Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 – July 27, 1963) was an inventor and community leader. He was the subject of a newspaper feature in Cleveland, Ohio, for a heroic rescue in 1916 of workers trapped within a water intake tunnel, 50 ft (15 m) beneath Lake Erie. He performed his rescue using a hood fashioned to protect his eyes from smoke and featuring a series of air tubes that hung near the ground to draw clean air beneath the rising smoke. This enabled Morgan to lengthen his ability to endure the inhospitable conditions of a smoke-filled room. Other inventions of Morgan's include the development of a chemical for hair-straightening. Morgan is also credited as the first African American in Cleveland to own an automobile.
The first American-made automobiles were introduced to consumers just before the turn of the twentieth century, and pedestrians, bicycles, animal-drawn wagons and motor vehicles all had to share the same roads. To deal with the growing problem of traffic accidents, a number of versions of traffic signaling devices began to be developed, starting around 1913.
Morgan had witnessed a serious accident at an intersection, and he filed a patent for traffic control device having a third "warning" position in 1922. The patent was granted in 1923, though this was not the first system with a warning, a three light system being invented in 1920 by William Potts, and previous systems having audible warnings.
Morgan sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000.
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