INDIANAPOLIS — Americans who live outside the Hoosier state might not think Indiana has much to offer, but every day their lives are affected by creations conjured up right here in the Crossroads of America.
The impact of Hoosiers is felt every day. It’s there when you drive to work. It’s helping keep the grime off your jeans. It might be a part of your favorite sandwich, or be right beneath your feet at this very moment.
Here is a look at just a few things you can thank Hoosiers for contributing to the world.
Chuck Taylor All-Stars
That’s right. One of the most iconic shoes in America, the shoe that put Converse on the map, can trace its roots to Indiana. Charles Hollis Taylor, better known as Chuck Taylor, is the man behind the shoe.
Taylor was born in Indiana and played basketball at Columbus High School. He would go on to help Converse create and sell the famous shoe that still bears his name.
Don’t believe it? Talk with Chuck yourself at the Indiana Historical Society.
You wear them every day. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500, was the catalyst for the creation of seatbelts. Made to keep racers safe, the invention soon spread and became standard in all vehicles and is required by law to wear.
So next time you hear “click it or ticket,” thank Indiana.
The Panic bar
Panic bar, exit bar, crash bar, whatever you want to call it, we’ve all used it. This fast-release bar put on exit doors was invented by businessman Carl Prinzler and engineer Henry H. DuPont, both of Indianapolis.
The invention was born from the ashes of tragedy after a fire broke out in the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago in 1903 and claimed 600 lives. Many of the deaths were attributed to exit doors being latched and panicked crowds being unable to open inward-swinging doors due to frightened audience members surging forward in an attempt to escape.
Prinzler and DuPont’s now standard panic bar allows exit doors to be locked from outside entry but still opened quickly and easily from the inside while swinging outward.
The Gatling gun
While the invention of the panic bar saved uncountable lives, the invention of the Gatling gun went another route.
This rapid-fire, early machine gun was invented in Indianapolis by Richard Jordan Gatling. Gatling invented the weapon at the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War. The gun’s design was reportedly based on Gatling’s seed planter and a working prototype was constructed in 1861.
The first six guns, built at the Indianapolis-based Gatling Gun Company, were destroyed in a factory fire in 1862 — an ominous beginning for a weapon designed to deal death on a previously unimaginable scale.
The in-home washing machine
The history of the washing machine isn’t as clean as the clothes that come out of it. Many different inventors have hands in bringing different forms of the washing machine to life, but Indiana merchant William Blackstone is credited for creating the first in-home washing machine built for domestic, not commercial, use.
The story goes the washing machine was a birthday present for his wife to make cleaning clothes just a little easier. We’re sure it was just what she wanted.
A staple of many childhoods, Wonder Bread debuted from Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis on May 21, 1921, and was one of the very first pre-sliced breads sold in the United States.
To this day, the iconic white packaging and colorful balloons invoke countless nostalgic memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for generations of Americans. It’s no real wonder the bread remains popular among children.
Must we wax poetic on the marvel that is bacon? We all know how delicious, how crispy, how mouth-watering and, yes, perhaps a bit artery-filling this king of meats is.
The pork packing plant once stood in the area the Indianapolis Zoo now occupies. The plant was eventually closed down in 1966. A fire destroyed the plant the next year.
Perhaps that’s why the animals love the zoo so much. They can still smell that sizzling bacon.