Mitt Romney is positioned to become the first Mormon to appear at the top of a major party ticket in a presidential election, but he’s not actually the first Mormon to run for president (that was Joseph Smith). With such a historic event likely on the horizon, LDS Living decided to look back at some other great Mormon first, including the first successful artificial heart transplant and the first electric traffic light. This content originally appeared on LDSLiving.com. Reprinted here with permission.

First electronic television

Philo T. Farnsworth (1927)

The concept of television had been inspiring scientists for years before Philo T. Farnsworth, at the age of 21, introduced his electronic television while working in San Francisco. As a teen, Farnsworth had shown interest in producing images electronically, even producing a sketch of his future work for a chemistry teacher in 1922. Farnsworth applied for a patent on the device in 1927, and years of improvements to his “image dissector” have given us the television of today.

First published LDS fiction

Parley P. Pratt’s “A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil” (1844)

“A Dialogue between Joseph Smith and the Devil,” also referred to as “Joe Smith and the Devil,” was first published in the New York Herald in January 1844 after Pratt wrote it one afternoon in Northbridge, Massachusetts. The story gained some popularity and eventually spread to other American and European papers. Pratt’s short story follows a conversation Joseph Smith has with the devil, a conversation that sets out why the devil will fail now that the true church has been restored to the earth.

First female state senator

Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon (1896)

The first female state senator, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, was actually born in Wales on July 1, 1857. Her parents, recent converts to the church, moved the family to the Salt Lake Valley in 1860.

She met her future husband, Angus Cannon, also a physician, while working for Deseret Hospital. Following the birth of a daughter and some time spent abroad to avoid federal marshals looking for polygamists, she returned to Utah and became an advocate for public health and women’s suffrage.

First LDS Olympic gold winner

Alma Richards (1912 Summer Olympics)

Richards was a joke to the athletes on his team — none of them imagined he would have any success. They changed their minds when he easily cleared a bar raised to six feet, four inches high, and became one of two men still in the running for the gold medal. Before jumping for the gold, Richards knelt down and prayed for strength and success, if it was the Lord’s will. After he ended his prayer, he stood and went for the gold-winning jump, wowing the world. Richards never competed in the Olympics again, but his victory gave him the confidence he needed for a lifetime of success as a student, soldier and teacher.

Founder of Little People of America

Billy Barty

In 1957, Barty gathered with a group of 20 other people “of short stature” in Reno, Nevada, and spent the week sharing ideas and hopes. During this historic meeting, Little People of America was founded. Barty established the organization in hopes of providing support and information for people of short stature and their families, as well as to dispel misunderstandings about little people. Over 50 years after its establishment, Little People of America continues to flourish with more than 6,000 members, 14 districts, and 70 chapters.

First successful artificial heart transplant

Dr. William DeVries and Barney Clark

On December 2, 1982, Dr. William DeVries and Barney Clark made medical history. Dr. DeVries, an LDS heart surgeon who had been granted permission from the United States Food and Drug Administration to implant the polyurethane Jarvik-7 artificial heart in humans, performed the first transplant on Barney Clark, who was also a Mormon. The operation was risky, but Clark, who suffered from congestive heart failure, decided to take the risk to help advance science. Clark didn’t expect to live more than a few days after the operation, but since doctors had determined he was too sick for a normal heart transplant, the artificial heart was his only hope for recovery. Clark’s health was poor after the operation, but he lived a longer-than-expected 112 days.

First Hollywood Walk of Fame star given a Mormon

Dean Jagger and Laraine Day
(1960)


On February 8, 1960, Dean Jagger and Laraine Day both received a star on
the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Day, born La Raine Johnson in Roosevelt, Utah, in 1920, was raised in a Mormon family and was known for her religion throughout her acting career. Day had garnered a great deal of attention for her role as Nurse Mary Lamont in the Dr. Kildare series. Her rising popularity catapulted her into a long and successful career in the movie business.

First fry sauce

Don Carlos Edwards/
Arctic Circle (1943)


Edwards enjoyed experimenting with food, and some of his achievements include the Ranch Burger, a burger with ranch seasoning, and the Brown Topper, a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. But his most-loved creation is fry sauce. Edwards began experimenting with potential burger sauces sometime in 1940 and created what he called “pink sauce.” The sauce consisted of mayonnaise, ketchup, and dill pickle juice, though Arctic Circle has since added other secret ingredients. At some point over the next three years, someone dipped a fry in the sauce, and the rest, as they say, is history.

(Pictured is Gary Roberts, president and CEO Arctic Circle)

First LDS astronaut for NASA

Don Leslie Lind (1966)

Don Leslie Lind had been selected to be an astronaut for NASA in April 1966, and at the age of 54, after waiting nearly two decades for the chance to utilize years of astronaut training, he became the first Mormon to enter space, serving as a mission specialist on the shuttle Challenger.

Father of Salt Flat racing

Ab Jenkins (1932)

Jenkins, known as “Ab,” proved to be one of the most influential race car drivers, and not just because he broke and made several national and international speed records.

In 1932, Jenkins set out to tame the Bonneville Salt Flats, and he has since been honored with recognition as the father of salt flat racing.

First LDS presidential candidate

Joseph Smith (1844)

In early 1844, after seeking in vain
for sympathy from the federal government for the Saints’ cause, Joseph Smith announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. Smith had sought help from Martin Van Buren, the current president, and had also written letters to the leading candidates of the presidential race, but he received little assurance that any of them would help the Saints obtain recompense for the persecution they had undergone in Missouri. As a result, Smith himself entered the race.

First electric traffic light

Lester Wire (1912)

In 1912, Lester Wire, a policeman for the Salt Lake City Police Department, introduced the first “flashing bird house” to the United States. While there had been previous attempts at mechanical traffic controllers, Wire’s invention was the first traffic signal to use red and green electric lights. The device was placed at the intersection of 200 South and Main Street in Salt Lake City and was manually operated by a patrolman.

First Mormon Grammy winner

Mormon Tabernacle Choir
(1959)


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir had a presence in America before the Grammy Awards were even around, but once the awards show was established, it didn’t take long for the world-famous choir to get noticed. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir won the 1959 Best Performance by a Chorus for “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the 2nd Annual Grammy Awards held in 1960, becoming the first LDS artist or group to win a Grammy.

First in-flight meal service

J. Willard Marriott

Marriott set up successful root beer
stands in the spring of 1927 in Washington, D.C.

The lack of sales during the winter gave him the idea to sell simple hot foods along with the root beer, which created the first drive-thru food services.

This sparked the idea of boxing meals and serving them to airline passengers, giving birth to meals on flights.

First solo artist on a Christian Billboard Chart

Hilary Weeks

Weeks' album "Every Step"
ranked No. 6 on the Contemporary Christian Billboard Chart and No. 8 on the Christian Overall Chart. Just two days after its release, Every Step was also the No. 2 selling album on iTunes in the Christian/Gospel category.