Inventor of the Week Archive
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Garrett A. Morgan (1877-1963)
The Safety Hood
Because of repeated incidents of firefighters being overcome by smoke when
attempting to put out fires in his hometown of Cleveland, Garrett Morgan wanted to do
something to help.
In 1914, Morgan obtained a patent for his safety hood
— a breathing device consisting of a canvas hood placed
over the head. A double tube extended from the hood and
merged into a single tube at the back. The open end held
a sponge soaked with water to filter out smoke and to cool
Shortly after receiving his patent, Morgan had a chance to put his invention to the test. In
1916 a tunnel was being constructed under Lake Erie. One night, there was an explosion in the
tunnel. Three separate rescue parties entered the tunnel -- and never came out
again. In desperation, officials familiar with Morgan and his device summoned him.
Morgan rushed to the scene wearing only pajama bottoms and carrying four of his
safety hoods. Police and firefighters, having seen their compatriots descend into the
smoky hole never to return, refused to go into the tunnel. Morgan, his brother and two
volunteers put on the hoods and went in.
Morgan and his crew went into the tunnel again and again, pulling suffocating workers
and rescuers to safety. Morgan even helped save the superintendent of the tunnel
project by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him.
The feat gained much publicity for Morgan, winning him numerous medals and helping him sell his invention to fire departments across the country.
One of Morgan's other inventions was an early traffic
signal, for which Morgan received a U.S. patent in 1923.