Cleveland’s Favorite Inventor

From Smoke Hoods to Traffic Lights

Episode 23 of the podcast takes a look at Garrett Morgan. Get to know more about one of the greatest inventors of the last two hundred years by listening to the podcast. Available on any major podcast app.

The ‘Safety Hood’ Breathing Device

Since heat and fumes rise, Morgan found a way to draw cleaner air from below. The device sold at a rapid pace once the news got out that it was used to successfully save men trapped in a tunnel explosion.

But once people found out that the man who invented it was black, sales decreased in the south.

Morgan’s Traffic Signal

After witnessing a horrific accident involving a horse drawn carriage and a motor vehicle, Morgan got to work on a new invention. At the time, not many traffic lights had the warning option. This meant that the signals went from stop to go. Adding a warning signal between the two would allow people more time to get through the intersection.

Morgan’s Hair Refining Company

What began as a liquid solution meant to lubricate sewing needles turned out to work even better as a hair straightening cream. This was his first big company and the money he made allowed him to work on other projects.

Garrett and his brother, Frank save the day


“In the evening hours of July 24th 1916, Harry Vokes, a 27-year old Case Institute graduate, who was serving as acting foreman, led a work crew of eight men, including John Patton, down into the tunnel from the new crib known as Crib No. 5. Shortly thereafter, when natural gas vented up from the lake bed and somehow ignited, an explosion occurred, which buried Vokes and his entire work crew under hundreds of feet of mud and tunnel debris.

As often happens in the midst of tragedy, a number of men, including African American Garrett Morgan, inventor of a new type of gas mask, and later of other patented products including the first 3-position traffic signal light, exhibited extreme courage and bravery in descending into the tunnel to search for survivors that night and the following morning. It was not until Morgan, and his brother Frank, arrived with their gas masks that they, tunnel workers, firefighters and others at Crib No. 5, were able to descend into the tunnel relatively safely and bring out the remaining surviving rescuers, as well as the bodies of the rescuers who had not survived.”

It took years for Morgan to be given the credit he deserved.

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