THE GAS MASK
Garrett Augustus Morgan was a practical man who wanted to improve the lives of the American people. He was an extraordinary businessman as well as an inventor who created things that made the lives of many people safer and more convenient. Garrett Morgan was born on March 4th, Paris, Kentucky in 1877, and died in 1963. His invention of the Gas Mask was used by American soldiers during World War I (1914-18) and by fire departments around the country.
The value of Garrett Morgan’s “gas inhalator” was first acknowledged during a successful rescue operation of several men trapped by a tunnel explosion in the Cleveland waterworks some 200 feet below the surface of Lake Erie. During the emergency, Morgan, his brother, and two other volunteers-all wearing inhalators-were the only men able to descend into the smoky, gas-filled tunnel, and save several workers from asphyxiation.
Orders for the Morgan inhalator soon began to pour into Cleveland from fire companies all over the nation but, as soon as Morgan’s racial identity became known, may of them were canceled. In the south, it was necessary for Morgan to utilize the services of a white man to demonstrate his invention. During World War I the Morgan inhalator was transformed into a gas mask used by combat troops.
In 1912, Morgan received a patent on a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. Two years later, a refined model of this early gas mask won a gold medal at the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety, and another gold medal from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.