Black History: Special Delivery!!


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Miriam Benjamin: Black Inventor

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

The Gong and Signal Chair – Patent Drawing

Black Mail Fast Fact: Miriam Benjamin created an invention which would improve customer service within the hotel and restaurant industries. Her invention would also help these industries be more efficient with their staffing. Benjamin developed a system for customers to quietly alert staff when they were in need of service. She called her invention, “The Gong and Signal Chair”.  It was first patented in 1888. Using her invention, the customer was able to press a button on the back of their chair which would relay a signal to hotel or restaurant staff. A light on the chair would also illuminate to show staff where the customer was seated. The invention became so popular that a number of them were even installed in the House of Representatives.  Miriam Benjamin was the second black woman to receive a U.S. patent.

Benjamin Thornton: Invented Telephone Message Recorder

 Black History:  Special Delivery!!

benjamin thornton
Benjamin Thornton Patent Drawing

Black Mail Fast Fact: Black inventor, Benjamin Thornton developed a device for recording voice messages from telephones in 1936. His invention was outfitted with a turntable for a record disc, an electric motor to operate the table, and an electric switch that connected it to the phone line. Utilizing a clock attachment, the machine could also forward messages as well as track what time a call was made. The recorder also had an apparatus that allowed the user to record an outgoing message. Devices invented to record phone messages date back to the late 1800s. So Thornton’s invention was not the first of its kind. However, the devices’ ability to both record and send messages, along with its ability to record the time of messages was quite significant. Thornton’s invention was a predecessor to the answering machine.


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Mary Beatrice Davidson Skinner: Household Products Inventor

Black History: Special Delivery!!

mary beatrice real pick

 African American inventor Mary Beatrice Davidson Skinner (1912-2006) came from a family where both her father, grandfather and sister were all inventors. Mary had several inventions including: a sanitary belt, sanitary belt with moisture proof napkin pocket, carrier attachment for adult walkers, bathroom tissue holder, back washer mounted on a shower wall and bathtub. She patented these 5 inventions between 1956-1987. The company that was first interested in her sanitary product invention rejected it when they discovered that she was an African American woman. Skinner was not the original creator of the sanitary napkin.  Women have always found various ways to deal with menstrual periods.  Until more formal/manufactured products were available women often used rags or strips of cloth during their menstrual periods.  Sanitary napkins as a product were originally introduced in 1888 in the United States and earlier forms have been documented as early as the 10th century.  The invention continued to be improved and updated by various manufacturers including Skinner.  In addition to being an inventor, she was a entrepreneur, owning a floral arrangement business.


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