Black History Month is vital to remembering and recognizing the legends that have contributed to our present. To close out Black History Month, we would like to leave you with the top three of the greatest contributions African Americans have made to the automotive industry.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS PATTERSON
Frederick took control of his father’s carriage business Patterson-Greenfield after his death in 1910. Noting the proliferation of successful small regional automakers, in 1914 the company began working on the development of a car of its own. In late September 1915, still operating under the name C.R. Patterson & Sons, the company debuted its Patterson-Greenfield automobile, offered in closed touring and convertible-top roadster models. Like many small manufacturers, the Patterson-Greenfield used a combination of off-the-shelf and custom-built components. His two styles competed with Henry Ford’s model T and sold for top dollar at the market price of $685 which is equivalent to the purchasing power of $18, 396.68 today. He was the first and only African American to own and operate a car manufacturing company.
RICHARD B. SPIKES
Richard was a person who was always on the move. He finally settled in California during the early 1900s. He was an inventor of several important patents throughout history, including a swinging barber chair, a self-locking rack for billiards, and a beer tapper, among others. The automotive industry intrigued Spikes the most. He had several automotive patents throughout his years including an improved gear shift, an automatic brake safety system, a temperature check for auto fluids, and a brake testing machine. The patent for the turn signal has not been found, but many people give credit to Mr. Spikes for this invention as well. When it comes to the automotive industry today, it would definitely not be the same without the innovative spirit and brilliant mind of Richard B. Spikes.
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
George had many successes throughout his life. He was the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College and went on to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute. He was one of the most respected scientists during this time. In 1942, Henry Ford invited Carver to the Ford Motor Company in Michigan. Carver worked with Ford for many years and during his time with the company, he helped develop synthetic rubber. The invention was important at the time due to shortages caused by the war. In addition, Carver is known for several other inventions including postage stamp glue, special plastics, a gasoline alternative, and over 100 other important advances.