Programs & Events

Garrett A. Morgan Day

Garrett Morgan inventions

Garrett A. Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877, to Sidney and Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan. Garrett was the seventh child of eleven. Morgan was an African-American businessman and inventor whose curiosity and innovation led to the development of many useful products.

  • Morgan’s first invention was a belt fastener for a sewing machine, which he designed while working for a clothing manufacturer.
  • Driven and hardworking, in 1907 Morgan opened his own sewing machine business and later a clothing manufacturing business.
  • Morgan received a patent (#1,113,675) in 1914 for his “breathing device” which he also called a “safety helmet.” Today, this device is called a gas mask. Bravely, Morgan and his brother used the breathing device to rescue several workmen trapped in a toxic gas-filled waterworks tunnel 128 feet under Lake Erie. The City of Cleveland awarded the Morgan brothers a gold medal for their heroism.
  • In 1920, Morgan moved into the newspaper business when he established the Cleveland Call newspaper to provide better news coverage of African-American affairs in Cleveland.
  • After witnessing an accident involving a horse-pulled buggy and an automobile at a street intersection in 1923, Morgan designed a patented (#1,475,024) traffic signal. The signal consisted of a tall post with movable arms that monitored and controlled traffic: it rotated and the arms moved up; it contained lights that flashed the words “stop” and “go”; it used batteries and electricity from overhead wires; and a set of bells signaled that the post was changing directions. Morgan sold the rights to his traffic signal patent to General Electric Company. Morgan was awarded a citation for his traffic signal by the United States government.

As word of Morgan’s life-saving inventions spread across North America and England, demand for these products grew. He was frequently invited to conventions and public exhibitions to demonstrate how his inventions worked. Garrett Augustus Morgan died on August 27, 1963, at the age of 86. His life was long and full, and his creative energies have given us a marvelous and lasting legacy.

Shadow Day Activities In Your Community

  • Behind the Scenes

    Hold a “Behind the Scenes Look” at your local Office of Emergency Management Center, and learn about its ties to the safety of transit agency staff and consumers.

  • Career Showcase Day

    Conduct a career showcase day for high school and/or college students that would allow them to visit the offices of consultants, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, vendors, agencies, and related businesses to highlight various jobs and tasks that factor into the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a transportation system.

  • Student Contest

    Have students create a new logo, develop a marketing plan for a new transportation service, or solicit student proposals on a public policy question related to transportation. Offer a prize or scholarship to the winner. 

  • Student Seminar

    Bring students into a one day seminar that allows them to shadow transportation agency department staff. Provide breakfast and lunch, and begin the day with an introduction and welcome by the CEO or General Manager. Students will shadow staff in various departments, and the day will end with a presentation by the students describing what they learned from and about the organization.

  • Transportation Advocacy Day

    Take a group of students to the state capitol and meet with officials and policymakers to talk about the importance of transportation.

  • Transportation Career Day

    Set up and conduct forums that discuss paths to rewarding careers in the transportation industry with students who are planning to attend college. Have industry personnel talk about their career paths and the needed skills for their roles.

  • Transportation Video Contest

    Break the students into small groups and assign each group a transportation mode. Have each group research safety or general information about each mode, and then create a short 2-3 minute fun, interactive video.

  • Other Short-Term Activities

    • Introduce safety and rescue techniques for various modes of transportation.
    • Create a collage of different types of jobs in transportation.
    • Tour the local transit authority, airport, car manufacturer, or dispatch and command center.
    • Learn about bike safety.
    • Hold a drawing and coloring contest of various types of transportation (bikes, cars, planes, etc.).
    • Have students pick a transportation mode and create a safety video for younger students.
    • Have students create a transportation Web page.
    • Hold a “Career Day” and have industry professionals come to class and talk to students about the exciting things involved in their career.

Additional Consideration for COMTO Chapters

  • Be sure to get feedback from students
  • Include real-life transportation career options
  • Internships are hard to find; consider holding an “internship fair” as part of your activities
  • Budget for Garrett Morgan Day activities
  • Partner with local businesses, agencies, and educators to conduct activities
  • Members should plan to volunteer their time
  • Be sure to contact local schools K-12, as well as colleges and universities, to educate them about the Garrett Morgan Day program 

We believe that diversity moves the nation.

We believe that the leadership of a massive industry that has the responsibility of transporting all people all the time should reflect the complex mosaic of those they serve. We believe that commitment to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion, identity and experience moves us forward every day.