Traffic Lights

Garrett Hunt Morgan, the inventor of
the electric traffic light 100 years ago today

I first found reference to the fairly remarkable person while living in central Kentucky.  For a couple of summers, our Youth Orchestra went to summer camp on a college campus near Paris, Kentucky and I used to take the main road to Maysville from my home for a teaching gig. and in wandering around some, I ran into a little historical marker for the birthplace of Garrett Hunt Morgan. He was born in Claysville which was the black only part of Paris. Ahhh Dixieland.

Seems Mr. Morgan was born to a former slave, Eliza, and  father Sydney, the son of the white Colonel John Hunt Morgan of "Morgan's Raiders" civil war fame.  He lived for about 80 some years, dying in 1963 when again I heard about him.

I had a brief summer job that year when my town was replacing stop-lights and I was the kid who held the stop-go sign at the intersection while the new light was going up.  I wasn't very good at it, or so I was told by an old guy who wanted the 
cushy job and figured a way to get me out of there.

One of the stoplights that I remember was marked with a "patented by" sign that wasn't General Electric. It was a "Morgan" stoplight. Aha. When I found his marker in Kentucky some years later I put two and two together, did a little reading and tucked it away.

I was reminded of it today as it is the 90th anniversary of the Morgan Traffic Light, put up in Cleveland in 1923.  It was an innovation because it was the first to include the yellow "caution". Seems Mr. Morgan was quite the inventor and entrepreneur, having started the Morgan Hair Refining Company after finding out that sewing machine oil also straightened hair and gave it a certain "sheen", and inventing the safety hood for firefighters - something of a gas mask that filtered out smoke and saved a lot of lives.

Anyway, today is the day with the traffic light and to remember a fellow who was practical, clever, and went a long way.