Businessman, community leader, and prolific inventor. Kentuckian by birth, Ohioan by choice.

"Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast."
-- Starman

What do tricolor signal lights and gas masks have in common? Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr., of course, born seventh of eleven children to freed slaves Sydney Morgan and Elizabeth Reed in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877.

At 16 years of age he left home for Cleveland, Ohio to find work and a better education. To begin, he worked in a sewing machine factory. There he developed several attachments as well as the belt used to run the sewing machine. Next, he opened his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop in 1907 where he discovered, and manufactured, his formula for straightening hair, trademarked G. A. Morgan Hair Straightening.

Then came the invention of the “Safety Hood,” in 1912, the forerunner of the gas mask, for which he was granted a patent in 1914 and marketed by his own National Safety Device Company. With this device, he assisted in the recovery of men trapped in a tunnel of the Cleveland Waterworks, 250 feet below Lake Erie. Commenting in his diary about the event, he wrote, "I had but a little schooling, but I am a graduate from the school of hard knocks and cruel treatment. I have personally saved nine lives."

By most accounts, his noteworthiest invention was an automatic traffic signal, the basis of all seen on the road today, improved by many since. Patented in 1923, the concept came to him while watching the movement of vehicles as well as an accident between a horse-drawn carriage and a car, to regulate traffic with a stop, wait, and go concept.

He passed in Cleveland on July 27, 1963, and buried in Lake View Cemetery.


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