19th Century Inventions


Alexander Graham Bell changed the way we communicate when he invented the electric telegraph in 1876. The electric telegraph would serve as the precursor to the telephone. Soon after his invention, a practical design of the telephone was created and communication became immensely fast. Historically, there is some debate as to who first designed the telephone by using the electric telegraph model. However, Bell is traditionally credited with the invention.


Telegraph was an immensely important invention of 19th century America. It allowed messages and information to be transmitted over thousands of miles in a matter of hours. Before the telegraph was invented, it took weeks to deliver information over the same distance. Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail developed the electric telegraph system in 1837. In 1861, the overland telegraph network was used to connect the east coast with the west coast. The Telegraph played a vital role during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln used the technology to relay battlefield formations and strategies to Union forces, giving the Union war effort an advantage over the Confederate forces.

Steam Engine

One of the most important 19th century inventions in America was the steam engine. Although the steam engine had been around for a while, it wasn’t until 19th century that the smaller, faster and more powerful variants were invented. These variants became instrumental in propelling American industrial and social growth. Steam engines paved the way for the transcontinental railroad that connected the American east with the west. It also played a vital role in the American westward expansion. During the Civil War, the North enjoyed the benefit of having a better railroad network than the South. This helped the Union armies move around more quickly, contributing to their victory.

Fire Hydrant

Fire hydrant was a pillar or post-like structure which was connected to the municipal water supply. It was first designed by Frederick Graff Senior in 1801. The fire hydrant was immensely important as it made it possible for firefighters to extinguish urban fires more quickly and easily. During the later part of the 19th century, modifications to the design of the fire hydrant were made until it became similar to the one used today.


Maintaining a cool temperature and removing heat from a space is achieved through refrigeration. Today, refrigeration and refrigerators are ubiquitous and taken for granted. However, the earliest form of modern refrigeration was achieved in 19th century America. The American inventor Oliver Evans invented the vapor-compression refrigeration in 1805. His system was a proof-of-concept which was later used to create the world’s first refrigerator in 1834. Refrigerators were popularly used in 19th century America to produce ice which was then used for various purposes.


Baseball in its present form originated in 19th century America. It was one of the most significant inventions of the century. Over time, it would become the national sport and enjoy immense popularity throughout the country. Although a bat-and-ball sport was played in North America before the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1845 that the rules were formalized. Alexander Cartwright is credited with creating these rules and is today known as the inventor of the modern baseball sport.

Repeating Rifle

Various varieties of firearms were already in use before the 19th century. The Rifle became a popular firearm during the century. A specific variety of the rifle known as the repeating rifle was invented in 19th century America. It was invented in 1860 by Benjamin Tyler Henry. Repeating rifle made it possible to fire multiple times before the need to reload. This particular type of rifle became popularly known as the Winchester and was widely used by both sides in the American Civil War.

Gatling Gun

Gatling Gun was a kind of precursor to the machine gun. It was invented by Dr. Richard J. Gatling in 1861. Gatling Gun allowed the firing of multiple rounds of ammunition in a sustained way. Therefore, it allowed individuals to fire a lot more with a lot less effort and in significantly less time. Gatling Gun was used by the Union forces during the American Civil War. The Gatling Gun was soon succeeded by the Maxim Gun which was a fully automatic machine gun.

Cowboy’s Hat

The iconic cowboy hat with a wide brim and a high crown was also invented in 19th century America. The hat was invented by John Batterson Stetson in 1865. It came into widespread use by the cowboys in the American West who worked on large cattle ranches and needed a suitable hat to protect against the natural elements. Over time, the use of the hat spread to other countries as well such as Mexico and Canada.

Barbed Wire

Barbed wire was invented in American in the latter half of the 19th century. Although several individuals claimed to have invented it, Joseph F. Glidden was able to patent it and is credited as its inventor. Glidden patented the barbed wire in 1867. It soon became a popular tool to secure vast properties, farms, ranches as well trenches during warfare.

American Football

American football is a popular sport in America which was invented in 19th century. Although the first game of American football was played in the 1870s, it wasn’t until the 1880s that the proper rules of the game were formalized. Walter Camp is credited with formulating the game’s rules.


Jeans were invented as a sturdy form of fabric during the 19th century America. Levis Strauss and Jacob Davis together invented this particular variety of fabric in 1873. It was marked by riveted supports of copper placed at stress points such as the pockets. Soon after its invention, jeans became immensely popular in America. It was especially worn by individuals and workers who worked outdoors or performed physical labor.

These important inventions made during the 19th century America period, enabled the country to become an industrial giant. It also sped up the transformation of American society, culture and the economy.

Learn More about American Inventors such as Alexander Bell at Wikipedia