Thomas Jennings The First African American To Receive A U.S. Patent

Samuel Reason - February 14th, 2020

It is widely thought that in 1821, Thomas Jennings became the first African American to ever receive a U.S. patent for his invention. Now over two centuries ago, Jennings invented a new way of cleaning clothes in Lower Manhattan. Many of the details of his patent were lost in a fire and we do not know exactly what he invented.

wikimedia.org

Historians and researchers have determined it was a better way to clean clothes. Many assume as result that he was an improved dry cleaning method which is referred to as scouring. It is a method that is commonly used in the dry cleaning industry today. Jennings received his patent in 1821, and from that day on he had made history.

The important part to note is that this was 44 years before the end of slavery. In fact, at the time that he was issued his patent, slavery was not even fully abolitioned in the state of New York. However, these things never troubled Jennings, he was an entrepreneur, a businessman and a visionary so he pushed on with his idea. His work even caught the eye of the abolitionist hero: Frederick Douglass.

Douglass covers Jennings story in his book, recalling that when Jennings entered adult life he started to work in the tailoring business and spotted a market opportunity for providing better ways to clean clothes. Now what is amazing is that getting a patent in the 1800s was no easy task for anyone. And the idea of a black person receiving a patent seemed unbelievable to most.

Jennings was able to do it, with his patent, his business saw success. As he got older and wealthier, he started to support anti-slavery movements and organizations. Jennings determination to change society for the better had an impact on his children. His daughter, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, is sometimes described as the first Rosa Parks.

It goes to show that someone’s legacy can truly live on if it has rubbed off in the right way and influences people positively.

Next Article
  • Over 230 Years Ago Trenton Was The Capital Of America

    Nearly 235 years ago there was a great victory during the American Revolution. Victory in the battle of Trenton pretty much turned the tide of the revolution. And as a result, this famous victory meant that Trenton became the seat of America’s government. However, Trenton’s claim to fame as the capital of the United States...

    Read More
  • When Reading The Fine Print Pays Off

    When signing a contract everyone always reminds you politely and even devilishly: always read the fine print. Of course, not many of us can hold our hands up and say that we did read the fine print. Everyone has heard the saying, but does anyone do it? Insurance contracts can be pages after pages of...

    Read More
  • Hiding Inside Dead Horses On The World War I Battlefield

    During World War I, fighting was ferocious on the battle lines between France and Germany. Both armies had dug themselves into trenches so much so that there was nearly no movement either way. They sat in the trenches for years on end and simply blasted each other as much as they could. The whole landscape...

    Read More
  • The Dangers Of The Dust Bowl Can Be Electrocution By Hug

    During the perils of the Dust Bowl, people that lived in the Northern parts of Texas or Oklahoma had to contend with huge dust storms that could last for days. These were storms of fine flour-like dust particles that would blast through everything: the cracks on the window frames, under the doors and would even...

    Read More
  • Bodega Cats Of New York

    All across the boroughs of New York City, there are over 10,000 little Bodegas stores, it is a term that comes from Latin American Spanish which means a small neighborhood store. Across New York’s five boroughs there are many of these stores. They sell food and goods, an important part of each community, and also...

    Read More
  • The Deadly Female Samurai Tomoe Gozen

    Known for her immense beauty and deadliness on the battlefield, Tomoe Gozen was a late twelfth-century samurai warrior. At a time when female samurai were not numerous at all, Gozen showed the path of immense bravery and became a beacon of hope for all Japanese women at the time. Being that she was a strong...

    Read More
  • The 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball Dream Team

    After the downfall of the Soviet Union, many of the countries exiting the bloc, such as Lithuanian were left extremely poor. Much of their country’s economy was subsidized by the Soviet Union, so there was a big-time of adjustment on figuring out how to stand on their own feet. Of course, anything that was not...

    Read More