About Utah: State gun just a start for Utah-born inventors

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 15 2010 1:25 a.m. MST

In just a few weeks, the Utah State Legislature, 2011 version, will debate a proposal by Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, that the Browning model 1911 handgun, invented right here in Utah exactly 100 years ago by John Moses Browning, be officially adopted as the state gun.

The M1911, acknowledged as the world's first and most popular automatic pistol, has been used in every war America has fought since 1911 and was the standard-issue firearm for the United States armed forces from 1911 to 1985. The gun's inventor, John Moses Browning, was born in Ogden and is arguably the most prolific and greatest firearms developer of all time.

Opinions are sure to vary about giving state status to something that has played a hand in more deaths than perhaps any weapon known to mankind.

But whether the state firearm passes muster or not, Rep. Wimmer has opened the door to all sorts of possibilities for notable inventions by Utahns.

Legislators might also consider:

State Appliance: Television, invented by Philo T. (as in T.V.) Farnsworth, Beaver.

Farnsworth was born in Indian Creek, a suburb of Beaver, in 1906. When he was a teenager, living in Rigby, Idaho, he got the brainstorm that ultimately led to the invention of "electronic TV" in 1927. He died fairly early, at age 64 in 1971, but not before he watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon — on live television.

State Videogame: Pong, invented by Nolan Bushnell, Clearfield.

As high tech as it got when he invented it in 1972, Pong was the first truly addictive videogame. It hooked a nation and made millions — in 1975 alone, Pong had sales of $40 million — for Bushnell, a former Lagoon employee when he was in high school. He started the Atari Corp., which sold to Warner Communications for $28 million. He also is the founder of Chuck-E-Cheese Pizza-Time Theaters, the chain of kid-friendly pizza-and-video arcades which, come to think of it, could qualify for designation as the State Cheapest Pizza But You're Still Broke When You Leave Restaurant.

State Toy: Frisbee, invented by Walter Frederick "Fred" Morrison, Richfield.

In 1937, when he was 17 years old, Fred Morrison was throwing around a popcorn can's lid with his future wife, Lu, when he had the brainstorm for what would become a worldwide sensation. He went through 20 years of tinkering with several prototypes and names — from Whirlo-Way to Flyin Saucer to Pluto Platter — before finally selling the rights to the Pluto Platter in 1957 to the Wham-O toy company, which renamed and misspelled it "Frisbee" after a pie company named Frisbie. The rest is wasted-time-in-the-park history.

State Ice-scraping Machine: Zamboni, invented by Frank Zamboni, Eureka.

Yep, the tractor everybody wants to drive, at least once, before they die was invented by a man born in 1901 in Eureka (pop. 766). Zamboni moved from Utah to Pocatello, Idaho, as a boy and then to Los Angeles as a young man, where he and his brother George opened an ice rink in 1940. Bothered by the ice's tendency to ripple, Frank devised a blading system to smooth the surface and slapped it on the bottom of a Jeep chassis. Seventy years later, virtually every ice rink that can afford one owns a Zamboni.

State Rodeo Implement: the hornless bronc saddle, invented by Earl Bascom, Vernal.

In 1922, Bascom, the son of a rancher, came up with a saddle for riding bucking broncos that is still in use today almost a century later. Bascom is also famous for being a world all-around rodeo champion, sculptor, artist (he was related to both Frederic S. Remington and Charles M. Russell) and rodeo clown.

And finally,

State Condiment: Fry Sauce, invented by Don Carlos Edwards, Logan.

Edwards was a restaurateur whose early eateries were the forerunner of the Utah-based hamburger chain, Arctic Circle. While messing around in the kitchen one day he combined mayonnaise, ketchup and other spices that remain a closely guarded company secret to produce the prototype for Utah's unique culinary contribution to world cuisine.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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