GARRETT AUGUSTUS MORGAN Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Garrett Augustus Morgan, a businessman who was inspired to invent                   
an electric light signal. This would help pedestians to cross roads and streets.     
Did you ever wonder who invented the stoplight? The person responsible for the       
stoplight is Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr., an African-American, who was born in     
Paris, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877, to Sidney and Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan.           
Elizabeth Morgan had been a slave freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. She       
and Sidney had eleven children. Garrett Morgan was the seventh.                     
He spent his early childhood working on the family farm with his sisters and         
brothers, while attending school. At the early age of 14, he left Kentucky and       
moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in search of employment. His education never went         
beyond elementary school, so he decided to hire a tutor while living in             
Cincinnati where he worked as a handyman for a wealthy landowner. He wanted to       
continue his studies in English grammar. Morgan moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in         
1895 working for a clothing manufacturer as a sewing machine repairman. During       
his employment as a repairman, he invented a belt fastener for the sewing           
He truly became a businessman in 1907 with the opening of his own sewing             
equipment and repair shop. He included a tailoring shop in 1909 that employed 32     
employees. Morgan’s new company began to put on the market coats, suits, and       
dresses. These clothes were made with the equipment that Morgan himself had made.   
Morgan established the Cleveland Call newspaper (later named the Call & Post),       
in 1920. Soon he became a well-known profitable businessman, and purchased a         
home and an automobile. As you can guess, his experience driving gave him the       
idea of a traffic signal.                                                           
Garrett Morgan Traffic Signal                                                       
As history will tell you the first American-made automobile was introduced by       
the Ford Motor Company in 1903. It did not take long before the American             
consumer discovered the freedom of the open road.                                   
In the beginning of the 20th century, the roads were shared with bicycles,           
animal-powered wagons, and the new motor vehicles. Of course, the roads and         
streets were also shared with pedestrians. With this scenario, accidents were       
frequent. Morgan witnessed accidents between an automobile and a horse-drawn         
carriage. This was the beginning of the idea of the electric traffic light           
A patent was granted to Morgan on November 20, 1923 for the traffic signal to       
regulate vehicle movement. In order to regulate the pedestrian and vehicle           
traffic on city streets, the GO and STOP signs were raised and lowered at           
intersections. His traffic light was a T-shaped pole that had three positions:       
Stop, Go, and the third position allowed pedestrians to cross the street or road     
more safely. The reason for the third position was to halt traffic in all           
directions. As you know, this light was replaced with the red, yellow, and green     
light signals.                                                                       
Years later, this invention was sold to General Electric for $40,000. Signal         
devices similar to the traffic light were also patented for England and Canada.     
Before his death, the United States Government awarded him a citation for his       
traffic signal. Garrett Augustus Morgan died on July 27, 1963, at the age of 86.     
He had given the world a legacy and a lasting impression.                           
The Department of Transportation (DOT) program is the outcome of Garrett Morgan     
inspiration. This program encourages students to consider transportation careers.   
Cleveland, Ohio was chosen as the site where the program was introduced. Morgan     
resided in this area for a lengthy period of time. He became an entrepreneur         
after overcoming poverty and lack of formal education.                               
The following information is taken from an article entitled, “The Garrett A.       
Morgan Program: Shaping the Future of Transportation”, by S. Lawrence Paulson.     
While the Morgan Program is still a work-in-progress at DOT, its objectives are     
clear. The program is intended to:                                                   
Establish partnership among DOT, the private sector, and communities to ensure       
that today’s students are prepared to become tomorrow’s transportation workers. 
Develop a curriculum that can begin as early as kindergarten to interest             
students in transportation and provide learning tools that continue to be useful     
at the adult education level.                                                       
Provide the technologies that will enable students to develop skills that they       
can apply to transportation careers.