Inventors are inspirational. Garrett Morgan was an African American inventor, entrepreneur, and community leader. he had numerous inventions, but was well-known as the inventor of a respiratory protective hood. He gained fame for the use of his safety hood during a rescue of trapped workers in a tunnel, following an explosion, under Lake Erie.
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. was born on March 4, 1877 in Claysville, Kentucky. His parents were former slaves and he received a formal education through seventh grade. He had at least one brother, Frank, who participated in the 1916 Lake Erie tunnel rescue. Morgan moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work when he was 16. He first worked as a handyman. He hired a tutor to continue his studies.
In 1895, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio and began to work on sewing machines for a clothing manufacturer. Morgan first invented a belt fastener for sewing machines. He built a reputation for fixing things. In 1907, he opened his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop. In 1908, he helped found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. In 1909, he and his second wife opened a shop called Morgan’s Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store. He kept inventing and in 1912 patented his smoke hood. In 1913, he founded G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Company and continued to patent hair care products he invented.
In 1914, he founded the National Safety Device Company. His safety hood used a wet sponge and used air tubes that dangled near the floor. His safety hood was used by the United States Army during World War I. The device was awarded a gold medal by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Due to the rescue Morgan received a medal and orders from fire departments all over the country. The International Association of Fire Engineers awarded him and made him an honorary member.
In 1923, Morgan received a patent for his three-position traffic signal. He was inspired by an accident he had seen and realized having a signal between stop and go would help. This proved an important innovation.
Garrett Morgan’s involvement in the community didn’t stop with his involvement with the founding of the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. He was a member of the NAACP and donated money to Negro colleges. In 1916, he also helped found the Cleveland Call newspaper. He was a member of the Prince Hall Freemason fraternal organization and the Antioch Baptist Church as well. In 1920, he helped found an all-black-member country club.
Garrett Morgan’s first marriage was in 1896. He married his second wife, Mary Anne Hassek, in 1908. They had three sons. He continued to work and invent throughout his elder years. He died in 1963 at the age of 86.
Garrett Morgan has been honored and awarded in several ways. Places, including schools and streets, have been named after him. He was included on the television show Inventions that Shook the World and in the 2002 book 100 Greatest African Americans. Be inspired! Have a bright day!