We Started It

These Baltimore-born inventions are still thriving today.

Emily Whitney - December 2019

We Started It

These Baltimore-born inventions are still thriving today.

Emily Whitney - December 2019


It's no secret that Baltimore is to thank for many of the inventions that have influenced the modern world. Here, we round up four of the coolest creations that the city takes credit for—and some of the local businesses keeping the tradition alive today.


In 1884, German-born inventor and Baltimorean Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the linotype, a machine that quickly set complete lines of type and revolutionized printing forever. In the first decade of its use, American news- paper readership shot from 3.6 million to more than 33 million.

Though we’re well past the days of the linotype, Maryland’s oldest continuously operating small press (since 1970) embraces modern technology to print batches of poetry, fiction, drama, and artistic nonfiction from a wide range of voices.

In 1978, W. Paul Coates started a press company in his basement, and it remains as one of the oldest independently owned black publishers in the United States. The legacy printer publishes and reissues works from African-American thinkers such as Walter Mosley and W.E.B. Du Bois.


Baltimore became the birthplace of the American bicycle in 1818, when a local piano maker named James Stewart created his own take on the European velocipede. Bicycles, which originally had pedals on the front wheel, have evolved from the velocipede to the high-wheel bikes of the 19th century to the modern version seen on city streets today.

This dedicated worker-owned bicycle shop in Station North offers attentive customer service, repairs, and a selection of reliable bikes and parts, hop- ing to bring the joy of biking back to its birthplace.

Joe Traill, owner of Joe’s Bike Shop, fell in love with bikes at a young age and worked as both a bike messenger and a repairman before becoming the owner of one of Baltimore’s favorite bike repair shops.


In the early 19th century, Baltimore earned national recognition for the inven- tion and distillation of this tasty liquor. The rye whiskey industry boomed until Prohibition brought production to a halt, but, luckily for local rye lovers, it has enjoyed a full-blown renaissance in the Old Line State thanks to area distilleries.

In 2017, Sagamore Spirit, co-founded by Under Armour mogul Kevin Plank, helped resurrect Maryland’s rye whiskey industry with its signature sipper proofed with limestone water from an area horse farm. The distillery’s headquarters in Port Covington hosts tours, workshops, and events dedicated to teaching visitors about the local history of the spirit as well as the practice of whiskey production.

Housed in Medfield’s Union Collective and founded by three Baltimore natives in 2015, the Baltimore Spirits Company uses modern distillation techniques to create their own version of the old-world spirit. While the popular spot also distills liquors such as gin and brandy, the Epoch Rye has remained its calling card.


In 1851, Baltimore milk dealer Jacob Fussell took over a dairy business that sold a frozen blend of milk, eggs, and sugar, and not long after, he opened the nation’s first ice cream factory. Fussell’s mass production of the sweet treat made making ice cream affordable and turned it into the phenomenon the world knows and loves.

Since the Charmery opened its flagship store in Hampden in 2013, this beloved creamery has expanded to two addition- al locations and has its own factory in Union Collective. Known for out-of-the box flavors such as Old Bay Caramel and Cheese and Crackers, this fan-favorite brand is definitely keeping Baltimore’s ice cream legacy alive.

This socially conscious ice cream business uses its delicious flavors, now served out of Broadway Market, as well as tons of local restaurants and grocery stores, as a vehicle to bring people together to discuss social change in the city and beyond.

You May Also Like

The Chatter

Northwood Commons Renovation Marks New Era for Northeast Baltimore Community

Despite checkered history, developers hope for promising future at Morgan State-adjacent property.

The Chatter

Five Ways To Give Back This Holiday Week

Spread cheer with community parties, food drives, and bake sales.

The Chatter

Cardinal Shehan Choir Heads Back to ‘The View’ on MLK Day

This time, the group will be joined by Krieger Schechter and sing with Billy Porter.

The Chatter

How to Celebrate MLK Day in Baltimore

Honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy with kids' programs, yoga, arts, and more.

The Chatter

New Maryland Zoo Post is Personal for Kirby Fowler

Though not an animal expert, Fowler hopes his knowledge of the city will carry over.

Ravens Watch

Five of Our Favorite Items at the Ravens Pop-Up Shop

The Shops at Canton Crossing store offers exclusive Ravens merch until December 28.


Connect With Us

Most Read

What to Know About the Maryland Cycling Classic Coming September 2020: For starters, Baltimore's pro cycling event will be more than 100 miles long.

Religious Leaders React to Proposed Increase in Funding to Prevent Hate Crimes: Van Hollen, Sarbanes, and Cardin want to quadruple aid protecting local religious groups.

Will Judge Make an Example Out of Catherine Pugh?: With the former mayor’s sentencing scheduled for February, both sides get to work on their case.

Maryland Politicians React to Trump Impeachment: Local leaders reflect and look ahead at Senate trial.

Caleeb Pinkett Screens 'Charm City Kings' at Sundance Film Festival: Producer talks source material, filming in Baltimore, and his famous family.