Have you heard of: Garrett Morgan


How is everyone this Wednesday it is a nice day not to cold but I have a lot of pain in my left ankle today so sitting and doing nothing is on the cards today. Being Wednesday it is have you heard of day so have you heard of: Garrett Morgan?

Garrett Augustus Morgan was an award-winning American inventor and community leader of African-American descent, he was born on the 4th March 1877.

So what did he invent that people might have heard of or use well he invented an early version of a gas mask called a smoke hood but no that isn’t the thing that is used today, that would be the traffic light.

He created the first traffic light that included a third “warning” position which is standard today, he also developed a chemical that was used in hair-straightening products.

He was born in Claysville his parents were former slaves his father being owned by Confederate Colonel John H Morgan of Morgan’s Raiders fame, his mother was also half native American, he had one brother Frank.

He had a sixth-grade education from Branch Elementary School and at age 16 he moved to Cincinnati inn search of employment. He spent most of his teenage years working as a handyman and was lucky enough to hire a tutor and continue his studies while working.

In 1895, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio,where he began repairing sewing machines for a clothing manufacturer. This experience with repairing sewing machines was the impetus for Morgan’s interest in how things work. His first invention, developed during this period, was a belt fastener for sewing machines. Throughout this period of time, before his first patent in 1912, he was slowly building his reputation in Cleveland for his skill at fixing things.

In 1907, Morgan with nearly a decade of experience with sewing machines, finally opened up his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop. In 1908, Morgan became more conscious of his heritage and helped found the Cleveland Association of Coloured Men. In 1909, he and his wife Mary Anne expanded their business ventures by opening a shop called Morgan’s Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store. The shop had 32 employees, and made coats, suits, dresses, and other clothing. Around 1910 his interest in repairing other people’s inventions waned, and he became interested in developing some of his own.

He was the subject of a newspaper feature, for a heroic rescue in 1916 of workers trapped within a water intake tunnel, 50ft (15m) beneath Lake Erie. He performed his rescue using a hood fashioned to protect his eyes from smoke and featuring a series of air tubes that hung near the ground to draw clean air beneath the rising smoke. This enabled Morgan to lengthen his ability to endure the inhospitable conditions of a smoke-filled room. Morgan is also credited as the first African American in Cleveland to own a car.

The smoke hood was completed circa 1912. He received his patent for it that year as well. The successful invention of the smoke hood precipitated the launch of the National Safety Device Company in 1914. It is unknown if the smoke hood brought him any commercial success. In 1913 he incorporated hair care products into his growing list of patents and launched the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Company, which sold hair care products, including his patented hair straightening cream, a hair colouring, and a hair straightening comb invented by Morgan.


The first American-made automobiles were introduced to consumers just before the turn of the twentieth century, and pedestrians, bicycles, animal-drawn wagons and motor vehicles all had to share the same roads. To deal with the growing problem of traffic accidents, a number of versions of traffic signalling devices began to be developed, starting around 1913.

After he had witnessed a serious accident at an intersection, and he filed a patent for traffic control device having a third “warning” position in 1922. The patent was granted in 1923,though this was not the first system with a warning, a three light system being invented in 1920 by William Potts and previous systems having audible warnings.

He sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000

Later in life he developed glaucoma and by 1943 was functionally blind. He had poor health the rest of his life, but continued to work on his inventions. One of his last was a self-extinguishing cigarette, which used a small plastic pellet filled with water placed just before the filter.

He died on July 27, 1963 aged 86 and is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.


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