Traffic Signal

A manually-controlled gas-powered light-switch on London Bridge was the first traffic signal. It was never popular and, in 1869, exploded and hurt the policeman controlling the switch.

Subsequently, there were countless versions of semaphore lights to control traffic. None gained commercial acceptance.

Morgan, who invented the gas mask, also invented and patented the modern traffic signal. General Electric purchased his traffic signal patent for $40,000 in 1923.

As an African American, Morgan (“the Black Edison”), repeatedly struggled to gain acceptance in business circles.

Morgan lost all his money in 1929, due to the Great Depression. He sought government funds as a reward for a daring rescue in 1916, where he and his gas masks saved the lives of 32 people.

He had been written out of the account due to racism, despite that the town Mayor confirmed his ingenuity and heroinism.

Traffic Light History: Note No Mention of Morgan

Gas Mask

Gas masks lower the risk of damage for firefighters and soldiers.

Garret Morgan, the son of freed slaves, developed an early gas mask for use in fires. Hoses dragged along the ground where air was cleaner, because smoke rises. There was also a 15-minute air supply for when air became hopelessly polluted. Patented in 1914, fire departments were the primary customers.

In sales demonstrations, white colleagues pretended to be the inventor to circumvent racial prejudice. His mother was half Native American and his father half white, the son of Confederate Col. John Hunt Morgan.

After the use of poison gas in WWI, Russian Nikolay Zelinsky developed the modern gas mask. Morgan’s mask worked well with fires but it was not designed for chemical warfare. Zelinsky’s mask used carbon filters protect lungs and eyes from chlorine, mustard, and other weaponized gasses.