A Journey to the Search
During the pre-civil war era, African Americans were seen as only workhorses. At this time in history, avid researcher Henry E. Baker, Jr. made his entrance into the world. Born on September 1, 1857, Baker’s educational journey started with the Union Academy. From there, he attended a Naval Academy, Ben-Hyde Benton School, and Howard University. While attending Howard, Baker was at the top of his class. Following this achievement, he completed his post-graduate work in 1883.
Baker reached academic heights, but it didn’t come without some challenges. The young cadet experienced racial and violent treatment constantly. Sworn in on September 25, 1874, he was nominated by Congressman Henry W. Barry. Henry was the third black midshipman to attend the Naval Academy. When faced with unwarranted taunting Baker did not back down.
The tension from the other cadets and dealing with the administration was a nightmare, not to mention that he failed his semiannual exams in January of 1875. The board recommended dismissal, but the final ruling took some time. To top it all off, Baker got into another physical and verbal altercation.
In June of 1875 Henry passed his exams. Going back and forth from being called a nigger, beaten in the head with clubs, and reinstated back into the academy led to his final decision. Later that year in October, Baker permanently resigned from the institution.
Shortly after, he joined the United States Patent Office. Starting off as a copyist in 1877, Henry advanced to the position of second examiner in 1902. Here, he discovered that there was a lack of information about black inventors. With the permission of the patent office, the search for African American developers had begun. He sent out thousands of letters to patent attorneys, newspaper editors, presidents of companies, and notable black individuals.
Despite the examiner running into push-back from some people claiming that there is no such thing as a black inventor, Henry marched on.
His trailblazing efforts uncovered 1,200 originators. His discovery led him to produce some informative negro literature, such as The Negro as an Inventor, The Colored Inventor, and The Negro in the Field of Invention.
However, not every black creator that Baker came across was willing to share their identities. Only 800 men and women participated out of the 1,200. African Americans feared that sales would drop if consumers knew that they created certain products.
Nevertheless, Henry’s dedication acknowledged the contributions of inventors of color, which led to national and international exhibitions. The success of these affairs, such as the Pennsylvania Emancipation of 1913, gave inventors a chance to showcase their products.
The timing of this event also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Henry Edwin Baker, Jr. was the first to research, collect, and write about the creations of Black Americans. In his own right, Mr. Baker is the innovative analyst.