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The McCoy
The McCoy

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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.