Garrett Morgan born on March 4, 1877, was an African-American inventor and entrepreneur. Morgan was born in Claysville. He had one brother Frank who assisted in Lake Erie Tunnel rescue in 1916. At the tender age of 16, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio when he had sixth-grade education.
He worked as a handyman during most of his teenage years in Cincinnati. But he was fortunate enough to hire a tutor. In 1895, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and started repairing sewing machines. This was the time where he further developed an interest in fixing things, and he invented belt fasteners for sewing machines. In 1907, after having extensive experience of sewing machines he opened his sewing machine and shoe repair shop.
Morgan used a liquid to polish sewing machines needles to prevent them from scorching the fabric as it sewed. He accidentally discovered that using the same liquid can straighten hair. He launched the G. A Morgan Hair Refining company and started marketing the product by converting it into cream. In 1910 he also made a black hair oil dye and invented a curved-tooth comb for hair straightening.
During 1910, he began working on his inventions and around 1912 he designed smoke hood, a device used for smoke protection. His main motivation behind this invetion was the fact the firefighters have to struggle a lot against the smoke during their encountered with deadly fires. For a demonstration of the device, he started a serious fire using tar, formaldehyde and sulfur inside a tent. He stand inside the tent for 20 minutes and come out of the tent unharmed.
On July 24, 1916, a viscious fire started as a result of tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. Before Morgan arrived at the scene, the previous two rescue attempts have failed. Rescuers had become victims themselves by entering the tunnel and not returning. Someone from the rescue team had previously seen Morgan’s smoke hood demonstration and convinced him to come and bring as many of his hoods as possible. He arrived at the scene wearing his pajamas with his brother Frank and four of his hoods. So he went along with his brother and two other volunteers and got succeded in resuing other firefighters who were trapped inside the tunnel. After seeing the successful operation of the device, other firefighters also joined the rescue operation and save many precious lives. During the rescue, Morgan made four trips into the tunnel and remains a main contributor in the rescue operation.
However, Cleveland’s newspaper and officials initially ignored his heroic act. It took years for the city to recognize his contributions. Later, he was featured in the newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, for his heroic act. His health was affected for years after the incident due to the fumes he encountered there. Later in life, he developed Glaucoma, and by 1943 he was blind. He died at the age of 86 and was buried at Lake View Cemetery. His name was included in the 2002 book 100 Greatest African-American by Molefi Kete Asante. He is also a honourary member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.