Author: changabula

Black Inventors [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-6-4 00:46:09 |Display all floors
Elijah McCoy
(the Real McCoy!)

Although the name Elijah McCoy may be unknown to most people, the enormity of his ingenuity and the quality of his inventions have created a level of distinction which bears his name.

Elijah McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada on May 2, 1844. His parents were George and Emillia McCoy, former slaves from Kentucky who escaped through the Underground Railroad. George joined the Canadian Army, fighting in the Rebel War and then raised his family as free Canadian citizens on a 160 acre homestead.

At an early age, Elijah showed a mechanical interest, often taking items apart and putting them back together again. Recognizing his keen abilities, George and Emillia saved enough money to send Elijah to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he could study mechanical engineering. After finishing his studies as a "master mechanic and engineer" he returned to the United States which had just seen the end of the Civil War - and the emergence of the "Emancipation Proclamation."

Elijah moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan but was unable to find work as an engineer. He was thus forced to take on a position as a fireman\oilman on the Michigan Central Railroad. As a fireman, McCoy was responsible for shoveling coal onto fires which would help to produce steam that powered the locomotive. As an oilman, Elijah was responsible for ensuring that the train was well lubricated. After a few miles, the train would be forced to stop and he would have to walk alongside the train applying oil to the axles and bearings.

In an effort to improve efficiency and eliminate the frequent stopping necessary for lubrication of the train, McCoy set out to create a method of automating the task. In 1872 he developed a "lubricating cup" that could automatically drip oil when and where needed. He received a patent for the device later that year. The "lubricating cup" met with enormous success and orders for it came in from railroad companies all over the country. Other inventors attempted to sell their own versions of the device but most companies wanted the authentic device, requesting "the Real McCoy."

In 1868, Elijah married Ann Elizabeth Stewart. Sadly, Elizabeth passed away just four years later. In 1873, McCoy married again, this time his bride was Mary Eleanor Delaney and the couple would eventually settle into Detroit, Michigan together for the next 50 years.

McCoy remained interested in continuing to perfect his invention and to create more. He thus sold some percentages of rights to his patent to finance building a workshop. He made continued improvements to the "lubricating cup." The patent application described the it as a device which "provides for the continuous flow of oil on the gears and other moving parts of a machine in order to keep it lubricated properly and continuous and thereby do away with the necessity of shutting down the machine periodically." The device would be adjusted and modified in order to apply it to different types of machinery. Versions of the cup would soon be used in steam engines, naval vessels, oil-drilling rigs, mining equipment, in factories and construction sites.

In 1916 McCoy created the graphite lubricator which allowed new superheater trains and devices to be oiled. In 1920, Elijah established the "Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company." With his new company, he improved and sold the graphite lubricator as well as other inventions which came to him out of necessity. He developed and patented a portable ironing board after his wife expressed a need for an easier way of ironing clothes. When he desired an easier and faster way of watering his lawn, he created and patented the lawn sprinkler.

In 1922, Elijah and Mary were involved in an automobile accident and both suffered severe injuries. Mary would die from the injuries and Elijah's health suffered for several years until he died in 1929. McCoy left behind a legacy of successful inventions which would benefit mankind for another century and his name would come to symbolize quality workmanship - the Real McCoy!

  1. http://www.users.fast.net/~blc/xlhome6.htm
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The continuous hum of so many of the factories of today are due in most part to a self-taught mechanical engineer, son of fugitive slaves who had to leave the U.S. in order to be free.
References: 1. Baker, Henry E., The Colored Inventor, 1913. 2. Adams, Great Negroes, Past and Present, Afro-Am Publishing Co., Inc., Chicago, 1969.

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-6-4 12:52 AM ]
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Post time 2007-6-4 00:59:49 |Display all floors
D. McCree

D. McCree recognized the safety benefits enjoyed by hotels, apartment buildings and office buildings and decided to extend that safety to homeowners. Basing his model on fire escapes being used by bigger buildings, McCree created a portable version made of wood that could be attached to the windowsill of a home, enabling people within to escape from second and third story levels during a fire.

McCree patented the portable fire escape on November 11, 1890 and it is the basis for similar models used today.
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Post time 2007-6-4 01:01:02 |Display all floors
Benjamin Montgomery


Benjamin Montgomery was born into slavery in 1819 in Loudon County, Virginia. He was sold to Joseph E. Davis, a Mississippi planter. Davis was the older brother of Jefferson Davis who would later serve as the President of the Confederate States of America. After a period time, Davis could see great talent within Montgomery and assigned to him the responsibility of running his general store on the Davis Bend plantation. Montgomery, who by this time had learned to read and write (he was taught by the Davis children), excelled at running the store and served both white customers and slaves who could trade poultry and other items in return for dry goods. Impressed with his knowledge and abilities to run the store, Davis placed Montgomery in charge of overseeing the entirety of his purchasing and shipping operations on the plantation.

In addition to being able to read and write, Montgomery also learned a number of other difficult tasks, including land surveying, techniques for flood control and the drafting of architectural plans. He was also a skilled mechanic and a born inventor. At the time commerce often flowed through the rivers connecting counties and states. With differences in the depths of water in different spots throughout the river, navigation could become difficult. If a steamboat were to run adrift, the merchandise would be delayed for days, if not weeks.

Davis decided to address the problem and created a propellor that could cut into the water at different angles, thus allowing the boat to navigate more easily though shallow water. Joseph Davis attempted to patent the device but the patent was denied on June 10, 1858, on the basis that Ben, as a slave, was not a citizen of the United States, and thus could not apply for a patent in his name. Later, both Joseph and Jefferson Davis attempted to patent the device in their names but were denied because they were not the "true inventor." Ironically, when Jefferson Davis later assumed the Presidency of the Confederacy, he signed into law the legislation that would allow a slaves to receive patent protection for their inventions. On June 28, 1864, Montgomery, no longer a slave, filed a patent application for his devise, but the patent office again rejected his application.

Upon the end of the Civil War, Joseph Davis sold his plantation as well as other properties to Montgomery, along with his son Isaiah. The sale was made based on a long-term loan in the amount of $300,000.00. Benjamin and Isaiah decided to pursue a dream of using the property to establish a community of freed slaves, but natural disasters decimated their crops, leaving them unable to pay off the loan. The Davis Bend property reverted back to the Davis family and Benjamin died the following year. Undeterred, Isaiah took up his father's dream and later purchased 840 acres of land and along with a number of other former slaves, and founded the town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi in 1887. Isaiah was named the town first mayor soon thereafter.

While Benjamin Montgomery's story sounds sad in it's telling, it served as a lesson to whites and black in the Civil War period, demonstrating the power of education and the ability for blacks to contribute to commerce and industry in the American south.
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Post time 2007-6-4 01:04:09 |Display all floors
Garrett Morgan
(Father of the Gas Mask).

Garrett Morgan is one of those rare people who are able to come up with an extraordinary inventions which has a tremendous impact on society - and then follows that up with even more!

Garrett Morgan was born on March 4, 1877 in Paris, Kentucky the seventh of 11 children born to Sydney and Elizabeth Morgan. Garrett, at the early age of 14 decided that he should travel north to Ohio in order to receive a better education. He moved to Cincinnati and then to Cleveland, working as a handyman in order to make ends meet. In Cleveland, he learned the inner workings of the sewing machine and in 1907 opened his own sewing machine store, selling new machines and repairing old ones. In 1908 Morgan married Mary Anne Hassek with whom he would have three sons.

In 1909, Morgan opened a tailoring shop, selling coats, suits and dresses. While working in this shop he came upon a discover which brought about his first invention. He noticed that the needle of a sewing machine moved so fast that its friction often scorched the thread of the woolen materials. He thus set out to develop a liquid that would provide a useful polish to the needle, reducing friction. When his wife called him to dinner, he wiped the liquid from his hands onto a a piece of pony-fur cloth. When he returned to his workshop, he saw that the fibers on the cloth were now standing straight up. He theorized that the fluid had actually straightened the fibers. In order to confirm his theory, he decided to apply some of the fluid to the hair of a neighbor's dog, an Airedale. The fluid straightened the dog's hair so much, the neighbor, not recognizing his own pet, chased the animal away. Morgan then decided try the fluid on himself, to small portions of his hair at first, and then to his entire head. He was successful and had invented the first human-hair straightener. He marketed the product under the name the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Cream and sold by his G. A Morgan Refining Company, which became a very successful business.

In 1912, Morgan developed another invention, much different from his hair straightener. Morgan called it a Safety Hood and patented it as a Breathing Device, but the world came to know it as a Gas Mask. The Safety Hood consisted of a hood worn over the head of a person from which emanated a tube which reached near the ground and allowed in clean air. The bottom of the tube was lined with a sponge type material that would help to filter the incoming air. Another tube existed which allowed the user to exhale air out of the device. Morgan intended the device to be used "to provide a portable attachment which will enable a fireman to enter a house filled with thick suffocating gases and smoke and to breathe freely for some time therein, and thereby enable him to perform his duties of saving life and valuables without danger to himself from suffocation. The device is also efficient and useful for protection to engineers, chemists and working men who are obliged to breathe noxious fumes or dust derived from the materials in which they are obliged to work."

The National Safety Device Company, with Morgan as its General Manager was set up to manufacture and sell the device and it was demonstrated at various exhibitions across the country. At the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation, the device won first prize and Morgan was award a gold medal. While demonstrations were good for sales, the true test of the product would come only under real life circumstances.

That opportunity arose on July 24, 1916 when an explosion occurred in a tunnel being dug under Lake Erie by the Cleveland Water Works. The tunnel quickly filled with smoke, dust and poisonous gases and trapped 32 workers underground. They were feared lost because no means of safely entering and rescuing them was known. Fortunately someone at the scene remembered about Morgan's invention and ran to call him at his home where he was relaxing. Garrett and his brother Frank quickly arrived at the scene, donned the Safety Hood and entered the tunnel. After a heart wrenching delay, Garrett appeared from the tunnel carrying a survivor on his back as did his brother seconds later. The crowd erupted in a staggering applause and Garrett and Frank reentered the tunnel, this time joined by two other men. While they were unable to save all of the workers, the were able to rescue many who would otherwise have certainly died. Reaction to Morgan's device and his heroism quickly spread across the city and the country as newspapers picked up on the story. Morgan received a gold medal from a Cleveland citizens group as well as a medal from the International Association of Fire Engineers, which also made him an honorary member.

Soon, orders came in from fire and police departments across the country. Unfortunately, many of these orders were canceled when it was discovered that Morgan was Black. Apparently, many people would rather face danger and possibly death than rely on a lifesaving device created by a Black man. Nonetheless, with the outbreak of World War I and the use of poisonous gases therein, Morgan's Safety Hood, now known as the Gas Mask was utilized by the United States Army and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers.

Although he could have relied on the income his Gas Masks generated, Morgan felt compelled to try to solve safety problems of the day. One day he witnessed a traffic accident when an automobile collided with a horse and carriage. The driver of the automobile was knocked unconscious and the horse had to be destroyed. He set out to develop a means of automatically directing traffic without the need of a policeman or worker present. He patented an automatic traffic signal which he said could be "operated for directing the flow of traffic" and providing a clear and unambiguous "visible indicator."

Satisfied with his efforts, Morgan sold the rights to his device to the General Electric Company for the astounding sum of $40,000.00 and it became the standard across the country. Today's modern traffic lights are based upon Morgan's original design.

At that point, Morgan was honored by many influential people around him, including such tycoons as John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan (after whom he named one of his sons.) Although his successes had brought him status and acclaim, Morgan never forgot that his fellow Blacks still suffered injustices and difficulties. His next endeavor sought to address these as he started a newspaper called the Cleveland Call (later renamed as the Call & Post.) He also served as the treasurer of the Cleveland Association of Colored Men which eventually merged with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and ran as a candidate for Cleveland's City Council

In his later years, Morgan would develop glaucoma and would thereby lose 90% of his vision. He died on July 27, 1963 and because of his contribution, the world is certainly a much safer place.

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-6-4 01:09 AM ]
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Post time 2007-6-4 02:14:13 |Display all floors
George Murray


George Murray was without a doubt, one of the most remarkable citizens of his time. A teacher, farmer, land developer and federal customs inspector, the former slave would go on to become a United States Congressman and a noted inventor.

George Murray was born in Sumter County, South Carolina in September, 1853. He spent the first 13 years of his life as a slave, but after the Emancipation Proclamation enrolled at South Carolina State University and later continued his education at the State Normal Institute. In the next 20 years he served as a school teacher, the Chairman of the Sumter County Republican Committee and as a customs inspector for the Port of Charleston, a position was appointed to by the President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.

In 1892 George Murray was elected as United States Congressman, representing the state of South Carolina. In this position he frequently spoke from the floor of the House, describing the plight of Black citizens and imploring his fellow Congressmen to protect those citizens rights. One topic that Murray spoke openly about was the plight of the Black inventor. In that day of age, most whites were completely unaware of the success that many Blacks had enjoyed in inventing useful devices which were benefiting ordinary citizens. Murray recounted these achievements and read them into the Congressional Record. While serving in his second term, Murray secured patents for eight inventions, including cultivating and fertilizing equipment and a cotton chopper.
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Post time 2007-6-4 02:17:07 |Display all floors
John P. Parker

John P. Parker was born in 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. His father was white and his mother was a black slave. John was sold to a slave agent in 1835 and then sold to a slave caravan which took him to Mobile, Alabama where he was purchased by a physician. Working as a house servant, Parker learned to read and write, often learning alongside of the physician's sons.

In 1843 John was sent North with the owners sons as they went to attend college. John was soon brought back to Mobile when the physician feared he might escape into the Northern territories. Back in Mobile, Parker worked as an craftsman's apprentice for an iron manufacturer and learned to be a plasterer. After being abused by one of his bosses, John attempted to escape to New Orleans but was captured trying to flee by a riverboat and was returned to his owner.

Parker eventually became a molder and was transferred to a New Orleans foundry where he was able to do extra work to earn money. This would allow him to purchase his freedom in 1845 for $1,800.00. At this point he moved north to. Indiana and began working in foundries. At the same time he secretly became a conductor on the "Underground Railroad", eventually helping to smuggle more than 1,000 slaves to escape into free states such as Indiana and Ohio.

In 1848, Parker moved to Beachwood Factory, Ohio where he opened a general store. Six years later he opened a small foundry near Ripley, Ohio which produced special and general castings. The foundry eventually employed more than 25 workers and manufactured slide valve engines and reapers. In 1863 Parker served as a recruiter for the 27th Regiment, U.S Colored troop during the United States Civil War and furnished castings to the war effort.

In 1884 John P. Parker created a screw for Tobacco presses, receiving a patent later in the year.
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Post time 2007-6-4 02:18:41 |Display all floors
Robert Pelham

Robert Pelham was born in January of 1859 in Petersburg, Virginia. His parents, Robert and Frances Pelham, moved the family to Detroit, Michigan in hopes of finding a more favorable atmosphere for their children to receive an education and opportunities for decent employment. While enrolled in public schools, Pelham was hired by a newspaper called the Daily Post, working under Zachariah Chandler, who trained him in the skills of journalism. He remained with the paper for 20 years while at the same time managing a Black weekly newspaper called the Detroit Plaindealer.

Pelham would later hold a number of important jobs, including Deputy Oil Inspector for the state of Michigan, Special Agent for the United States Land Office and Inspector for the Detroit Water Department. In 1893 Robert married Gabrielle Lewis and the couple moved to Washington, D.C. in 1900 where he took a job as a clerk for the United States Census Department. Studying at night, Pelham received a law degree from Howard University in 1904 and soon began work on a project to help him with his job at the Census Department.

At the Census Department, a clerk had to manually paste statistical slips onto sheets and organized appropriately. The process was messy and required many employees to carry it out. Pelham devised a method for automating the pasting process and set out to create a device that could accomplish it. Starting with a rolling pin, cigar boxes, wooden screws and other miscellaneous items, Pelham developed a working model which he put into effect. The apparatus would go on to save the Department more than $3,000.00 He continued working for the Census Bureau for 30 years, and during that time patented two items - the tabulation device in 1905 and a tallying machine in 1913.

After retiring from the Census Bureau, he began editing a Black newspaper called the Washington Tribune, and later created the Capital News Services, a news agency devoted to Black issues of the day. In June of 1943 Robert Pelham died leaving behind him a list of accomplishments.
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