Modern America was founded by immigrants. True, the rich culture of Native American tribes thrived across the land when Europeans began settling on the future country's shores. But the formation of the United States as citizens know it was just one of the many things started by immigrants - the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence had been born on British soil, albeit in the New World.
Over the centuries, the country welcomed in immigrants. In return, these newcomers brought new innovations that it seems impossible to imagine life without. Could you go a day without Colgate toothpaste? And what would an American cookout be without hamburgers and Heinz ketchup?
Inventions by immigrants have had an immeasurable impact on American culture. From the Brooklyn Bridge to beer, these things invented by immigrants are contributions worth celebrating.
The origins of the hamburger, as well as who was the first to "invent" it in the United States, are still up for debate. There are a number of different restaurants - and even cities - that claim to be the first. People agree that the name derives from the city of Hamburg, Germany, and hamburgers arrived in America via German immigrants. From there, things get murky.
Although there are some questions about its originality, the Hamburg steak supposedly first appeared on the menu of a New York City restaurant, Delmonico's, in the early 1800s. The Menches Brothers of Northeastern Ohio claim to have served the Hamburg steak on a bun during the 1885 Erie County Fair. Louis' Lunch, a diner in New Haven, CT, says it was the first restaurant in the United States to serve hamburgers in 1900.
Heinz ketchup is a summer barbecue staple, adding zip to hamburgers and hotdogs. The "Heinz" part of the name derives from the condiment's founder, Henry J. Heinz, who was born shortly after his parents arrived in the United States from their home country of Germany.
After the Civil War, Heinz began bottling and selling horseradish in clear glass containers, the better to display the product's quality. After a few financial setbacks, the company took off, and soon offered "57 varieties" of bottled foods to aid housewives with the cooking. In 1876, Heinz debuted his tomato ketchup - and the rest is history.
Blue jeans likely wouldn't exist today if it weren't for Levi's. The Levi Strauss company was started by a German immigrant in the 19th century. Loeb Strauss came from Bavaria to the United States in 1847. Once he arrived, Levi Strauss - as he was now known - joined the New York City-based dry goods business run by fellow family members.
In 1853, Strauss headed to San Francisco to capitalize on the financial boom of the Gold Rush, and started a wholesale company. One of his customers, a tailor named Jacob Davis, had an idea to produce sturdy denim work pants reinforced with rivets and featuring extra-durable pockets and seams. Davis and Strauss patented their jeans in 1873, and a wardrobe staple was born.
There are thousands of enclosed shopping malls in the modern United States. But this seemingly all-American concept was actually created in the 1950s by an architect named Victor Gruen - born Viktor Grünbaum - an immigrant from Austria. Gruen arrived in American in 1938, just prior to World War II. He had fled Austria when Hitler's Germany annexed it.
Gruen started out designing upscale stores, and then created Southdale Center in Edina, MN. He envisioned the space as "[providing] the needed place and opportunity for participation in modern community life that the ancient Greek Agora, the Medieval Market Place and our own Town Squares provided in the past." The mall originally consisted of 800,000 square feet of space, and even sported a parking lot. Its timing coincided with post-war suburban growth and the rise of car culture. The idea was a hit, and similar enclosed malls began going up all over the country.
Gruen had a complicated relationship with his thriving invention. Shortly before his death in 1978, he reflected, "I am often called the father of the shopping mall. I would like to take this opportunity to disclaim paternity once and for all. I refuse to pay alimony to those bastard developments. They destroyed our cities."