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Cousin Rufus Learns History

Dear Cousin Cletus,

Ah got a few minutes ‘fore the beans start boilin, so ah thought it’d be a good time to write you a letter.

Know whut I learnt this week, Cletus? Ah learnt who invented traffic lights. And hair-straightenin’ cream. Yep, mah grandson loaned me a book ‘bout people whut did unusual thangs.

See, this man named Garrett Morgan did some purty amazin’ stuff. ‘Bout a hunnert years ago, Henry Ford’s cars wuz just gettin’ started on roads, and the traffic wuz causin’ problems at intersections. Sometimes horses and wagons and cars all came to a crossroad at the same time, and nobody knew who wuz s’posed to go first.

It all changed, Cletus, when this guy named Morgan witnessed a accident in Cleveland, Ohio. A horse-drawn carriage hit a car. It was awful. The people in the carriage wuz throwed into the street, and the driver of the car wuz knocked out. The poor, confused horse died.

After watchin’ thet accident, Morgan went back to his tailor shop and got ta thinkin’. He stood a pole with a bell on top and made a pair of flaps that wuz raised and lowered by electricity. One flap he made outa red plastic and painted STOP on it. Th’ other wuz green plastic and he painted GO on it. It even glowed at night.

Yep, this smart inventor sold his patent to Gen’ral Electric fer $40,000! That wuz a lot o’ money in them days.

Morgan only went through fifth or sixth grade—like you ‘n me, Cletus, but he hired a tutor to teach him at night. He wuz smart an’ a hard worker. He even invented the first gas mask, and used it to help people onct when a tunnel collapsed under Lake Erie and some men wuz trapped.

So, you know whut I think? If’n a body’s got a mind to work and applies hisself, it’s no tellin’ th’ good he can do fer other folks. Morgan’s momma wuz part Indian and his daddy was a freed slave, son of a Confederate colonel. When Morgan left home to find work—like yore daddy and mine did as younguns, Cletus, he decided he would make somethin’ o’ hisself. And he did!

So the next time you drive in the big city—we ain’t got no stoplights here in the holler—you can think about a man whut made the world a whole lot safer fer city folks.

Yore Cuz,


Garrett Morgan, Inventor

How about you? Any thoughts about inventions that have made your life easier? Feel free to comment below.

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