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.

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