Afrikan News And History Post New Entry

ELIJAH J. MCCOY Africa-America Inventor 57 U.S. Patents Lubrication Steam Engines

Posted by The Reunion Black Family on January 29, 2012 at 2:55 PM

ELIJAH J. MCCOY Africa-America Inventor, Engineer, Mechanic, Business man and ENtrepreneur. YES HE IS THE REAL MCCOY with over 60 patents.

Elijah J. McCoy was born free in 1844 in Colchester, Ontario, Canada to George and Mildred (Goins) McCoy, who were African American. They were fugitive slaves who had escaped from Kentucky to Canada via helpers through the Underground Railroad. In 1847, the family returned to the US, settling in Ypsilanti, Michigan. At age 15, McCoy traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland for an apprenticeship and study, and was certified as a mechanical engineer. After his return, he rejoined his family. He had eleven siblings.

(May 2, 1844[ – October 10, 1929) was a Africa-American inventor and engineer, who was notable for his 57 U.S. patents, most to do with lubrication of steam engines. His family returned to the United States in 1847, where he lived for the rest of his life and became a US citizen.




In Michigan, McCoy could only find work as a fireman and oiler at the Michigan Central Railroad. In a home-based machine shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, McCoy did his own higher skilled work, developing improvements and inventions. He invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships. On July 12, 1872, he obtained his first patent for it, "Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines" (U.S. Patent 129,843).

Similar automatic oilers had been patented previously; one is the displacement lubricator, which had already attained widespread use and whose technological descendants continued to be widely used into the 20th century. Lubricators were a boon for railroads, allowing trains to run faster and more profitably with less need to stop for lubrication and maintenance.

McCoy continued to refine his devices and design new ones; 50 of his patents dealt with lubricating systems. After the turn of the century, he attracted notice among his African-American contemporaries. Booker T. Washington in Story of the Negro (1909) recognized him as having produced more patents than any other black inventor up to that time. This creativity gave McCoy heroic status in the African-American community, which has persisted to this day.

He continued to invent until late in life, obtaining as many as 57 patents, mostly related to lubrication, but also including a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. Lacking the capital with which to manufacture his lubricators in large numbers, he usually assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. Lubricators with the McCoy name were not manufactured until 1920, near the end of his career, when he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company.

Historians have not agreed on the importance of McCoy's contribution to the field of lubrication. He is credited in some biographical sketches with revolutionizing the railroad or machine industries with his devices. Old lubrication literature barely mentions him; for example, his name is absent in E. L. Ahrons' Lubrication of Locomotives (1922), which does identify several other early pioneers and companies of the field.

Origin of the phrase "The real McCoy"

The saying the real McCoy', meaning the real thing, has been associated with Elijah McCoy's invention of an oil-drip cup, for which he was well known. One theory is that railroad engineers' looking to avoid inferior copies would request it by name, and inquire if a locomotive was fitted with "the real McCoy system" This possible origin was mentioned in Elijah McCoy's biography at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The original publication of this claim can be traced to the December 1966 issue of Ebony, in an ad for Old Taylor publishes the claim, ending in this tag line: "But the most famous legacy McCoy left his country was his name." The claim was repeated in a 1985 pamphlet printed by the Empak Publishing Company, which did not explain the origin of the expression. The attribution has been disputed, and other origin stories exist for the phrase.

The expression was first known to be published in Canada in 1881. In James S. Bond's The Rise and Fall of the "Union club": or, Boy life in Canada, a character says, "By jingo! yes; so it will be. It's the 'real McCoy,' as Jim Hicks says. Nobody but a devil can find us there."

Marriage and family

McCoy married Ann Elizabeth Stewart in 1868; she died four years later. He married for the second time in 1873, to Mary Eleanor Delaney. They moved to Detroit when he found work there. Mary McCoy (b. - d. 1922) was one of the founders of the Phillis Wheatley Home for Aged Colored Men in 1898.

Elijah McCoy died in Detroit in 1929 at the age of 86. He had continued to suffer from injuries in a car accident seven years earlier, in which his wife Mary died. For some time McCoy had been a resident of the Eloise Hospital, as he had dementia. The sanatorium was also known as the Michigan State Asylum (now in Westland, Michigan), before his death.

He was buried at Detroit Memorial Park East in Warren, Michigan.

In popular culture

1966, an ad for Old Taylor bourbon used a photo of Elijah McCoy and the expression "the real McCoy", ending in this tag line: "But the most famous legacy McCoy left his country was his name."

2006, Canadian playwright Andrew Moodie wrote a play called The Real McCoy, which portrays McCoy's life, the challenges he faced as an African American, and the development of his inventions. It was first produced in Toronto in 2006. It has also been produced in the United States, such as in Saint Louis, Missouri in 2011, performed by the Black Rep Theatre.


1974, the state of Michigan put an historical marker (P25170) at the McCoys' former home at 5720 Lincoln Avenue and at his gravesite.

1975, Detroit celebrated Elijah McCoy Day, and officials placed a historic marker at the site of his home. The city also named a nearby street for him.

1994, Michigan installed a historical marker (S0642) at his first workshop in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

2001, McCoy was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

Senator Debbie Stabenow offered an amendment to the Patent Reform Act of 2011 to name the first satellite office of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, scheduled to open in Detroit, Michigan in 2011, the "Elijah J. McCoy


Categories: Africa, United State, Black Inventors

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