Garrett Morgan was born in Paris Kentucky, the 7th child out of 11 siblings. At the age of 14, he moved to Cincanatti, Ohio to find work and he did, working as a handyman. He also had jobs working in a sewing machine company and that caught his attention enough to obtain a patent for an improved sewing machine and he ended up opening his own repair business. He then moved to Cleveland, Ohio and opened up a tailor shop with his wife Mary, who was a seamstress.
Garrett found another hobby and that was experimenting with chemical solution in order to slow down or reduce the speed or friction created by the sewing maching needle, since the needles ran at a high speed. He had noticed that the woolen fabric hairs where straighter, so he had a light bulb moment and tried the idea on a dog’s fur and himself and he ame up with another company “G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company and sold the cream to African Americans of course.
His next known invention was the gas mask, in which he created for safer breathing when being around gases, smoke, and other pollutants. He tried to market his invention to fire departments and eventually it became used World War 1. It protected soldiers from toxic gases. His gas mask invention earned him First Prize at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation. In order to get a reward for his invention, he had to hire a white actor to pose the inventor of his creation during his presentation at the ceremony. The reason for this was because, buyers weren’t eager to buy devices and inventions from African Americans, especially in the South, so he took different measures.
Another accomplishment he had was starting his own African American newspaper called the Cleveland Call. He also patented the T-Shaped traffic light that blinks yellow. Before his death, he was honored by the United States Government for that invention AND he was acknowledged for being a hero during a Cleveland Tunnel Explosion that he was not credited for because he was black.
Garrett was a very accomplished man and his inventions are used today in this everyday life.
Featured image photo credit: greatblackheros.com
Sources: biography.com; history.com