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.

Garrett Augustus Morgan

Garrett Morgan

Garrett A. Morgan (1875-1963), inventor;  born in Paris, Tenn.

Morgan developed his first invention, a belt fastener for sewing machines, in 1901, and he sold it for $150. In 1914 he won the First Grand Prize gold medal at the Second International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety for his breathing helmet and smoke protector (prototype to the gas mask).

In 1916 he demonstrated the use of this device in the rescue operation following an explosion in a tunnel at the Cleveland Waqterworks that trapped many men below Lake Erie. In 1923, Morgan developed an automatic stop sign to aid the movement of traffic, selling the rights to this invention to General Electric for $40,000.

At the Emancipation Centennial Celebration in Chicago, Illinois, in August 1963, Morgan was nationally recognized. Although in ill-health, and nearly blind, he continued to work on his inventions; one of his last was a self-extinguishing cigarette, which employed a small plastic pellet filled with water, placed just before the filter.

Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple

Lewis Temple was the inventor of a whaling harpoon, known as “Temple’s Toggle” and “Temple’s Iron” that became the standard harpoon of the whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century. Lewis Temple was a skilled blacksmith, not a whaler. He had never even been to sea. Temple was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800, and arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1829.

By 1836, Temple was one of the 315,000 free black people in the United States and a successful businessman who operated a whale craft shop on the New Bedford waterfront. Temple, a well-known citizen of New Bedford, was working as a blacksmith to support his wife, Mary Clark, whom he married in 1829, and their three children. In 1845, Temple was able to open a larger store. Continue reading

Alice H. Parker


In 1919, Alice Parker of Morristown, New Jersey, invented a new and improved gas heating furnace that provided central heating.

Andrew J Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard

Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave in Jefferson County, Alabama. He was emancipated at the age of 15, and married at 16. Beard was a farmer near Birmingham, Alabama for some five years, but recalled visiting Montgomery in 1872 with 50 bushels of apples drawn by oxen. He said, “It took me three weeks to make the trip. I quit farming after that.” Instead he built and operated a flourmill in Hardwicks, Alabama. He began pondering the mechanics of his subsequent plow invention. Beard’s idea grew and, in 1881, he patented one of his plows and sold it, in 1884, for $4,000.

On December 15, 1887, Beard invented another plow and sold it for $5,200. With this money he went into the real estate business and made about $30,000. In 1889, Beard invented a rotary steam engine, patented on July 5,1892. He claimed that his steam engine was cheaper to build and operate than steam engines and it would not explode.  Continue reading

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