North Carolina is home to an abundance of talented and inventive people. What you may not know is that that many big-name brands and products originated right here in the Tar Heel state. Some of these names you may already know, but a few of these North Carolina inventions might surprise you.
North Carolina Inventions: Food Edition
1. Pepsi — New Bern, NC (1893)
Pharmacist Caleb Bradham created Pepsi-Cola in a drug store in New Bern in 1893. Bradham’s goal was to create a delicious soft drink that helped aid digestion and boost energy. The drink was so popular by 1902 that Bradham filed incorporation papers with the state of North Carolina and planned for expansion in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. Pepsi products are still widely popular today and Coca Cola remains its biggest rival.
2. Mt. Olive Pickles — Mount Olive, NC (1926)
Located on the corner of Cucumber and Vine in the town of Mount Olive sits Mt. Olive Pickle Co., home to one of our country’s best sellers in everything pickles, peppers and relishes. Lebanese immigrant Shirley Baddour founded the pickle company in 1926 after buying up surplus cucumbers and priming them. Approximately one-third of their cucumbers still come from NC farmers today. Don’t miss the annual “pickle drop” celebration every New Year’s Eve, an annual Mount Olive tradition.
3. Krispy Kreme — Winston-Salem, NC (1937)
Aahhh, those delicious, hot, melt-in-your-mouth donuts. Vernon Rudolph founded Krispy Kreme in 1937 when he sold his first dozen donuts for 25 cents. Today the company sells these donuts to customers across the United States and around the world. To honor of these delicious treats, you can join in the run each February in Raleigh when thousands of people compete in the Krispy Kreme Challenge. The goal is to eat 12 donuts while running five miles in one hour. This fun event also raises money for the local children’s hospital.
4. Cheerwine — Salisbury, NC (1917)
LD Peeler created Cheerwine in the basement of L.D. Peeler’s grocery store in Salisbury, during a sugar shortage in World War I. Also known as “nectar of the Tarheels,” the drink was made to be soda with less sugar, by way of wild cherry flavoring. This drink remains wildly popular today among North Carolinians and people across the country. Be sure to attend the annual Cheerwine Festival in downtown Salisbury each May. This festival has everything to make you smile – Carolina pulled pork covered in Cheerwine barbecue sauce, live music, a beer garden, commemorative merchandise, and, of course, cold Cheerwine.
5. Bojangles — Charlotte, NC (1977)
How could we leave out our favorite Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits?! A former KFC executive and a Hardee’s franchise owner opened Bojangles in 1977. The first restaurant was a quick, walk-in only fried chicken restaurant. Bojangles also became known for their delicious biscuits. They are a sponsor of the Carolina Panther’s football franchise and essential to the tailgating experience. If you’ve ever attended a UNC basketball game, you may hear people yelling for “biscuits.” If the Tarheels hit a 100+ point game, participating restaurants will sell two sausage biscuits the next day for just $1. Bojangles is no doubt an NC staple.
6. Texas Pete — Winston-Salem, NC (1929)
Contrary to what you may think, Texas Pete was actually created right here in North Carolina and not Texas. Three brothers, Thad, Ralph and Harold Garner, started this spicy hot sauce company in Winston-Salem in the 1940s. Their parents originally developed the recipe by making the sauce in pots on the stove in their family home. Today, Texas Pete is the third best-selling hot sauce in the nation. Be sure to check out the Texas Pete Spirits of Summer festival in June in downtown Winston-Salem, which features food and live music, along with regional beers, wines and spirits.
7. Lance Crackers — Charlotte, NC (1913)
The first peanut butter cracker came from Phillip Lance, a coffee salesman in Charlotte in 1913. Lance had purchased 500 pounds of Virginia peanuts for a customer who decided they didn’t need them after all. Lance decided to keep, roast and sell them instead. His wife and daughter spread this delicious peanut butter between two crackers, and the peanut butter sandwich was born. Lance company merged with Snyder’s of Hanover in 2010. Today these crackers can be found everywhere, in vending machines and stores worldwide.
8. Bright Leaf Hot Dogs – Smithfield, NC (1940)
Bright Leaf Hot Dogs have a distinct bright red color which comes from artificial coloring, but they aren’t packed full of preservatives like their competitors. They have a shorter shelf life, which doesn’t seem to be a problem since they have been incredibly popular for years, particularly in eastern NC and Virginia. Carolina Packers, a small Smithfield-based company, has 100 employees making hot dogs, bologna, red hots, smoked sausage, country sausages, and chili.
North Carolina Inventions: Household Products
9. Vicks VapoRub — Selma, NC (1890)
Lunsford Richardson invented Vicks VapoRub in Selma, NC, in 1890. Richardson began working with a mysterious ingredient from Japan called menthol and eventually came up with 21 “Vicks family remedies.” Vicks is still commonly used today as a household remedy.
10. BC Headache Powder — Durham, NC (1906)
There is statewide debate over who invented the best headache powder, but nevertheless is a popular invention that originated in the state. BC Headache Powder was invented in 1906 in Durham by pharmacist Germain Bernard and Commodore Council. Thomas Stanback also wanted in on the powder-pain relief, inventing Stanback Headache Powder in Salisbury in 1911. Pharmacist Martin “Goody” Goodman created Goody’s in Winston-Salem in 1932. Though BC was the first, there are several to choose from — all were developed right here in NC.
North Carolina Inventions: Activities and Tech
11. Putt Putt Miniature Golf — Fayetteville, NC (1954)
Putt Putt golf started in Fayetteville in 1954 and only cost 25 cents per round to play! Founded by Don Clayton, it was the world’s first and only copyrighted and branded miniature golf game. Putt Putt franchises quickly spread across the world and are known today as a complete family entertainment center. Many locations also now include go-karts, bumper boats, indoor bumper cars, batting cages, laser tag, modern arcades, and snack bars for your enjoyment.
12. Universal Product Code or “Barcodes” – Research Triangle Park, NC (1969)
That barcode that we use so frequently today was actually developed in our own Research Triangle Park. IBM tasked George Laurer with making a universal supermarket scanner and label, and his idea is now used by people around the globe. The idea did not actually come to fruition until 1972 when IBM had Laurer present his proposal for a scanner to the Super Market Committee in Rochester, NY. History changed forever when they accepted the proposal, and the barcode was born.
13. Ctrl+Alt+Del — Research Triangle Park, NC (1981)
Also in the Research Triangle Park, IBMer David Bradley came up with this seemingly small but crucial function that has been saving us all from computer-based disasters for quite some time. Bradley didn’t initially expect that it would be a tool used by people around the world. He didn’t realize at the time that he was actually developing a cultural icon.
NC is a state rich in history, and and we continue to be an innovative leader today. Be sure to check out these annual festivals, and try and appreciate these NC brands if you haven’t already!