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The McCoy
The McCoy
Our Price: $25.00 / Child $20.00

Inspired by Elijah McCoy

Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844 – October 10, 1929) was a black Canadian-American inventor and engineer, who was well known for his 57 U.S. patents, most to do with lubrication of steam engines. He came to the United States after the Civil War and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he worked in a machine shop. After the Civil War and during the early 1900s many of the inventions developed involved numerous moving parts within the machinery. No one had yet solved the problem of getting oil to the moving parts without having to first shut down the machinery. McCoy began to work on solving that problem. In 1873, he developed a small, oil filled container that was capable of automatically oiling moving parts while the machinery was still in motion. Individuals in the railroad industry no longer had to stop every few miles while a workman went around with an oil can oiling all of the parts. McCoy’s invention revolutionized the railroad industry. His invention was so reliable that it prompted buyers to ask, “Is this the real McCoy?”, realizing that McCoy’s competitors were trying to unsuccessfully duplicate his product. McCoy continued to refine his devices and design new ones. He continued to invent until late in life, obtaining as many as 57 patents. Most of these were related to lubrication, but others also included a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. Lacking the capital with which to manufacture his lubricators in large numbers, he usually assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. Lubricators with the McCoy name were not manufactured until 1920, near the end of his career.

The Matzeliger
The Matzeliger
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Inspired by Jan Ernst Matzeliger

Jan Ernst Matzeliger (September 15, 1852 – August 24, 1889) was an African-American inventor in the shoe industries. He was born in Paramaribo (then Dutch Guyana, now Suriname). His father was a Dutch engineer. He was very wealthy and very well educated. His mother was a black Surinamese slave. In 1871, at age 19 he settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania speaking very little English. By 1877, he spoke adequate English and had moved to Massachusetts. In the early days of shoe making, shoes were made mainly by hand. For proper fit, the customer's feet had to be duplicated in size and form by creating a stone or wooden mold. Since the greatest difficulty in shoe making was the actual assembly of the soles to the upper shoe, it required great skill to tack and sew the two components together. It was thought that such extensive work could only be done by skilled human hands. Matzeliger set out to develop an automatic method for lasting shoes. After many years of hard work and determination he developed a prototype that was successful. When a shoe was made by hand, in a day they would make 50 pairs of shoes. But when Jan created the shoe making machine, Jan made 700 pairs of shoes a day. His invention revolutionized the entire shoe industry in the United States and around the world.

The Morgan
The Morgan
Our Price: $25.00 / Child $20.00

Inspired by Garrett Morgan

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 – July 27, 1963) was an African American inventor and community leader. In 1901, Morgan developed his first invention, a belt fastener for sewing machines, and he sold it for $150. In 1914, he won the First Grand Prize gold medal at the Second International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety for his breathing helmet and smoke protector (prototype of the gas mask). His most well-known inventions included a type of protective respiratory hood (or gas mask), a traffic signal, and a hair-straightening preparation. He is famous for a heroic rescue in 1916. He and three others used his safety hood device to save workers trapped in a water intake tunnel being dug under Lake Erie after a natural gas explosion and fire, which took the lives of workers and the first police officers and firefighters who attempted to rescue them. In 1923, Morgan created an automatic stop sign to aid the movement of traffic. He sold the rights to this invention to General Electric for $40,000. He is also credited as the first African American in Cleveland, Ohio, to own an automobile.

The Boykin
The Boykin
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Inspired by Otis Frank Boykin

Otis Frank Boykin (August 29, 1920, Dallas, Texas – March 13, 1982, Chicago, Illinois) was an African-American inventor and engineer. He attended Fisk University and worked as a laboratory assistant at the university's nearby aerospace laboratory. He also studied at Illinois Institute of Technology, however he dropped out after two years; some sources argue that it was because he could not afford his tuition, but he later told a reporter that he left for an employment opportunity and did not have time to return to finish his degree. He was discovered and mentored by Dr. Hal F. Fruth, an engineer and inventor with his own laboratory; Fruth and Boykin would work together on a number of research projects. Boykin, in his lifetime, ultimately invented more than 25 electronic devices. One of his early inventions was an improved electrical resistor for computers, radios, televisions and an assortment of other electronic devices. Other notable inventions include a variable resistor used in guided missiles and small component thick-film resistors for computers. One of Boykin's most famous invention was likely a control unit for the artificial heart pacemaker. The device essentially uses electrical impulses to maintain a regular heartbeat.

The Smith
The Smith
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Inspired by James McCune Smith

James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865) was an African American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author. He is the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He was also the first African American to run a pharmacy in the United States. In addition to practicing as a doctor for nearly 20 years at the Colored Orphan Asylum in Manhattan, Smith contributed articles to medical journals, participated in learned societies, and wrote many essays and articles drawing from his medical and statistical training. In 1854, he was elected as a member of the American Geographic Society. But, he was never accepted to the American Medical Association or local medical associations.

The Jennings
The Jennings
Our Price: $25.00 / Child $20.00

Inspired by Thomas L Jennings

Thomas L. Jennings (1791–1856) was an African-American tradesman and abolitionist in New York City, New York. He was a free man who operated a tailoring and dry-cleaning business, and in 1821 was the first African American to be approved for a patent. Jennings became active in working for his race and civil rights for the black community. He was appointed as assistant secretary to the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1831. He helped arrange legal defense for his daughter, Elizabeth Jennings, in 1854 when she challenged a private streetcar company's segregation of seating and was arrested. With two other prominent black leaders, Jennings organized the Legal Rights Association in 1855 in New York. He founded and was a trustee of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a leader in the black community.