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15 immigrant inventions you should be thankful for

Are you thankful for Youtube, blue jeans, hot dogs, donuts, or ATMs?


Thank an immigrant.

Did you know that migrants are responsible for more than a third of all “American” inventions?

Between 13 and 17 percent of the U.S. population is made up of immigrants.

And yet we migrants can take credit for a disproportionate 35 percent of all patents filed in the US.

That’s right, more than one third of “American” inventions were born out of the immigrant community.

The United States of America is a nation built upon immigration, and our daily lives revolve around inventions which we only have because of our diversity.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving – a holiday all about helping each other no matter what our differences in culture and background – we’d like to celebrate some of our favorite immigrant inventions. But note that this is far from an exhaustive list.

Go ahead – #thankanimmigrant.

1. The White House

Now that’s irony right there. The White House itself was designed by an immigrant – a carpenter from Callan, Ireland. James Hoban migrated to Philadelphia around 1785, and in 1792 he won a design competition for the White House. Wonder how he’d feel about today’s immigration policies…

2. Hot dogs

There’s nothing more American than hot dogs, right?

Sausages have been around for an awfully long time. But the hot dog as we know it, bun and all, was first sold by German immigrant Charles Feltman in 1871.

3. Hamburgers

And while we’re talking about meat and buns, the hamburger as we know it – once again, with the meat sandwiched between two pieces of bread – was also created by an immigrant. Danish restaurant owner Louis Lassen first sold the creation in Connecticut.

4. “American” cheese

And all Kraft Foods, for that matter. James L. Kraft migrated from Canada to the US in 1902. And thanks to him we’ve got Kraft Cheese, Velveeta, Miracle Whip, and so much more.

American cheese is an immigrant invention

5. The pill

Austrian-born chemist Carl Djerassi went down in history as the “father of the pill”. He wasn’t the only one working on the project: Mexican Luis E. Miramontes and Hungarian-Mexican George Rosenkranz helped as well. Now that’s a project beyond borders!

6. Blue jeans

Denim is practically synonymous with Americana. But did you know that blue jeans were invented by Latvian immigrant Jacob Davis?

Another immigrant, German Levi Strauss, helped finance Davis’ invention and joined him in business – leading to global fame.

Thank immigrants for denim!

7. The waffle cone

Thanks to Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi, we’ve been eating ice cream on-the-go in waffle cones since 1904.

8. The Coca Cola bottle

What would Coca Cola be without its iconic bottle shape? Well, it’s all thanks to Swedish immigrant Alexander Samuelsson, who designed it.

9. The Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)

An early version of the ATM was the Bankmatic, invented by Armenian immigrant Luther George Simjian.

The ATM: an immigrant invention

10. YouTube

Two of the founders of YouTube, Jawed Karim and Steve Chen, are immigrants. Karim is Bangladeshi-German and Chen is from Taiwan.

11. The blow dryer

The first handheld hair dryer was invented by Gabriel Kazanjian, an Armenian-American.  Thank him for your blowout.

12. Lasik

Have you gone from blurry-eyed to high-definition thanks to eye surgery? Well, LASIK (technically laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) was developed by Iranian immigrant Gholam A. Peyman – and that’s just one of his 170+ patents.

Got Lasik? Thank an immigrant

13. The Brooklyn Bridge

Yet another American architectural icon developed by an immigrant, the Brooklyn Bridge was designed by German John Augustus Roebling.

14. Doughnuts

Doughnuts have their roots in Dutch “olykoek” cakes, and were brought to the US by settlers from the Netherlands in the 1800s. And William Rosenberg, who founded Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950, was himself the son of immigrants.

Donuts were created by Dutch immigrants

15. Microsoft Word

Confession: This article was drafted in Microsoft Word. Chances are you’ve used it to write an essay or two (or two hundred) as well.

And no, the program was not developed by Bill Gates – it was built primarily by Hungarian immigrant Charles Simonyi.

Which immigrant invention are you most thankful for?