Timeline Description: Garrett Morgan is one of the most prominent African American inventors in history. Responsible for the invention of the gas mask and the traffic signal, Morgan's work not only brought him financial success and status, but also saved countless lives, both during his lifetime and beyond.
|March 4, 1877||Garrett Morgan Born
Garrett Morgan was the seventh of eleven children born in Paris, Kentucky. His mother was of African and Native American descent, and his father may have been a freed slave, Sydney Morgan, or a Confederate Colonel John Hunt Morgan.
|1895||Moved to Cincinnati
With only an elementary school education, Morgan moved to Cincinnati, first finding work as a handyman. He was able to pay a tutor for lessons, and took an interest in sewing machines soon after he arrived in Cincinnati. He worked in sewing machine factories for the next decade and later moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
|1907||Opened Sewing Machine Repair Shop
In 1907, Morgan opened his own business repairing sewing machines. He also applied for a patent for an improved sewing machine design.
By 1909, Morgan owned a large tailoring shop in Cleveland, employing some 32 people. He worked there along with his wife, a Bavarian woman named Mary.
|1909||G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company
While looking for a solution for wool cloth burned in a sewing machine, Morgan discovered a solution that effectively smoothed the hair. He established the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company to produce and market his product. The company provided Morgan and his wife with financial stability and gave Morgan the time and resources to work on his inventions.
In 1914, Morgan patented a design for a safety hood, or gas mask, to reduce the risks of smoke inhalation and dangers from respiratory irritants. His design would help to protect soldiers from mustard gas during World War I; however, in order to market his new safety hood, he hired a white actor to pose as the inventor.
|1916||Rescue at Lake Erie
In 1916, a tunnel collapsed under Lake Erie near Cleveland. Morgan and his brother put on safety hoods and pulled two survivors and four bodies from the wreckage; however, this caused financial difficulties. It was now clear that the inventor of the safety hood was African American.
|1920||The Cleveland Call
In 1920, Morgan, already active in supporting African American causes, funded and opened an African American newspaper in Cleveland.
In 1923, after work on automotive inventions, including a clutch, Morgan designed and patented a simple version of the same three-color traffic signal we use today. He later sold the rights to General Electric.
|1943||Began Developing Glaucoma
Morgan began to lose his vision to glaucoma in 1943. With the loss of vision, his inventions stopped; however, he was still recognized for the monumental invention of the traffic signal.
|July 27, 1963||Morgan Died
Garrett Morgan died on July 27, 1963. He was 86 years old, and had changed the world, saving countless lives with his inventions.