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Top 10 Things America Stole from Britain

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Written by Sean Harris From pastries to patriotic singalongs. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 things America stole from Britain! For this list, we’re counting down famous facets of American culture which actually originated in Britain. While stand-out British inventions are subject for another list, today’s countdown tackles typically American things, which the US has the UK to thank for. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Things America Stole from Britain


From pastries to patriotic singalongs. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 things America stole from Britain!

For this list, we’re counting down famous facets of American culture which actually originated in Britain. While stand-out British inventions are subject for another list, today’s countdown tackles typically American things, which the US has the UK to thank for.

#10: Apple Pie

As American as apple pie, right? Wrong. The sweet treat is a staple on US dining tables, but the British were the first to serve it, way back in the 1300s. A popular dessert throughout European history, with Dutch and Swedish styles also inspiring menus worldwide, it was taken across the pond with the 17th century colonists. Since then, apple pie has become a stand-out symbol of US patriotism, as well as the central component to a teen-comedy franchise.

#9: YMCA

Way before Village People turned this institution into a cheesy disco anthem, and long before the YMCA swept across America, the Young Men’s Christian Association was the brainchild of English philanthropist, George Williams. Dismayed by working conditions in 18th century London, Williams conceived the now-famous charity as a safe place for its patrons. While the movement’s worldwide influence is something to be proud of, it’s difficult to imagine Williams joining in with the dance moves.

#8: Chocolate Bars

Candy bars are big business stateside. But before Mars, Hershey’s, Milky Bar or Baby Ruth, there was one bloke in Bristol making confectionary history. Joseph Fry finalised the first mass-produced chocolate bar in the mid-1800s, around the time that the Dutch developed a chocolate press. Fry’s Chocolate Cream hit shelves in 1866 with a famed fondant filling, and the bar can still be bought today. John Cadbury quickly followed suit, while the likes of Hershey’s didn’t arrive until the late 1890s.

#7: Sandwiches

Thanks to world-conquering fast-food outlets, Homer Simpson and Joey Tribbiani, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this foodstuff was a US creation. However, the history of the sandwich is long and complicated, and very little of it happened in America. While early versions are recorded across Europe, it’s named after the fourth Earl of Sandwich in Kent. The story goes that he was an ardent gambler, and meat between bread was the simplest way of eating without disrupting a game of cards.

#6: The Office

And yes, we mean the TV show, and not the actual, open-plan workplace, which is largely a German invention. Anyway, unlike a lot of American remakes of British TV, “The Office US” did manage to tap into most of what made its predecessor purr. But after nine series and a shedload of awards, let’s just remember where it all started. Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott is hilarious in his own right, but for fans of the British original he’ll always be David Brent in disguise.

#5: Plastic Surgery

From Botox to boob jobs, America is the world’s leading market for cosmetic surgery, with increasing millions going under the knife every year. But the industry was by no means born in the USA. Sir Harold Gillies is often credited as the ‘father of plastic surgery’, a New Zealand-born, London-based surgeon who gathered leading physicians to treat thousands of soldiers who had been injured or disfigured in World War One. Gillies’ work became a blueprint for all sorts of reconstructive procedures, and a starting point for today’s aesthetic options.

#4: The Light Bulb

A supposedly serial stealer of other people’s ideas, Thomas Edison’s lightbulb moment is considered one of the most significant steps in modern technology. But experts are continually divided on just how much Edison did to develop the design. Before the Wizard of Menlo Park there were countless other scientists creating electric light and light bulbs, not least British pioneers including Humphry Davy and Joseph Swan. The anti-Edison camp claims that the inventor’s only skill was knowing when to patent.

#3: Doughnuts

Now, the origins of the doughnut are a sticky affair, with claims and counter-claims sending historians round and round in circles. However, while the strongest suggestion remains that the Dutch took the treats to America in the mid-nineteenth century, a 2013 discovery seemingly proves that the Brits were baking them at least fifty years before. Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale’s cookbook dates to 1800, and includes a strikingly similar recipe. A deep-fried concoction of sugar, eggs, butter and yeast, add some icing and it’s the real deal.

#2: Baseball

A national sport and obsession in the US, baseball was born in the UK. There are countless records of bat and ball games being played in Blighty, starting with Stoolball in the 1300s. Sure, the rules have changed and refined over the years, but the basic premise is usually the same; someone pitches, someone swings, others try to catch. In fact, some researchers argue that baseball is an offshoot of cricket, an English obsession which didn’t catch-on across the Atlantic. At all.

#1: The Star-Spangled Banner

We finish with a final salute for Great British influence on American culture, because the US national anthem is sung to the tune of an eighteenth-century English drinking song. Baltimore wordsmith Francis Scott Key takes full credit for the lyrics, but the melody was written by John Stafford Smith, a Gloucester-born composer. The Anacreontic Song, as it was originally known, was regularly belted around a prestigious London gentlemen’s club, where wealthy people met to wine and dine.
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