OUR INVENTORS SPOLIGHT

AFRICAN AMERICAN INVENTORS

1. Abrams, W. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Hame Attachment (Date: April 14, 1891, Patent No: 450550)

2. Alcorn, George Edward Jr.

Selected Invention(s):

What their invention or inventions was/were: X-ray spectrometer for distant galaxies and 19 others.

Additional information: Alcorn is best known as the inventor of the Imagining X-Ray Spectrometer. This would ultimately earn him the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year in 1984.

Alcorn was born in March of 1940 and would later earn his B.A. in Physics in 1962, a Masters in 1963, and Ph.D. in 1967. He would spend a large portion of his career at NASA. Alcorn has around 20 other inventions to his name too.

3. Allen, C. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Self-Leveling Table (Date: November 1, 1898, Patent No: 613436)

4. Allen, J. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Clothes Line Support (Date: December 12, 1895, Patent No: 551105)

5. Ashbourne, A. P.

Selected Invention(s):

- Process for Preparing Coconut for Domestic Use (Date: June 1, 1875, Patent No: 163962)

- Biscuit Cutter (Date: November 30, 1875, Patent No: 170460)

- Refining Coconut Oil (Date: July 27, 1880, Patent No: 230518)

- Process of Treating Coconut (Date: August 21, 1877, Patent No: 194287)

6. Bailes, Wm.

Selected Invention(s):

- Ladder Scaffold-Support (Date: August 5, 1879, Patent No: 218154)

7. Bailey, L. C.

Selected Invention(s):

- Combined Truss and Bandage (Date: September 25, 1883, Patent No: 285545)

- Folding Bed (Date: July 18, 1899, Patent No: 629286)

Additional information: Bailey was born in 1825 into poverty and was physically disabled. He would go on to receive various patents for his inventions.

Bailey also invented the rapid mail-stamping machine, a device to shunt trains to different tracks, and a hernia truss that was adopted by the United States Military. He died in 1905.

8. Bailiff, C. O.

Selected Invention(s):

- Shampoo Headrest (Date: October 11, 1898, Patent No: 612008)

9. Ballow, W. J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Combined Hat rack and Table (Date: March 29, 1898, Patent No: 601422)

10. Banneker, Benjamin

Selected Invention(s): Astronomical Almanac

11. Barnes, G. A. E.

Selected Invention(s):

- Design for Sign (Date: August 19, 1898, Patent No: 29193)

12. Bashen, Janet

Selected Invention(s):

- Case management and tracking software (Date: January 10, 2006, Patent No: 6,985,922)

13. Bath, Patricia

Source: National Library of Medicine/Wikimedia Commons

Selected Invention(s):

- The Cataract Laserphaco Probe (Date: 17th December 1986, Patent No: 4744360)

Additional information: Bath was born in Harlem and would go on to become a pioneering ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic who is known for inventing a tool and procedure for the removal of cataracts using a laser beam, called the Laserphaco Probe.

Bath was born in 1942 in New York and was the daughter of the first African-American motorman to work in the NYC subway. She would show an early interest and ability in science at a young age. This passion would drive her onwards and upwards.

In 1973, Bath became the first African-American to complete a residency in ophthalmology. She was the first woman ophthalmologist to be appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine Jules Stein Eye Institute and the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the United States.

14. Beard, A. J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Car Coupler (Date: November 23, 1897, Patent No: 594059)

- Rotary Engine (Date: July 5, 1892, Patent No: 478271)

15. Becket, G. E

Selected Invention(s):

- Letter Box (Date: October 4, 1892, Patent No: 483525)

16. Bell, L.

Selected Invention(s):

- Locomotive Smoke Stack (Date: May 23, 1871, Patent No: 115153)

- Dough Kneader (Date: Dec. 10, 1872, Patent No: 133823)

17. Benjamin, L. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Broom Moisteners and Bridles (Date: May 16, 1893, Patent No: 497747)

18. Benjamin, M. E.

Selected Invention(s):

- Gong and Signal Chairs for Hotels (Date: July 17, 1888, Patent No: 386289)

19. Binga, M. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Street Sprinkling Apparatus (Date: July 22, 1879, Patent No: 217843)

20. Blackburn, A. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Railway Signal (Date: January 10, 1888, Patent No: 376362)

- Spring Seat for Chairs (Date: April 3, 1888, Patent No: 380420)

- Cash Carrier (Date: October 23, 1888, Patent No: 391577)

21. Blair, Henry

Selected Invention(s):

- Seed Planter (Date: October 14, 1834, Patent No: X8447)

- Cotton Planter (Date: August 31, 1836, Patent No: 15)

22. Blue, L.

Selected Invention(s):

- Hand Corn Shelling Device (Date: May 20, 1884, Patent No: 298937)

23. Booker, L. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Design Rubber Scraping Knife (Date: March 28, 1899, Patent No: 30404)

24. Boone, Sarah

Source: SHSMO

Selected Invention(s):

- Ironing Board (Date: April 26, 1892, Patent No: 473653)

Additional information: Sarah Boone was born a slave in 1832 in North Carolina and would go on to develop a special type of ironing board. Her invention was made from a narrow wooden board that had collapsible legs, with the entire device having a padded cover.

Prior to this invention, the most common solution was a simple plank of wood placed across a pair of chairs.

25. Bowman, H. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Making Flags (Date: February 23, 1892, Patent No: 469395)

26. Boykin, Otis

Selected Invention(s):

- Electrical resistor (Date: 21st February 1961, Patent No: 2972726)

Additional information: Otis Boykin was born in Dallas, Texas on August 29, 1920. After his invention of the control unit for pacemakers, he would ironically die from a heart attack in 1982.

Boykin would graduate from Fisk College, Tennessee in 1941 and later took up work at in 1945 P.J. Nilsen Research Laboratories to fund further studies at Illinois Institute of Technology. He dropped out two years later and started his own business in 1947.

27. Bradberry, Henrietta

Selected Invention(s):

- The Bed Rack (Date: 25th May 1943, Patent No: 2320027)

28. Bradley, Benjamin

Selected Invention(s): First Steam Engine For A Ship

Additional information: Benjamin was born a slave, probably in 1830, and was taught to read and write by his master's children. He would show a talent for invention and later devised the first steam engine for a ship.

Showing a great natural talent for invention, his master referred him to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to take up a position as an assistant in their Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. He was the first African American to hold any non-menial post at the Naval Academy. It was here that he developed his own design for a steam engine.

Being a slave, he was not able to patent his invention - he did sell the rights to it, however, and used the money to buy his own freedom.

29. Brooks, O. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Punch (Date: October 31, 1893, Patent No: 507672)

- Street Sweeper (Date: March 17, 1896, Patent No: 556711)

- Street Sweepers (Date: May 12, 1896, Patent No: 560154)

30. Brooks, O.B., Hallstead, G. M., and Page, S.

Selected Invention(s):

- Street Sweepers (Date: April 21, 1896, Patent No: 558719)

31. Brown, Henry

Selected Invention(s):

- Receptacle for Storing and Preserving Papers (Date: November 2, 1886, Patent No: 352036)

Additional information: The box designed by Brown used a series of hinged trays to separate papers and store them securely. It was especially useful for storing carbon papers, which could be damaged by scraping against the lid or other documents. The invention was a precursor to the personal safe. Although it was not the first patent for a strongbox, it was an improvement.

32. Brown, L. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Bridle Bit (Date: October 25, 1892, Patent No: 484994)

33. Brown, Marie Van Brittan, and Brown, Albert

Source: Timeline

Selected Invention(s):

- Home security system utilizing television surveillance (Date: December 2, 1969, Patent No: 3482037)

Additional information: Marie V. B. Brown was born in 1922 and as an adult, she lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood of Queens, NYC. Brown worked as a nurse, and her husband, Albert Brown, was an electronics technician. Their work hours meant that Brown was often home by herself. Concerned about the slow police response times to their neighborhood, Brown created a system that would allow her to know who was at her home and contact authorities quickly in the event of a break-in.

Her original invention was included peepholes, a camera, monitors, a two-way microphone, and an alarm button to contact the police. Brown’s security system was the foundation for modern, two-way communication and surveillance systems. Brown’s invention gained her an award from the National Scientists Committee.

34. Burr, J. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Lawn Mower (Date: May 9, 1889, Patent No: 624749)

35. Burridge, L. S. & Marshman, N. R.

Selected Invention(s):

- Substitute for Inking Ribbons on Typewriters (Date: January 12, 1897, Patent No: 575145)

36. Burwell, W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Boot or Shoe (Date: November 28, 1899, Patent No: 638043)

37. Butler, R. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Train Alarm (Date: June 15, 1897, Patent No: 584540)

38. Butts, J. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Luggage Carrier (Date: October 10, 1899, Patent No: 634611)

39. Byrd, T. J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Improvement in Holders for Reins for Horses (Date: February 6, 1872, Patent No: 123328)

- Apparatus for Detaching Horses From Carriages (Date: March 19, 1872, Patent No: 124790)

- Improvement in Neck Yokes For Wagons (Date: April 30, 1872, Patent No: 126181)

- Improvement in Car Couplings (Date: December 1, 1874, Patent No: 157370)

40. Campbell, W. S.

Selected Invention(s):

- Self-Setting Animal Trap (Date: August 30, 1881, Patent No: 246369)

41. Cargill, B. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Invalid Cot (Date: July 25, 1899, Patent No: 629658)

42. Carrington, T. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Cooking Range (Date: July 25, 1876, Patent No: 180323)

43. Carruthers, George R.

Selected Invention(s):

-Image converter for detecting electromagnetic radiation, especially in short wavelengths (Date: November 11, 1966, Patent No: 3478216)

44. Carter, W. G.

Selected Invention(s):

- Umbrella Stand (Date: August 4, 1885, Patent No: 323397)

45. Carver, George Washington

Source: National Park Service

Selected Invention(s):

-Cosmetics And Producing The Same (Date: 6th January 1925, Patent No: 1522176)

-Paint And Stain And Producing The Same, Producing Paint And Stains Cosmetics And Producing The Same (Date: June 9, 1925, Patent No: 1541478)

- Process of Producing Paint And Stains (Date: June 14, 1927, Patent No: 1632365)

Additional information: Carver was born a slave in Missouri sometime between 1860 and 1865 (no exact records exist). After the Civil War, Carver's mother taught him to read and write. Later, he traveled to a school for Black children 10 miles away. He then homesteaded a claim, where he conducted biological experiments and compiled a geological collection. He would later devise over 300 different uses for peanuts, including cooking oil, printer’s ink, and axle grease.

George earned his Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science from Iowa State in 1894 - the first Black student at the college - and he followed this up with a master's in 1896. He later taught at the Tuskegee Institute, becoming a prominent scientific expert. In 1916, he was made a member of the British Royal Society of Arts and later advised Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on matters of agriculture and nutrition. He received the 1923 Spingarn Medal and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

46. Certain, J. M.

Selected Invention(s):

- Parcel Carrier for Bicycles (Date: December 26, 1899, Patent No: 639708)

47. Cherry, M. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Velocipede (Date: May 8, 1888, Patent No: 382351)

- Street Car Finder (Date: January 1, 1895, Patent No: 531908)

48. Church, T. S.

Selected Invention(s):

- Carpet Beating Machine (Date: July 22, 1884, Patent No: 302237)

49. Clare, O. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Trestle (Date: October 9, 1888, Patent No: 390753)

50. Coates, R.

Selected Invention(s):

- Overboot for Horses (Date: April 19, 1892, Patent No: 473295)

51. Cook, G.

Selected Invention(s):

- Automatic Fishing Device (Date: May 30, 1899, Patent No: 625829)

52. Coolidge, J. S.

Selected Invention(s):

- Harness Attachment (Date: November 13, 1888, Patent No: 392908)

53. Cooper, A. R.

Selected Invention(s):

- Shoemakers Jack (Date: August 22, 1899, Patent No: 631519)

54. Cooper, J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Shutter and Fastening (Date: May 1, 1883, Patent No: 276563)

- Elevator Safety Device (Date: April 2, 1895, Patent No: 536605)

- Elevator Safety Device (Date: September 21, 1897, Patent No: 590257)

55. Cornwell, P. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Draft Regulator (Date: October 2, 1888, Patent No: 390284)

56. Cosgrove, W. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Automatic Stop Plug for Gas Oil Pipes (Date: March 17, 1885, Patent No: 313993)

57. Cotton, Donald J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Capillary Liquid Fuel Nuclear Reactor (Date: April 27, 1982, Patent No: 4327443)

58. Cralle, A. L.

Selected Invention(s):

- Ice-Cream Mold (Date: February 2, 1897, Patent No: 576395)

Additional information: Alfred L. Cralle was a Black American inventor and businessman. He is best known for his invention of the ice cream scoop. Cralle was born on the 4th of September 1866 in Virginia.

He never acquired a formal education beyond basic schooling as a child. He worked various odd jobs and devised the idea for his scoop whilst working at a hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he noticed how much difficulty people were having serving ice cream with spoons and ladles alone. However, he did not become famous or profit from his ice cream scoop. It spread so quickly that people never knew Cralle was the inventor. He was tragically killed during a car accident in 1920.

59. Creamer, H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Steam Feed Water Trap (Date: March 17, 1895, Patent No: 313854)

- Steam Trap Feeder (Date: December 11, 1888, Patent No: 394463)

60. Crosthwait, David

Selected Invention(s):

- Arrangements for drainage, venting or aerating for steam heating systems (Date: September 10, 1929, Patent No: 1727965)

61. Darkins, J. T.

Selected Invention(s):

- Ventilation Aid (Date: February 19, 1895, Patent No: 534322)

62. Davis, I. D.

Selected Invention(s):

- Tonic (Date: November 2, 1886, Patent No: 351829)

63. Davis, W. D.

Selected Invention(s):

- Riding Saddles (Date: October 6, 1896, Patent No: 568939)

64. Davis, W. R., Jr.

Selected Invention(s):

- Library Table (Date: September 24, 1878, Patent No: 208378)

65. De Leon, Martha (Mary) Jones

Source: U.S. Patent Database Search

Selected Invention(s):

- Cooking apparatus (Date: June 24, 1873, Patent No: 140253)

Additional information: Martha DeLeon was only the second African-American woman to receive a patent for her invention. Her invention was an early precursor of the steam tables that we see at food buffets worldwide today.

66. Deitz, W. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Improvement in Shoes (Date: April 30, 1867, Patent No: 64205)

67. Dickinson, J. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Player piano (Date: June 11, 1912, Patent No: 1028996)

- Arm for Recording Machine (Date: January 8, 1918, Patent No: 1252411)

68. Dorsey, O.

Selected Invention(s):

- Door-holding Device (Date: December 10, 1878, Patent No: 210764)

69. Dorticus, C. J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Device for Applying Coloring Liquid to Sides of Soles Or Heels of Shoes (Date: March 19, 1895, Patent No: 535820)

- Machine for Embossing Photographs (Date: April 16, 1895, Patent No: 537442)

- Photographic Print Wash (Date: April 23, 1895, Patent No: 537968)

- Hose Leak Stop (Date: July 18, 1899, Patent No: 629315)

70. Downing, Gertrude E.

Selected Invention(s):

- Corner and Baseboard Cleaner Attachment for Rotary Floor Treatment Machines (Date: February 13, 1973, Patent No: 3715772)

71. Downing, P. B.

Selected Invention(s):

- Electric Switch for Railroad (Date: June 17, 1890, Patent No: 430118)

- Street Letter Box (Date: October 27, 1891, Patent No: 462093)

72. Drew, Charles R. Md

Selected Invention(s):

- Apparatus For Preserving Blood/Blood Plasma Bag (Date: November 10, 1942, Patent No: 2301710)

73. Dunnington, J. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Horse Detachers (Date: March 16, 1897, Patent No: 578979)

74. Edmonds, T. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Separating Screens (Date: July 20, 1897, Patent No: 586724)

75. Eglin, Ellen

Source: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Selected Invention(s):

- Improved Clothes Ringer (Date: September 8, 1891, Patent No: 459343) - sold to the registered patent holder O. Wheeler.

Additional information: Little is known about Ellen Eglin except she was born in 1849 and worked as a housekeeper and is the inventor of a mechanical clothes wringer.

Afraid that no one would buy the invention because of her race, she sold her invention to an agent for a pittance in 1888. She died in 1890 without having received any recognition for her device in her lifetime.

76. Elder, Clarence

Selected Invention(s):

- Bidirectional monitoring and control system (Date: December 28, 1976, Patent No: 4000400)

77. Elkins, T.

Selected Invention(s):

- Dining, Ironing Table, and Quilting Frame Combined (Date: February 22, 1870, Patent No: 100020)

- Chamber Commode (Date: January 9, 1872, Patent No: 122518)

- Refrigerating Apparatus (Date: November 4, 1879, Patent No: 221222)

78. Evans, J. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Convertible Settees (Date: October 5, 1897, Patent No: 591095)

79. Faulkner, H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Ventilated Shoe (Date: April 29, 1890, Patent No: 426495)

80. Ferrell, F. J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Steam Trap (Date: February 11, 1890, Patent No: 420993)

- Apparatus for Melting Snow (Date: May 27, 1890, Patent No: 428670)

81. Fisher, D. A.

Selected Invention(s):

- Joiners Clamp (Date: April 20, 1875, Patent No: 162281)

- Furniture Castor (Date: March 14, 1876, Patent No: 174794)

82. Flemming, R. F., Jr.

Selected Invention(s):

-Euphonica (a type of Guitar) (Date: March 30, 1886, Patent No: 338727)

83. Goode, Sarah E.

Source: Digging History

Selected Invention(s):

- Folding Cabinet Bed (Date: July 14, 1885, Patent No: 322177)

Additional information: Born into slavery in 1850, Goode was the second of seven children. She was freed at the end of the Civil War, and went on to become one of the first African-Americans to be awarded a patent.

It was in Chicago where Sarah met her husband, Archibald Goode, a carpenter, and stair builder. Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, Goode opened a furniture store.

Many of her customers lived in small apartments and didn't have much space for furniture.

As a solution, Goode invented a cabinet bed, similar to what would now be called a Murphy bed. When the bed was not being used, it could also serve as a roll-top desk. Goode died on April 8, 1905, in Chicago at the age of 50.

84. Gourdine, Meredith C.

Selected Invention(s):

- Method and apparatus for converting chemical and thermal energy into electricity (Date: January 30, 1996, Patent No: 5487957)

- Method and apparatus for producing multivortex fluid flow (Date: October 10, 1995, Patent No: 5487957)

85. Grant, G. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Golf Tee (Date: December 12, 1899, Patent No: 638920)

Additional information: Grant was an African American dentist, academic, and inventor. He was born in 1846 in New York, to former slaves. When he was fifteen years old, he was hired by a local dentist, Dr. Albert Smith, as an errand boy. Dr. Smith soon promoted him to lab assistant and encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry. In 1868, he and Robert Tanner Freeman became the first blacks to enroll in Harvard Dental School. After receiving his degree in 1870, he became the first African American faculty member at Harvard.

Grant was also an avid golfer and in 1899 he invented his golf tee, which was whittled from wood and capped a latex resin used for root canals. Grant died in 1910 from liver disease.

86. Grant, W. S.

Selected Invention(s):

- Curtain Rod Support (Date: August 4, 1896, Patent No: 565075)

87. Gray, R. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Baling Press (Date: August 28, 1894, Patent No: 525203)

- Cistern Cleaner (Date: April 9, 1895, Patent No: 537151)

88. Gregory, J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Motor (Date: April 26, 1887, Patent No: 361937)

89. Grenon, H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Razor Stropping Device (Date: February 18, 1896, Patent No: 554867)

90. Griffin, T. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Pool Table Attachment (Date: June 13, 1899, Patent No: 626902)

91. Gunn, S. W.

Selected Invention(s):

- Adjustable Boot or Shoe (Date: January 16, 1900, Patent No: 641642)

92. Haines, J. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Portable Shampooing Basin (Date: September 28, 1897, Patent No: 590833)

93. Hall, Lloyd

Selected Invention(s):

- Asphalt emulsion and manufacture thereof (Date: October 18, 1932, Patent No: 1,882,834)

- Vitamin Concetrate (Date: November 26, 1935, Patent No: 2,022,464)

- Manufacture of Nitrogen-Fortified Whey Concentrate (Date: November 28, 1944, Patent No: 2,363,730)

Additional information: Lloyd Hall was a Black American inventor, chemist, and scientist. He is best known for his work on food preservation techniques. Hall was born in 1894 in Elgin, Illinois, and earned his degree in B.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1916.

He would later take up employment at Griffith's Laboratories where he would devise his new techniques for food preservation. Hall died in 1971.

94. Hammonds, J. F.

Selected Invention(s):

- Apparatus for Holding Yarn Skeins (Date: December 15, 1896, Patent No: 572985)

95. Harding, F. H.

Selected Invention(s):

- Extension Banquet Table (Date: November 22, 1898, Patent No: 614468)

96. Harney, M. C.

Selected Invention(s):

- Lantern Or Lamp (Date: August 19, 1884, Patent No: 303844)

97. Harper, Solomon

Selected Invention(s):

-Thermostatic controlled hair curlers, combs, and irons (Date: August 11, 1953, Patent No: 2648757)

98. Harris, Dr. Betty Wright

Source: Cpnas

Selected Invention(s):

- ATB Spot Test for 1,3,5-triamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene, TATB (Date: October 21, 1986, Patent No: 4618452)

Additional information: Dr. Betty Harris is an American organic analytical chemist, a leading expert in explosives, environmental remediation, and hazardous waste treatment. She was awarded a patent for her TATB spot test, which identifies explosives in a field environment.

She was born in July 1940 in rural Louisiana and was one of 12 children. Harris later earned her Bachelor's in Chemistry in 1961 and her Master's in 1963 followed by her Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1973, from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

99. Hawkins, J.

Selected Invention(s):

- Gridiron (Date: March 26, 1845, Patent No: 3973)

100. Hawkins, Lincoln Walter

Selected Invention(s):

- Alpha olefin hydrocarbons stabilized with carbon black and a carbocyclic thioether (Date: January 10, 1961, Patent No: 2,967,8453973)

Additional information: Hawkins was born in 1911 in Washington, D.C., the grandson of a slave. After graduating from high school he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was one of only two Black students at the school. He later earned his Doctorate from McGill University, in 1938. In 1942, Hawkins became the first Black person to join the technical staff of Bell Laboratories.

While working at Bell Labs, he devised and patented a new polymer plastic cable sheath for cables that could withstand extreme fluctuations in temperature and last up to seventy years.

Hawkins retired from Bell Labs in 1976 and worked as the director of research of the Plastics Institute of America until 1983. He died in 1992.