From traffic lights to gas masks to hair relaxers, Kentuckian Garrett Morgan's unique way of solving problems made a lasting contribution.
Kentuckian Garrett Morgan, born in 1877, spent his life fixing problems. In honor of Black History Month, we offer a tip of the hat to his ingenuity, which he set to work on everything from traffic jams to hairstyles.
- He was a newspaper man. Morgan wasn’t satisfied with the newspaper coverage serving the black community in Cleveland, Ohio. In the early 1900s, he started the Cleveland Call, which later became one of the most important black newspapers in Ohio. The paper eventually merged with the Cleveland Post and was published in both Cleveland and Columbus.
- He invented the three-signal traffic light. Morgan was one of the first black men in Cleveland to own a car. After witnessing a particularly bad accident at an intersection, he patented a three-position traffic signal in 1923. (Previous signals featured only “stop” and “go.”) This ancestor to today’s yellow light managed crossing traffic more safely. He later sold the invention rights to General Electric for $40,000.
- Firefighters thank him. Morgan patented a safety hood which offered protection to those breathing around smoke and harmful gases. It was a precursor of the modern gas mask. He traveled across America, demonstrating the hood by filling a canvas tent with noxious smoke, then entering the tent for 20 minutes. In 1916, Morgan used the device to personally save lives after a Cleveland Water Works explosion.
- He’s helped women everywhere have a good hair day. While creating a chemical solution to reduce friction on sewing machine needles, he discovered that the cream also straightened cloth fibers. Thinking it might do the same for hair, he tested it on pets, then himself. Shortly thereafter, he established the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company, which had enormous success selling the cream to African Americans.
Morgan’s unique way of solving problems has had lasting, positive effects. It also served as a basis for future developments and innovation.
Do you enjoy fixing problems? So do Entergy employees! If you’d like to join us, we can fix problems together! Learn more. You can also keep up with Entergy career opportunities on LinkedIn.