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Elijah McCoy
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Inventor
    (May 2, 1844-October 10, 1929)
    Born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada
    Invented an automatic lubricator for steam engines (1872)
    Held 57 patents, mostly for inventions related to lubrication
    Also invented a portable ironing board and a lawn sprinkler
    Formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company (1920)
    Alleged inspiration for the saying 'the real McCoy' (from railroad engineers trying to avoid inferior imitations by asking for the real McCoy)
    Despite what various 'Black History Month'-style bios claim, his invention was not all that revolutionary, since several other automated lubricating systems had already been developed and continued to be used well into the 20th century.
    There is no solid evidence linking him to 'the real McCoy,' which is probably just a variant on the Scottish 'real McKay,' which dates back to at least 1856.
    For most of his career, he sold off his patent rights to investors, so until he founded his own company in 1920, his lubricators were not sold under the McCoy name, and any engineer seeking them out would have been unlikely to know to ask for 'the real McCoy' anyway.
    His parents were fugitive slaves who had escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad.
    In 'The Story of the Negro' (1909), Booker T. Washington recognized him for having received more patents than any other black inventor.
    After 49 years of marriage, his wife Mary died in a car accident (1922).
    He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2001).

Credit: C. Fishel


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