I am starting Black History Month about 5 days early. This thread is going to focus on Black Firsts, Inventors and Scientists.
First up, Henry Brown who created the Safebox or strongbox.
Prior to the invention, people often kept personal and valuable papers in simple wooden boxes in their homes or at local banks. These boxes provided no deterrent against burglars or bank staff reading them.
He developed a lockable, forged-metal container, divided into compartments, and patented his invention (number 352,036) on November 2, 1886.
This was a fire and accident safe container made of forged metal, which could be sealed with a lock and key. It was special in that it kept the papers separated.
Inventors often toil for their entire lifetimes creating devices which have beneficial effects on society for years – yet that inventor might gain recognition only after he or she has passed away. For others, even after they have gone, recognition is slow in coming despite their great contributions. Richard Spikes is such a person.
Little has been written about Richard Spikes in terms of his childhood, education and personal life. What is known is that he was an incredible inventor and the proof of this is in the incredibly diverse number of creations that have had a major impact on the lives of everyday citizens.
- railroad semaphore (1906)
- automatic car washer (1913)
- automobile directional signals (1913)
- beer keg tap (1910)
- self-locking rack for billiard cues (1910)
- continuous contact trolley pole (1919)
- combination milk bottle opener and cover (1926)
- method and apparatus for obtaining average samples and temperature of tank liquids (1931)
- automatic gear shift (1932)
- transmission and shifting thereof (1933)
- automatic shoe shine chair (1939)
- multiple barrel machine gun (1940)
- horizontally swinging barber chair (1950)
- automatic safety brake (1962)
Spikes inventions were welcome to major companies. His beer keg tap was purchased by Milwaukee Brewing Company and the automobile directional signals which were first introduced in the Pierce Arrow, soon became standard in all automobiles. For his innovative designs of transmission and gear-shifting devices, Spikes received over $100,000.00 – an enormous sum for a Black man in the 1930s.
By the time he was creating the automatic safety brake in 1962, Spikes was losing his vision. In order to complete the device, he first created a drafting machine for blind designers – by the time his braking device was completed, he was deemed legally blind. The device would soon be found in almost every school bus in the nation.
Richard Spikes died in 1962 but left behind a lifetime of achievement that few could parallel.
***Information courtesy of Wikipedia and About.com***