Tuesday, February 26, 2019

26 - Elijah McCoy - The Real One

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

1844 - 1929

Who Was He?

Elijah McCoy's parents escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad and started a new life in freedom. Elijah was born in Colchester, Ontario

McCoy was educated in segregated schools in Colchester Township in Ontario. He had a natural aptitude for mechanical things, and he would often take things apart and then put them back together.

His parents decided he needed more education, and they saved their money to make sure he got it. At the age of 15, they sent him to Edinburgh Scotland to study mechanics as an apprentice.

After a few years, he was certified as a mechanical engineer. He did not return to America until the end of the Civil War.

He moved to Michigan and the only work he could get was on the Michigan Central Railroad.

He worked as a fireman (one who shovels coal into the engine) and an oiler. An oiler's job is to oil down the moving parts of a machine.

The locomotive had to stop frequently and the oilers would have to walk along the track and check the axels and bearings to make sure they were properly oiled. This added lots of time to train travel.

McCoy decided that there had to be a better way to handle the oiler's job.

What Did He Invent?

Automatic Lubricating Cup

Elijah's first invention was the automatic lubricating cup. It allowed trains to run for longer periods of time without maintenance.

The automatic lubricating cup dripped oil onto the moving parts of machines and could be adjusted for different needs.

After he filed his patent, railroads all over America and Europe went nuts for it.

He transformed train travel all over the world. There were other oil lubricating systems, but none worked as well as McCoy's.

McCoy spent his life tinkering with his lubricator and other inventions that pertained to lubricating systems.

For most of his life, though people knew he was an inventor and had invented useful things, they had no idea how much McCoy changed how machines worked because he did not have the capital to finance his own construction of the devices.

He sold his patents to railroads and other employers.  It wasn't until 1920 that he established his own company.

Because he sold his patents, McCoy's name is not associated with most of the systems he invented, but people certainly knew about the lubricating cup.

McCoy filed 60 patents with the patent office and many of them were used by the railroad service. 

What Is His Legacy?

McCoy's lubricating system didn't just make train travel more convenient and faster, it was used on all sorts of mechanical devices that needed lubricating. 

His real legacy, of course, was his detailed craftsmanship, and clever mind. 

Then, there is this.....

There were a number of people who realized that McCoy's lubricating cup was brilliant, and they pirated the idea without actually making the patented design. Their devices did not work as well.

So, when people bought the lubricating cups, it became important to have "The Real McCoy".

Celebrate Black History!

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