Huffpost Black Voices

This Day In History: Garrett Morgan Patents The Traffic Signal

Posted: Updated:
Portrait of Garrett A. Morgan, circa 1875. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images). | Fotosearch via Getty Images

On November 20, 1923 Garrett Morgan received a patent for the invention of the traffic light signal.

He essentially invented the first versions of what would become the yellow light, when he noticed a need for a signal to tell drivers that they would need to get ready to stop.

Fixing problems served as inspiration for his inventions. As one of the first black men in Cleveland to own a car, he noticed after World War I, a dependence on cars was growing and the mechanical “stop and go” signals were dangerous and leading to accidents because there was no buffer between the two signals.

His patent stated the following:

"This invention relates to traffic signals, and particularly to those which are adapted to be positioned adjacent the intersection of two or more streets and are manually operable for directing the flow of traffic... In addition, my invention contemplates the provision of a signal which may be readily and cheaply manufactured."

Morgan started out simply as a sewing-machine mechanic. Armed with only an elementary school education the Paris, Kentucky born inventor went on to open up his own repair shop and invent such things as the gasmask, personal grooming products including hair dying ointments and the curved-tooth pressing comb.

Morgan was also very active in the black community where he lived. He established Cleveland Association For Colored Men and published the newspaper "The Cleveland Call."

Related on HuffPost:

This Day In History
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Garrett Morgan patents three-position traffic signal — ...

Garrett Morgan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Garrett Morgan Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story -

Garrett Morgan - Gas Mask and Traffic Signal - Inventors -

Garrett Morgan invented gas mask, traffic signal: Black History Month

Garrett Morgan |

Garrett Augustus Morgan |

Garrett Morgan - Black Inventor Online Museum

Inventor And Businessman Garrett Morgan Was Born On This Day In ...

The Inventor of the Three-Light Traffic Signal: Garrett Morgan ...

Patricia Heaton On 'The Middle,' Hitting The 100th Episode, And When It Should ...

Football Game Notes: Colorado State at Utah State, Nov. 23

In the FCS Huddle: Backs against the wall

This Week in Saints History: November 13-19

Belmont Abbey has high opes for basketball squads

History festival unveils family stories

West Morgan makes Brown a winner

MATCH NOTES: #1 Penn State Opens Dual Meet Season at Rider and Lehigh

Space Shuttle Program Fast Facts

Reader Q&A: Brad Biggs' Bears mailbag