Classic Chicago

Born in 1893

The Chicago Athletic Association opened in 1893. What products debuted that year that are still around today?

The Chicago Athletic Association opened in 1893, the same year the iconic World’s Fair came to Chicago, bringing in 26 million visitors to view the grandiose White City. Most people know that the Ferris Wheel had its coming out at the fair, but so many other inventions and products — many still in circulation today — also debuted that year. What do you recognize?

Juicy Fruit Gum: William Wrigley, Jr., who was a founding member of The Chicago Athletic Association, introduced his hugely popular new gum, Juicy Fruit, at the World’s Fair and chewing gum — and the underside of public tables — has never been the same.

Cracker Jack: In what some consider the first junk food, Cracker Jack, comprising popcorn, molasses and peanuts, allegedly first appeared at the World’s Fair although there’s no evidence that its creator, Frederick William Rueckheim, had a booth at the fair. The first real evidence of its trademarked name came in 1896 and its legacy was solidified at ballparks around the country. Whether its World Fair roots were a myth to boost sales or the tasty snack truly appeared there remains to be seen.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer: Yes – PBR baby! The iconic cheap beer that made its way back into the zeigeist in the last decade actually first hit the market at the World’s Fair. PBR was first named Best Select, but the Pabst Brewing Company changed it after their beer won the blue ribbon at the fair.

Spray Paint: Would graffiti and tagging be anything today had people at the fair not needed a way to quickly paint a building? While aerosol wasn’t invented at the fair, the concept of a quick spray was, so there you have it.

The Dishwasher: Following years of tinkering, inventor Josephine Cochran finally perfected her hand-crank dishwasher. It was reported that Cochran didn’t invent the machine to ease her workload, or even that of her servants (she was reportedly very wealthy). She was tired of the workers chipping her fine china!

Aunt Jemima Pancakes: The self-rising pancake flour, named for Vaudeville song “Old Aunt Jemima,” made its worldwide debut by the R.T. Davis Milling Company, which hired a former slave to play the titular character and be the company’s spokeswoman. The product was a hit and so was spokeswoman Nancy Green. Chicago’s Quaker Oats bought the brand about 25 years later.

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