Rolla N. Harger followed by the Breathalyzer by Robert Borkenstein
Safety razors were invented by King C. Gillette (1855-1932)
The remote control was invented by Eugene Polley in 1955
Willis Haviland Carrier invented air conditioning in 1921.
In May 1886, Coca Cola was invented by Dr. John Pemberton.
The popsicle was invented by Frank Epperson when he was 11.
Newborn evaluation system (Apgar Score) was invented by Virginia Apgar in 1952
Patricia Bath pioneered cataract surgery.
Scotchguard was invented by Patsy Sherman.

The Fold-a-way bed was created by Sarah E. Goode who was the first African-American woman to ever receive a patent (1885)

The first Brownie camera was created in 1901 by Kodak.
Garrett Morgan was given the first patent on a three-signal traffic light

The inflatable life preserver (the Mae West) was invented shortly before World War I

The bra was designed and patented by Caresse Crosby in 1913
Political cartoonist Thomas Nast was the first to draw Clement Moore's description of what we now know as Santa Claus
Embalming came about because of the Civil War

The keyboards of today are the same design as the originals in the 19th century. Here's how the design came about.

Bette Nesmith Graham (1922-1980) invented "liquid paper," first called "Mistake Out," in the 1950s...
This Day in History

On November 5, 1994, George Foreman knocked out the younger champion, Michael Moorer, who was only 26. Foreman was 45 and this win made him the oldest boxing champ ever. Moorer was 35-0 and had expected to win easily. The World Boxing Association refused to sanction the fight originally, partly because of Foreman’s age. Foreman sued and won on the grounds of age discrimination. Round-by-round, Moorer out-boxed Foreman, but in the tenth round, Foreman landed a knockout punch.

On November 8, 1962, the famous Ford Rotunda welcomed its final guests. The next day, it was destroyed in a fire. The Rotunda was built for the 1933 Century of Progress Chicago. When the exposition ended, the over-sized building was moved to Dearborn, Michigan. The Rotunda was a huge tourist attraction for exhibits and for their elaborate Christmas displays. Workers were preparing for Christmas when the fire started. The building burned to the ground in an hour.

On November 6, 1861, the Confederate Congress elected Jefferson Davis to be their first president. Davis had been a Congressman prior to secession, and he dearly hoped the Union would hold. But when Mississippi voted to secede, he knew as their representative, he had to go with them.  His term was to be six years, and he remained president until May 5, 1865, when the Confederate government was officially dissolved.

On November 3, 1941, the Japanese government informed fleet commanders of a top-secret plan: In 34 days, Japanese pilots were to bomb Pearl Harbor. Tension between the U.S. and Japan increased when Japan had invaded Indochina in 1940. The U.S. retaliated by seizing Japanese assets in the U.S. and closing the Panama Canal to the Japanese. The Japanese determined that these were acts of aggression, and they decided to deal the first blow by bombing the Hawaiian U.S. Naval Base.

On November 2, 1947, the largest aircraft ever built–the “Spruce Goose”—flew on its first and only flight. The plane was commissioned by the U.S. government for the war effort, but it was not completed until 1946.  Designed by Howard Hughes and made of spruce and birch wood, the aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was intended to carry more than 700 men to battle.

On October 22, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to public attention when President John F. Kennedy announced that spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba.  Kennedy announced a naval blockade of Cuba, and ordered the USSR to dismantle the bases. The Soviets did not respond, so Kennedy threatened to invade. The Soviets countered with a challenge: The U.S. should remove their missiles in Turkey. Negotiations became secret, and by October 28, the crisis was resolved.

On October 18, 1867, the U.S. took possession of Alaska. America purchased the territory from Russia for $7.2 million. Russia wanted to sell because the land was remote and hard to defend. Negotiations between Secretary of State William H. Seward and the Russian minister began. The American public believed the land worthless, referring to the purchase as “Seward’s Folly.” Public opinion changed when gold was discovered in 1896.Today the state is recognized for its vast natural resources.

On October 15, 1863, the world’s first combat submarine, the C.S.S. Hunley, sank during a test in Charleston Harbor. The inventor and all seven other crew members died in the accident. The Hunley was retrieved and repaired. On February 17, 1864, the Hunley targeted and sank the Union ship, the Housatanic. However, the Hunley itself sank before it returned to Charleston. In 2000, the submarine was recovered and is now on exhibit in Charleston.

On October 12, 1945, the first conscientious objector in American history received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Private First Class Desmond T. Doss of Lynchburg, Virginia, was a pacifist who agreed to serve in the military as a medic. He and his unit were sent to the Pacific theater where Doss saved dozens of lives in the battle of Okinawa. All agreed that he had gone above and beyond to help those who needed him.

On October 31, 1993, actor River Phoenix, only 23 years old, died of a drug overdose outside the Viper Room on Hollywood’s fabled Sunset Strip. When Phoenix collapsed on the street, he was soon surrounded by people in costume, given the fact that it was Halloween. Phoenix was a magnet for the press. Those who were with him may have delayed in calling for help, trying to avoid letting Phoenix became a tabloid headline again.