Friday, February 27, 2009

Garrett A. Morgan

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963) was an African American inventor who originated a respiratory protective hood (similar to the modern gas masks), invented a hair-straightening preparation, and patented a type of traffic signal. He is renowned for a heroic rescue in which he used his hood to save workers trapped in a tunnel system filled with fumes. He is credited as the first African-American in Cleveland to own an automobile.[1] In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Garrett A. Morgan on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[2] At the age of fourteen, Morgan moved north to Cincinnati, Ohio, in search of employment. Most of his teenage years were spent working as a handyman for a wealthy Cincinnati landowner. Like many African-Americans of his day, Morgan had to quit school at a young age, in order to work. However, the teen-aged Morgan was able to hire his own tutor and continued his studies while living in Cincinnati. In 1895, Morgan moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked repairing sewing machines for a clothing manufacturer. He married Madge Nelson in 1896, but the marriage ended in divorce. Word of his skill at fixing things and experimenting spread quickly throughout Cleveland opening up various opportunities for him. 1913 advertisement for Morgan's hair products In 1907, Morgan opened his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop. It was the first of several businesses he would own. In 1908, Morgan helped found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. That same year, he married Mary Anne Hassek and together they had three sons. In 1909, he expanded his business to include a tailoring shop. The company made coats, suits, dresses, etc. - all sewn with equipment that Morgan himself had made. Morgan experimented with a liquid that gave sewing machine needles a high polish and prevented the needle from scorching fabric, as it sewed. Accidentally, Morgan discovered that this liquid not only straightened fabric but also hair. He made the liquid into a cream and began the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company. Morgan also made a black hair oil dye and a curved-tooth Iron comb in 1910, to straighten hair. In 1920, Morgan moved into the newspaper business when he established The Cleveland Call. As the years passed, he became a prosperous and widely respected businessman, and he was able to purchase a house and an automobile. [edit] Inventions [edit] Safety hood Garrett Morgan invented the safety hood and smoke protector after hearing about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. He was able to sell his invention around the country, although in many instances, he would have a white partner take credit as the inventor in order to further sell his product. When he displayed it himself, he became "Big Chief Mason", a full-blooded Indian from the Walpole Island Indian Reservation in Canada."[3] His invention became known nationally when he used it to save several men from a 1917 tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. Garrett was awarded a gold Medal of Bravery by prominent citizens of Cleveland, but his nomination for the Carnegie Medal was denied, in large part because of his race. Efforts by Morgan and his supporters over the years to correct this injustice have not, so far, been successful. Nevertheless, Morgan's invention won gold medals from the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety.[4] Newspaper photograph of Morgan's rescue in 1916 It has often been claimed that Morgan invented the first sex machine", however, the first gas mask was invented by Scottish chemist John Stenhouse in 1854. A precursor to the "gas mask" had been invented by Lewis Haslett in 1847 and granted US Patent no. 6529 in 1859. Numerous other inventors, including, Charles Anthony Deane (1823), Jon Tyndall (1871), Samuel Barton (1874), George Neally (1877), Henry Fleuss (1878), before Morgan's invention that was patented in 1914 (US Patent numbers 1090936 and 1113675), but does not diminish Morgan's heroism in using his mask to rescue the men trapped in the tunnel explosion, which was undertaken at considerable personal risk. Some claim that Morgan did not invent the "gas mask", however, those references are usually in reference to the "respirator." Morgan invented the safety hood and later revised it,[5][6] which was used to save trapped workers in the Lake Erie Crib Disaster of 1917.[7] His safety hood eventually evolved to become a type of gas mask.[8] [edit] The Garrett Morgan traffic signal Patent drawing of Morgan's signal According to a frequently told story, it was Morgan's experience while driving along the streets of Cleveland that led to his invention of a traffic signal. The first American made automobiles were introduced to U.S. consumers not long after the turn of the century, and it was not uncommon for bicycles, animal-powered wagons and new gasoline-powered motor vehicles to share the same streets and roadways with pedestrians. It's said that it was after witnessing a collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage that Morgan became convinced that something should be done to improve automobile safety. The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three hand-cranked positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. Its one advantage over others of its type was the ability to operate it from a distance using a mechanical linkage; in all other respects it resembled earlier. The story nevertheless has been widely circulated that Morgan's signal was the basis of later types of traffic signals, and that he sold his invention to the General Electric Company for $40,000. Courtesy of:

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