One of the special programs currently hosted by the American Volkssport Association is Walking the Path of Inventions, which will run through the end of 2018. Walkers purchase a special book and complete 20 walks that go by well known inventors or researchers homes, grave sites, labs, workplaces, or museums; walks with well known inventors or researchers named streets, parks, statues and buildings as part of the route;  or walks going by Universities and Colleges with published research or notable work on inventions that have taken or presently are taking place.

We’ve uncovered at least two places that qualify:

EVERYONE will be walking through Alamo Plaza. Look for the plaque commemorating the Barbed Wire Demonstration at 204 Alamo Plaza, on the Menger Hotel wall. Barbed wire was a French invention, first patented in the U.S. in 1867. Joseph Glidden received a patent for his barbed wire in 1874, and it was wire of his manufacture that was first successfully demonstrated in Texas. In 1876, the first demonstration of “the Glidden winner” was held in Alamo Plaza, which led Texas ranchers to purchase large amounts of the new fencing.

The story goes that salesman John Gates had developed the idea of a barbed wire demonstration in response to a skeptical rancher who had claimed “that “Ol’ Jim,” a neighbor’s bull, “could go through anything”” and that he “reckoned that “the bull would not stop for barbed wire.” Gates attempted to prove him wrong publicly and shouted:

“I’ve worked something out. I think I’ve got it. We’ll sell more barbed wire than you can shake a stick at. We’ll do like Doc Lighthall. We’ll give ’em a show, right out in front. Get the wildest damn cattle in Texas–corral ’em here with barbed wire and then let ’em try to get out. That’ll show ’em. Ain’t a cowhand livin’ won’t go for that”.

And “Bet-a-Million” Gates apparently kept his word, building a corral in downtown San Antonio and holding a demonstration that held in the wildest Longhorns. Barbed wire changed the landscape of the American West and the industries of ranching and agriculture. Within 25 years, nearly all the open range had become privately owned and was fenced with barbed wire.

The second invention will only be seen by those who select the 23km walk on Sunday, passing through Trinity University. Oilman Tom Slick, then a trustee of Trinity, donated the use of his patent and hydraulic Jacks to enable Trinity’s early buildings to be erected by the innovative Youtz-Slick “lift-slab” method. Floor slabs weighing as much as 165 tons  were poured one on top of the other on the ground, jacked to appropriate floor heights after curing, and welded into place on steel columns. The first building ever constructed using this invention was Northrup Hall, in 1952.


We wouldn’t want to give you the idea that this is the total sum of San Antonio inventions and inventors.  Many inventions, especially in aerospace and biotech, were made here: at Brooks Air Force base, Southwest Research Institute, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, The Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Don’t believe the hype coming out of California’s Silicon Valley.  The Datapoint 2200, produced by San Antonio-based Computer Terminal Corporation (CTC), is credited as the first personal desktop computer. The historic invention was unveiled in 1970 with General Mills purchasing the first devices. Datapoint also invented 8008 Microprocessor; they sold the intellectual property rights to Intel for peanuts, considered one of the worst business decisions in modern history. Datapoint Corp. also developed the first commercial local area network (or LAN) and the first video conferencing technology, in the 70’s. Datapoint Alum was awarded the patent for the first camera cell phone.

What else? The first typing correction fluid was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, She invented Liquid Paper in her kitchen to hide the mistakes she made as a typist in a San Antonio bank. William Mallow, a polymer chemist at the Southwest Research Institute, invented clumping kitty litter. Dr. William C. Davis, professor of chemistry and chair of the natural science department at St. Philip’s College, is perhaps best known as the “inventor” of instant mashed potatoes. His doctoral research into potatoes led him to discover a chemical process that improved its consistency and texture. His work also lead to improvements in potato chips and soft serve ice cream. He also co-created the formula that gives Dasani water an appealing taste.

In the mid-1980’s, Julio Palmaz, a doctor of vascular radiology at University of Texas Health Science Center, received a patent for the balloon expandable stent, which issued to unclog blocked vascular vessels during coronary surgery. Dr. Raymond Damadian, is the inventor of the first magnetic resonance scanning machine. He received the MRI patent in 1974 and made his first cancer diagnosis on a patient using the machine in 1977. Some of his early research into potassium ions in living cells — research that led to his MRI invention — was conducted in San Antonio when he was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base. He served as a medical specialist in the School of Aerospace Medicine-Physiological Chemistry Section during the Vietnam War.


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