Timeline Description: Elijah McCoy (born May 2, 1844) was a noted inventor of lubricating devices for the railway in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time of his death, he held some 57 patents for various lubricating devices, as well as some household inventions, including a portable ironing board and lawn sprinkler.
|May 2, 1844||Elijah McCoy Was Born
Elijah McCoy was born in Canada on May 2, 1844. His parents, George and Emilia McCoy were former slaves. They had escaped slavery on the Underground Railroad and, after fighting in the Rebel War of 1837, raised 11 children on a 160 acre homestead.
|January 1, 1860||Studied Engineering in Scotland
Elijah showed a clear mechanical aptitude quite young and George and Emilia sent him to Scotland in 1860 for training and an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. Elijah did quite well during his training, becoming a fully certified mechanical engineer.
|1863||Moved to Ypsilanti, MI(After 1863)
McCoy moved to Ypsilanti, MI, but could only find work as fireman and oilman on the railroad. He was not hired as an engineer.
|January 1, 1868||Married Ann Elizabeth Stewart
McCoy married Ann Elizabeth Stewart in 1868. Ann died four years into their marriage.
|October 23, 1872||Patented Lubricating Cup
In 1872, McCoy applied for and received his first patent, for a locomotive oil lubricating cup. This made train journeys faster, since there was no need to stop to re-oil the train.
|October 1, 1873||Married Mary Eleanora Delaney
McCoy remarried, marrying Mary Eleanora Delaney. The two spent the next 50 years together.
|1882||Moved to Detroit, MI
In 1882, Mary and Elijah moved from Ypsilanti to Detroit, moving into an integrated neighborhood. They did not have children.
|1892||Patented a Portable Ironing Board
When Mary complained about ironing challenges, Elijah invented a better portable ironing board for her and patented his invention.
|1899||Patented a Lawn Sprinkler
In 1899, again solving a problem at home, McCoy invented and patented the first lawn sprinkler. He continued to work on lubricating inventions for the railway.
|1909||Booker T. Washington Recognized McCoy as Most Prolific Inventor
By 1909, Washington recognized McCoy as the most prolific African-American inventor in a book he wrote and published.
|April 1, 1916||Created Graphite Lubricator
In April 1916, McCoy patented a graphite lubricator. Graphite, unlike oil, was a solid, adding challenges to the lubrication process.
|October 19, 1920||Opened Manufacturing Company
After spending his career working for the railway, in 1920, McCoy opened his own manufacturing company to manufacture his lubricating devices.
|1922||Automobile Accident Killed Mary McCoy
Both Mary and Elijah were in an automotive accident in 1922. Mary McCoy was killed in the accident. Elijah McCoy survived, but suffered from permanent injuries.
|January 1, 1929||Died in Detroit, MI
Elijah McCoy died in a hospital in Detroit on January 1, 1929. His death was the result of injuries incurred in the accident several years earlier.
|1966||Phrase the Real McCoy Associated with Elijah McCoy
In 1966, an advertisement attributed the phrase "The Real McCoy" to its connection with the inventor, Elijah McCoy. The actual origins of this phrase remain unclear.