Six busts (below, 8" high) are by African American sculptor/photographer, Inge Hardison (b. 1904) from the "Negro Giants in History" collection created in 1967. Stunning likenesses. Hardison is a sculptor whose major interest is contemporary and historical portraiture. Much of Hardison’s work is emotionally involved to her heritage as a woman of African decent. She was the only woman among the six artists who formed the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Hardison once said, “During my long life I have enjoyed using different ways to distill the essences of my experiences so as to share for the good they might do in the lives of others.” A life loyal to creativity and art speaks of the life of Inge Hardison.
-- 1945 playbill for Mansfield Theatre's production of the play, Anna Lucasta, with Inge Hardison listed as an actor -->
Matthew Henson (1866-1955) was born on a farm in Charles County, Maryland. He was still a child when his parents Lemuel and Caroline died, and at the age of twelve he went to sea as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. He sailed around the world for the next several years, educating himself and becoming a skilled navigator. Henson met Commander Robert E. Peary in 1888 and joined him on an expedition to Nicaragua. Impressed with Henson’s seamanship, Peary recruited him as a colleague. For years they made many trips together, including Arctic voyages in which Henson traded with the Inuit and mastered their language, built sleds, and trained dog teams. In 1909, Peary mounted his eighth attempt to reach the North Pole, selecting Henson to be one of the team of six who would make the final run to the Pole. Before the goal was reached, Peary could no longer continue on foot and rode in a dog sled. Various accounts say he was ill, exhausted, or had frozen toes. In any case, he sent Henson on ahead as a scout.
In a newspaper interview Henson said: “I was in the lead that had overshot the mark a couple of miles. We went back then and I could see that my footprints were the first at the spot.” Henson then proceeded to plant the American flag. Although Admiral Peary received many honors, Henson was largely ignored and spent most of the next thirty years working as a clerk in a federal customs house in New York. But in 1944 Congress awarded him a duplicate of the silver medal given to Peary. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower both honored him before he died. In 1912 Henson wrote the book A Negro Explorer at the North Pole about his arctic exploration. Later, in 1947 he collaborated with Bradley Robinson on his biography Dark Companion. The 1912 book, along with an abortive lecture tour, enraged Peary who had always considered Henson no more than a servant and saw the attempts at publicity as a breach of faith. (source: Wikipedia)
Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963) was an African-American businessman and inventor whose curiosity and innovation led to the development of many useful and helpful products. A practical man of humble beginnings, Morgan devoted his life to creating things that made the lives of other people safer and more convenient. Among his inventions was an early traffic signal, that greatly improved safety on America's streets and roadways. On July 25, 1916, Morgan made national news for using a gas mask he had invented to rescue several men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel beneath
Lake Erie. After the rescue, Morgan's company received requests from fire departments around the country who wished to purchase the new masks. The Morgan gas mask was later refined for use by U.S. Army during World War I. In 1921, Morgan was awarded a patent for a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. Two years later, a refined model of his early gas mask won a gold medal at the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety, and another gold medal from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
-- Garret Morgan's entire US patent for the first Traffic Signal (1923), which includes 2 Drawing sheets and 4 Description sheets that explain every detail of the invention. This collection owns two of the Morgan sculptures.
Norbert Rillieux (1806 -1894) was revolutionary in the sugar industry by inventing a refining process that reduced the time, cost, and safety risk involved in producing sugar from cane and beets. As the son of a White French planter/inventor and an African American slave mother, Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He viewed the methods for refining sugar from beets and cane were dangerous, crude and required backbreaking labor. The methods threatened the slaves who were required to take boiling cane juice from one scalding kettle to another to produce a dark sugar.
Rillieux designed an evaporating pan which enclosed a series of condensing coils in vacuum chambers, issued as a patent U.S. 4,879. The invention was later used by sugar manufacturer in Cuba and Mexico. Rillieux's system took much of the hand labor out of the refining process, it saved fuel because the juice boiled at lower temperatures, and the new technique produced a superior final product. The Rillieux device was patented in 1846 and was used widely on sugar plantations in Louisiana, Mexico, and the West Indies. "It was stated by Charles Brown, a chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that [Rillieux's invention of the sugar processing pan] was the greatest invention in the history of American Chemical Engineering." This collection owns two of the Rillieux sculptures.
Frederick Jones (1892 - 1961) was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever, holding more than 60 patents in a variety of fields. Frederick Jones patented more than sixty inventions, however, he is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). Jones was the first person to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips. The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers, including ships.
Frederick Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940 (#2,303,857). Frederick Jones also invented a self-starting gas engine and a series of devices for movie projectors: adapting silent movie projectors for talking films, and developing box office equipment that delivered tickets and gave change.
Lewis Howard Latimer (1843-1928) is considered one of the 10 most important Black inventors of all time not only for the sheer number of inventions created and patents secured but also for the magnitude of importance for his most famous discovery. A pioneer in the development of the electric light bulb, Lewis was the only Black member of Thomas A. Edison's research team of noted scientists. While Edison invented the incandescent bulb, it was Latimer, a member of the Edison Pioneers, and former assistant to telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who developed and patented the process
for manufacturing the carbon filaments. Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848, and reared in Boston. His father, George Latimer, a former slave, had fled to Boston from Virginia during the 1830s. At sixteen Latimer joined the Union navy as a cabin boy on the USS Massasoit. After an honorable discharge in 1865 Latimer returned to Boston. Skills he had developed in mechanical drawing landed him a position with Crosby and Gould, patent solicitors. While with the company he advance to a chief draftsman and soon began working on his own inventions. His first patent, approved on February 10, 1874, was for a "water closet for railway cars." In 1880 Latimer left Crosby and Gould to work as a draftsman for Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun and head of the United States Electric Lighting Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The following year Latimer and fellow inventor Joseph V. Nichols received a patent for their invention of the first incandescent light bulb with carbon filament. Prior to this breakthrough, filaments had been made from paper. Latimer later became a chief draftsman and expert witness in the Board of Patent Control of the company that would eventually be know as General Electric. Latimer continued to display his creative talents over then next several years. In 1894 he created a safety elevator, a vast improvement on existing elevators. He next received a patent for Locking Racks for Hats, Coats, and Umbrellas. The device was used in restaurants, hotels and office buildings, holding items securely and allowing owners of items to keep the from getting misplaced or accidentally taken by others. He next created a improved version of a Book Supporter, used to keep books neatly arranged on shelves. He continued to invent and teach his drafting skills until his death in 1928.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew (June 3, 1904 -- April 1, 1950) was an American physician and medical researcher. He researched in the field of blood transfusions, developing improved techniques for blood storage, and applied his expert knowledge in developing large-scale blood banks early in World War II. He protested against the practice of racial segregation in the donation of blood from donors of different races since it lacked scientific foundation. In 1943, Drew's distinction in his profession was recognized when he became the first African American surgeon to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery. Drew received a fellowship from Howard University's Medical School, enabling him to study at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. While at Columbia University, Dr. Drew worked with the renowned Dr. Allen Whipple and with Dr. John Scudder on the problem of blood storage. The science and practice of blood transfusion had developed from early work including preserving whole blood in refrigerated storage in World War I and the practice of having hospital “blood banks” in the mid-1930s. Drew focused his own work on the challenge of separating and storing blood components, particularly blood plasma, as this might extend storage periods. Dr. Drew earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia University in 1940, with a doctoral thesis under the title Banked Blood: A Study in Blood Preservation. This collection owns two of the Drew sculptures.
Benjamin Banneker, originally Banna Ka, or Bannakay (1731-1806) is considered to be one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science. This beautiful sculpture was purchased from an elderly African American woman. On the back it is marked, "Property of Dorothy Thompson, #1" by the artist, S. Davis and dated '79 (13" high and 7" across). This is a one and only original clay sculpture, painted black.
BACKGROUND: At 21, Banneker saw a pocket watch that was owned by a traveling salesman named Josef Levi. He was so fascinated by it that Levi gave it to him. Banneker spent days taking it apart and reassembling it. From it Banneker then carved large-scale wooden replicas of each piece, calculating the gear assemblies himself, and used the parts to make a striking clock. The clock continued to work, striking each hour, for more than 40 years. This event changed his life, and he became a watch and clock maker.
One customer was Joseph Ellicott, a Quaker surveyor, who needed an extremely accurate timepiece to make correct calculations of the locations of stars. Ellicott was impressed with Benjamin's work and lent him books on mathematics and astronomy. Banneker began his study of astronomy at age 58. He was able to make the calculations to predict solar and lunar eclipses and to compile an ephemeris for the Benjamin Banneker's Almanac, which an anti-slavery society published from 1792 through 1797. He became known as the Sable Astronomer. Banneker and Ellicott worked closely with Pierre L'Enfant, the architect in charge. However L'Enfant could not control his temper and was fired. He left, taking all the plans with him. But Banneker saved the day by recreating the plans from memory. In early 1791, Joseph Ellicott's Quaker brother, Andrew Ellicott, hired Banneker to assist in a survey of the boundaries of the future 100 square-mile District of Columbia, which was to contain the federal capital city (the city of Washington) in the portion of the District that was northeast of the Potomac River. Because of illness and the difficulties in helping to survey at the age of 59 an extensive area that was largely wilderness, Banneker left the boundary survey in April, 1791, and returned to his home at Ellicott Mills to work on his ephemeris.
-- An article from a genuine March 21, 1791 edition of the newspaper, Dunlaps American Daily Advertiser states, ""Some time last month arrived...Mr. Andrew Ellicott a gentleman of superior astronomical abilities. He was employed by the president of the United States of America to lay a tract of land ten miles square on the Potowmac for the use of Congress...He is attended by Benjamin Banniker, an Ethiopian, whose abilities as surveyor and astronomer clearly prove that Mr. Jefferson's concluding that race of men were void of mental endowment was entirely without foundation."