Monday, February 1, 2010

Garrett Morgan, Cleveland Inventor

Garrett A. Morgan historical marker

A historical marker on East 55th Street, just south of Harlem Avenue, commemorates the life of African American inventor Garrett Morgan. The text reads:
Garrett Augustus Morgan was an African American businessman and prolific inventor of devices that made people's lives safer and more convenient. Born on March 4, 1877 in Claysville, the Black segregated section of Paris, Kentucky, Morgan migrated north first to Cincinnati and then Cleveland in 1895. He lived and worked in this house at 5204 Harlem Avenue. In 1906, Morgan started the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company to market the hair straightener he had invented. The following year he opened a sewing machine repair shop. In 1908, he and his wife Mary opened Morgan's Cut Rate Ladies Clothing Store.

In 1910, Garrett Morgan invented the curve-toothed hair-straightening comb, and four years later patented the safety hood, the forerunner of the gas mask used in the 1916 Lake Erie Crib disaster and further developed and used in World War I. He also invented the traffic signal and sold his patented rights to General Electric Company. He was a founding member of the Cleveland Association of Colored Men and served as treasurer. He continued to invent tools, gadgets, and devices well into his 70s. He died in 1963 while preparing an exhibition of his life's work for an exposition in Chicago.

The marker refers to his home, at 5204 Harlem Avenue. He is shown in it in this 1960 photograph, used courtesy of the Cleveland Memory Project. The house was demolished in the 1980s or 1990s.


  1. I'm glad there's at least a plaque. It would have been great if the city had been able to preserve the house and eventually open it as a museum, perhaps with replicas or original inventions. Thank you for highlighting this important man & his contribution to society!

  2. I have been researching the old Colored Cemetery, now called Cedar Heights Cemetery in Paris, Kentucky. The birth place of Mr. Morgan. I am wondering if anyone can tell me if his parents were buried at this cememtery in Paris, Kentucky. Please feel free to visit and veiw the youtube link.