American Inventor Series: Garrett A. Morgan, a Son of Slaves Who Invented the Traffic Signal

Garrett A. Morgan was born on March 4, 1877 in Claysville on the outskirts of Paris, Kentucky to two former slaves. He was one of eleven children and his family was forced to live in a segregated portion of the city, so Morgan left for Cincinnati, Ohio at the age of 14 in search of better opportunities.

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American Inventor Series: Benjamin Banneker, a Black Tobacco Farmer Who Surveyed the Nation’s Capital

Benjamin Banneker was much more than just an inventor. As a mathematician, astronomer, landowning farmer, writer, and surveyor, Banneker was one of the most influential African Americans alive during America’s infancy.

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American Inventor Series: Glenn Hammond Curtiss, the ‘Fastest Man on Earth’

Bicycles, motorcycles, blimps, and planes – Glenn Hammond Curtiss was “always eager for speed” and “obsessed with the idea of traveling fast,” according to an autobiography Curtiss wrote with friend Augustus Post. Before the age of 30, Curtiss received the informal title of “fastest man on earth” for his motorcycle races.

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American Inventor Series: Josephine Cochrane, Inventor of the Dishwasher

Josephine Cochrane, born March 8, 1839, was born in Ohio but spent most of her adult life living in Shelbyville, Illinois as the wife of a wealthy politician named William Cochran. Josephine spelled their name with an “e” at the end to give it some extra pizzazz.

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American Inventor Series: Cyrus McCormick, the Man Who Freed America from Famine

Cyrus Hall McCormick was born in 1809 on his father’s rural farm tucked between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains in an America that was still developing “beyond the struggle for food.”

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American Inventor Series: Harvey S. Firestone, Ohio Farm Boy Turned Tire Tycoon

Harvey S. Firestone was born on December 20, 1868 in Columbiana, Ohio to a family of farmers who had resided in the region since the early 19th century. He was an Ohio farm boy who went on to become one of the greatest industrialists of the modern world.

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American Inventor Series: Margaret E. Knight, the ‘Lady Edison’

Margaret E. Knight, born in York, Maine in 1838, preferred a “jack-knife, a gimlet, and pieces of wood” to dolls as a young girl. Her amateur woodworking skills made her sleds the “envy of the town’s boys” while her kites were famous throughout the community, according to Henry Petroski’s account of the young inventor in The American Scholar.

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American Inventor Series: William H. Miner, Inspiration for Rural Americans

William H. Miner was born during the Civil War and died during the Great Depression. He was orphaned at the age of 10 after the death of his father and his only son died a week after birth. He nonetheless exhibited an “unswerving optimism, iron will, dogged determination, meticulous management, and supreme self-confidence,” according to Miner biographer Joseph C. Burke.

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