11 Seattle Firsts...A History of Innovations in the Emerald City

innovation museum seattle

Founded in 1869, Seattle has spent the last 150 years compiling an astounding list of inventions. Here we break down ten of the most impressive Seattle “firsts,” innovations large or small that have changed the world.

Evaporated milk (1899)

Local businessman Elbridge Stuart developed evaporated milk as a sanitary and longer-lasting alternative to fresh milk. His company, Carnation, is still a household name today.

Badminton shuttlecock (1934)

Eddie Bauer—the man behind the iconic Seattle retailer—patented the badminton shuttlecock in the 1930s.

Wireless telephone (1962)

Debuting at the Seattle World’s Fair, the world’s first wireless telephone appeared in the rotating restaurant atop the Space Needle.

Pickleball (1965)

First played on Bainbridge Island, pickleball combines tennis, badminton, and ping pong and has recently been recognized as one of the fastest growing sports in America.

Compact Discs (1965)

Naturally, the birthplace of Nirvana is also the birthplace of CDs. Bremerton-born James Russell gets credit for this invention in 1965

Jumbo Jets (1970)

Boeing gave us flight as we know it with its 747 jet, the world’s first wide-bodied plane. Able to hold upwards of 600 passengers, the 747 has become one of the world’s most iconic airplanes, notable for its protruding upper deck.

Starbucks (1971)

Say what you like about the Pumpkin Spice Latte or the Unicorn Frappuccino, but it’s hard to deny the cultural impact that Starbucks has had across the globe. Visit their flagship shop at Pike’s Place Market if you get a chance.

First Organic Chocolate Bar (2006)

Seattle’s Theo Chocolate made and sold the first organic chocolate bar in 2006. Visit and tour their factory in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Kindle (2007)

Seattle loves books almost as much as it loves tech. Hence the Kindle, Amazon’s immensely popular e-reader, developed here in 2007.

First $15 Minimum Wage (2014)

Seattle pioneered this landmark minimum wage law, encouraging a number of other large cities to follow suit.

First Living Building (2015)

The Central District’s Bullitt Center was the first living building built in the U.S. It’s a triumph of sustainability—producing 60 percent more energy than it uses via solar panels.