Nine Everyday American Essentials Older Than the Kentucky Derby

Pop Culture
A captivated crowd at Churchill Downs watches the action on Kentucky Derby day. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

The Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is the longest continuously held sporting event in America, with this year marking its 148th installment. Often referred to as the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the iconic race first occurred May 17, 1875, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and has been run there every year since.

As we anticipate this year's run for the roses on Saturday, May 7, we set out to find other American mainstays that are older than the Kentucky Derby.

Get ready to commit more random factoids to memory, and buckle up for nine inventions that predate the first running of the Kentucky Derby that we still love today.

Jeans

Jeans

There is not a single wardrobe staple quite as iconic as jeans. Whether you’re currently rocking mom jeans, ripped jeans, starched & ironed jeans, or anything in between, the origin story stems from the same place. In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis co-invented and co-patented the idea of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants after one of Davis' customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants. This subsequently revolutionized the apparel industry, and we can’t help but wonder how many of the 10,000 inaugural Kentucky Derby spectators were rockin’ the brand-new Levi’s style.
Toilet paper

Toilet paper

Potentially the single hottest commodity of 2020 during the pandemic, the idea of commercially produced toilet paper was born in 1857. Joseph Gayetty, an entrepreneur in New York City, invented and sold aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp that dispensed from Kleenex-like boxes. Unfortunately, people did not flock to it at the time, preferring to carry on using pages from Sears Roebuck catalogs that came in the mail for free. Five stars for creative recycling, one star for comfiness.
Mason jar

Mason jar

This modern-day household staple was first discovered by John Landis Mason and patented on Nov. 30, 1858 – a date embossed on millions of jars for food preservation and pickling. While these jars are still famous for their traditional uses, they’re also the perfect glass to drink an iced latte, aesthetic cocktail, or our next invention on the list out of …
Pink lemonade

Pink lemonade

Essentially just lemonade with added pink color, the earliest known reference to pink lemonade came in 1857 when someone used water dyed pink from a horseback rider's red tights to make a batch of lemonade. After that, people *thankfully* switched over to additives like grenadine, cherry juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and strawberry juice to add that delectable pink color without the unsavory taste of old riding pant water.
Cowboy hat

Cowboy hat

Invented in 1865 by John Batterson Stetson during a hunting trip, Stetson used fur collected during the trip, his bare hands, and boiling water to make a piece of felt. With utility in mind, he shaped the headwear with a large brim to better protect from rain, wind, and snow. While functionality that remains the primary use for some folks, cowboy fashion has gone mainstream in recent years. Arguably the anthem of 2019 after spending 17 weeks at #1, the song “Old Town Road” references a “cowboy hat from Gucci,” which we all sang or swayed along to at one point as it played in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby broadcast that year.
Jelly beans

Jelly beans

While the origin of this invention is contested by some, it is widely believed that jelly beans first surfaced in 1861 when Boston confectioner and inventor William Schrafft urged people to send his jelly beans to soldiers during the American Civil War. 161 years later, these sweet little treats are the cash cow for dentists everywhere after the Easter holiday.
Spork

Spork

Potentially one of the most polarizing inventions on this list, the spork was invented in 1874 by Samuel W. Francis. You either love these handy little tools, or they frustrate you beyond oblivion.
Ice cream soda

Ice cream soda

Not just limited to root beer floats, variations of the ice cream soda are as countless as the varieties of soda and flavors of ice cream. In 1874, the ice cream soda was invented by Robert M. Green of Philadelphia. Green's invention paved the way for the soda fountain industry to flourish and for many new novelties such as ice cream sundaes to be created. Now THAT is a sweet invention.
Potato chips

Potato chips

Last, but in my book, certainly not least, we have the potato chip. Invented by chef George Crum at Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1853, Crum was beyond fed up with a customer who continued to send his fried potatoes back complaining that they were too thick and soggy. Out of frustration & trying to prove a point to his customer, Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they could not be eaten with a fork. But much to his surprise, the guest was ecstatic about the new chips and they soon became a regular item on the lodge's menu, known as “Saratoga chips.”

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!