Known as a hub for innovation, San Francisco has been setting trends for well over a hundred years. We looked into San Francisco’s contributions to the world over the years — from the weird to the stylish and the profitable to the iconic.
In no particular order, here are 15 innovations San Francisco is rumored to have brought into the world.
1. Denim Jeans
In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented riveted pants and blue jeans were born. Originally sold in Strauss’ San Francisco store, jeans have become one of the most popular apparel items on the planet. Proof San Francisco has been rocking the casual fashion scene since the 19th century!
2. The Cable Car
The world’s first cable car ran down Clay Street in the wee hours of the morning on August 2nd, 1873. Ever since then, cable cars have been a stable of San Francisco — even after a scare in which they were almost all removed in the late 40s. Not the most efficient method of transportation in this day and age, but they are undeniably cool.
3. The Slot Machine
Invented sometime between 1887 and 1895 by San Francisco car mechanic Charles Fey, the slot machine is ubiquitous in casinos and gambling areas across the world.
4. The Jukebox
In 1889, the coin-operated phonograph (the precursor to the jukebox) was first commercially available when it was installed in San Francisco’s Palais Royale Saloon. Charging a nickel a go, the machine earned over $1000 in its first six months of use.
5. The Martini
The history of the Martini is a cloudy one. Some say the cocktail originated in Martinez, California, while others claim it came about in San Francisco. Both origin stories claim that a Gold Rush miner’s request for a drink resulted in the creation of the martini.
6. Pisco Punch
During the Gold Rush, a clear grape brandy from Peru and Chile called Pisco was widely available in San Francisco — the reason being that boat trade with South America was easier than the wagon trade with the Eastern United States that brought whiskey to the West. At the Bank Exchange Saloon, located where the Transamerica building is today, owner Duncan Nicol used the brandy to create the recipe for Pisco Punch.
7. IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches
First sold at the Playland amusement park near Ocean Beach, IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches have been a San Francisco treat since 1928. Originally only offered in the Bay Area, the ice cream sandwiches are now available all throughout California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, Texas and New York.
Birthed out of an accident, the popsicle was invented in 1905 when an 11-year-old San Francisco boy made a soft drink by stirring a mixing powder in a cup of water. The boy left his full cup and stirring stick outside overnight and in the morning he found the drink frozen to the stick. In 1923 the young inventor patented his creation and it became the popular treat it is today. There is some contention as to whether the popsicle was invented in San Francisco or Oakland. History.com claims it was invented in Oakland, while the New York Times and the Smithsonian claim it was in San Francisco. Perhaps we will never know.
9. The Fortune Cookie
The origin of the fortune cookie is contested. One narrative claims that the cookie was invented by a Chinese immigrant in LA who put bible verses in the cookie; the other story goes that the cookie was created by a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara who was a gardener who developed the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Allegedly Makoto made cookies with little thank you notes in them for the San Francisco mayor when he gave Makoto his gardener job back after a previous mayor had fired him. Ever since then, the note in the cookie idea stuck.
10. Chicken Tetrazzini
Named after opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, this pseudo-Italian dish is believed by some to have been created by chef Ernest Arbogast at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, now called the Sheraton Palace Hotel.
11. Green Goddess Dressing
This tasty dressing was named for the English actor George Arliss; back in the the early 1920s, Arliss stayed at the Palace Hotel while acting in a play called the Green Goddess. The salad was created and named by the hotel’s executive chef Philip Roemer.
12. Crab Louie
The history of Crab Louie, like many recipes, is murky — however, many attribute its creation to Solari’s Restaurant in San Francisco in the early 20th century.
13. Murphy Bed
The Murphy Bed was created in the early 1900s by William L. Murphy while he was living in a one-room apartment on Bush Street. Allegedly Murphy invented the wall bed because he wanted to entertain a certain woman in his tiny apartment, but it was inappropriate at the time for a woman to see a man in his bedroom. Murphy’s invention allowed him to convert his bedroom into a more neutral space and eventually (perhaps because of the wall bed) he married the woman. How’s that for a love story?
The first modern waterbed was designed by Charles Hall in 1968 for his Master’s Thesis project at San Francisco State University. Well known for their sex-appeal, the beds exploded in popularity and became an icon of the 70s — you can even chill on one at the dive bar Kozy Kar.
15. The Gap
Don and Doris Fisher opened the first Gap store on Ocean Avenue in 1969, and the store sold a wide selection of Levi’s, records and tapes. The inspiration for the store? Don Fisher could not find any jeans that fit him in San Francisco retail stores, leading him to take matters into his own hands.
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Although not invented here, the next two were made popular in the United States due to their success in San Francisco, so we felt they were definitely worth mentioning. Think of it as two things San Francisco did before it was cool.
Although widely believed to have been created in a London pub in the 1920s under the name “Buck’s Fizz,” the mimosa was allegedly introduced to the States in a San Francisco restaurant by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Legend has it Hitchcock concocted the drink in Jeanty at Jack’s restaurant, beginning its popularity in the country.
The Irish Coffee
The Irish Coffee was popularized by San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe in 1952. Then-owner Jack Koeppler and travel writer Stanton Delaplane worked tirelessly one night to re-create the drink which had been served in the Shannon Airport in Ireland, subsequently making the drink famous.
[Featured Image: Annie via Flickr]