When I grew up, the only Black in the American History Book was George Washington Carver, who did hundreds of things with the peanut – that was it. I always thought that he was the only Black American, who ever did anything worth talking about. As a child, I also thought that Blacks were not good enough to play baseball; that’s why they had no black players until Jackie Robinson in 1947.
I was wrong on both counts. So everybody already knows about George Washington Carver. Let’s list a few others, who didn’t make the history books, just to fill in the knowledge gap.
This Article is dedicated to the memory of Granville T. Woods, inventor, and all the other Black inventors of the past, the present and the future.
What would food preparers, who put those tasty morsels on steam tables, have done without the biscuit cutter (Alexander P. Ashbourne, 1875)
William Barry invented the Postmarking and Canceling Machine.
Sarah Boone, an African-American woman in New Haven, Conn., improved on the ironing board. Before Boone, ironing was done on, as the name says, a board, making it difficult to iron shirts and dresses. Boone narrowed and rounded the front end of the board, giving it the look we know today and solving the problem of pressing her dresses. She received a patent for her invention in 1892.
Charles Brooks invented improvements to the street sweeper trucks.
Charles Brooks of Newark, New Jersey invented improvements to street sweeper trucks that he patented on March 17, 1896. His truck had revolving brushes attached to the front fender and the brushes were interchangeable with scrapers that could be used in winter for snow removal. Charles Brook also designed an improved refuse receptacle for storing the collected garbage and litter and a wheel drive for the automatic turning of the brushes and for powering a lifting mechanism for the scrapers.
Charles Brooks also patented an early paper punch, also called a ticket punch. It was a ticket punch that had a built-in receptacle on one of the jars to collect the round pieces of waste paper and prevent littering.
John Burr invented the Lawn Mower.
Les S. Burridge and Newman R. Marshall: Those contracts probably were produced by another African-American invention: the typewriter. Les S. Burridge and Newman R. Marshall gave the world its most popular business machine ever, the typewriter, in 1885. Its use in business and by journalists, authors, and educators changed the world in which we live. Although the computer/word processor has replaced the typewriter in most applications, the typewriter’s keyboard is still the standard for high-tech instruments.
Tabacco: I’m noticing a ‘TREND’! Lots of these ‘African-American’ Inventors look more White than Black. I don’t attribute that to their ‘Caucasianism’ so much as to their basic INVISIBILITY – if they can pass for White, the BARRIERS AGAINST SUCCESS are not nearly so HIGH!
Far from the maddening crowd at the steam table are those lovers of cold foods, especially ice cream. They should be grateful to Alfred L. Cralle of Pittsburgh, born in Kenbridge Virginia, who gave us the ice cream mold and disher. What’s an ice cream mold and disher? Today we call it a “scoop”. It allows you to dish out those round scoops of ice cream that fill your bowls and cones.
Phillip B. Downing, a native of Boston and son of famed abolitionist George Downing, gave us the letterbox in 1891, known today as the mailbox. While working at the post office, Downing came up with a box to keep letters from getting wet. Because of its unique design, our mail has been dry ever since.
Joseph Gammell invented the Super Charge System for internal combustion engines.
It was an African American who introduced to the game a “tee” — the little wooden peg you stick into the ground and sit the ball on before hitting it? The tee makes the ball easier to hit. George F. Grant invented the golf tee in 1899.
No, Grant was not a caddie! He was one of America’s turn-of-the-century golfers and perhaps the country’s first professional golfer.
Michael Harvey invented the lantern:
Or for that matter, what would food preparers, who put those tasty morsels on steam tables, have done without the eggbeater (Willis Johnson, 1884)?
Frederick Jones invented the Air Conditioner.
George W Kelley came up with the idea of the steam table. Because of George W Kelley, hot food is in. Kelley brought things to a boil when he came up with the idea of the steam table in 1897. With his table, food could be cooked and kept warm for long periods of time. What would schools, cafeterias, hospitals, and restaurants do without the steam table?
Lewis Latimer invented the Electric Lamp.
John Love invented the pencil sharpener.
W. A. Lovette invented the Advanced Printing Press.
There is some question about the correct spelling of his name; but I believe it is “Matzeliger”. Jan E. Matzeliger invented the Shoe Lasting Machine.
Jan E. “Matzelinger” invented the Shoe Lasting Machine.
Jan Matzeliger from Dutch Guiana revolutionized the shoe industry with his invention, patent #274,207.
1001 things everyone should know about African American History
by Jeffery C. Stewart,
Copyright 1996, DoubleDay ISBN 0-385-47309-5
If you wish to play Q&A on African American history and culture, go to website above the picture of the Shoe Lasting Machine and click on the icon there, pictured below.
Alexander Mils, a black man, invented the elevator.
Garrett A. Morgan, a black man, invented the traffic signals.
Alice Parker invented the Heating Furnace.
William Purvis invented the Hand Stamp: William Purvis, the son of another abolitionist, entered our lives with the hand stamp, the inked rubber pad that marks “paid” or prints labels. A native of Philadelphia, Purvis wrote in his patent application that “the object of this invention is to construct a perfect self-inking printing stamp for general purpose, but more especially for postal stamps cancellation and dating the envelopes simultaneously.”
William Purvis invented the fountain pen: The next time you pull out your Mont Blanc, remember Purvis, who also invented the fountain pen. Before he created this writing tool, people had to carry ink with them. Until the advent of the ballpoint, the fountain pen was the standard instrument used for writing and signing contracts.
Lloyd P. Ray the Dust Pan: Lloyd P. Ray of Seattle, Wash., “invented an improvement” in 1882 when he developed the dustpan. That’s right, the lowly dustpan. There had been ways to collect dirt before his invention, but Ray made the front end of the pan heavier and thinner so that dirt could be swept into it more easily. His improvement received Patent No. 587,607. Ray’s dustpan has not been greatly altered since.
We give thanks to J.B. Rhodes for bringing us in from the cold with his invention of the water closet, or commode toilet, in 1899.
Because of Rhodes, the outhouse is out.
Elbert R. Robinson invented the electric trolley.
Walter Sammons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received U.S. patent #1,362,823 on December 21, 1920 for an improved comb that straightened hair. According to Walter Sammons’ patent he invented a heated comb that removed kinks from the hair.
Joseph Smith invented the Lawn Sprinkler.
We are indebted to R.B. Spikes for enabling us to drive our automobiles without shifting gears. He gave us the automatic gearshift in 1932. We have been tooling along in our automobiles ever since without putting hand to gearshift.
An improved refrigerator design was patented by African American inventor John Standard of Newark, NJ, on 7/14/1891 – U.S. patent #455,891. John Standard was also granted U.S. patent #413,689 on 10/29/1889 for oil stove.
In his patent for the refrigerator John Standard declared, “This invention relates to improvements in refrigerators; and it consists of certain novel arrangements and combinations of parts.” This means that John Standard was saying that he had found a way to improve the design of a refrigerator that he looked at an existing refrigerator and made it better.
Contrary to popular folklore, John Standard did not invent the very first refrigerator, however, every patent represents something that has not been done before and most utility patents are issued for what is called an “improvement”. Improvements are the work of inventors and often it is the improved design that succeeds.
Thomas W. Steward invented the Mop: Thomas W. Steward’s invention of the mop in 1893 was novel. There had been nothing like it previously.
Prior to his mop, people on their knees scrubbed floors with brushes, scrub pads, and rags. Steward felt there must be a better way He put a handle on cotton fibers and forever changed the way people clean floors. Steward’s mop received Patent No. 499,402.
Or for that matter, what would food preparers, who put those tasty morsels on steam tables, have done without the fruit juicer (Madeline Turner, 1916)?
Granville T. Woods
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in April 23, 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry. To some he was known as the “Black Edison, both great inventors of their time. Granville T. Woods invented more than a dozen devices to improve electric railway cars and many more for controlling the flow of electricity. His most noted invention was a system for letting the engineer of a train know how close his train was to others. This device helped cut down accidents and collisions between trains.
Granville T. Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. During his youth he also went to night school and took private lessons. Although he had to leave formal school at age ten, Granville T. Woods realized that learning and education were essential to developing critical skills that would allow him to express his creativity with machinery.
In 1872, Granville T. Woods obtained a job as a fireman on the Danville and Southern railroad in Missouri, eventually becoming an engineer. He invested his spare time in studying electronics. In 1874, Granville Woods moved to Springfield, Illinois, and worked in a rolling mill. In 1878, he took a job aboard the Ironsides, a British steamer, and, within two years, became Chief Engineer of the steamer. Finally, his travels and experiences led him to settle in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the person most responsible for modernizing the railroad.
In 1888, Granville T. Woods developed a system for overhead electric conducting lines for railroads, which aided in the development of the overhead railroad system found in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City. In his early thirties, he became interested in thermal power and steam-driven engines. And, in 1889, he filed his first patent for an improved steam-boiler furnace. In 1892, a complete Electric Railway System was operated at Coney Island, NY. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains. Granville T. Woods’ invention made it possible for trains to communicate with the station and with other trains so they knew exactly where they were at all times.
Alexander Graham Bell’s company purchased the rights to Granville T. Woods’ “telegraphony”, enabling him to become a full-time inventor. Among his other top inventions were a steam boiler furnace and an automatic air brake used to slow or stop trains. Wood’s electric car was powered by overhead wires. It was the third rail system to keep cars running on the right track.
Success led to lawsuits filed by Thomas Edison, who sued Granville Woods claiming that he was the first inventor of the multiplex telegraph. Granville Woods eventually won, but Edison didn’t give up easily when he wanted something. Trying to win Granville Woods over, and his inventions, Edison offered Granville Woods a prominent position in the engineering department of Edison Electric Light Company in New York. Granville T. Woods, preferring his independence, declined.
Granville Tailer Woods, the Black Inventor, who beat Thomas Alva Edison!
Paul Wardell Perry is a freelance writer who lives in New York City.
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These are by no means the only African American inventors of note. If you wish to do further research, by all means go to the following website:
Tabacco: There are two types of lies – 1) lies of commission and 2) lies of omission. The American History book authors and editors were guilty of the 2nd type of lying – lies of omission. By not mentioning the facts presented here, they have done irreparable harm to the Black psyche. For this, I shall never forgive them. But we can go forward and know the truth now. If one of your children is studying American History, take a look at the pages of the textbook and index to see if any of the people, profiled here, are mentioned in that tome. If none are mentioned, you need to do two things: 1) complain loudly and often to school administrators, and 2) print out a copy of this article to present to your child. Tabacco has made every attempt to get both the names and the facts as accurately as possible.
One last word – I have received emails about some very important subjects. This article was inspired by an email from a personal friend, Sonny. Thank you, Sonny. However, if you email information, of this type, to friends and family, please don’t forget to include the source of that data. Without that source, information cannot be checked for accuracy and veracity. I always supply sources and give credit to people I have quoted, whenever possible. Taking credit for someone else’s idea is called plagiarism.
I know you Readers would prefer links you can just click on. But I haven’t gotten that technique down yet, and if I did know how, it would be too time consuming. Most bloggers just write their opinions. I try to inform my Readers and give them my sources for verification. That means researching, studying and maintaining voluminous records. I prefer to spend most of my time researching and writing, not editing and manipulating computer features. And I do include lots of pictures and graphics. After all, I do most of the work; I think you can do a copy and paste into your browser window if you wish to consult a source. Now you know why I rarely do clickable links. Please don’t tell anybody how lazy and incompetent I am.
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People