Henry Blair

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.

Henry Blair, one of the earliest black inventors to receive a patent, was born in Montgomery County, Md. around 1807. Little is known about his personal life. Blair is assumed to have been free since slaves could not legally obtain patents. He received two patents, one in 1834 for his seed planter and another in 1836 for a cotton planter. For many years he was thought to be the first black American to receive a U.S. patent. Later,it was recognized that Thomas L. Jennings received his patent in 1821 for the invention of the dry cleaning process. Many people are unaware of this and still cite Henry Blair as the first black patent holder. 

It is interesting to note that Blair is identified in Patent Records as a “colored man.” this is the only racial identification noted in early patent records. Also, at the time he received his patents, Blair could not write. He signed his patents with an “x”. Henry Blair died in 1860 having overcome many obstacles. Henry Blair became an inventor, creating machines to ease the lives of others