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Black Inventors and Innovators - Garrett Morgan

Updated on January 9, 2012


Garrett Morgan was born March 4, 1877 in Paris, Kentucky and died August 27, 1963 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Morgan was one of 11 children. At the age of 14 Morgan decided to move to Cincinnati for a better education and then shortly after that Morgan moved to Cleveland for work. Morgan worked as a handyman learning all about the sewing machine. Soon he would open up his own sewing machine store where Morgan would sell new machines and repair old ones. 

Morgan’s first invention would come when he was trying to reduce the friction that the needle on a sewing machine caused from moving so fast.  Morgan was trying to create a liquid that would reduce the friction to stop the needle from burning the fabric.  What Morgan actually developed was the first human hair straightener; G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Cream.

A few years after creating the hair straightener cream, Morgan came up with another invention meant to help fire fighters to be able to breathe freely while surrounded by thick smoke and gas.  Morgan invented the safety hood which we now know as the gas mask and although it was meant for firemen his invention would help others who worked around noxious fumes, gases, smoke or dust such as engineers, chemists and others.  Sales of the gas mask were good but the true test of the invention would come when there was an underground tunnel explosion.  With workers trapped underground Morgan with his gas mask and the help of others was able to rescue many of the workers who would have otherwise died. News of this event increased the sale of the gas masks. Fire Engineers and the United States Army were among a few of the buyers of the gas mask.  Even though he had numerous sales of his invention, some orders were cancelled when the purchasers found out that Morgan was Black; a minor setback for Morgan.

After the invention of the gas mask Morgan went in a completely different direction after seeing a traffic accident between an automobile and a horse and carriage where the driver of the automobile was knocked unconscious and the horse had to be destroyed. Because of the accident Morgan knew that something had to be done for safety on the roads. Morgan created an automatic way of directing traffic without the need of a human.  Morgan created the automatic traffic signal to direct the flow of traffic. Today’s traffic lights are based on Morgan’s original invention.

Morgan’s inventions were truly diverse in nature however Morgan seemed to focus on the safety of others.  Morgan was an inventor and an innovator looking out for the welfare of others.


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    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you very much pmccray! I enjoyed learning about these incredible inventors!

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      Excellent hub, very relevant. You like I seek the "less known" of this celebration. Very well done. Voted up, marked useful.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you fastfreta - He was a very interesting man!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 6 years ago from Southern California

      WOW! I knew about the traffic light, but I didn't know he invented the first hair straightener, not to mention the gas mask. Really good research.

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Eiddwen - Thank you so much for your comments. I have really enjoyed researching about these innovators. The things they had to endure is truly amazing!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Hi Triplet Mom,

      Another great hub to follow the one about Joseph Lee that I read yesterday.

      How small minded and bigoted to turn down his gas masks just because he was black. Like you racism or it's like has no place in my mind but sadly we are not all of the same mindset are we??

      I am going to try and read some more of your hybs in this theme in the next couple of days. They are fascinating!!!!

      Take care,


    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Hello - Yeah I was just amazed that he lost orders because he was Black. But then again it is really their loss. Thank you for the comments.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      It shows the fanatism to cancel an order of gasmask which does nothing but saves lives because Morgan was black. These racists are so brainless. Thank you for your wonderfully written hub.