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Ideas and Dreams

African-Americans celebrated as fathers of invention

February 12, 2014
By SHELLEY HANSON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Garrett Morgan loved firefighters so much that he invented a breathing apparatus to keep them alive while they saved lives.

His invention was the precursor to what modern firefighters use today. It wasn't until he demonstrated its usefulness during a mine collapse that rescuers took the device seriously, said the Rev. Darrell Cummings, pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Church, Wheeling. Cummings taught a classroom full of third- and fifth-grade Madison Elementary School students about Morgan and several other black inventors Tuesday in recognition of Black History Month.

"His invention saved lives all over the world," Cummings said of Morgan, who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, until his death in 1963.

Article Photos

Photos by Shelley Hanson - The Rev. Darrell Cummings tries on a breathing apparatus invented by Cleveland resident Garrett Morgan.

Cummings had an example of the device, which was manufactured in Pittsburgh, that he borrowed from Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms, who found it stored in one of the city's firehouses.

Cummings said he was pleasantly surprised to discover that Helms knew all about the original device and who invented it. Morgan's other inventions included the traffic signal and a type of oil that is used to straighten hair.

Other inventors Cummings discussed Tuesday included:

- Elijah McCoy, an engineer who invented a device to automatically oil the wheels and machinery on trains. When inquiring about a train's lubricating system, engineers were known to ask, "Is it the real McCoy?

- George Washington Carver, who discovered 300 different ways to use peanuts, turning it into a cash crop.

- Lewis Latimer, a draftsman who did the patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. Latimer also invented a longer lasting filament for Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb.

Cummings encouraged the students to have a dream and to treat people without prejudice.

"Believe in your ideas and have a dream. You are only old when you give up on your dreams. You are meant to be someone special," Cummings said. "There is a gift inside of all of you - you are all great."

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