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Did You Know Two African American Inventors Were Granted Patents on This Day?

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This Day In History: November 23rd

African American inventors such as Andrew Jackson Beard and John Lee Love have helped to make valuable contributions to society with their patented creations. Both inventors received patents for their devices on the exact same day, November 23, 1897, and the inventions remain relevant to this day!

Andrew Beard was born into slavery but received emancipation at the age of 15. He took an interest in mechanics while working as a farmer which led to his first patent for improvements to the double plow in 1880. Beard received patents US240642A, US433847A and US478271A before creating his famed “Jenny Coupler.”

He revolutionized the railroad industry on November 23, 1897, with patent US594059A and created an automatic railroad car coupler. Prior to Beard’s invention, railroad cars were manually hooked together by workers but the task of connecting the cars was often dangerous and could even result in injuries or death. His time as a railroad worker taught him first-hand how deadly the job could be, especially after losing his leg in a coupling accident. 

Beard’s improvements allowed the cars to connect by bumping into each other, ultimately eliminating the need for a railroad worker and reducing fatalities. Beard made more improvements to his original design and received other patents (US624901A) for the automatic car coupler before selling his rights to the invention. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

The “Jenny Coupler” patented by Andrew Jackson Beard

John Lee Love received his patent for the “Love Sharpener” on the same day fellow inventor, Andrew Beard, patented the jenny coupler. Love worked as a carpenter in Fall River, Massachusetts. In 1895, Love patented a lightweight plasterer’s hawk which allowed for plaster or mortar to be carried in an easier manner. Two years later, he patented his device for an improved pencil sharpener that was portable and featured a compartment to store the pencil shavings. 

When applying for patent US594114A, Love stated “This invention relates to pencil-sharpeners; and the object thereof is to provide an improved device of this class which is simple in construction and operation and which is also adapted to serve as a paper-weight, desk ornament, and for other and similar purposes.”

John Lee Love died in a train collision on December 26, 1931, but he left behind a lasting legacy with his “Love Sharpener.” Since its creation, the portable sharpener has continued to be a popular item amongst students and working professionals around the world. 

The “Love Sharpener” patented by John Lee Love

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