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 water works 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. The post rotated and the arms moved up. The signal contained lights that flashed the words “stop” and “go.” The posts used batteries and electricity from overhead wires.
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.
Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day
The Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day Program was developed under the Clinton administration by Rodney E. Slater, the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The program is designed to educate students in grades kindergarten through 12 about career opportunities in transportation. The goal is to ensure that the nation is equipped with a workforce that can embrace the unlimited opportunities of the 21st century. Much of the seasoned transportation work force is retiring. The demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. The nation’s need for technologically literate transportation workers continues to grow. We have an obligation to ensure that today’s students are aware of the tremendous opportunities in the field of transportation and that they are prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. COMTO KC will continue inspire the youth to learn more about Garrett A. Morgan and all the careers the transportation field offers.