Garrett Morgan Biography


Birthday: March 4, 1877 (Pisces)

Born In: Paris, Kentucky, United States

Garrett Morgan was an African American inventor, entrepreneur and political leader. During his lifetime, he made many popular inventions, the most notable ones being the smoke hood and the traffic signal. He also devised a line of hair-care products. Born in Claysville, Harrison County, Kentucky, to a freed chattel slave father, Morgan attended Branch Elementary School. After dropping out after the sixth grade, he moved to Cincinnati in search of employment. He initially worked as a handyman and later repaired sewing machines in a factory where he created a belt fastener as his first invention. In 1908, Morgan co-founded the Cleveland Association of Colored Men, a group with the goal of improving socio-economic conditions within the African American community. He was married twice and fathered three kids. After his death in 1963, many elementary schools were named after him. He is still remembered as one of the most popular African American inventors of all time.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr. , Big Chief Mason

Died At Age: 86


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Anne Hassek (m. 1908)

father: Sydney Morgan

mother: Elizabeth Reed

siblings: Frank Morgan

children: Cosmo Henry Morgan, Garrett Augustus Morgan, John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.

Born Country: United States

Inventors American Men

Died on: July 27, 1963

place of death: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

U.S. State: Kentucky

discoveries/inventions: Gas Mask

More Facts

awards: National Inventors Hall of Fame

Childhood & Early Life
Garrett Augustus Morgan was born on March 4, 1877, in Claysville, Kentucky, USA. His mother Elizabeth Reed was a slave while his father Sydney Morgan was a liberated chattel slave of Colonel John H. Morgan of Morgan's Raiders. He had a brother named Frank.
He attended Branch Elementary School and dropped out from there after the sixth grade. Later, he moved to Ohio in search of employment.
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Career & Community Leadership
Garrett Morgan began his career as a handyman for a Cincinnati landowner. In 1895, he started repairing sewing machines. During this period, he invented a belt fastener for sewing machines.
After a decade of experience with sewing equipment, he launched his own sewing machine in 1907.
In 1908, Morgan founded the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. Under his leadership, the community helped improve the social and economic status of African Americans. The community later merged with NAACP.
In 1909, the inventor expanded his venture by opening Morgan's Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store. Then in 1912, he developed the smoke hood. Its success later resulted in the formation of the National Safety Device Company.
Morgan’s business began to flourish rapidly with the creation of some hair care products. Their invention led him to launch the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Company which started selling his hair care products, including a hair straightening comb and cream, and a hair color.
In 1920, he founded a weekly newspaper called the ‘Cleveland Call’. Later, in 1938, the newspaper merged with the ‘Cleveland Call and Post’ newspaper.
During his lifetime, Morgan was an honourable member of the Antioch Baptist Church, the Prince Hall Freemason fraternal organization, and the International Association of Fire Engineers.
Hair Care Products
While working with sewing machines, Morgan experimented with a liquid that polished sewing machine needles to prevent them from scorching fabric. Later, in 1905, he discovered that the liquid could also be used to straighten hair. This liquid was then made into a hair straightening cream.
He also invented a curved-tooth hair straightening comb as well as a black hair oil dye.
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Smoke Hood
Garrett Morgan devised a safety hood smoke protection equipment which helped execute emergency respiration. He filed for a patent on the equipment in 1912 and later marketed it via his company, the National Safety Device Company.
Simple and effective, his gas mask earned a gold medal from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Traffic Signal
After witnessing a road accident, Morgan filed a patent for a three-position traffic signal in 1922. However, his invention was not the first ever traffic signal; several three-light systems having audible warnings were already in use at that time.
Self-extinguishing Cigarette
Morgan invented a self-extinguishing cigarette. The device employed a small plastic pellet with water placed right before the filter.
A Heroic Rescuer
Besides being a successful inventor, Garrett Morgan was also known for a heroic rescue operation he carried out in 1916 to save workers trapped in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie. To rescue them, he used his patented smoke hood and also helped retrieve the bodies of those who didn’t survive.
Although the media and city officials ignored his act of heroism and issued medals to other men involved in the rescue, Morgan was later awarded a diamond-studded gold medal by some Cleveland citizens.
Family & Personal Life
From 1896 to 1898, Garrett Morgan was married to Madge Nelson. In 1908, he married his second wife Mary Hasek. They had three children, John, Garrett, and Cosmo.
In his later life, Morgan developed glaucoma and was functionally blind by 1943.
On July 27, 1963, he died in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 86.
His inventions have had a huge impact on the well-being of people all across the globe. Case Western University awarded Morgan an honorary degree.
The Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant and the Garrett A. Morgan Cleveland School of Science have been named after him.
In Prince George's County, Maryland, a street called Garrett A. Morgan Boulevard has been named in his honour.

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