Garrett Morgan


The son of former slaves, Garrett Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877. His early childhood was spent attending school and working on the family farm with his brothers and sisters. While still a teenager, he left Kentucky and moved north to Cincinnati, Ohio in search of opportunity.

started his career out as a sewing machine adjuster, but his creativity and intelligence led him on a new path.
In 1912, Morgan made another invention. He created the Safety Hood, also known as the gas mask. He patented it in 1914, naming it a Breathing Device. The device had a hood that was attached to a long tube with an opening for air and a second tube with a valve that exhaled air. At the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation in New York City, Morgan received first prize for his invention.
Morgan's invention was put to the test on July 24, 1916 when there was an explosion in a Cleveland Water Works tunnel. Thirty-two men were trapped in the smoke and gas filled tunnel. Morgan and his brother Frank entered the tunnel wearing Safety Hoods. They were able to carry out the men, but not all survived. This incident gave Morgan and his invention substantial notoriety.

In 1923, Morgan had another idea. He noticed that the combination of cars and horse drawn carriages on the road created confusion and accidents. As a result, he invented a traffic light signal.
The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This "third position" halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely.
Garrett Morgan's hand-cranked semaphore traffic management device was in use throughout North America until all manual traffic signals were replaced by the automatic red, yellow, and green-light traffic signals currently used around the world. On November 20, 1923, Morgan patented his traffic signal in the U.S., and later patented it in England and Canada.

He eventually sold the rights to the General Electric Corporation for $40,000.