Inventors are inspirational. Martha Coston was an inventor and businesswoman. She is known for inventing the Coston flare. This device is for boat signaling at sea, especially at night and/or in dangerous conditions.
Martha Jane Hunt was born on December 12, 1826 in Baltimore, Maryland. She moved with her family to Philadelphia in the 1830s. When she was a teenager she eloped with Benjamin Franklin Coston, who was an inventor. He became the director of the U.S. Navy’s scientific laboratory at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. He resigned in 1847 after developing a signal rocket and a percussion primer for canons. He then became president of the Boston Gas Company. His work with chemical fumes at both jobs led to a decline of his health and his death in 1848. He had made plans for signal flares.
Martha suffered through the deaths of two of her children and her mother before discovering her late husband’s notes about plans for signal flares. For the next approximately ten years, Martha worked to develop a flare signaling system. She hired chemists and fireworks experts to help her. The Coston Manufacturing Company was established to manufacture signal flares. A polytechnics developer helped to provide what she had discovered was the necessary blue color. In 1859, she received a patent that named her deceased husband as the inventor. Different combinations of colors allowed ships to signal each other. The U.S. Navy ordered flares.
Coston obtained patents in several European countries and traveled to England to market flares there. In 1861, she returned to the U.S. at the outbreak of the Civil War. The U.S. Navy purchased the patent. The U.S. Navy used the flares effectively during the Civil War. She received additional patents in her name for improvements on pyrotechnic night signals.
Every station of the United States Life-Saving Service was equipped with Coston flares. Thousands of lives were saved by the use of Coston flares. Martha Coston died in 1904, however her company continued to manufacture flares. The Coston Supply Company, later called the Coston Signal Company, remained in business until around 1985.
Be inspired! Have a bright day!