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Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Miriam E. Benjamin
Topic: Inventors
In 1888, Miriam E. Benjamin a schoolteacher living in Washington D.C.received a patent for an invention called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. Ms. Benjamin was the second Black woman to receive a patent (#386289). Her chair reduced expense to the hotels,decreased the number of waiters and attendants necessary, but also added to the convenience. No longer was it necessary to either clap hands or yell to receive attention. By pressing a button on the back of the chair, a signal was relayed to an attendant,while a light lit on the chair to allow the attendant to see the guest in need of assistance. Benjamin's system was adopted and installed in the United States House of Representatives and if you have flown, you know that her basic system is still the way to attract the attention of a stewardess today.

Posted by nyashia75 at 1:00 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:26 PM EST
Sarah E. Goode
Topic: Inventors
Sarah E. Goode was born into slavery in 1850. She was the first African American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Tradesmark Office for her invention, the cabinet bed, on July 14, 1885. Freed at the end of the Civil War, Goode moved to Chicago and became an entrepreneur. As owner of a furniture store she noted that city apartment dwellers often had little space for beds. She conceived the design of what we know today as the "hide away" bed. In an effort to help people maximize their limited space, Goode invented a Folding Cabinet Bed. The Cabinet Bed when folded up resembled a desk which included compartments for stationary and writing instruments.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:59 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:27 PM EST
James Forten
Topic: Inventors

James Forten was born in 1766 as a free Black man in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the course of his lifetime, he would make an impact upon the fortunes of industries and the lives of his fellow man.

Forten was the son of Thomas and Sarah Forten and the grandson of slaves. He was raised in Philadelphia and educated in Anthony Benezet's Quaker school for colored children. At age eight, James began working for Robert Bridges sail loft, and worked alongside his father. A year later his father died in a boating accident and James was forced to take on additional work to provide for his family.

When he turned 14 he worked as a powder boy during the Revolutionary War on the Royal Lewis sailing ship. After being captured by the British, he was released and returned home to again begin working in Mr. Bridges loft. Pleased with his work and ambition, Mr. Bridges eventually appointed him to the foreman's position in the loft. In 1798 Bridges decided to retire and wanted Forten to remain in charge of the loft. He loaned enough money to Forten to purchase the loft and soon James owned the business, employing 38 people.

Around this time, Forten began experimenting with different types of sails for ships and finally invented one that he found was better suited for maneuvering and maintaining greater speeds. Although he did not patent the sail, he was able to benefit financially, as his sailing loft became one of the most successful and prosperous ones in Philadelphia.

The fortune he soon made was enormous for any man, Black or White. Forten spent his money and lived a luxurious life, but he also made good use of his resources on people other than his self. More than half of his considerable fortune was devoted towards abolitionist causes. He often purchased slaves freedom, helped to finance and bring in funding for William Garrison's newspaper, the Libertarian, opened his home on Lombard Street as an Underground Railroad depot and opened a school for Black children.

James Forten died in 1842 after living an incredible life. His early years were devoted to providing for his mother, his middle years towards building his fortune and supporting his family and his later years to uplifting his fellow man. He was not only a great inventor, but an even greater man.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:53 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:29 PM EST
D. A. Fisher
Topic: Inventors
D. A. Fisher responded to the needs of furniture workers by trying to make their work easier, safer and more productive. He created and patented two devices which eased the burden of these workers and improved their efforts. His first invention was aimed at freeing up time for carpenters and furniture makers. At the time, when furniture was being put together, a worker was forced to work in slow steps, pausing at various times to combine pieces of wood together in order to allow glue to bind them. Fisher solved this delay by developing the joiner's clamp, which he patented on April 20, 1875. The joiner's clamp consisted of two pieces of wood connected by two screws. When tightened, the screws pushed the pieces of wood together. He used this device to hold together furniture parts as they were glued, thus freeing the worker to continuing assembling the item. By using applied, balanced pressure, the joiner's clamp caused the wood to bind together, faster and stronger than was previously possible.

Another dilemma facing workers in the furniture industry was the laborious task of moving heavy pieces of furniture. In addition to having to concern themselves with their own physical safety, they also had to worry about dropping the furniture and damaging other items in the room by bumping into them. On March 14, 1876, Fisher patented the furniture caster. This device was a free turning wheel that could (when combined with a few others) allow heavy items to move around a room on rollers, safely and efficiently. This enabled one person to move large pieces of furniture, allowing other workers to tend to other items. This device is now used in almost every industry a well as in most homes.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:44 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:30 PM EST
H. Faulkner
Topic: Inventors
In 1890, H. Faulkner decided to work on a problem that caused suffering in people everyday - foot problems caused by lack of ventilation inside of shoes. For years people constantly complained about blisters and sores on their feet as well as excessive sweating and aching caused by walking and standing with shoes on which offered no cooling air to circulate within. Faulkner devised a method for placing holes in specific locations within the shoe, thus allowing for adequate circulation and greater comfort. Faulkner patented the ventilated shoe on April 29, 1890 and thereby helped to provide comfort and healthy feet to the world.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:41 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:31 PM EST
T. Elkins
Topic: Inventors
T. Elkins designed a device that helped with the task of preserving perishable foods by way of refrigeration. At the time, the common way of accomplishing this was by placing items in a large container and surrounding them with large blocks of ice. Unfortunately, the ice generally melted very quickly and the food soon perished. Elkins' device utilized metal cooling coils which became very cold and would cool down items which they surrounded.

The coils were enclosed within a container and perishable items were placed inside. The coils cooled the container to temperature significantly lower than that inside of a room thereby keeping the perishable items cool and fresh for longer periods of time. Elkins patented this refrigerated apparatus on November 4, 1879 and had previously patented a chamber commode in 1872 and a dining, ironing table and quilting frame combined in 1870.
He was patented in 1897 for the toilet.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:39 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:32 PM EST
Phillip Downing
Topic: Inventors
In 1891, anyone interested in mailing a letter would have to make the long trip to the post office. P. B. Downing designed a metal box with four legs which he patented on October 27, 1891. He called his device a street letter box and it is the predecessor of today's mailbox.

One year earlier, Downing patented an electrical switch for railroads which allowed railroad workers to supply or shut off power to trains at appropriate times. Based on this design, innovators would later create electrical switches such as light switches used in the home.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:22 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:36 PM EST
Joseph Dickinson
Topic: Inventors

Joseph Dickinson was born in Canada in 1955 and moved to Michigan in 1870. He learned about various types of organs while working for the Clough and Warren Organ Company in Detroit in 1872. One of the organs he designed was awarded a prize at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876 and Dickinson was quickly hired to build organs for major customers, including the Royal Family of Portugal. After marrying Eva Gould in 1884, Dickinson formed the Dickinson-Gould Organ Company along with his father-in-law. The company manufactured reed organs and Dickinson received numerous patents for them, the last coming in 1912.

Posted by nyashia75 at 12:12 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:39 PM EST
Monday, 15 November 2004
George Crum
Topic: Inventors
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was sill unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!

Posted by nyashia75 at 3:42 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:40 PM EST
David Crosthwait
Topic: Inventors

David Crosthwait was born in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he attended high school. He went on to attend Purdue University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1913 and a Master of Engineering degree in 1920. In 1913 Crosthwait moved to Marshalltown, Iowa where he began working for the Durham Company, designing heating installations. He was a Research Engineer, Director of Research Laboratories for C. A. Dunham Company in Marshalltown, Iowa, from 1925 to 1930. He was the Technical Advisor of Dunham-Bush, Inc. from 1930 to 1971. He served as the past president of the Michigan City Redevelopment. Mr. Crosthwait was responsible for designing the heating system for Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center in New York City. Mr. Crosthwait was the author of a manual on heating and cooling with water and guides, standards, and codes that dealt with heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and air conditioning systems. David Crosthwait received 39 relating to the design, installing, testing, and service of HVAC power plants, heating, and ventilating systems,vacuum pumps, refrigeration methods and processes and temperature regulating devices. After retiring from industry in 1969, Mr. Crosthwait taught a course on steam heating theory and control systems at Purdue University.

Posted by nyashia75 at 3:35 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 December 2004 9:41 PM EST

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