Black Inventors – Black History Month 2017

Garret A. Morgan (Born 1877 – Died 1963)


Inventor of Straightening Cream, Gas Mask & The Traffic Light

Garret Morgan was born on March 4th, in Kentucky, USA. He was first a sewing machine mechanic before he became an inventor of many products that are still used in today’s society.

When using his sewing machine, he noticed that the needle moved at very high speeds and caused his wool fabric to be scorched. To reduce this issue, Morgan created a chemical solution in the to minimise the friction caused by the needle. In doing this, he noticed that this solution straightened the hairs on the fabric. It was in 1909 when Morgan tried this solution on his neighbour’s dogs fur and finally on his own hair. Following the success of this, Hair Straightening Creams were created and marketed to African Americans. This was incredibly successful and a great financial move for Garret Morgan, allowing him to then pursue other inventions.

Morgan also created the breathing better known now as the ‘Gas Mask’. He created this breathing device and named it a ‘Safety Hood’. Morgan marketed this product to many different businesses, but most importantly to the fire departments. He gave personal demonstrations of the reliability of the safety hood which later earned him a First Prize award at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation in New York, USA.

But he didn’t stop there. Morgan then went on to create a new and improved traffic signal that notified drivers to stop, by use of a warning light. The inspiration from this came from Morgan witnessing a carriage incident at an intersection in the city of Cleveland. This was a basic version of the modern traffic light used worldwide, today.