Garrett A. Morgan|
Garrett A. Morgan
Cleveland School of
4016 Woodbine Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Cleveland Metropolitan School DistrictPhone:
(216) 281-6188Fax: (216) 634-2113
Garrett A. Morgan
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. was an
American inventor whose curiosity and innovation
led him to develop several commercial products,
the successors of which are still in use today. A
practical man of humble beginnings, Morgan devoted
his life to creating items that made the lives of
common people safer and more convenient.
The Inventor's Early Life. Garrett A.
Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4,
1877. His parents were former slaves. Morgan spent
his early childhood was spent attending school and
working with his brothers and sisters on the
family farm . He left Kentucky while still a
teenager, moving north to Cincinnati, Ohio in
search of employment.
industrious youth, Morgan spent most of his
adolescence working as a handyman for a wealthy
Cincinnati landowner. Similar to many African
American of his generation, whose circumstances
compelled them to begin working at an early age,
Morgan's formal education ended after elementary
school, however, the precocious teenager hired a
tutor and continued his studies in English grammar
while living in Cincinnati.
1895, Morgan moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he
worked as a sewing machine repair man for a
clothing manufacturer. News of his proficiency for
fixing things and experimenting traveled fast and
led to numerous job offers from various
manufacturing firms in the Cleveland area.
In 1907, Morgan opened his own sewing
equipment and repair shop. It was the first of
several businesses he would establish. In 1909, he
expanded the enterprise to include a tailoring
shop that employed 32 employees. The new company
turned out coats, suits and dresses, all sewn with
equipment that Morgan himself had made.
The Safety Hood and Smoke Protector.
On July 25, 1916, Morgan made national news after
an explosion at the Cleveland Waterworks ripped
through a tunnel, trapping underground workers.
Deadly gases and heavy smoke filled the
underground spaces making it difficult to rescue
the workers. Finally, someone in the crowd
remembered a black man who had won a won a gold
medal at the Second International Exposition of
Sanitation and Safety. Morgan had received a
patent for his gas mask and had begun to sell it,
but when it was discovered that he was black, many
orders were cancelled. However, Morgan continued
to perfect his mask.
rescue, Morgan's company received requests from
fire departments around the country who wished to
purchase the new masks. The Morgan gas mask was
later refined for use by the U.S. Army during
World War I. In 1921, Morgan was awarded a
patent for a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. Two
years later, a refined model of his early gas mask
won a gold medal at the International Exposition
of Sanitation and Safety, and another gold medal
from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
In 1920 Morgan moved into the
newspaper business when he established the
Cleveland Call. As the years went on, he became a
prosperous and widely respected business man, and
he was able to purchase a home and an automobile.
Indeed it was Morgan's experience while driving
along the streets of Cleveland that led to the
invention the nation's first patented traffic
The Garrett Morgan
Traffic Signal. The first American- made
automobiles were introduced to U.S. consumers
shortly before the turn of the century. The Ford
Motor Company was founded in 1903 and with it
American consumers began to discover the
adventures of the open road.
the early years of the 20th century, it was not
uncommon for bicycles, animal-powered wagons and
new gasoline-powered motor vehicles to share the
same streets and roadways with pedestrians.
Accidents were frequent. After witnessing a
collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn
carriage, Morgan was convinced that something
should be done to improve traffic safety.
While other inventors are reported to
have experimented with and even marketed traffic
signals, Garrett A. Morgan was the first to apply
for and acquire a U.S. patent for such a device.
The patent was granted on November 20, 1923.
Morgan later had the technology patented in Great
Britain and Canada as well.
Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit
that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an
all-directional stop position. This “third
position” halted traffic in all directions to
allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely.
Morgan's traffic management device
was used throughout North America until it was
replaced by the red, yellow and green-light
traffic signals currently used around the world.
The inventor sold the rights to his traffic signal
to the General Electric Corporation for $40,000.
Shortly before his death, in 1963, Morgan was
awarded a citation for his traffic signal by the
United States Government.
Morgan Inventions. Garrett Morgan was constantly
experimenting to develop new concepts. Though the
traffic signal came at the height of his career
and became one of his most renowned inventions, it
was just one of several innovations he developed,
manufactured and sold over the years.
Morgan invented a zig-zag stitching attachment
for manually operated sewing machine. He also
founded a company that made personal grooming
products, such as hair dying ointments and the
curved-tooth pressing comb.
hard to estimate how many lives were saved by
Morgan's inventions. He received many awards and
citations for his inventions. At the Emancipation
Centinnial Celebration in Chicago, Illinois in
August of 1963, Morgan was nationally recognized.
Morgan did not attend.
Morgan died on August 27, 1963, at the age of 86.
His life was long and full, and his creative
energies have given us a marvelous and lasting
All Eyes On It.Prod