Black Inventors Who Changed the World: Andrew J. Beard
Andrew J. Beard was born into slavery in 1849 on a farm in Eastlake, Alabama. He was emancipated at age fifteen, later married, and settled as a farmer on the outskirts of Birmingham. He was incredibly smart and developed a variety of inventions and six patents that got him inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. He did all of this without the opportunity of formal education.
After working at a flour mill, Beard designed a mill of his own and made it far more efficient and productive. The Beard Flour Mill included an improved rotary steam engine that was cheaper, easier to build, and operate. an adjustable double-plated plow. His invention was revolutionary and highly sought after. Andrew Beard received his patent for the flour mill in 1881 and sold his invention three years later for $4,000, the equivalent of $100,000 today.
Beard continued to improve upon his flour mill invention and continued to cash in on the fruits of his labor. In 1887, Beard received his second patent by adding a pitch adjustment to his design and sold it for $5,200, roughly $130,000 today's money. He would improve his farming marvel and receive two more patents before he moved on to work in and revolutionize the railroad industry. By the late 1800s, the railroad industry had transformed not only travel but also communication, distribution, and the transport of goods around the country.
Andrew Jackson Beard
Working for various rail companies, Beard developed a safer way for trains to connect and invented the Semi-Automatic Janney Coupler. This would be his most famous creation, and it is still used today. Hooking up rail cars was incredibly dangerous and many times ended with gruesome accidents. The Janney Coupler automatically locked train cars together when they bumped into each other.
This eliminated the danger to rail workers, many of whom lost hands, finger, arms, and even their lives. Before Beard's invention, railroad workers had to do to link two train cars together manually by dropping a steel pin between them at the precise moment they came together. Can you imagine how dangerous that must have been? Below is more interesting facts about his life.