Garrett Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky, in 1877. At the age of 15, he moved to Ohio looking for work. He started a small business and founded a newspaper that would later merge into the Cleveland Call & Post. He’s better known for his inventions, which included a hair straightening cream and an early traffic signal.
Most importantly, Morgan is the inventor of the “safety hood,” which was the predecessor to the World War I gas mask. In fact, Morgan’s invention is now often referred to as a gas mask. Morgan was inspired to patent the fire hood when he heard about the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. Firefighters were often unable to enter burning structures because of smoke and toxic fumes. Morgan marketed his invention all around the country, but it gained much of its fame from Morgan’s own act of heroism.
An explosion in Cleveland’s Lake Erie Tunnel in 1916 left 11 men dead and others trapped in an enclosed space rapidly overtaken by leaking natural gas. By the time Morgan and his fire hood arrived on the scene at the request of Cleveland police, ten would-be rescuers had already succumbed to the gas inside the tunnel. This didn’t deter Morgan, who, along with two other volunteers, rushed into the tunnel wearing only, according to some reports, his fire hood and pajamas. The fire hood can be seen in the photo above slung across the back of Morgan’s shoulders. Morgan and his cohorts saved up to 20 men and retrieved several bodies from the tunnel using the fire hood.
While some newspapers failed to give Morgan proper credit for his bravery, citizens’ and firefighter groups did honor him with medals and honorary membership, respectively, and he was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. After this daring rescue, requests for Morgan’s invention rushed in from all over the nation. So the man in the above photograph is only the first of many lives that Garrett Morgan saved.
Tracking down the ultimate woman blues guitar hero is problematic because woman blues singers seldom recorded as guitar players and woman guitar players (such as Rosetta Tharpe and Sister O.M. Terrell) were seldom recorded playing blues. Excluding contemporary artists, the most notable exception to this pattern was Memphis Minnie. The most popular and prolific blueswoman outside the vaudeville tradition, she earned the respect of critics, the support of record-buying fans, and the unqualified praise of the blues artists she worked with throughout her long career