Andrew Jackson Beard hailed from Eastlake, Alabama, a small town outside of Birmingham. With the emergence of the railroad industry and its rapid expansion throughout the country, an alarming number of railmen suffered serious injuries to their arms and legs when they were crushed during manual style coupling of railroad cars. During manual coupling, a worker would have to attempt to precisely time the moment when two railroad cars being pushed together would be close enough for that worker to drop a metal pin between their connectors, thus engaging the cars. If the worker was off by one second he might severe damage his arm or leg – many in fact had to undergo amputation.
On November 27, 1897 Beard received a patent for a device he called the Jenny Coupler. Andrew Beard’s Jenny Coupler. The Jenny Coupler automatically joined cars by simply allowing them to bump into each other, or as Beard described it the “horizontal jaws engage each other to connect the cars.” Beard sold the rights to his invention for $50,000.00 and the railroad industry was revolutionized.
During his lifetime, Beard received a number of other patents, including a steam driven rotary engine, and a double plow.