Black Inventor -

Edward Lewis

Edward Lewis had a problem with people trespassing on his property, especially poachers. Unfortunately, the only way to prevent people from coming on to his his land would be to hide out on the property at all hours, day and night.

Lewis solved this problem by developing a spring gun, which he patented on May 3, 1887. The spring gun was made of a metal tube which sat atop a block of wood with a wire attached to a trigger mechanism. The other end of the wire ran across the ground or was stretched across an area and attached to a post or a tree. Anyone disturbing the wire would cause the gun to discharge, thereby shooting the trespasser.

Black Inventor -

Henry Blair

Henry Blair was the second Black inventor issued a patent by the United States Patent Office. Born in 1807 in Glen Ross, Maryland, Blair was a free man, his first invention was a seed planter which enabled farmers to plant more corn utilizing less labor in a smaller period of time. He received a patent for this invention on October 14, 1834, assigned number 8447x. Two years later, in 1836, Blair received a second patent for a cotton planter, assigned number 15. The cotton planter worked by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades pulled along by a horse, followed by awheel-driven cylinder which dropped seen into the newly plowed furrow. Blair had been a successful farmer for years and developed the inventions as a means of increasing efficiency in farming.

Henry Blair PatentIt is noteworthy that in both of his patents he was listed as a “colored man”, the only example of an inventor’s race being listed or acknowledged on an issued patent.


  • The Inventive Spirit of African Americans (Patricia Carter Sluby).
Black Inventor -

Henry Brown

Henry BrownHenry Brown was an inventor who saw a need for a convenient and secure way to store money, valuables and important papers. At that time, people commonly kept those type of items in wooden or cardboard boxes in their homes or entrusted them to local banks. Both of these options presented dilemmas. While banks generally provided safety against theft, they did not prevent bank employees from reading through personal papers. At the same time, keeping the items at home could help to keep prying eyes away, but there was little to prevent burglars from quickly and easily grabbing valuables and making off with them.

Brown decided to create a safer container and developed a forged-metal container which could be sealed with a lock and key. He patented his receptacle for storing and preserving papers on November 2, 1886 and it developed into what is now known as a strongbox.

Black Inventor -

Henry Faulkner

Henry Faulkner - blackinventor.comIn 1890, Henry Faulkner decided to work on a problem that caused suffering in people everyday – foot problems caused by lack of ventilation inside of shoes. For years people constantly complained about blisters and sores on their feet as well as excessive sweating and aching caused by walking and standing with shoes on which offered no cooling air to circulate within. Faulkner devised a method for placing holes in specific locations within the shoe, thus allowing for adequate circulation and greater comfort.

Faulkner patented the ventilated shoe on April 29, 1890 and thereby helped to provide comfort and healthy feet to the world.

Black Inventor -

John Love

Many patents are developed in response to the frustration involved in having to perform a repetitive task in order to complete a more important one. For John L. Love, this repetitive task was having to stop writing notes or letters in able to pull out his knife to whittle his pencil down to a point again.

On November 23, 1897, Love patented the pencil sharpener which called for a user to turn a crank and rotor off thin slices of wood from the pencil until a point was formed

Four years earlier, Love created and patented his Plasterer’s Hawk. This device, a flat square piece of board made of wood or metal, upon which plaster or mortar was placed and then spread by plasterers or masons. This device was patented on July 9, 1895.

Black Inventor -

Joseph Hawkins

Joseph Hawkins developed what are now known as metal oven racks to aid in home cooking. The oven racks were based on gridirons, which were metal racks attached to a wooden handle and were placed on a campfire or placed inside of a fireplace to heat or broil various types of meat. By the early 1800’s, gridirons were not used as much as most homes had begun using kitchen stoves upon which to cook.

Hawkins received a patent for the improved gridiron on May 26, 1845. The device allowed for different items to be cooked at different level of heat intensity, thus enabling cooks to heat several types of food at once.