Garrett Morgan: a Biography

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Garrett Morgan

Garrett Augustus Morgan was born on March 4, 1877 in Paris, Kentucky, the seventh of eleven children to Sydney and Elizabeth Morgan. His parents had previously been slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. At the early age of 14, Morgan decided to travel north to Ohio in the hopes of receiving better education opportunities. During those times, there were better opportunities for blacks in the northern part of the country. Still, Morgan’s formal education never surpassed elementary school. He moved to Cincinnati and then to Cleveland, working as a handyman in order to make ends meet. In Cleveland, he learned the inner workings of the sewing machine and in opened his own sewing machine store in 1907, where he both sold new machines and repaired old ones. In 1908 Morgan married Mary Anne Hassek with whom he later had three sons.

In 1909, Morgan opened a tailoring shop, selling coats, suits and dresses. While working in this shop he came upon a discovery which brought about his first invention. He noticed that the needle of a sewing machine moved with such a high speed that often its friction would scorch the thread of woolen materials. He then set out to develop a liquid that would be a useful polish to the needle, reducing friction. Once, when his wife called him to dinner, he wiped the liquid from his hands onto a piece of pony-fur cloth. When he returned to his workshop, he saw that the fibers on the cloth were now standing straight. He conceived that the fluid had actually straightened the fibers. In order to confirm his theory, he decided to apply some of the fluid to the hair of a neighbor's dog. The fluid straightened the dog's hair so much, that the neighbor, not recognizing his own pet, chased the animal away. Morgan then decided try the fluid on himself, trying small portions of his hair at first, and eventually his entire head. He was successful and had invented the first human-hair straightener. This invention has helped...
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