Jonathan H. Green, inventor, writer, reformer

Jonathan Harrington Green (1813–1887) was an American gambler, inventor, writer and later reformer of illegal gambling. In his youth, he was a skilled card player who left gambling in 1842, he became an active crusader against illegal gambling. He was responsible for enacting anti-gambling laws in several states. Green was born in Ohio, but traveled the country, including Mississippi river boats, gambling in his younger days. After leaving gambling, he became a general executive agent of the New York Association for the Suppression of Gambling and, between 1850–51, conducted an exhaustive investigation on illegal gambling operations in New York City. He presented his findings astonishing report… Read More

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Wilhelm Christian Weitling, writer, tailor, inventor

Wilhelm Christian Weitling (1808 – 1871) was a tailor, inventor, and radical political activist. He immigrated from Germany and invented attachments for commercial sewing machines like devices for double-stitching and the button holes. Prior to his inventions, these had been done by hand and kept many families afloat with piece work by the women and children of poor areas in NYC. Weitling was raised in dire poverty, while his mother made a meager living as a maid and cook. His father, who never married his mother, was killed in war before Wilhelm turned 5.  His education was limited to elementary school and any… Read More

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Dr. Alexander Skene, inventor of surgical instruments

Alexander Johnston Chalmers Skene (1837 – 1900) was a British gynecologist from Scotland who described what became known as Skene’s glands. He came to North America at the age of 19 to study. He began his studies in Toronto, continued in Michigan and and finally at the Long Island College Hospital (now the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center) in Brooklyn. He graduated in 1863 and began a career in the Army. After the army he entered private practice in Brooklyn and became a Professor of Disease of Women at Long Island College Hospital. He was professor of gynecology at the Medical School of New York in 1884,… Read More

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Joseph Perkins, engraver, bank notes

Joseph Perkins (1788 – 1842) was born in New Hampshire. He graduated from Williams College and went to Philadelphia to learn engraving. He moved to New York City in 1825 with the A.B. Durand to start Durand, Perkins and Company , engravers of Bank Notes. When Mr. Durand left the company, Perkins continued with an office at 4 John Street.  He entered a contest in London for the prevention of bank note forgery. While in London, he perfected the transfer of engravings from one plate to another. He also made engravings for many important events throughout NYC including a tribute… Read More

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Antonio Meucci, inventor of telephone

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci (13 April 1808 – 18 October 1889) was an Italian inventor and is best known for developing the first telephone in Staten Island, NY. Meucci set up a form of voice-communication link in his home that connected the second-floor bedroom to his laboratory. He submitted a patent  for his telephonic device to the U.S. Patent Office in 1871, but there was no mention of electromagnetic transmission of vocal sound in his application. That mention was made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Meucci was admitted to Florence Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 15, as its youngest student, where he studied chemical and mechanical engineering. He was not… Read More

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Robert Gair, cardboard box inventor

Robert Gair, a Scottish-born immigrant, invented the folding carton in 1890 in Brooklyn. He was a printer and paper bag maker in the 1870s. He invented the paperboard folding carton by accident: a metal ruler normally used to crease bags shifted in position and cut the bag. Gair found that by cutting and creasing paperboard in one operation, he could make prefabricated cartons. He ultimately got into the corrugated fiberboard shipping container business in the 1900s.   Before cardboard, he served in the Civil War and returned to NYC to open a paper factory on Reade Street in Manhattan. He moved to Brooklyn after his cardboard became popular and he needed… Read More

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Gustav A. Mayer, oreo cookie inventor

Gustav A. Mayer was a New York businessman, confectioner and inventor who is credited with the Oreo cookie and the sugar wafer. Mr. Mayer learned the confectioner’s trade in his native Germany before coming to the United States at age 19 in the late 1850s. The Nabisco plant he worked from is the current home of the Chelsea Market, which was recently purchased by Google. Mr. Mayer designed decorative cookie molds, allowing for cookies to be uniform and decorative. This technique was also used to create Christmas tree ornaments. He lived in a beautiful Italianite home in Staten Island which  may… Read More

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