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Virginia Is for Inventors

Virginia Is for Inventors

Microphone and mixing console.

From peanuts to hams and historic homes to amusement parks, we’ve got a lot to love in Virginia! While these favorites weren’t invented here, we Virginians do have many inventions about which to brag. How many of these bright ideas did you know we can claim?


Lips around the world thank Dr. Charles Browne Fleet for inventing the lip balm known as Chapstick. Back in the 1880s, he created this well-loved moisturizer in Lynchburg. John Morton, in 1912, repackaged it into its current user-friendly form, so he deserves some kudos, too!

The Microphone

Shout it loud and proud! James West of Prince Edward created foil-electret transducers for sound recording and voice communication. What’s that mean? Well, about 90 percent of microphones, and most of our smartphones today, use this technology. Thank you, Mr. West, for allowing the use of talk-to-text technology. Now if I could only get it to actually understand what I am saying …

Fleet Enemas

Now there’s something to brag about! What a “relief” that Chapstick wasn’t enough of an invention for the good doctor. Dr. Charles Browne Fleet expanded his research to create the laxative and over-the-counter enemas, too. His company, CB Fleet Company, is still in Lynchburg today.

Tree Bark Camouflage

Jim Crumley, an avid hunter, just never could get himself to blend in well enough with the trees. For this reason, he invented the now-popular TreeBark pattern and earned himself the title of “Father of Camouflage.” I’d like to congratulate him on his success sometime, but I hear no one ever can see him …

Smithfield Ham

Bad jokes aside on this one. We’re serious about our ham. While Virginians didn’t invent the ham, we can boast about the famous country ham curing process developed in Smithfield in the 1700s. This Native American-based process is a local treasure and can only be done within the city limits. It’s the law. (Told you we are serious about our ham.)

The Swivel Chair

There’s so much to boast about when it comes to Thomas Jefferson, and, for anyone who’s never been able to sit still in a regular chair, here’s a fun tidbit: He tweaked his wingback chair to allow it to swivel and provide easy motion and access to multiple desks. Thanks, TJ. You invented the full-body fidget spinner for us years ago AND made us more efficient while seated.

The Electric Streetcar

In 1888 in Richmond, Union Passenger Railway invented the first streetcar that was more efficient than animal-pulled trolleys. Big engineering deal! They modernized the streets of Richmond giving quality transportation to those without cars.

Free School

This one impresses me. Benjamin Syms opened the first free school in 1634 — the Syms-Eaton Free School for students in Hampton, Elizabeth City and Poquoson. He donated 200 acres and 8 cows to make it happen.

It’s clear that Virginians have made impressive contributions to society over the years. We even contributed four of the first five presidents of the United States. Now that’s something to brag about! Keep following my blog for more Virginia history fun, exciting things to do in the area this summer and, of course, realty tips and tricks of the trade. And if you’re in the market to buy or sell a home, let’s chat! The market is hot in Northern Virginia, making it a great time to relocate.

Chris Colgan is the CEO and Team Leader of the Chris Colgan Real Estate Team. Chris was born and raised in Gainesville, Virginia and has been in real estate for 10 years. He is a member of the Re/Max Hall of Fame and is in the top 25 for sales in the state of Virginia out of all Re/Max agents. He has been recognized as one of the United States’ and Canada’s Top 500 Marketing Experts by the National Association of Expert Advisors.

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