You can thank Colorado ingenuity for some of life's greatest things, including Jolly Ranchers.  

We all think we are geniuses, but there are a few people in Colorado who have proved it through amazing inventions. From candy to toys, some of our residents created happy smiles (and several frowns in a couple inventions' cases) for people all around the world. Check out a few of the things that Colorado residents have brought into being, starting with all things tasty.


Denver's very own Louis Ballast of the former Humpty Dumpty Drive-in is thought to be the father of the cheeseburger. In 1935, Mr. Ballast dreamed up the marriage of cheese to hamburgers, and the rest is history. There is even a stone marker where the Humpty Dumpty Drive-in used to be located, erected in 1987, that claims that the cheeseburger trademark was registered to Ballast on March 5, 1935. There is some controversy that the cheeseburger was created by an eatery in Kentucky in 1934, but all evidence of that claim disappeared when the restaurant did, so we're claiming it for our own. Thank you, Louis Ballast, for creating so many happy food memories! 

Jolly Ranchers

Yes, those wrapped, hard nuggets of sugar heaven were invented here in the Centennial State. Golden resident Bill Harmsen invented them in 1949 and founded the Jolly Rancher Company. In fact, the company remained open in Wheatridge, cranking out the favorite sweet, in 2002. Without blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers, I would never have made so many awkward, blue-tongued first impressions on so many people. And for that, I salute you, Mr. Harmsen!

Jolly ranchers

Root Beer Float

All hail Frank J. Wisner for creating one of our favorite summer treats! Wisener, the owner of Cripple Creek Brewing, added ice cream to root beer back in August of 1893 and made a favorite taste sensation. Originally called a Black Cow, the story goes that Wisener noticed the snow-covered on Cow Mountain and it reminded him of ice cream floating in soda. Can't get much more Colorado than that.

Not all of our state's inventors had food on their mind. Some invented a few things that may or may not have affected your life in some interesting ways. 

Outdoor Christmas Lights

No doubt that Colorado loves its lights. From Botanic Garden light displays to Griswald-esque displays on homes, we've got the light stuff when it comes to outdoor illumination. It is claimed that in 1914, a man named D.D. Sturgeon (founder of Sturgeon Electric) wanted to bring a touch of Christmas to his sick son who could not get out of bed to see the indoor Christmas lights. He dipped lights in red and green paint and strung them on a tree so his son could see them from his bedroom window. Like today, people started coming from all over to see the lights, more displays began to pop up, and the rest, as they say, is history

1920 Denver Christmas Lights

From Sturgeon's strand of lights to the 1919 lighting of the Civic Center, we've had the light game on lock for years. Denver in 1920, courtesy of

Modern Tampons

Dr. Earle Haas invented Tampax tampons, the first commercial applicator tampon (though the history of these products suggest they've been around for quite a while). He obtained the patent in 1933 and Tampax hit the shelves in the mid-1930s. And that is really all that needs to be said about that. 

Teddy Bears

These cute and oh-so-cuddly toys have a pretty presidential origin story. Legend has it that the furry friend was dreamed up by the maids at Glenwood Springs' Hotel Colorado. Special guest Theodore Roosevelt was staying in the hotel while on a bear hunting trip in the area. After a disappointing day seeking but finding a bear, he returned to the hotel to see that the maids had sewn a toy bear from scraps to cheer him up. There is some rumor that the original teddy bear was created for the president by a Brooklyn toymaker in 1902 after a fateful bear hunt made national headlines. But, Colorado's version is much better, so that's our story, and we're sticking to it. 

Wheel Clamp (Denver Boot)

If you've had any experience with this invention, you can thank concert violinist Frank Marugg. In 1944, he invented this devious device as a favor to friends in law enforcement. This member of the Denver Symphony Orchestra changed parking enforcement forever thanks to his patternmaking ways (he made his own violins, too). His first customer for the boot was the Denver Police Department. This is arguably one of the most infamous inventions to come out of our state. 

The Denver Boot

Of course, this is just a brief list of some of Colorado's inventors and their inventions. Other, more recent, inventions include Crocs and Otterbox, but those fit more in an Our Coloradans Now category!

Do you know of any past inventors/inventions that we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments.