Inventions

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie George Johnson

Lonnie George Johnson

Johnson holds over 20 patents and created the popular toy, the Super Soaker water gun that has grossed over a million dollars in retail sales and was the top selling toy in the United States in 1991 and 1992. Johnson holds a B.S in Mechanical Engineering and a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from Tuskegee University.

In 1989 Johnson formed his own engineering firm and licensed the Super Soaker water gun to Larami Corporation. Two years later the Super Soaker generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the best selling toy in America.  Continue reading

Thomas C. Cannon Jr.

tofcDr. Thomas C. Cannon Jr. lead a group of engineers that developed the Tactical Optical Fiber Connector (TOFC). The TOFC was designed to terminate optical fiber cables used in military combat. Optical fiber cables are preferable to conventional copper cables because they are immune to electrical interference, lightweight, have a high signal carrying capacity, and do not radiate any electromagnetic energy which might be detected by the enemy.

TOFC was the first fiber optic connector actually deployed under battlefied conditions, and saw action in the Gulf War where it was used to transmit firing signals to the Patriot missile.

Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee was an African American who invented machinery for processing food and became very prominent in the food industry.

Lee was born in Boston, MA, and as a boy worked at a bakery. He soon began preparing, cooking and serving food, eventually opening two successful restaurants in the Boston area. In the late 1890s, Lee owned and managed the Woodland Park Hotel in Newton, MA, for 17 years. In 1902, as a way of maintaining an involvement in the food services industry, Lee opened a catering business called the Lee Catering Company that served the wealthy population of Boylston Street in the Back Bay.  Continue reading

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles

Alexander Miles, who contributed to the elevator industry, was an African-American inventor of the late 19th century who was able to transcend racial barriers in the United States.

Miles attached a flexible belt to the elevator cage, and when the belt came into contact with drums positioned along the elevator shaft just above and below the floors, it allowed the elevator shaft doors to operate at the appropriate times. The elevator doors themselves were automated through a series of levers and rollers.

Before working on elevator engineering, Miles experimented with the creation of hair products. The influence of his elevator patent is still seen in modern designs, since the automatic opening and closing of elevator and elevator shaft doors is a standard feature.

Miles, who was born in Duluth, Minnesota, designed an elevator that was able to open and close its own doors and the elevator shaft doors. When the elevator would arrive or depart from a given floor, the doors would move automatically. Previously, the opening and closing of the doors of both the shaft and the elevator had to be completed manually by either the elevator operator or by passengers, contributing greatly to the hazards of operating an elevator.

Henry Blair

Henry Blair Seed planter

Henry Blair Seed planter

10-14-1834 marks one of the first patents filed by a Black person in America.

Henry Blair of Montgomery County, MD, received his first patent on October 14, 1834, for his invention of the corn seed planter, which allowed farmers to plant their corn much faster and with much less labor. The machine also helped with weed control. He later received another patent in 1836 for the invention of the cotton planter. The cotton planter was very similar to the seed planter in the way that it was put together.

Blair was not an educated man; he could not read or write. At the time that he filed his patent applications he had to sign them with an “x� because he was unable to write his name. Blair is the only person in the United States Patent Office records to be identified as a “colored man.� No other inventor is identified by his or her race. Henry Blair died in 1860.

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