Yankee Ingenuity: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Ashley Miller

Ashley works in Higher Education and holds a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership

Ever see a product or service and think to yourself, Why didn't I think of that? In this lesson we'll discuss how using yankee ingenuity can be done by finding a problem and creating a solution.

There is a popular TV show on one of the large cable networks that features inventions of all sorts and a panel of investors who are looking to make money by helping sell their products. Like most viewers I find myself saying, 'Why didn't I think of that?' It seems that the inventions that catch the investor's eye the most are the ones that have shown good old fashion yankee ingenuity by finding a problem and solving it for a profit. Let's break down the phrase 'yankee ingenuity' to better understand it's meaning.

Yankee Ingenuity: Definition

Back in colonial America, before the American Revolution, the Colonists fought along side the British in the French and Indian War. At that time, America was still a new territory, and the Colonists were the most organized army in the world, leading the British to coin them as 'Yankees' to make fun of them as a collective group. It really turned into a derogatory term to refer to the Colonists. After the American Revolution, the now independent America turned the term into a point of national pride. Kind of a, 'We showed you!' type of sentiment.

In a post-British rule America, times were hard. People had few resources, the government had little money, and the country was still being explored and developed. Often, people were led to make do with what they had and would imagine new and innovative ways to fix things or create something new to solve a problem. Whenever anything needed to be done with few resources, Americans began to refer to it as using yankee ingenuity. To this day, using everyday items to solve a problem, or coming up with new and innovative ideas can be referred to as using good old fashion yankee ingenuity.

Today, the term, Yankee, is mainly used to talk about Americans who were born or raised in the Northeastern portion of the United States where the 13 original colonies were settled. However the phrase, yankee ingenuity, can be used to describe American innovation regardless of the region the inventor is from.

Yankee Ingenuity: Overview

One of the earliest examples of a group of people coming together to show yankee ingenuity came in the building of the Erie Canal in 1817. During that time the Great Lakes region of the US was beginning to develop well but needed a shipping port to get goods from the Hudson River (which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean and abroad to other countries) back and forth to this area. If you know anything about this part of the US you know it's cold. Like really, really cold. There weren't true civil engineers yet, so much of the construction project was done using yankee ingenuity. When problems arose, the workers found a way to fix it with the resources they had. Most of the issues came during the harsh winters when marsh would freeze and tree stumps would need to be removed. Using the knowledge of local farmers, oxen, mules, and pulley systems devised from chains and felled logs, the workers found ways to continue to build.

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