Andrew Jackson Beard
Born 1849 – Died 1921
Patent No. 594,059
Andrew Jackson Beard invented the first automatic railroad car coupler, which dramatically reduced serious injuries to railroad workers. Beard’s invention was a forerunner of automatic couplers used today.
Beard was born a slave in Jefferson County, Alabama. Emancipated at age fifteen, he became a farmer and then built and ran a flourmill. Despite having received no formal education, Beard invented several types of plows, patented two of them, and successfully invested profits from the inventions in real estate. He went on to invent a steam-driven rotary engine before patenting his most important device, the automatic railroad car coupler, in 1897.