Victorian Era Inventions

Updated April 17, 2017

In 1851, Britain's Crystal Palace exhibit in London showcased the latest scientific and technological discoveries from around the world. More than six million visitors viewed the fair's more than 13,000 inventions. The Victorian Era, which lasted from 1837 to 1901, is considered the height of the Industrial Revolution, with many of its inventions still in use today.


American Samuel Morse invented his dot-and-dash Morse code in 1837, seven years before he sent the first telegraph message. The first photographs were taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre in France and William Henry Fox-Talbot in Britain, using light-sensitive photographic paper produced in 1839. Both the paddle steamship and pedal bicycles were also invented in this year. The so-called penny-farthing bicycle had huge front wheels and no brakes.


Sir Rowland Hill introduced a prepaid penny postage stamp for letters in Britain in 1840. In 1842, ether was first used in a minor medical operation. In 1843 the first Christmas card was designed. The first telegraph message was sent in 1844. Rubber tires were invented 1845 as was a road covered with tarmac in lieu of cobblestones. In 1846, the sewing machine was invented by Elias Howe. 1849 saw the introduction of concrete and the first piloted glider. During this decade, steam railways began connecting all parts of continental land masses in Europe and North America.


Isaac Singer produced the first home sewing machine in 1850, and mailboxes were invented the same year. In 1852, the first water-flushing toilet was introduced. In 1854, Henry Bessemer discovered how to convert iron into steel. In 1855 the safety match was introduced. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1858. Gasoline engines appeared in 1859, the same year petroleum was discovered at Drake's oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.


George Train began horse-drawn tram operations in Britain, first in Birkenhead in 1860 and later in London in 1861. An underground steam railway, the first urban subway system, opened in London in 1863. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1867.


In 1872 the first "modern" bicycle with brakes and equal-sized front and rear wheels was invented. The first practical typewriter came into existence in 1873. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and Thomas Edison made the first phonographic recording of the human voice in 1877. In 1878 electric street lighting appeared in London and the microphone was invented. A cleaner, less noisy electric train was invented in 1879.


In 1884 the first skyscraper, the Home Insurance building, was built in Chicago, and in 1885 Karl Benz built the first motor car to use an internal combustion engine. In 1887, gramophones first brought music to listeners. In 1888 Hertz described the properties of radio waves, giving his name to their measurement. The same year George Eastman invented the Kodak box camera.


Comic Cuts, the first comic book ever published, was printed in 1890. The first hydroelectric power station began operations in 1891. The cinematograph allowed the first movies to be shown in 1895, the year that also saw the discovery of radio waves and X-rays. Aspirin was invented in 1899.

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About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Barton has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written two nonfiction books, worked as the product manager for a publishing company, an editor for two newspapers and was the content manager for various Microsoft websites. Barton has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Texas at El Paso.