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4 Black Inventors in History Who Made Home Life Much Easier

There’s a rich history of black inventors whose names you probably don’t know. But we can bet that you’ve used their inventions to make life easier at home and weren’t aware of the mastermind behind it.

To celebrate Black History Month, Merry Maids® wants to introduce (or re-introduce) you to several black inventors in history who had the ingenuity, fortitude, and bravery to prevent their dreams and voices from being silenced, despite the times.

1. Inventor: Alice H. Parker

Invention: Central Heating Furnace

Can you imagine your home without central heating? We know, the thought is just too awful to bear. However, if not for the brilliance of Alice H. Parker and her central heating furnace, we’d be stuck building fires inside—and not for the ambiance.

The late great inventor filed her patent in 1919 amid racial tensions and civil unrest. While the idea of central heating wasn’t new, what made Parker’s invention so unique was that the furnace was fueled by natural gas instead of coal or wood. Historians allege that she was inspired by her own ineffective fireplace that didn’t sufficiently heat her home during New Jersey winters.

Not only did her invention conserve energy, but it was also safer and more convenient for those who previously had to go outside to chop wood. Parker’s central heating furnace paved the way for what we know today as central heating systems.

2. Inventor: Marie van Brittan Brown

Invention: Home Security System

As a homeowner, you know the importance of safety, ensuring that your loved ones feel secure inside your humble abode. Marie van Brittan Brown felt the same way when she invented an early version of the modern security system. Because of high crime in her neighborhood, Brown, working as a full-time nurse at the time, rigged a motorized camera pointed at her entrance to project images to a TV monitor.

To say that Brown was ready for any potential danger would be an understatement. She had a camera and closed-circuit TV recording images, and she set up a two-way microphone and a panic button to notify police in case of an emergency. She filed her patent in 1966, but it took 3 years to be approved.

Now, we can enjoy the fruits of her labor and deter would-be criminals and unlawful activity with the click of a button on a screen.

3. Inventor: Thomas L. Jennings

Invention: Dry Scouring (Dry Cleaning)

When you’re on your way to pick up your dry cleaning, do you ever consider how this idea came to fruition?

American inventor, civil rights leader, and abolitionist Thomas L. Jennings received a patent for his “dry scouring” method in 1821, likely making him the first African-American person to receive one. This early clothes cleaning technique came from his dissatisfaction with traditional cleaning methods. The New York native experimented with a new way of cleaning clothing that would become “dry scouring,” which allowed clothing to get cleaned without water damage.

Unfortunately, much of the details of the method and patent were lost in a fire in 1836 at a hotel in Washington, D.C., where patent files were temporarily stored.

4. Inventor: Alexander Miles

Invention: Improved Method for Elevator Doors

Picture this: You’re riding an elevator and have to close the doors manually! While buildings still exist with this outdated technology, we can’t even imagine the terror experienced if riders forget to close the doors in elevator cars. They risked potentially fatal falls just for the convenience of an elevator ride.

Luckily, American inventor Alexander Miles made it so you could ride an elevator safely without worrying about closing the doors yourself.

Miles was born near Circleville, OH, and later moved to Winona, MN, where he met his wife. The family relocated to Duluth, MN, after the birth of their daughter, where he began operating a barbershop. Miles managed his business while fulfilling his love of creating and developing hair care products. Duluth was also the place that inspired Miles to improve upon John W. Meaker’s—a Caucasian inventor—automatic elevator door patent. He noticed the risks associated with elevators when riders forgot to close the doors and didn’t want his young daughter seriously injured.

While Meaker received his patent over 30 years prior, Miles’ patent made electric-elevator doors safer and more widely accepted.

Merry Maids Makes Getting a Clean Home Easier

We implore you to discover more black inventors, leaders, and world-changers this month. You never know who might inspire you to improve upon an existing invention or invent something completely new. We hope that you allow us to help you free up some time, so you can continue to learn more about the history that shaped our world.

To get in touch with our cleaning experts today, find a location or call (888) 490-4227 to receive a quote for home cleaning quote today.