African American Inventors: When it comes to inventing new items and equipment, African Americans have a long history. Black inventors continued to have a significant impact on American society well into the twentieth century, even after slavery was abolished.
African American Inventors
Let us have a look at some of the many African American inventors who played a significant role.
Andrew J. Beard
The first on our list of African American inventors is Andrew J. Beard.
At the age of fifteen, Andrew Jackson Beard was emancipated from slavery in Alabama. Before beginning work again for the railroad in the 1890s, he built his own flour mill, rotary steam engine, & two different kinds of ploughs for his own farm use.
The railroads of the United States linked the populous east coast with the western frontier states. They revolutionized transportation and communication. Beard invented the Jenny coupler while working for numerous rail companies. When two train cars collided, the Jenny coupler automatically locked them together. Connecting long-distance train lines was made a lot easier by this. Workers had to insert a latching mechanism to connect the cars before the Jenny coupler was invented. There were numerous horrible accidents on the job, and Beard witnessed several of them. The Jenny coupler was a lifesaver for many railroad personnel because of its creation.
Henry Blair (1804–1860) was the first black person to be listed on a patent application in the United States. The fact that the US Patent Office mistakenly labelled Blair is black was an error on their part, as they rarely label patent holders according to race. Henry Blair was a free black man. Patents could not be held by those who were enslaved. In 1834, a patent was granted to Blair for a corn planter. The planter for corn combines ploughing, seed placement, and soil coverage. During the year 1836, Blair received a second patent for a cotton seed cultivator.
During the 19th century, Samuel Morse and Solomon Brown collaborated on the telegram machine, which transformed communication. When Brown finished, he double-checked everything to make sure the telegraph was working properly before moving on. Also, Brown was the first African American hired either by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. For decades, Brown illustrated his lectures on entomology, geology, philosophy, and religion with illustrations he created himself.
Hugh M. Browne
Education pioneer Hugh Mason Browne (1851–1923) collaborated alongside luminaries like Booker T. Washington, W. E. B DuBois, and Charles Chesnutt, all of whom were African Americans. Education was a particular focus for Browne; he visited Liberia to assess the system there in comparison to it in the United States.
Additionally, Browne was a down-to-earth individual who sought to make a difference in the lives of those around him. Sewage water could no longer run back into a dwelling thanks to his invention. Thus, people were able to lead better lives. On the 29th of April, 1890, Browne was granted a patent.
George Washington Carver
One of the most influential African American inventors in the agricultural sector was George Washington Carver. As an agricultural scientist, George Washington Carver (1864–1943) is well-known for inventing innovative farming practices that helped poor farmers improve their lot in life. In the southern United States, cotton was grown year after year, depleting the earth of essential nutrients. In his research, Carver discovered that the peanut plant helped to replenish the soil’s nitrogen levels. Soil life was extended by planting cotton and peanuts in the same year. Crop rotation is the name given to this method of planting. More peanuts than people could consume thanks to Carver’s cotton-peanut crop rotation. He discovered new uses of peanuts and peanut products such as soap, face powder, mayonnaise, shampoo and even glue.
He discovered that sweet potatoes and peas had the same ability to fix nitrogen as peanuts in the later stages of his career. Farmers were able to keep their soil fertile because of this profitable crop rotation. Both Carver’s pomade and cream patents (Patent No. 1,522,176, issued on January 6, 1925) and his paint or stain patent (Patent No. 1,522,176, issued on January 6, 1925) dealt with peanuts (Patent no. 1,541,478 June 9, 1925).
Shelby Davidson worked for the United States Postal Service. However, he didn’t do any letter delivery. As a member of the audit team, he was responsible for maintaining records of transactions and deadlines. In 1908, Davidson created an adding machine rewinder. Because of the rewind gadget, administrative staff were able to save time and paper. In addition, with 1911, Davidson developed an automatic fee mechanism that aided postal workers in their daily tasks.
African American Inventors contributed to so many areas. A member of Thomas Edison’s research team, Lewis Latimer (1848–1928) went on to work for General Electric as their chief draughtsman. A draughtsman is a person who makes blueprints for structures, machines, and other technological advancements. The outcome of the patent filing can be decided by these drawings. The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell and protected by a patent in 1876, was drafted by Latimer.
Carbon filaments were created by Latimer in 1882. It was more durable and less expensive than Edison’s original concept. Soon after, Edison’s business employed Latimer. He also designed a restroom, disinfecting and cooling devices for trains, a hat and coat rack, lockable umbrellas, and a mechanism to hold books.
Jan Ernst Matzeliger
In order to join the shoe’s upper and sole, Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852–1889) created a machine. This course of action is referred to as lasting. To create 150 to 700 pairs of sneakers in a day, Matzeliger’s shoe-lasting machine might outpace the 50 pairs of shoes that could be made by hand in a day.
George Washington Murray
African American Inventors: Farming-related patents held by George Washington Murray (1853–1922) totaled eight. Murray, a freed slave from South Carolina, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1892. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina, is descended from George Washington Murray.
African American Inventors: Three of the seventy-seven patents given to African Americans by 1886 belonged to John Parker (1827–1900). He was one of just fifty-five African-Americans to receive over one patent in the United States before 1900. His most well-known invention is the screw press, which he patented in order to make it portable. To chop tobacco, this was employed. On the Underground Railroad, Parker was also a “conductor.” Over a thousand enslaved individuals were rescued by Parker from his property in Ripley, Ohio.
New Orleans inventor Norbert Rillieux was a Creole. Before returning to the United States, he studied in Paris, France. When Rillieux was a child, his father had a vast plantation where a lot of sugar was produced. Sugar refining was revolutionised when Rillieux developed the multiple-effect vacuum evaporator. Whiter, more refined sugar was produced with less effort thanks to his invention. Condensed milk, gelatin, soap, glue, & whiskey were all evaporation processes that Rillieux refined.
He came up with an adjustable mirror that allowed barbershop customers to inspect their hairstyles from every angle. Scottron started out as a barbershop, but grew out into household inventions. A pole tip, a curtain rod and a supporting bracket are among the inventions he came up with for the adjustable window cornice. Cornices are decorative overhangs that conceal the curtain rod. A co-founder of the Cuban Anti-Slavery Society and the first African American to serve on the Brooklyn Board of Education, Scottron was a pioneer in the fight against slavery in the United States.
During his lifetime, Lewis Temple (1800–1854) made numerous improvements to the traditional whale-hunting harpoon. His device, dubbed “Temple’s Iron,” worked like a fish hook to secure the whale to the line. His invention resulted in the slaughter of more whales. Whaling was a major industry in New England in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In places like New Bedford, Massachusetts, “Temple’s Iron” was instrumental in creating a vibrant economy.
Sarah Breedlove Walker
As Madame C. J. Walker, Sarah Breedlove Walker (1867–1919) is perhaps the most well-known African American female inventor. To achieve silky, lustrous hair, Walker created the hot comb and pomade. African Americans used ironing boards to straighten their hair before the invention of the hot comb. As a result, several people suffered from facial and scalp burns, as well as hair damage. Cosmetics for African Americans were transformed by Walker.
Madame C. J. Walker created “Walker Clubs,” a concept later adopted by Mary Kay Cosmetics, in order to boost sales of her beauty products. Lelia College was established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1908 to train female sales representatives for her products. Using this marketing strategy was a success. The first African American woman to reach the million-dollar mark, Walker made history. Her Indianapolis, Indiana, factory employed 3,000 employees. In addition to the NAACP, Madam C. J. Walker generously supported a number of other non-profit organisations. She also contributed to scholarships for female students to attend college.
Granville T. Woods
African American Inventors: “The Black Edison,” as he was known as Granville T. Woods, was a prolific inventor from 1856 until his death in 1910. Woods’ innovations, like Edison’s, weren’t confined to a single industry. Steam boilers were the subject of Woods’s first patent, which he received in 1884. Among other things, he devised the braking system for railroads, electric railroad systems, and gadgets to improve the telephone and telegraph, among other things. Alexander Graham Bell’s business purchased the patents for the telephone and telegraph.
The Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph was invented by Woods in 1887. Railroad workers were able to see where the trains had at any given time thanks to the system. Nobody knew exactly when a train came down the lines prior to this. The creation of Woods saved countless lives and stopped many collisions. Between 1900 and 1907, he filed twenty patents on electronic train control systems.
African American Inventors
African American Inventors were and continue to play a huge part in the success of the nation even today.