Inventions made in the 1840s

Updated July 19, 2017

The Greeks invented the first pin. That pin, however, had no clasp and wasn't particularly safe to use. (See Reference 1.) When Walter Hunt added the safety clasp in 1849, he took out a patent for the safety pin. Many inventions have evolved over time into their modern forms. According to, each invention may be just another step in the evolution toward the ultimate goal. (See Reference 1.) The inventions made in the 1840s were significant steps in the process of developing more powerful machines, improving mass communication, increasing production and improving the quality of life during the middle of the 19th century.

Steam-Powered Machines

In 1842, a Buffalo merchant named Joseph Dart invented the grain elevator. This steam-powered belt with attached buckets made it possible to lift grain from the lake boats arriving from the west and store it in bins until transferred to canal boats for shipment to urban centres in the east. Joseph Dart, however, never claimed he invented the system. He said he improved on a similar system that used pulleys instead of steam power created in the 1780s. (See Reference 2.) Other machines developed using steam power were the steam hammer invented by James Naismith in 1842 and the steam-powered pile driver in 1843. (See Reference 3.)


The newspaper industry grew as the result of two inventions in the 1840s. In 1844, Charles Fenerty of Nova Scotia and F.G. Keller of Germany invented pulp wood to make paper. And the development of the rotary press in 1846 made it possible to print more newspapers in less time. (See References 3 and 4.) In 1844, Samuel Morse invented the telegraph and Morse Code. (See Reference 4.)

Business and Industry

Textile production grew as the result of Elias Howe's invention of the sewing machine in 1846. James Francis created the Francis turbine in 1849. The Francis turbine was 90 per cent more efficient than the former water turbine. This invention increased the turbine's ability to harness energy created by flowing water before it exited the chamber. (See Reference 5.) The transportation industry benefited from the invention of Robert Thompson's pneumatic tire in 1845. (See Reference 4.) Defense and travel on the high seas improved when John Ericsson developed the screw-propelled frigate, the "USS Princeton," in 1840. William Aspdin created a hardened cement at his Portland company in 1845. (See Reference 4.) Food production increased with the introduction of Justus von Lubig's artificial fertiliser in 1840.

Quality of Life

Business administration improved with Charles Thurber's invention of the typewriter in 1843. Other office machines introduced during this time were the stapler in 1841 and Alexander Bain's fax machine in 1843. In 1846 Dr. William Morton, a dentist, was the first to use anaesthesia for tooth extractions. (See Reference 6.) In 1848 another dentist, Waldo Hanchett, patented the dental chair. (See Reference 6.) Hungarian Ignaz Semmelweis invented antiseptics in 1847. (See Reference 6.) Nancy Johnson set the foundation for what would become an American staple with the invention of the ice cream maker in 1843. The music world expanded after Aldolphe Sax introduced the saxophone in 1841. (See References 3 and 4.) The Civil War would eventually test these inventions and lead to further improvements by the end of the 19th century. (See Reference 4.)

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About the Author

Based in Florence, Oregon, Brenda Duffey has been editing and writing educational articles since 1967. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Duffey's cross-country trip lesson plan appears in "Powerful Teaching," published in 2003. Duffey holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work from the University of Louisville.