Andrew Jackson Beard was born a slave on a plantation in Woodland in Jefferson County, Alabama in 1849. When he was 15, he was emancipated, and he married at the age of 16.
He had a number of occupations which included amongst others, farming, working on the railroad and inventing. In 1881, he invented and patented a new design of plow which he sold three years later for $4,000. In 1887, he invented a second plow which he sold for $5,200. He also patented a rotary steam engine in 1892. He invested the proceeds from his inventions into a successful real estate business.
His experience of working on the railroad had taught him that coupling two railroad cars together was extremely dangerous – a worker would have to brace himself between the two cars and then drop a pin at exactly the right moment. Many workers were injured in this practice and Beard himself lost a leg in a coupling accident.
His invention joined two cars together simply by bumping them against each other and was patented in November 1897. It was known as the Jenny Coupler and revolutionized the railway industry, becoming the forerunner of today’s automatic coupler. Andrew Beard received $50,000 for the patent rights to his Jenny coupler.
Little is known of Andrew Jackson Beard’s life from this time until his death in 1921.
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