F. Haywood Glenn
Four Black Inventors You May Not Know
Updated: May 1
On steamy, hot days when it is just too hot to stay outdoors, many relax under the cool breeze of an air conditioner. Frederick McKinley Jones, an African American engineer, designed the first refrigerated truck unit for shipping perishable foods across interstates. This same design was implemented in the invention of the first air conditioners for military fields hospitals and kitchens.
The summer months have also become a time when many Americans want to spruce up and maintain their lawns. The grass must be mowed. John Albert Burr, a former African American slave, and inventor, patented the technology to redesign the lawn mower with traction wheels and rotary blades. He did not invent the lawn mower but his redesign of this popular and useful machine is still being used today.
To keep that lawn in the luscious green of good health, it must be watered. In 1817 Joseph Lessler designed and patented the first sprinkler system. However, in 1897, sixteen years after Lessler’s design, Joseph H. Smith, an African American inventor improved the sprinkler system and patented the first rotary sprinkler system.
Those hot summer days also fuel our appetite for a cool treat, ice cream. In Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1897, an African American businessman Alfred A. Cralle, worked as a porter for Markell Brothers Drug Store and St. Charles Hotel. He noticed that servers were having a hard time spooning ice cream into a cone and that gave him the idea to invent the ice cream scoop.
I have read and heard it said that African Americans did not contribute anything to our society. Nothing could be further from the truth. So as the summer months approach, let us reflect on these African American innovators and their contributions to society. Let us also remember that every contribution, no matter the race or creed, is worthy of recognition.
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