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107 Jamz Celebrates Black History Month- Today In History

Today we salute a black inventor who was really ahead of his time.  One of his inventions is used by billions of people every minute of the day.  In fact, it would be absolute total chaos without it and driving would be near impossible.


Today we salute Garrett Morgan the inventor or both the traffic signal, hair strengthening preparation and the gas mask.

The son of former slaves, Garrett Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877.  He spent the early part of his childhood attending school and working on the family farm with his brothers and sisters.   Although his formal education only took him to a elementary grade level, he hired a tutor and continued his studies in English grammar.   At the age 15, he left Kentucky and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in search of opportunity.

In 1895, he went to work as a sewing machine repair man for a clothing manufacturer.  News of his knack for fixing things and experimenting with things traveled fast and led to numerous job offers from various manufacturing firms in the Cleveland area.

In 1907, Garret opened his own sewing equipment and repair shop.  A huge accomplishment in those days and ironically the first of several businesses he would own.  A couple of years later, in 1909, he expanded the enterprise to include a tailoring shop that employed 32 employees.  Turning out coats, suits and dresses, all sewn with equipment that Garrett Morgan made himself.

Garret Morgan was an extremely adventurous inventor.  Speaking of which, 0n July 25, 1916, he made national news for using a gas mask he invented to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie.


After the rescue, his company received tons of requests from fire departments around the country who wanted to purchase the new masks.  The Morgan gas mask was also used by U.S. Army during World War I.  In 1914, Garrett Morgan was awarded a patent for a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. Two years later, a refined model of his early gas mask won a gold medal at the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety, and another gold medal from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

In 1920, Garrett moved into the newspaper business, where he established the Cleveland Call.  Obviously, with this success he became a prosperous and well respected business man.  His success also afforded him the opportunity to purchase a home and an automobile.  In the early years of the 20th century it was not uncommon for bicycles, animal-powered wagons, and new gasoline-powered motor vehicles to share the same streets and roadways with pedestrians.  Accidents were frequent.  After witnessing a horrible collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage, Garrett was inspired to make a improvement of the existing traffic signal system.  Garrett Morgan also had his invention patented in Great Bri

Garrett Morgan T-Traffic Signal
Garrett Morgan T-Traffic

tain and Canada.

Other Inventions

Garrett Morgan was constantly experimenting to develop new concepts.  The gas mask and traffic signal were  just one of several innovations he developed, manufactured, and sold over the years.  He also, invented a zig-zag stitching attachment for manually operated sewing machine. He also founded a company that made personal grooming products, such as hair dying ointments and the curved-tooth pressing comb.

As word of Garrett Morgan’s life-saving inventions spread across North America and England, demand for these products grew. He was frequently invited to conventions and public exhibitions to demonstrate how his inventions worked.

Garrett Morgan lived a long prosperous and full life.  Though he died on August 27, 1963, at the age of 86, his inventions and legacy lives with us everyday.  By the way, Garrett Morgan was a Prince Hall Freemason and an honorary member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Also, on this day in black history:

Poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar (circa 1890)

On this day in 1906 poet Paul Laurence died at the age of 33 of tuberculosis in Dayton, Ohio.  On 1944, Novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple was born in Eatonton, Georgia.  In 1952, Author Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man wins the National Book Award.  In 1971, Baseball Hall of Fame inducts Leroy “Satchel” Paige.  Finally in 1995, Bernard Harris, African-American astronaut, takes space walk.

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