Garrett A. Morgan left school by age 14 – not uncommon for Black boys growing up in post-slavery America. The teenager found work as a mechanic in Cincinnati, Ohio, and tinkered away repairing sewing machines for twelve years. But at night, his mind raced with inventive designs that could make the world a better place. How did he do it?
His first inventions included a patented sewing machine fastener and a chemical solution to straighten wool fabrics and hair. Despite this early success, Morgan longed to invent something more significant that would save lives. That day soon came.
Before midnight on July 25, 1916, several Cleveland Water Works miners were involved in an explosion that trapped them under Lake Erie. At the time, Morgan was working on a breathing device that could help in a gaseous, smoke-filled rescue mission like this, and time was of the essence.
Bravely, Morgan descended below Lake Erie while wearing his gas mask. After rescuing dozens, his device made national news and earned him a patent! One is still in use by modern mask designs today. But there’s more.
His other inventions, including the traffic signal, continue to keep our roads safe. Garrett A. Morgan’s inspiring legacy reveals wisdom we can all apply: using our minds to pursue creative solutions can impact our people’s lives for the better!