Today in 1891, Black Inventor Philip Downing Patented the First Version of Today’s Mailbox

0 Posted by - October 27, 2020 - LATEST POSTS

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In 1891, anyone interested in mailing a letter would have to make the long trip to the post office. However, a thoughtful Black inventor sought to change that.

Philip B. Downing (pictured) designed a metal box with four legs, which he patented on October 27, 1891. He called his device a street letterbox and it is the predecessor of today’s mailbox.

One year earlier, Downing also patented an electrical switch for railroads, which allowed railroad workers to supply or shut off power to trains at appropriate times.

Based on Downing’s design, innovators would later create other electrical switches, such as light switches, which were used in the home.

Reference: Chamberlain, G. (2012 November 26) Inventors: Philip Downing. Retrieved from

* writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

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