Born Mar 4 1887 - Died Aug 27 1963
Patent Number(s) 1,090,936; 1,475,024
Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask and three- way traffic signal in
the early 20th century. His 1914 Safety Hood aided firefighters and
others exposed to dangerous fumes. Morgan's enthusiasm for early automobiles
led to his traffic control signal. This traffic signal provided a standard
for governing automotive traffic and was the prototype for the traffic
signal used today.
Morgan's first well-known invention was the safety hood, a forerunner
of the gas mask. The hood was popularized during a tragic accident in
Cleveland, Ohio. When 32 workers were trapped during a tunnel collapse
under Lake Erie in 1916, rescuers were unable to reach them because
smoke, dust and fumes blocked their way. Morgan and several volunteers
using the masks were able to reach the trapped men and rescue several
In 1923, Morgan patented his best-known invention, the three-way traffic
signal. As an early enthusiast of automobiles, Morgan quickly recognized
the need for better traffic control on congested city streets. His signal
was based on signs that signaled stop and go. He sold his patent rights
to General Electric for $40,000, which developed an electrical version.
Born is Paris, Kentucky, Morgan settled in Cleveland as a young man.
He was an advocate for racial equality, forming one of the first black
fraternities in the country at Cleveland's Western Reserve University.
As a self-educated man he was concerned with the safety and welfare
of his fellow citizens. He was honored as a pioneering citizen at the
Emancipation Centennial Celebration in 1963.