Americans have invented a lot of pretty cool stuff, guys. Doritos. Snuggies (remember those???). Football (the American one. Not soccer, you big silly head!). Spam (both the food and unsolicited emails promoting stupid and weird stuff). But believe it or not, there is an entire world out there where all sorts of amazing non-Americans created things that a lot of people mistakenly think originated in America. Here are 9 of them that might surprise you.
1. Apple Pie
“As American as Apple Pie” is a popular expression, but I have some terrible news: you’ve been lied to this entire time. The origins of pies go all the way back to Ancient Greece, although it was more common to fill them with meat and seafood. The earliest recorded reference to apple pies dates back to 1589 when British poet Robert Greene wrote “Thy breath is like the steeme of apple pies.” Goodness. Here’s to hoping he didn’t use that as a pickup line.
Back in 1908 Henry Ford came up with the idea of the assembly line, which revolutionized both the automobile industry and pretty much every industry for that matter. But while the Model T made it possible for the average person to own a car, the automobile was actually invented by Europeans – particularly Germans such as Karl Benz – who were looking to create a horseless carriage because, quite frankly, dragging the horse out of the stable to go on a 2am beer run just wasn’t practical.
3. The Kit Kat Bar
Here’s the concept of the Kit Kat: let’s take crunchy wafers and cover them in a wax-like substance that vaguely tastes like chocolate. That totally sounds like the American way, right? But in reality, the Kit Kat was first manufactured in 1935 York, England by the Rowntree candy company, although it was originally given the super inspired name “Chocolate Crisp.” It didn’t actually make its way to America until the 1970s.
4. The Star-Spangled Banner Tune
The National Anthem is a super weird song if you think about it. Written by lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key in 1814, it’s not even about the Revolutionary War, but about the War of 1812. It tells of the British attack on a small Baltimore military fort and the fact that even after all the explosions and stuff, they failed to capture it. But here’s where the song gets even weirder: the music itself was taken from a popular 18th century drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven.” While popular on both sides of the pond, we have England’s very own John Stafford Smith to thank for that ditty.
5. Hot Dogs
There might be few things more American than shoving several hot dogs in your mouth while watching a baseball game, but we actually have a Polish immigrant to thank for this culinary abomination. In 1916, Nathan Handwerker opened a hot dog stand on Coney Island, and he was the first one to come up with the idea of stuffing them in a bun and add condiments such as ketchup. The rest is history!
While exporting all of our crappy TV shows to the rest of the world is one way in which we make a useful contribution, we as Americans cannot claim credit for the invention of the television. The Russian scientist Constantin Perskyi first coined the term in a paper that he presented in French at the 1st International Congress of Electricity in 1910. Another Russian – Boris Rosing – was the first to transmit images over wires to a cathode ray tube. Finally, it was Scottish inventor John Logie Baird who sent the first long distant image (from Glasgow to London) in 1927. However, the first TV station in the world was located in Schenectady, NY. So at least there’s that.
7. Peanut Butter
While it certainly doesn’t get any more American than eating an entire jar of chucky style peanut butter while watching a marathon on Netflix, this gooey mush consisting of peanuts, hydrogenated oil, and corn syrup was actually first patented in 1884 by Marcellus Gilmore Edson, a gentleman from Montreal.
What comes to mind when you think of Cowboys? The NFL team? John Wayne? The guy from Village People? Camp fires and harmonicas? Regardless of your vision, we can all agree on one thing: Cowboys are the true symbol of America. Everybody else in the world thinks we all walk around wearing cowboy hats. But actually, Spain is the birthplace of cowboys. When the conquistadores made their way to Mexico, they brought their cattle-herding ways with them. Later, Mexican vaqueros introduced this craft to Texas, and the cowboy as we know it has captured our collective imaginations ever since.
While the first pair of jeans was worn in America, its creation is a complex collaboration of multiple influences that predate the existence of America as a sovereign state.