Six Black Figures Who Influenced the Transportation Industry

Released Feburary 17, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, Loup is highlighting African American figures who transformed the transportation industry. From innovations to hard work, these Black heroes have impacted and inspired many others. Their contributions have helped pave the way for progression in the transportation industry.

Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones is best known for his enormous contribution for the distribution industry. He created the Thermo King, an automatic long-haul refrigeration system. Initially, the Thermo King was used only in trucks, but soon was extended to be used on trains and ships. Prior to Jones’ invention, only canned produce could be shipped and distributed in grocery stores. However, the Thermo King allowed fresh produce to be transported across the country.

Elijah J. McCoy

Did you know the term the “Real McCoy” was coined after Elijah J. McCoy for his flawless and innovative device, the Lubricator Cup? His invention allowed trains to move with ease by automatically and continuously applying oil to keep train parts lubricated. Prior to McCoy’s invention, workers had to manually drop oil into moving parts to keep trains moving.

Andrew Jackson Beard

After being freed as a slave, Andrew Jackson Beard began working in the railroad industry doing the high-hazard task of manually coupling cars. Like many other workers, Beard lost his leg in a rail accident. This led him to develop the first automatic method for coupling cars, the Jenny Coupler. Andrew Jackson Beard revolutionized the rail industry and helped reduce the dangers of working on the railroad with the Jenny Coupler.

Mary Fields

Fearless and resilient are just some of the words used to describe Mary Fields, also known as “Stagecoach Mary.” Born a slave but later freed by emancipation, she worked several jobs to keep herself afloat. Later in life, Fields was the second woman ever and first African American woman to become a Star Route Carrier. A Star Route Carrier was an independent contractor who delivered mail in Northern Montana via stagecoach. Stories of her journeys explain how she fought off bandits and thieves in harsh weather to ensure her mail was delivered to its destination. Her legend lives on as a protector of mail and an emblem of Black empowerment.

Lewis Latimer

Lewis Latimer’s inventions helped pave the way for a comfortable and safe journey on the railroad. His development of air conditioning allowed trains to filter debris and dust out of the rail cars’ air. He also patented the water closet and granted passengers a pleasant stay while boarded on the train. Not only did Latimer contribute to the rail industry, but he is also known for his enormous contribution to the development of the electric lightbulb by creating the tungsten filaments for lightbulbs that lasted longer than carbon.

Granville T. Woods

Granville T. Woods is known for his exceptional developments in technology and the rail industry. His first invention, the Telegraphony, was a combination of the telephone and telegraph, and it allowed the fastest form of communication during that era. Woods also invented the Multiplex Telegraph, which allowed dispatchers to not only locate but also communicate with trains moving across the country. In 1901, Granville T. Woods partnered up with his brother, Lyates Woods, and created the foundation of the “third rail.” This was an additional rail that supplied electrical power to railroad systems. Within his lifetime, Granville T. Woods received almost 60 patents on his inventions and has left a legacy for his remarkable inventions during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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