Last Updated on June 12, 2023
Immigrant inventions have pervaded nearly every aspect of American culture. People who have hailed from foreign places have introduced so many new ideas and products to the U.S. – big and small – throughout history. And they continue to do so today. Many of these ideas have helped shaped American life as we know it. Here are some of the most iconic immigrant inventions:
Russian immigrant Adolph Levitt brought us the Wonderful Almost Human Automatic Donut Machine in 1920, which churned out perfectly holed doughnuts at an unprecedented pace.
Though the invention of the hamburger, and when it was precisely introduced in America is disputed, there’s little question that this beloved American staple was brought over by German immigrants serving Hamburg-style steaks in restaurants during the 19th century.
3. American cheese
Americans have been making cheese as far back as the 1700s. It wasn’t until James L. Kraft emigrated from Canada to Chicago just after the turn of the century, however, that the famous Kraft American cheese (which, ahem, goes perfectly well atop the aforementioned hamburgers) was created.
Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in Massachusetts in 1891. Naismith was a Canadian immigrant and a teacher at his local YMCA before he wrote the first official basketball rulebook and established the University of Kansas basketball program.
5. Video games
Where would we be without video games? German-born Ralph Baer invented the concept for playing games on TV screens in 1966, and he and two colleagues created the “Brown Box,” a very early version of the video game.
6. The Telephone
Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland and moved to the U.S. in the 1870s, where he invented the telephone. This Scottish immigrant continued inventing and helped advance scientific discoveries throughout his life in America.
From early video screens to modern-day online research, immigrants have helped develop technology throughout American history. Google is no different. Michigan-born Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who was born in Russia, created the world’s most popular search engine in 1998.
8. Blue jeans
Levi Strauss was a Bavarian immigrant who saw an opportunity in the face of the Gold Rush era. With the help of Jacob Davis, who was born in Latvia and emigrated to the U.S., Strauss helped bring sturdy, now-fashionable blue jeans to America.