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Black Inventors and Innovators - Robert Pelham

Updated on February 18, 2011


Robert Pelham was born in January of 1859 in Petersburg, Virginia and died June 1943 in WashingtonDC. In hopes of finding a better place to raise their family Pelham’s parents moved the family to DetroitMichigan. Pelham’s parents thought that moving to Detroit would provide their children with a better education and better job opportunities. While in school Pelham was hired by the Daily post and earned his skills in journalism through training and working under journalists.  Pelham would work for that newspaper for 20 years while also managing the Detroit Plain Dealer; a Black weekly newspaper.

Shortly after getting married Pelham received a law degree from HowardUniversity. While getting his degree Pelham would have to study at night because he worked during the day for the United States Census Department.  The Census Bureau would be the place where he would develop most of his inventions.

At the United States Census Department the work was extremely difficult, time consuming, messy and took many people to accomplish a simple task.  Out of frustration Pelham developed a method to automate the process and create a device to complete the tasks. Pelham took miscellaneous household items to develop a working model of his device.  This device would save the United States Census Department well over $3,000.  Pelham continued working for the Census Bureau for 30 years and would continue to patent more items including a tabulation device and a tallying machine. Each of Pelham’s devices saved the Bureau money and time. Making the work process much more effective and efficient and streamlining many functions of the clerks.

During his life Pelham would work for several different newspapers such as the Washington Tribune which was a Black newspaper and would create the Capital News Services which was a news agency specifically devoted to Black issues. 

Pelham is a true inspiration, learning about journalism through working for a newspaper at a young age, earning his law degree while working a full time job and creating devices to streamline the work process.


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    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast

      Thank you Hello Hello! I am working hard but enjoying every minute of it!

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      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, you are working hard. Another great hub. Thank you.