Garret Morgan was an American inventor who made our world a safer place with the help of his inventions. Among the most essential ones are the gas mask and the street lights. His inventions were of great value, and what is remarkable, he never stopped experimenting and as a result achieved enormous success.
He was born in Paris, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877. His family was very large and he had 10 siblings. When he was 14 years old, he decided to go to Ohio to receive a proper education. Life away from home was not easy, and he was forced to pick up various jobs to make ends meet. He worked as a handyman for a while and was able to learn the structure of the sewing machine inside and out. As a result, he started his own business and opened a sewing machine store in 1907, where he sold the new ones and repaired the old ones. In 1908, Mary Anne Hassek became Garret’s wife, and together they raised three sons.
Morgan made his first significant discovery in 1909, while working in his tailoring shop. Due to a chain of circumstances he invented a hair straightener, which later on became very popular. He made his next invention in 1912, and it was completely different from his first one. It was a gas mask, which he had patented as a Breathing Device at a time. Morgan also called it a Safety Hood, as it consisted of a hood and a tube, emanating from it. This device became very useful and efficient for the men of dangerous professions, and Garret received a gold medal from the National Safety Device Company. Soon people started making orders for gas masks, but unfortunately many of them canceled their orders when they found out that the inventor was Black. However, with the beginning of the World War, this device became utilized by the US Army and saved thousands of lives.
Morgan could have stopped there, taking into consideration the income that his masks produced, but he wanted to solve other safety issues of that time. After witnessing an accident on the road once, he came up with the idea of traffic lights. Today’s street lights are based on Morgan’s original idea, although he had sold all of the rights to the General Electric Company.
Being extremely successful, he never forgot about his fellow Black people, who still suffered from injustice and were going through a lot of difficulties. He became active in politics, and tried to do as much as he could to protect African American community. Being an older man, Garrett Morgan developed glaucoma and consequently lost 90 % of his vision. He passed away on July 27, 1963, but his inventions still live till today and make this world a better and safer place.