February is officially Black History Month, a time in which we reflect on influential African-American and African-Canadian figures. The transportation and logistics industry would be extremely different if it weren’t for a number of influential Black figures. From inventors to innovators, these historical Black figures shaped the transportation industry into what it is today.
Andrew Beard is remembered for designing a number of inventions that changed railroad transportation. He patented a design for a new rotary steam engine as well as improved the knuckle coupler used on trains. Beard’s coupler was the first automatic coupler widely used throughout the US, which made railroad transportation and logistics significantly safer. In 1887, the US Congress passed legislation that made it illegal to operate railroad carts without it.
Frederick McKinley Jones
Frederick McKinley Jones is best known for innovation in refrigeration. He designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks, which greatly improved the long-haul transportation of perishable goods. Long-haul refrigerated transportation wouldn’t be possible today without his contribution. His invention earned him the National Medal of Technology and an induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Archie Alexander is an influential African-American mathematician and civil engineer. He founded Alexander & Repass, an engineering firm responsible for the construction of the Whitehurst Freeway, the Tidal Basin Bridge, and the extension of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. His bridges and roads are still used in transportation today!
Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African-American woman star route mail carrier in the US. She was known for her quick and effective deliveries, even delivering mail on snowshoes when the snow was too deep for horses. Today, Mary Fields is recognized for paving the way for minority women in the distribution field.
Elijah J. McCoy
Elijah J. McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario to former slaves who escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad. McCoy was highly educated and later became a certified mechanical engineer. He was a prolific inventor, best known for creating an automatic lubricator for locomotive steam engines. McCoy is remembered for revolutionizing railway transportation with his device and forever changing the transportation industry. He continued to invent in his later life, holding a total of 57 patents by the time he passed.
Charles & Frederick Patterson
Charles R. Patterson was a born a slave who later gained freedom. He’s known for creating the highly successful C.R. Patterson and Sons Carriage Company. After his death, his eldest son Frederick noticed the rise of horseless carriages and converted the company into a bus and car company. This made the Patterson’s the first African American owned company to manufacture cars.
Garrett Morgan’s most notable invention was the gas mask, which saved countless lives. However, he also played a crucial role in transportation. It was his idea to add a third position to traffic lights. This addition has reduced an untold number of traffic accidents. Morgan can be credit for creating the modern day traffic signal.
These historical Black figures have shaped the transportation and logistics industry. Their creations and innovations shaped the industry and paved the way for today’s generation. Here at Traffix, we’re honored to recognize the incredible work they contributed to the industry. Happy Black History Month!