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Ohio Inventions

What do the airplane, the light bulb and chewing gum have in common? They are three of the many inventions developed by Ohioans. Over the past 200 years, Ohio has been home to a number of technological innovators and pioneers in science who followed their dreams.

Let’s take a closer look at the people and the technology they developed.

Charles Kettering
Along with a team of workers, Kettering invented the first automobile self-starter in 1911. Before this, drivers would have to crank the engine by hand before entering the automobile. Kettering held more than 300 patents, most of which were used with automobiles.

Garrett Morgan
After witnessing a crash between an automobile and a buggy, Cleveland entrepreneur Morgan was inspired to develop a traffic signal. The 1923 patent Morgan received for his traffic light was not his first. Earlier, during World War I, Morgan received a patent for his version of a gas mask. Morgan's paternal grandfather was Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, who led an unsuccessful raid into Ohio in 1863. For more information on Morgan's Raid, read The Civil War in Ohio.

Murray Spangler
In 1907, Spangler, a janitor from Canton, invented the vacuum cleaner. A relative of Spangler’s, W.H. Hoover, manufactured and sold Spangler’s invention throughout the world.

John William Lambert
A resident of Ohio City in Van Wert County, Lambert built the first gasoline-powered, single-cylinder automobile in 1890. Lambert’s car could reach speeds up to five miles per hour.

Orville and Wilbur Wright
These two brothers owned a bicycle shop in Dayton and from their youth, had been interested in flight. The Wrights developed wing designs for an airplane, and on December 17, 1903, successfully flew their powered aircraft. While their first flights lasted less than a minute, the Wright Brothers worked to develop the fledgling technology soon to revolutionize our world.

William Semple/Amos Tyler
Both Semple and Tyler are credited with inventing chewing gum. Semple, a doctor from Mount Vernon, made his chewing gum out of rubber and claimed it could clean teeth. Tyler, a Toledo resident, patented chewing gum in July 1869.

Thomas Alva Edison
Widely recognized as one of the greatest inventors of all time, Edison was born and grew up in Milan, in Erie County. Edison holds 1,093 patents, more than any other American. Three of Edison’s most famed inventions are the light bulb, the phonograph and the kinetoscope, an early version of a film projector.

Roy J. Plunkett
As a result of an experiment gone wrong, Plunkett discovered Teflon in 1938. Plunkett found that the mysterious white powder left over from his refrigeration gas experiment at DuPont resisted heat yet remained as slippery as ice.

James Ritty
Ritty, a Dayton resident, developed the first cash register in 1878.