The Morgan Safety Hood: Garrett Morgan

Have you ever heard of a Morgan Safety Hood? Well, if you haven’t, you might be more familiar with the term “gas mask.” Garrett Morgan, an inventor and entrepreneur who was born and raised in Cleveland on March 4, 1877, was the brains behind the now-famous gas masks, or as it was once called, a Morgan Safety Hood.

Garret Morgan’s story started in 1911 and was created out of a tragedy. On March 25, 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York claimed the lives of 146 garment workers, the majority of whom were young immigrant women who were imprisoned in the factory. Morgan, who had previously worked in Cleveland’s thriving garment industry, decided to try his hand at making an effective mask after the tragedy brought attention to the country’s inadequate fire regulations and safety measures. The national safety hood and smoke protection, invented by Morgan, is seen on the cover of an advertisement leaflet from around 1914. Morgan was aware that while cleaner air stays closer to the feet, carbon monoxide tends to hang about at around the level of a standing person’s head. As a result, he created his machine to suck air through a lengthy tube that dangled like a tail close to the ground. It split into two hoses at the wearer’s tailbone level, went up either side of the rib cage, through the underarms, and then snaked into the mask’s hood (which resembled a beekeeper’s helmet) like serpentine walrus tusks.

Garret Morgan and the Morgan Safety Hood

During another well-known event, a natural gas pocket detonated 120 feet beneath the waves of Lake Erie at the end of a hot summer day just before midnight in 1916. It took place as construction was underway on Cleveland’s newest waterworks tunnel outside of the city’s filthy lakefront. The detonation tore up the train rails within the corridor and left twisted conduit pipes scattered over the tunnel floor. Toxic smoke also curled from the debris. Eleven underground workers were dead when the smoke cleared. In the tunnel, two rescue teams went looking for survivors. However, because they lacked the necessary safety gear for the smoke and gases, 11 of the 18 rescuers perished. 11 hours later, the Cleveland Police went to Garrett A. Morgan, a local inventor known as “the Black Edison”—and the gas mask he had patented two years earlier.,” in an effort to save anybody still alive.

In 1914, Garrett received first grand prize at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation for his invention of a gas mask. For his bravery in the Lake Erie disaster in 1916, he received the Carnegie Medal and a Medal for Bravery from the City of Erie. Shortly before his death in 1963, the U.S. government awarded Garrett with a citation for inventing the traffic signal and half a century later, at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, his invention was put on display, honoring a brilliant African-American inventor who risked his life to save others.

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This article was written by Maya Mitala.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thelma Letasi says:

    Wonderful read I love this


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