120 things you probably didn’t know were created by Black inventors

Feb 4 2021, 12:48 pm

It’s difficult to imagine a world without the many inventions by Black People.

This Black History Month, we’ve highlighted over 100 inventions that the world would not have if it weren’t for Black inventors.

Here’s the big list:

Folding cabinet bed

In 1885, Sarah Goode became the first Black woman to receive a US patent. She moved to Chicago and opened a furniture store. It was there she came up with an industry changing idea that brought more urban residents with limited space into her store.

Potato Chips

George Crum was working as a chef at a resort in New York. A customer sent his dish of french fries back to the kitchen, claiming that they weren’t good. In an irritated fit, Crum cut the potatoes as thinly as possible, fried them until they were burnt crisps, and threw a generous handful of salt on top. Thus, the chip was born.

Gas Mask

Garrett Morgan developed what he called the safety hood after noticing how many firefighters were killed by smoke on the job. The hood, which went over the head, featured tubes connected to wet sponges that filtered out smoke and provided fresh oxygen.

Protective Mailbox

Philip B. Downing created a mailbox design that featured an outer door and an inner safety door to avoid parcels being stolen. This safety device allowed mailboxes to be set up everywhere.

Blood Bank

Charles Richard Drew became interested in researching the preservation of blood when he was studying at Columbia University. Drew discovered a method of separating red blood cells from plasma and then storing the two components separately. This new process allowed blood to be stored for more than a week, which was the maximum at that time. Drew documented these findings in a paper that led to the first blood bank.

Improved Ironing Board

In the late 19th century, the ironing board was improved by Sarah Boone. One of the first Black women in U.S. history to receive a patent, she created a narrower and curved design, making it easier to iron garments. Boone’s design morphed into the modern board that we use today.

Home Security System

African American nurse Mary Van Brittan Brown, devised an early security unit for her own home. She and her husband took out a patent for the system in the same year, and they were awarded the patent three years later, in 1969. Home security systems commonly used today took various elements from her design.

Three-Light Traffic Light

Garrett Morgan was the first Black person in Cleveland, Ohio, to own a car. After he witnessed a severe car accident at an intersection in the city, he expanded on the current traffic light by adding a “yield” component, warning oncoming drivers of an impending stop.

Refrigerated Trucks 

Frederick McKinley Jones created a roof-mounted cooling system that was used to refrigerate goods on trucks during extended transportation in the mid-1930s. He received a patent for his invention in 1940 and co-founded the US Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King.

Automatic Elevator Doors

Alexander Miles took out a patent in 1887 for a mechanism that automatically opens and closes elevator shaft doors. His designs are largely reflected in elevators used today.

Electret Microphone

Dr. James E. West co-invented a foil electret microphone, which was less expensive to produce than the typically used condenser microphones.

Color IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip

You can thank Mark Dean for co-inventing the color monitor. Without his invention, we’d still be typing in a colorless interweb.

Super Soaker

Summer just wouldn’t be the same without Lonnie Johnson’s invention. Johnson was an Aerospace Engineer for NASA who’ happened to invent the popular children’s toy.

Tissue Holder

Mary Davidson invented both the tissue holder while disabled from multiple sclerosis.

Peanut Butter

Everyone and their dog can thank George Washington Carver for the invention of peanut butter.

Laserphaco

Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist and laser scientist, invented a device and technique used to remove cataracts and revive patients’ eyesight.

Automatic Gear Shift 

Richard Spikes created the automatic gear shift, helping people drive up hills everywhere.

Clothes dryer

George T. Sampson created the clothes dryer in 1892.

Dust pan 

Thanks to Lloyd P. Ray, we can sweep things out from under the rug.

Folding chair

John Purdy created the folding chair, which is used in picnics and school graduations everywhere.

Golf Tees

Golf was a totally different sport before Dr. George Grant came along.

Ice Cream Scooper

Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scooper, allowing kids to have larger scoops than spoonfuls.

Lawnmower 

John Albert Burr fully made over the lawnmower, bringing better traction, rotary blades, and allowed cutting closer to buildings.

Lawn sprinkler

This invention by Joseph A. Smith helped dads everywhere keep their grass green while allowing kids a fun toy to jump around in.

Modern toilet

Thank Thomas Elkins for your porcelain throne. Without Elkins, your bathroom breaks certainly wouldn’t be as comfortable.

The Mop

Thomas W. Stewart created the mop, which helps to ease the backbreaking labor.

Reversible Baby Stroller

William Richardson created the first baby stroller with independent wheels.

Drag Queens

William Dorsey Swann is highly regarded as the first drag queen in the US.

Logomania

Dapper Dan took the logos of designer brands and used them for apparel, furniture, and more.

According to the Black Inventors Museum, all of these were also created by Black inventors:

Paper

Chess

Alphabet

Medicine

Serving Tray Walker

Airplane propelling — James S. Adams

Biscuit Cutter — A.P. Ashbourne

Coin Changer — James A. Bauer

Rotary Engine — Andrew J. Beard

Car Coupler — Andrew J. Beard

Letter Box — G.E. Becket

Stainless Steel Pads — Alfred Benjamin

Torpedo Discharger — H. Bradberry

Disposable Syringe — Phil Brooks

Corn Planter — Henry Blair

Cotton Planter — Henry Blair

Street Sweepers — C.B. Brooks

Horse Bridle Bit — L.F. Brown

Horseshoe — Oscar E. Brown

Train Alarm — R.A. Butler

Image Converter 

Radiation Detector

Paints and Stans — George W. Carver

Lotions and Soaps — George W. Carver

Automatic Fishing Reel — George Cook

Ice Cream Mold — A.L. Cralle

Printing Press — W.A. Lavalette

Envelope Seal — F.W. Leslie

Laser Fuels — Lester Lee

Pressure Cooker — Maurice W. Lee

Window Cleaner — A.L. Lewis

Portable Pencil Sharpener — John L. Love

Fire Extinguisher — Tom J. Marshal

Shoe Lasting Machine — Jan Matzeliger

Rocket Catapult — Hugh MacDonald

Hair Brush — Lyda Newman

Heating Furnace — Alice H. Parker

Blimp — J.F. Pickering

Hand Stamp — W.B. Purvis

Fountain Pen — W.B. Purvis

Dust Pan — I.P. Ray

Insect Destroyer Gun — A.C. Richardson

Sugar Refinement — N. Rillieux

Cellular Phone — Henry Sampson

Curtain Rod — S.R. Scottron

Urinalysis Machine — Dewey Sanderson

Player Piano — Joseph Dickinson

Arm for Record Player — Joseph Dickinson

Door Stop — O. Dorsey

Door Knob — O. Dorsey

Photo Print Wash — Clatonia J. Dorticus

Photo Embossing Machine — Clatonia J. Dorticus

Guitar — Robert Flemming Jr.

Motor — J. Gregory

Thermo Hair Curlers — Solomon Harper

Lantern — Michael Harney

Gas Burner — B.F. Jackson

Kitchen Table — H.A. Jackson

Bicycle Frame — Issac R. Johnson

Wrench — John A. Johnson

Eye Protector — P. Johnson

Egg Beater — W. Johnson

Air Conditioning Unit — Frederick M. Jones

Two-cycle Gas Engine — Frederick M. Jones

Internal Combustion Engine — Frederick M. Jones

Starter Generator — Frederick M. Jones

Refrigeration Controls — Frederick M. Jones

Clothes Dresser — John H. Jordan

Bottle Caps — Jones and Long

Electric Lamp — Latimer and Nichols

Hydraulic Shock Absorber — Ralph Sanderson

Refrigerator — J. Standard

Stairclimbing Wheelchair — Rufus J. Weaver

Fire Escape Ladder — J.B. Winters

Telephone Transmitter — Granville T. Woods

Electric cut-Off Switch — Granville T. Woods

Relay Instrument — Granville T. Woods

Telephone System — Granville T. Woods

Electro Mech Brake — Granville T. Woods

Galvanic Battery — Granville T. Woods

Roller Coaster — Granville T. Woods

Auto Air Brake — Granville T. Woods

Helicopter — Paul E. Williams

Ice Cream — Augustus Jackson

Pace Maker — Otis Boykin

Space Shuttle Retrieval Arm — WM. Harwell

Programmable Remote Controllers — Joseph N. Jackson

Video Commander — Joseph N. Jackson

Multi-stage Rocket — Adolph Shamms

Alyssa TherrienAlyssa Therrien

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