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Many of the world’s most famous inventors only produced one major invention that garnered recognition and cemented their prominent status. But Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963), one the country’s most successful African-American inventors, created two – the gas mask and the three-position traffic signal.

Born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to former slaves, Garrett A. Morgan was only formally educated to a sixth-grade level.  Fortunately, like many great inventors, Morgan had an innate mechanical mind that enabled him to solve problems. And, unlike most other inventors, he also was a skilled entrepreneur.

After moving to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 16, Garrett Morgan’s business sense and strong work ethic led him to almost immediate success. He invented and patented the first chemical hair straightener, started his own sewing equipment repair business, and even established a newspaper – the Cleveland Call.

But Morgan’s most prolific accomplishments came in his role as an inventor.  He received a patent for the first gas mask invention in 1914, but it wasn’t until two years later that the idea really took off. When a group of workers got stuck in a tunnel below Lake Erie after an explosion, Morgan and a team of men donned the masks to help get them out. After the rescue was a success, requests for the masks began pouring in.

Similarly, Garrett Morgan’s other famous invention – the three-position traffic signal – was also invented to help save lives. After witnessing an accident on a roadway, Morgan decided a device was needed to keep cars, buggies and pedestrians from colliding. His traffic signal was designed to stand on a street corner and notify vehicles and walkers whether they should stop or go.  After receiving a patent in 1923, the rights to the invention were eventually purchased by General Electric. 

Prior to his invention, most traffic signs in use had only two positions: stop and go. These manually operated two-position signals were an improvement over uncontrolled intersections, but because they allowed no interval between stop and go commands, collisions at busy intersections were common.

Morgan's signal was a T-shaped pole that featured three positions: stop, go, and an all-direction stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions before vehicles were allowed to proceed on either of the intersection's roads. This feature not only made it less dangerous for motorists to travel through intersections but also allowed pedestrians to cross safely.

Morgan died on July 27m 1963 at the age of 83. His inventions are still used today. The original prototype of the three-position traffic signal is on display at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum and the Safety Hood is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  

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Rosa Parks Portrait

Rosa Parks remains one of the most recognizable figures of the Civil Rights era after she famously refused to give up her seat on a city bus in 1955. After defying a Montgomery, Alabama ordinance that required African Americans to sit in the back of the bus and comply with requests to move for white passengers, Parks was arrested. Following her arrest, the African American community organized a city-wide bus boycott that lasted close to a year and helped propel the nation’s Civil Rights movement.

The city’s discriminatory laws that prompted Parks’ act provide a visible contrast to today’s bus systems. Racial discrimination is illegal in current transportation laws. More than that, buses are now among the most equitable ways for people to access jobs, school, health care and other services.

In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of bus desegregation. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened more doors by requiring public transportation to be accessible to all, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Now, virtually all U.S. transit buses are equipped with lifts and other features to ensure accessibility, and the ADA provides for accessible non-bus service for those who need it.

Buses provide a mode of transportation in rural and urban places.  In rural America, buses link residents of rural towns to opportunities in job centers. They take tribal residents from reservations to jobs and services, sometimes over long distances.

Rosa Parks’ actions were pivotal in affirming the dignity of everyone using public transportation. After finishing her shift as a seamstress at a department store, Parks boarded a public bus and took a seat in the “colored” section at the back of the bus. As the bus began to fill with passengers, some white patrons were forced to stand, prompting the bus driver to ask Parks and other African American riders to give up their seats.

Parks was arrested when she didn’t comply. The local NAACP organized a bus boycott that lasted 381 days. When African Americans refused to take the bus, opting instead to carpool or walk, it impacted city finances and sparked a very public protest against segregation. A year later, and after some 42,000  people had participated, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of bus desegregation.

Today, buses are the most widely used form of public transportation in the United States, serving communities large and small. The Federal Transit Administration identified 1,186 fixed-route transit bus systems operating in 2016 – 775 in urban areas and 411 in rural areas – and an astonishing 5.3 billion bus trips.

FTA funds transit buses and bus facilities for more than 3,000 agencies nationwide, including a program specifically to support tribal transit. The agency’s support goes far toward ensuring that people can get to their jobs, take care of vital needs and take part in life’s activities.

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Carmen E. Turner (1930- 1992)

In 1983, Carmen E. Turner made history as the first African-American woman to lead a major https://transportationhistoryorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/carmeneturner.jpg?w=236transit agency when she became general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Her appointment to this position also reflected the overall strides being made by women at the time when it came to assuming key leadership roles in U.S. transportation.

Turner was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, but grew up in the nation’s capital. She began her government career in administrative support positions for various federal agencies. In 1974, she started working for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Mass Transportation Administration (the present-day Federal Transit Administration). Turner worked as a civil rights officer at UMTA until 1976, when U.S. Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman named her acting director of USDOT’s Office of Civil Rights.

The following year, Turner left USDOT to work at WMATA as its chief of administration. With her promotion to general manager six years later, she found herself running one of the nation’s largest transit systems. Turner earned widespread praise for her management of WMATA during a crucial time for the relatively young agency. Her accomplishments included overseeing a 40 percent expansion of the agency’s Metrorail service from 42 miles and 47 stations to 73 miles and 63 stations. Daily ridership likewise mushroomed in size.

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https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.hnjkI_qg_SF6LuITbOUS3wHaOP&pid=15.1&P=0&w=300&h=300Andrew Jackson Beard (1849-1921)

Andrew Jackson Beard lived an extraordinary life for a black American inventor. His invention of the Jenny automatic car coupler revolutionized railroad safety. Unlike the vast majority of inventors who never profit from their patents, he profited from his inventions.

Andrew Beard was born a slave on a plantation in Woodland, Alabama, in 1849, shortly before slavery ended.

He received emancipation at age 15 and he married at age 16. Andrew Beard was a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, a railroad worker, a businessman and finally an inventor.

He grew apples as a farmer near Birmingham, Alabama for five years before he built and operated a flour mill in Hardwicks, Alabama. His work in agriculture led to tinkering with improvement for plows. In 1881, he patented his first invention, an improvement to the double plow, and sold the patent rights for $4,000 in 1884. His design allowed for the distance between the plow plates to be adjusted. That amount of money would be the equivalent of almost $100,000 today. His patent is US240642, filed on September 4, 1880, at which time he listed his residence at Easonville, Alabama, and published on April 26, 1881.

In 1887, Andrew Beard patented a second plow and sold it for $5,200. This patent was for a design that allowed the pitch of the blades of plows or cultivators to be adjusted.

The amount he received would be the equivalent of about $130,000 today. This patent is US347220, filed on May 17, 1886, at which time he listed his residence as Woodlawn, Alabama, and published on August 10, 1996.   Beard invested the money he made from his plow inventions into a profitable real-estate business.

Beard received two patents for rotary steam engine designs. US433847 was filed and granted in 1890. He also received patent US478271 in 1892. There was no information found as to whether these were profitable for him.

In 1897, Andrew Beard patented an improvement to railroad car couplers. His improvement came to be called the Jenny Coupler. It was one of many that aimed to improve the knuckle coupler patented by Eli Janney in 1873 (patent US138405).

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As a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point ’79), Admiral Buzby understands the benefits of receiving a well-rounded maritime education because of the role that our commercial mariners play in our country’s security and overall economic success.  In our global economy driven by trade through seaports, it is vital to educate and train our future maritime leaders. Our nation’s economic growth is dependent on the skills that we teach our mariners who protect our country’s marine borders and project American interests around the globe.

The U.S. military relies on U.S. flag vessels crewed by U.S. civilian mariners. In times of need, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters, America's commercial fleet and mariners provide sealift capacity to move troops and cargoes - sometimes at a moment’s notice. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, over 95 percent of all military ocean-borne cargoes were moved on U.S.-flag vessels and government-owned sealift vessels crewed by U.S. citizen mariners. Our ports move more than two billion tons of freight every year, and our marine highways transport vital bulk cargoes and connect our domestic energy supply. By preparing the next generation with the maritime skills and knowledge they need, we are building a solid foundation to continue supporting our economy and defending our nation.

Admiral Mark H. Buzby meeting student and staff at Davis High School

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The FAA projects that by 2021, the fleet of hobbyist and commercial remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) will reach 4 million.

However, there are several technical, operational, and regulatory challenges related to integrating routine RPA operations in the National Airspace System (NAS). The most prominent obstacle is the inability of an RPA operator to see-and-avoid other aircraft, as required by federal regulations. Approved mitigations for the absence of a see-and-avoid capability, such as a ground-based visual observer or a visual observer onboard a chase aircraft, are not always practical and frequently limit the number and type of missions RPAs can execute.

“Without a human pilot onboard, every drone is by definition incapable of complying with the federal regulation to see-and-avoid other aircraft,” said Jason Glaneuski, Chief of the Air Traffic Management Systems Division at U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center. “Our team has spent several years tackling this challenge, researching solutions for drone operators that fulfill their operational needs, while also complying with FAA’s rigorous safety standards.” 

The Volpe Center, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force (USAF), MITRE, and Raytheon, is developing a Ground-Based-Detect-and-Avoid (GBDAA) proof-of-concept (POC) capability that detects aircraft in the vicinity of an RPA by fusing aircraft position data from many types of ground-based radars and displaying those positions in real-time. This enables RPA operators to detect-and-avoid traffic at an equivalent level of safety as a manned aircraft pilot’s ability to see-and-avoid traffic. This work furthers the transportation and logistics enterprise by advancing capabilities to facilitate routine operations of RPA within the NAS.

Ground-Based-Detect-and -Avoid Radar Screen

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Black History Month Banner

Black History Month celebrates African-Americans’ contributions to American history and development.  This month the U.S. Department of Transportation will feature biographies of African American inventors and pioneers whose courage, inspiration and determination helped transform the transportation industry of America.

Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17, 1893- February 21, 1961)

http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/ows_145600567530989.jpgFrederick Jones was born in Ohio in 1893. After a challenging childhood, he taught himself mechanical and electrical engineering, inventing a range of devices relating to refrigeration, sound and automobiles.

Frederick Jones had talent for and an interest in mechanics. He read extensively on the subject in addition to his daily work, educating himself in his spare time. By the time he was twenty, Jones was able to secure an engineering license in Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I where he was often called upon to make repairs to machines and other equipment. After the war, he returned to the farm.

It was on the Hallock farm that Jones educated himself further in electronics. When the town decided to fund a new radio station, Jones built the transmitter needed to broadcast its programming. He also developed a device to combine moving pictures with sound. Local businessman Joseph A. Numero subsequently hired Jones to improve the sound equipment he produced for the film industry.

Jones continued to expand his interests in the 1930s. He designed and patented a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food. Forming a partnership with Numero, Jones founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company. The company grew exponentially during World War II, helping to preserve blood, medicine and food. By 1949, U.S. Thermo Control was worth millions of dollars.

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Black History Month Banner

Black History Month celebrates African-Americans’ contributions to American history and development.  This month the U.S. Department of Transportation will feature biographies of African American inventors and pioneers whose courage, inspiration and determination helped transform the transportation industry of America.

Granville T. Woods Portrait

Granville T. Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910)

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry. To some, he was known as the "Black Edison, both great inventors of their time. Granville T. Woods invented more than a dozen devices to improve electric railway cars and much more for controlling the flow of electricity. His most noted invention was a system for letting the engineer of a train know how close his train was to others. This device helped cut down accidents and collisions between trains.

Granville T. Woods literally learned his skills on the job. Attending school in Columbus until age 10, he served an apprenticeship in a machine shop and learned the trades of machinist and blacksmith. During his youth, he also went to night school and took private lessons. Although he had to leave formal school at age ten, Granville T. Woods realized that learning and education were essential to developing critical skills that would allow him to express his creativity with machinery.

In 1872, Granville T. Woods obtained a job as a fireman on the Danville and Southern railroad in Missouri, eventually becoming an engineer. He invested his spare time in studying electronics. In 1874, Granville Woods moved to Springfield, Illinois, and worked in a rolling mill. In 1878, he took a job aboard the Ironsides, a British steamer, and, within two years, became Chief Engineer of the steamer. Finally, his travels and experiences led him to settle in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the person most responsible for modernizing the railroad.Black History Month celebrates African-Americans’ contributions to American history and development.  This month the U.S. Department of Transportation will feature biographies of African American inventors and pioneers whose courage, inspiration and determination helped transform the transportation industry of America.

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Celebrate Black History Month banner

Black History Month celebrates African-Americans’ contributions to American history and development.  This month the U.S. Department of Transportation will feature biographies of African American inventors and pioneers whose courage, inspiration and determination helped transform the transportation industry of America.

Elijah McCoyElijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844 – October 10, 1929)

Beginning at a young age, Elijah McCoy showed a strong interest in mechanics. His parents arranged for him to travel to Scotland at the age of 15 for an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. He returned home to Michigan after becoming certified as a mechanical engineer.

Despite his qualifications, McCoy was unable to find work as an engineer in the United States due to racial barriers; skilled professional positions were not available for African Americans at the time, regardless of their training or background. McCoy accepted a position as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. It was in this line of work that he developed his first major inventions. After studying the inefficiencies inherent in the existing system of oiling axles, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly over the engine's moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenance.

McCoy continued to refine his devices, receiving nearly 60 patents over the course of his life. While the majority of his inventions related to lubrication systems, he also developed designs for an ironing board, a lawn sprinkler, and other machines. Although McCoy's achievements were recognized in his own time, his name did not appear on the majority of the products that he devised. Lacking the capital with which to manufacture his lubricators in large numbers, he typically assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. In 1920, toward the end of his life, McCoy formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to produce lubricators bearing his name.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation was named last Friday by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) as one of the top four “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.”  This is an improvement from 2016, when DOT ranked 8th and a leap from 2009, when the department ranked last among large federal agencies.

Credit goes to everyone at DOT who contributes to a workplace atmosphere of positive and productive collaboration in achieving the Department’s vital mission on behalf of the American people! 

The annual rankings and supportive data provide insights into employee views on a wide range of issues – from leadership to strategic management to teamwork.  According to PPS, DOT's 2017 employee engagement score is 67.6, an improvement of 4.2 points since last year.   The DOT baseball fans in Washington have even more reasons to enjoy working here since Nationals Park is a block away and the team had a pretty good season.  Maybe if the Nationals win the World Series this year, DOT will surpass NASA as the #1 Best Place to Work.  Spring training begins this month and optimism abounds!

I hope all of us at the Department will take pride in this improved ranking and in being part of an organization devoted to helping save lives and improving quality of life through better transportation systems.  I am really proud of our Department!

Best Places to Work Award

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