Most people know the Tarheel state was “First in Flight” thanks to the Wright brothers when, in 1903, they invented the first airplane. But Charlotte is home to a lot of other things that first “took flight” in the Queen City … things that not everyone knows about. In fact, during the recent push to get Amazon to build their new headquarters here (sadly, it’s not gonna happen), Governor Roy Cooper pointed out, “North Carolinians embrace firsts … and our state is uniquely positioned to be the home of many more impressive ‘firsts.’”
In case you want to impress people at your next dinner party, we bring you …
10 Things You Had No Idea Originated in Charlotte
Prosthetic Hand with Individual Finger Control
In September 2016, Drs. Glenn Gaston and Bryan Loeffler completed the first surgery to make way for an amputee patient to use a prosthetic hand with individual finger control. The procedure involved transferring existing muscle from the fingers to the back of the hand and wrist. Bottom line: patients can now use the same muscles that once controlled their fingers, to control the fingers of a prosthetic. Pretty cool.
The first piece of gold ever discovered in North America was found right here in Charlotte. In 1799, a boy named Conrad Reed found a 17-pound glittery rock. Legend has it, his parents used it as a doorstep until someone offered them a whopping $3.50 for it.
With the pending sale of the Panthers, there’s been a lot of talk about PSLs (Personal Seat Licenses). PSL holders get the first rights to buy season tickets every year at a stadium. Max Muhleman, a longtime Charlottean, came up with the concept in the early ’90s, when the team needed help paying for their new stadium. Other teams across the country have since adopted the concept.
You know those peanut butter cracker sandwiches you love to eat from the vending machine in the office break room? Phillip Lance of Lance crackers started selling single-serve snack packs in 1913 in Charlotte. The company eventually became Snyder’s-Lance when they merged with the pretzel maker. And Campbell’s Soup just acquired Snyder’s-Lance for a whopping $4.9 billion. That’s a lot of cheese and peanut butter!
When you’re talking soda, two names most often come to mind — and one was born right down the road from Charlotte in New Bern, NC. Originally known as “Brad’s Drink” after inventor Caleb Bradham, Pepsi (Cola) got its new name in 1898 from two of its ingredients: pepsin and cola.
You know those virtual sign-up sheets that go around to sign up to bring snacks to your kid’s soccer game or a meal to a neighbor going through a rough time? A couple in Ballantyne came up with that concept, and now SignUpGenius helps people around the world get organized.
In 1959 the very first Family Dollar store opened right here in Charlotte, and today there are more than 8,000 across the country. (The company merged with Dollar Tree in 2015.) So pretty much the dollar store concept got its start in Charlotte … and made the Levine family, who owns them, a whole lot of dollars!
Often compared to root beer, Cheerwine got its start in Salisbury when L.D. Peeler used flavors he bought off a traveling salesman from St. Louis. Peeler mixed the first batch in his basement, and just a few years later, the glass-bottled goodness became a fizzy hit and is still on store shelves today!
Orange Traffic Cones
Isador Blumenthal (yes, of that Blumenthal family) was President of Radiator Specialty company in Charlotte when he saw the metal cones that were being used elsewhere in the country and he came up with the idea to use plastic cones. He patented what was then called Safe-T- Cones. Later in 1985 another man at the same Charlotte manufacturing
company patented the orange barrel.
Charlotte may seem like an odd place to get credit for birthing funk music, but thanks to James Brown, it’s legit. The Godfather of Soul recorded one of his biggest hits in the Queen City: “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” largely considered the song that is the foundation for funk. It was 1965 when Brown and his band stopped in at a local studio on their way to a show and recorded the mega hit in under an hour.
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