On this day in Black history in 1878, J.R.Winters received the first of three patents for his fire ladder improvements.
Joseph Richard Winters was born in Leesburg, VA to a Black brickmaker and a Shawnee mother in 1816. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1840 and worked as a laborer. Winters had a number of talents and hobbies including farming, mechanical knowledge, poetry, music, hunting, and fishing.
At this time, Winters is heavily involved in the Underground Railroad probably as a station house manager. In his autobiography, he said that he set up a meeting between Frederick Douglass and John Brown in 1859. In his autobiography, Douglass said Henry Watson set the meeting up.
He wrote a song for 1900 presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (D-TN). Bryan is best known for his defeats to William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Bryan also sided with creationism during the Scopes Trial (Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes) of 1925.
On May 7, 1878 J.R. Winters picks up a patent for an “improved ladder-truck and fire-escape.” The following years sees him improve upon his invention. The second patent is granted in April of 1879 and the final improvements in May of 1882. The improvements include a folding, metal frame instead of the rigid, wooden one. Winters also included a different design with the steps, an alarm bell, and the ability to connect to the building.
J.R. Winters passed in November 1916 in Chambersburg, PA.