THERE'S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Learn About 10 Historic Times The United States Pioneered Innovation!


Published on January 29, 2024


Credit: Luke Michael

Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? What about the first time you went to a zoo? Maybe you have memories of your first family trip or your first day of school.

There is always a first time for everything , even for those things that feel like they have been around since the world began.

The history of the United States also has its own firsts. Today, we're diving into 10 historic firsts for our country, state by state. Ready for a trip down memory lane?

1

Connecticut

Credit: Quino Al

The rise of cell phones has allowed us to store and securely organize the contact numbers of acquaintances.

Yet, in the pre-smartphone era, phone books were the solution. Remember those? They were these large volumes containing names, addresses, and phone numbers of the city residents.

Although today it may seem surreal that anyone in the city can have your information, back in the day, they were highly useful tools. And the first state to have one was Connecticut.

The very first phone book was a humble cardboard published in 1878 in New Haven, Connecticut. This pioneer edition listed only 50 individuals, businesses, and offices equipped with telephones.

2

Indiana

Credit: Joey Kyber

Today, we take electric street lighting for granted, but there was a first time for it, too. Electric urban lighting made its debut towards the end of the 19th century . Before that, the streets were either covered in darkness or illuminated by oil lamps.

Although there had been other demonstrations of illumination by electricity before, the real change came in 1880 , when Wabash, Indiana, became the first U.S. city to be mostly illuminated by electricity. Of course, the event surprised residents and filled the newspapers with the bright news.

3

North Carolina

Credit: Simon Fitall

Can you imagine the world without airplanes? Well, it was like that for a long time. Back in the old days, people traveled only by land or sea, and the idea of soaring through the skies was reserved for dreamers.

Luckily for everyone, things changed at the beginning of the 20th century when the Wright brothers put their aircraft to work in 1903 . They made the first successful flight in North Carolina , forever changing the course of our world.

4

New York

Credit: Priscilla Gyamfi

In the nation's early years, presidential inaugurations weren't like they are today. They didn't even happen in the same place as they do now.

George Washington , the first president of the United States, delivered his first address in 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City . At the time, the Big Apple was the capital of the country, holding the title until 1790 when it passed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Finally, the last move was in 1800, making Washington, D.C. the definitive site of the nation's capital, where it proudly stands today.

5

Alabama

Credit: Absar Pathan

Christmas is that magical time when people worldwide come together for family festivities. But that was not always the case in the United States.

Alabama was a pioneer, becoming the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. That's a long time ago, right? The last state took its time to join the party: It wasn't until 1907, 71 years later, that Oklahoma became the final state to officially recognize Christmas as a legal holiday.

6

Illinois

Credit: Pedro Lastra

Skyscrapers dominate the skyline of nearly every major city today. Although these imposing structures continue to captivate us with their presence, we have become used to them being part of the urban landscape.

But there was also a time for the first skyscraper. The Home Insurance Building came to revolutionize the heights of Chicago, Illinois, in 1885 . There are no exact or definitive definitions of what constitutes a skyscraper per se, but the Home Insurance Building proudly claims to be the world's first one .

Hats off to Illinois for reaching out and touching the sky!

7

Maryland

Credit: Melody Ayres-Griffiths

Today's instant messages would seem only the dream of madmen in 1844, when Morse sent the first telegraph message from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland, making the Old Line State the first state to receive one.

Before the telegraph, communication took weeks or months to reach its destination, slowing down all interactions and operations. Morse's telegraph message read, "What hath God wrought?" and forever changed world communication.

8

California

Credit: Brett Jordan

Wherever you go, you'll probably find a McDonald's nearby. It's a global phenomenon, with very few corners of the world untouched by those golden arches. Burgers, fries, and Happy Meals become a staple in the daily life of America. But 80-odd years ago**, before 1940, things were very different.**

The first McDonald's opened as a drive-in in 1940 by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California . Eight years later, this humble spot evolved into a fully developed restaurant, and its growth since then is history.

If you ever get the chance to travel back in time, going to 1939 isn't the best option, as you wouldn't be able to enjoy a delicious Big Mac.

9

Arkansas

Credit: Marques Thomas

Back in 1950, Sam Walton , the visionary behind Walmart , purchased and launched his inaugural store in Oklahoma. However, the Walmart we know today was yet to be born.

The first lucky state to have a Walmart was Arkansas . The Walmart chain began in 1962 as a modest store in the city of Rogers. No one could have expected the colossal and rapid growth that awaited.

By 1968, Walmart had set its roots in Oklahoma, and by the 1980s, it had spread throughout the southern United States as well.

10

Mississippi

Credit: Luis Melendez

Saving the best for last, Mississippi boasts a groundbreaking achievement. The Magnolia State proudly holds the title of being the location of the world's first lung transplant. This historic event happened in 1963 when Dr. James D. Hardy accomplished the remarkable feat, propelling scientific progress and improving human health.

Such an event occurred only 61 years ago! That demonstrates the incredible speed at which technology and human knowledge advance, making human life better and better.

Cheers to Mississippi!


JOIN THE CELEBRATIONS

8 Festive Words You Must Know


Published on January 29, 2024


Credit: Ray Hennessy

Humans are social creatures and, as such, most of us enjoy an excuse to gather with our friends and family every once in a while. Whether it's because of a nationwide holiday or some small, private celebration, spending quality time around others is a fundamental part of the human experience.

Here, we've listed a few festive terms and delve into their history and meaning. Who knows? Maybe an item on this list will give you something to talk about at your next kaffeeklatsch!

1

Lū'au

Credit: Jeremy Bishop

Originally, the word lū'au referred to the leaves of the taro plant and, by extension, to a traditional Hawaiian dish prepared with them. The dish is a staple food of Hawaiian feasts and it proved so popular that, eventually, the word came to be synonymous with the feasts themselves. A lū'au is typically celebrated outdoors and it consists of local dishes served on mats and eaten without utensils. Of course, to complete the picture, the feast is usually accompanied by festive music and hula dance.

2

Ale

Credit: Christin Hume

Nowadays, the word "ale" refers to a few specific types of beer brewed by warm fermentation, as opposed to lighter varieties such as lager. However, both the word and the beverage have been around for a very long time. Up until medieval times, ale was a major source of nutrition for people from every walk of life, be it workers, monks, or nobles. Even children used to get most of their grain intake in the form of small beer , a highly nutritious but less alcoholic ale variety.

Going further back, there are records that attest that workers in Ancient Egypt were paid in beer, and runic amulets inscribed with the word alu , thought to refer to both the beverage and its intoxicating effects, have been found all over northern Europe.

3

Kaffeeklatsch

Credit: Clem Onojeghuo

This loan word from German translates to something like "coffee gossip," or "coffee chatter." If you spend any time as a regular in your local cafe, there is a high chance that you've been part of one of these, even unwittingly. Politics, sports, or the latest piece of news are just some of the topics that may arise when groups of coffee enjoyers find themselves in the same place, at the same time.

4

Hangout

Credit: Toa Heftiba

The earliest registered use of the phrasal verb "to hang out" as slang for spending time relaxing and socializing dates back only to the 1840s. As a noun, "hangout" can refer to both a place for hanging out or, quite often, to the gathering itself.

For a time, the term was so popular that Google borrowed it to name its videoconferencing platform, Google Hangouts. However, by 2022, the product was discontinued and largely replaced by Google Meet.

5

Matsuri

Credit: Nicki Eliza Schinow

The Japanese word matsuri is most often translated simply as "festival." However, culturally, it's much more than that: the term is deeply connected to the Shinto religion, and it refers to a wide array of civil and religious ceremonies that often include both times of solemn worship and upbeat celebration.

You might have heard of Washington DC's Sakura Matsuri, a festival that coincides with the blossoming of the cherry blossoms ( sakura in Japanese) and celebrates Japanese culture in the United States.

6


Holi

Credit: Debashis RC Biswas

Known all over the world as the Festival of Colors, this Hindu festival celebrates the arrival of spring after winter and, symbolically, the triumph of good over evil. According to the Hindu religion, Holi commemorates the victory of Vishnu over the antagonistic Hiranyakashipu.

Holi is a time for merriment, and young and old people alike smear their faces with colored powders, sing, and dance as they let go of their troubles and embrace the coming of spring.

7

Mardi Gras

Credit: Samuel Dixon

If you've ever been to New Orleans, Louisiana during February or March, you are probably familiar with the city's massive Mardi Gras Carnival celebrations. An important event with Christian roots, Mardi Gras festivities often include feasts and parades that culminate the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. It's from these feasts that Mardi Gras got its name: In French, it literally means "Fat Tuesday."

8

Tomatina

Credit: Josephine Baran

If, for whatever reason, you ever dreamed of participating in a massive tomato fight with strangers purely for entertainment value, you should head toward the Spanish region of Valencia during August. That's exactly what La Tomatina is.

This festival was spontaneously started in 1945 by the population of the town of Buñol, and it's been celebrated on the last Wednesday of August ever since, despite having once been banned for its lack of religious significance. In 2002, La Tomatina was declared of International Tourist Interest by the Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/