Black History Month

Born in Colchester, Ontario to self-freed parents from Kentucky, Elijah McCoy received his higher education as a mechanical engineer in Scotland. After his training, he chose to live in Detroit, Michigan where he became concerned about the injuries and deaths caused when workers attempted to lubricate moving machinery. Many of these workers were young black boys employed in the position because they were small and agile. McCoy developed a self-lubricating device with a drip cup that revolutionized the industry. The device allowed the gradual and constant release of oil, which allowed machines to work continuously without having to be stopped to be lubricated and without anyone having to risk life and limbs to apply oil while machines remained in operation. The device had a range of applications. McCoy’s first drip cup invention was patented on July 12, 1872. The drip cup device was so effective and so highly regarded that other manufacturers copied it. However, none worked as well as McCoy’s invention. Canadian and American railroaders asked for it by name as “the real McCoy” giving rise to the expression denoting authenticity. McCoy went on to own his own firm. He filed 57 other patents in Canada and the United States including folding ironing boards and a lawn sprinkler.

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