At the Station

garrett a. morgan shadow day program

Biography

Garrett A. Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877 to Sidney and Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan. Garrett was the seventh child of eleven. Morgan was an African-American businessman and inventor whose curiosity and innovation led to the development of many useful products:

  • Morgan’s first invention was a belt fastener for a sewing machine, which he designed while working for a clothing manufacturer.

  •  Driven and hard working, in 1907 Morgan opened his own sewing machine business and later a clothing manufacturing business.

  • Morgan received a patent (#1,113,675) in 1914 for his “breathing device” which he also called a “safety helmet.” Today, this device is called a gas mask. Bravely, Morgan and his brother used the breathing device to rescue several workmen trapped in a toxic gas-filled waterworks tunnel 128 feet under Lake Erie. The City of Cleveland awarded the Morgan brothers a gold medal for their heroism.

  • In 1920, Morgan moved into the newspaper business when he established the Cleveland Call newspaper to provide better news coverage of African-American affairs in Cleveland.

  • After witnessing an accident involving a horse-pulled buggy and an automobile at a street intersection in 1923, Morgan designed a patented (#1,475,024) a traffic signal. The signal consisted of a tall post with movable arms that monitored and controlled traffic: it rotated and the arms moved up; it contained lights that flashed the words “stop” and “go”: it used batteries and electricity from overhead wires; and a set of bells signaled that the post was changing directions. Morgan sold the rights to his traffic signal patent to General Electric Company. Morgan was awarded a citation for his traffic signal by the United States government.

As word of Morgan’s life-saving inventions spread across North America and England, demand for these products grew. He was frequently invited to conventions and public exhibitions to demonstrate how his inventions worked. Garrett Augustus 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 legacy. 

Did you know?

  • July 22, 1715 – The postal system was established.

  • July 7, 1838 – Congress passed a bill making every railroad a postal route.

  • August 10, 1865 – Baltimore became the first US city with an electric railway in regular operation.

  • July 29, 1870 – The first asphalt road was completed.

  • October 9, 1870 – Grand Central Station opened in New York City.

  • August 1, 1873 – San Francisco received its first cable car.

  • November 13, 1903 – Ford Motor Company was formed.

  • July 28, 1912 – GMC Truck was formed.

  • August 5, 1914 – The first traffic light went up in Cleveland, OH.

  • August 14, 1914 – The Panama Canal opened.

  • August 27, 1927 – First production of the Yellow Coach in Chicago.

  • November 13, 1927 – The Holland Tunnel opened.

  • December 23, 1946 – NYCTA carried a record 8.8 million passengers.