US Department of Public Transportation [Public Domain]Garrett Morgan was born on March 4th, 1877. His full name is Garrett Augustus Morgan. He was born in Paris, Ohio. At age fourteen Morgan moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in search for a job. Instead of going to school, Morgan worked for a wealthy businessman for a good part of his teenage years. However Morgan hired a tutor to continue his education. In 1895 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He continued to work for a clothing manufacturer, repairing sewing machines.
Garrett’s first invention was the hair straightener. Morgan happened to stumble across this invention by creating a liquid to reduce friction on a sewing machine needle because it moved so fast. When Garrett’s wife called him to dinner he wiped his hands on a piece of pony-fur cloth. The next morning he saw the liquid had made the fibers stand straight up. He thought that the liquid had actually straightened the fibers. He later tested his theory on a neighbor’s dog, it worked. It straightened the dog’s hair so much the neighbor, not recognizing his own dog, had chased his dog away. He tried this on his own hair, small parts at first but then his whole head. He was successful. He had created the first human hair straightener. He marketed the product under the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Cream and sold by his G. A. Morgan Refining Company.
After he heard about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Garrett patented his safety hood. In 1917 Morgan used his gas mask to save the lives of 32 men after an explosion two-hundred-fifty feet below Lake Erie. The gas mask is now a modern tool in warfare.
Another great invention designed by Morgan was the traffic signal. Morgan thought of this invention while in his car. He wanted to design it because of the road occupancy of new cars, animal-driven carriages, bicycles and even pedestrians. Morgan’s version of the traffic signal was a non-electric, T-shaped pole that had three positions: GO, STOP and ALL DIRECTIONAL STOP, for pedestrians to walk across streets. Many other versions of the traffic signal were already in use but Morgan was one of the first to apply for and acquire a U.S. patent for an inexpensive way to produce traffic signals. His traffic signal was patented on November 20th 1923.
Garrett Morgan later developed glaucoma and lost ninety percent of his vision. Garrett died simply of old age. He died on July 27th, 1963.
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