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Long-time entrepreneurial spirit in Oklahoma

Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

The pioneer spirit that settled Oklahoma also has led to a number of inventions – the obvious-how-do-I-solve-this-problem kinds that now are part of our everyday lives all over the country.
Here are just a few familiar inventions that were born in Oklahoma:

The shopping cart, created in 1936 by Sylvan Goldman, an Ardmore native and owner of the Humpty Dumpty Supermarket chain in Oklahoma City. His customers couldn’t fit all the items they needed into handheld shopping baskets, so he put a large basket on top of a frame that looked like a folding chair on wheels, and the “Folding Basket Carrier Co.” was born. He also is credited with inventing baggage carts – carts or trolleys that carry luggage in hotels and airports. Genius.

The parking meter.  The world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935, an invention visualized by OKC resident Carl C. Magee in 1932 when he realized that downtown Oklahoma City workers were monopolizing the city’s downtown parking by leaving their cars in the same spot all day. Around that time Magee was the chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s Traffic Committee. He later worked with Oklahoma State University’s Gerald A. Hale and Professor H.G. Thuesen on the design. Now you know who to blame those pesky parking tickets on (other than yourself).

The electric steel guitar. Braggs, Okla., native Robert Lee Dunn invented the electric steel guitar and was the first person to play it in 1934, with the swing band Milton Brown’s Musical Brownies in Fort Worth, Texas. What a rock star.

The machine that put twist ties on bread bags. Charles E. Burford adapted the hay-bale-wire-tying technology his dad, Earl Burford, had developed and used it for packaging and sealing bread in bags. In 1961, he founded the Burford Co. in Maysville to manufacture the machines that automated this process. He also invented other things that led to his induction into the American Society of Baking Hall of Fame. Handy.

Pressurized flight suit. Notable pilot Wiley Post’s record-breaking flights around the world in the 1930s needed some help as he experimented with high-altitude flying. His plane, the Winnie Mae, was not pressurized, so he designed a pressure suit with help from the B.F. Goodrich Co. These experimental flights, which included one trip around the world in seven days, 18 hours and 49 minutes in 1933, proved the value of using the east-to-west jet stream for flying. And later, Post’s pressure suit inspired the pressure suits used by test pilots and astronauts in the 1950s and 1960s. Out of this world.

Yield sign. Tulsa resident and police officer Clinton Riggs was behind the world’s first yield sign, posted at the corner of First Street and Columbia Avenue in Tulsa in 1950. The intersection was considered one of the most dangerous in Tulsa, and accident rates dropped dramatically within a year of Riggs installing his yellow, keystone-shaped yield sign there. This deserves a safety dance.

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