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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 US 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mary Davidson invented both the tissue holder while disabled from multiple sclerosis.
Everyone and their dog can thank George Washington Carver for the invention of peanut butter.
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.
George T. Sampson created the clothes dryer in 1892.
Thanks to Lloyd P. Ray, we can sweep things out from under the rug.
John Purdy created the folding chair, which is used in picnics and school graduations everywhere.
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.
John Albert Burr fully made over the lawnmower, bringing better traction, rotary blades, and allowed cutting closer to buildings.
This invention by Joseph A. Smith helped dads everywhere keep their grass green while allowing kids a fun toy to jump around in.
Thank Thomas Elkins for your porcelain throne. Without Elkins, your bathroom breaks certainly wouldn’t be as comfortable.
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.
William Dorsey Swann is highly regarded as the first drag queen in the US.
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 common-use products were also created by Black inventors:
Serving Tray Walker
Airplane propelling — James S. Adams
Biscuit Cutter — AP 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
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 — BF. 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