America is a country of inventors. The nation was built on inventors, and it’s innovation that continues to drive us forward.

Though it’s hard to narrow down the list, these are some of the most influential creations to come out of the US, and the incredible inventors behind them.


The washing machine
The tedious task of handwashing clothes used to take up hours of the American day, where you were required to go to a nearby stream and pound stains out with a rock or other object. The invention of the washing machine has made this basic cleaning task a no-brainer—patented in 1797 in New Hampshire by Nathaniel Briggs.

This first machine was dubbed the “Box Mangler,” and pulled garments through a large set of rollers pressed down by a heavy box. Though it was large and difficult to operate, it was a huge step toward the convenient machines we use to keep our clothes squeaky clean today.


The lightbulb
The creation of the lightbulb is almost myth-like, but is at the top of every list of important inventions because it has, quite literally, changed the course of human history. Famed inventor Thomas Edison debuted his project in 1879 after working on the prototype for years.

Since then, the lightbulb has made an immeasurable impact on everything from science and education to transportation, and thanks to Edison, the practicality of electric light is now commonplace all over the world.


The traffic light
Speaking of transportation, imagine the days of driving down the street with no markers to signify another approaching vehicle, or an intersection, or even a break in the road? The invention of the traffic light by Salt Lake City police officer Lester Wire, in 1912, changed the course of travel by car forever by making it significantly safer.

This first traffic light was much simpler than the lights we use today—with only a red signal and green signal—but a tri-color signal first debuted in Detroit courtesy of another police officer named William Potts.


The jukebox
Where would we be without music? American culture has been so influenced by music, especially the youth. The invention of the jukebox in 1926, courtesy of the Automatic Music Instrument Company, helped make listening to music at local restaurants and other establishments a beloved pastime, especially during the era of rock-and-roll.

Eventually models evolved to allow patrons to change the song from their seats, and an internal tally system gave restaurant owners the ability to keep track of the most (and least) popular records in the machine.


It might seem trivial, but thanks to Earl Tupper and his plastic container product, Americans and people all over the world have been able to safely store food and other items—even helping to prevent food from spoiling.

The sale of Tupperware® was helped thanks to the advent of Tupperware® “parties” in which women would invite friends into their homes to promote the use of the product—a style of marketing that has now become ubiquitous.