July 25, 1916: Cleveland Tunnel Explosion and Role of Garrett Morgan

4 Posted by - February 25, 2023 - Black History, BLACK INVENTIONS, LATEST POSTS

Garrett Augustus Morgan was an African-American community leader and an inventor but was famously known for his heroic approach towards the Cleveland tunnel explosion during 1916. Garrett Morgan was born in Kentucky on the 4th of March 1877. He got only an elementary education and started his professional career as a hard working sewing machine mechanic. Morgan is responsible for many inventions that include improved traffic lights and the sewing machine, respiratory devices and hair straightening gadgets. The respiratory gadgets he invented later became blueprints of the gas masks during WWI.

On July 25, 1961, during World War I, a new tunnel was in process under the Lake Erie in the city of Cleveland. The purpose of drilling a tunnel was to get fresh water supply in less time. During the drilling process, the poor workers unluckily hit the natural gas pocket that unfortunately resulted in a loud and huge explosion. The workers who were trapped in the under-constructed underground tunnel experienced toxic dust and fumes. As soon as Morgan heard about the explosion, he took his brother and advised him to wear a gas mask which he invented some time ago. They made their way quickly towards the tunnel and entered to save the suffocating workers. The two brothers while risking their lives saved two other lives and managed to recover four bodies from the tunnel before any rescue effort was closed.

At that time, despite doing a heroic cause, the publicity Garrett Morgan owned from the tunnel incident affected the sales. The sad part was that public got to know that Morgan belongs to a Black community and therefore they refused to buy his products. Above all, doing such a great and life-risking effort at Lake Erie, neither Morgan nor his brother got any recognition. This act was a huge example of racial discrimination that Black people usually faced in America. Later on, Morgan got nominated for the Carnegie Medal for saving lives but ultimately was never chosen to receive the award. Additionally, some major reports which are present over the internet as well explain others as the rescuers during the Cleveland tunnel explosion.

The lack of knowledge shown by the public for Morgan and his brother’s efforts at the Cleveland tunnel explosion is extremely disheartening, but this never stopped him from inventing more and earned his efforts by producing something unique and something required by the time.

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