In the last year, we’ve all spent more time at home than we’re used to. This makes us more appreciative of our surroundings and the home we’ve built. But have you ever thought about the things that make a home, and who made them?
This Black History Month, we wanted to showcase some contributions Black Americans have made to our lives at home.
Marie Van Brittan Brown - Mother of Modern Security
Often we hear the words, “Black women will save us” or some variation of the form. Well, Marie Van Brittan Brown was the literal embodiment of that with her invention of the first home security system. Brown’s invention, the very first closed-circuit television security system, is the forbearer of modern-day home security. Her invention is the reason your homes are protected to this day.
Brown was a New Yorker, by way of Jamaica, and started her career as a nurse, working super long hours. Since her husband also worked long hours, she was often on her own at night. Being a woman alone in a crime-filled neighborhood is an anxiety and fear-inducing experience, so Brown did something about it.
With her husband’s assistance, she invented an intricate surveillance system out of “four peepholes, a sliding camera, television monitors, and two-way microphones. These items created a closed-circuit television system for surveillance also known as CCTV,” according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This groundbreaking technology allowed Brown to see and communicate with those on the other side from a distance and the ability to unlock the door or press an emergency button if needed.
Brown and her husband received a patent in 1969 and her legacy of protecting women like her lives on.
Dennis Weatherby - Cleaning Reinvented
When you’re washing dishes, don’t forget to thank chemist Dennis W. Weatherby. At 27 years old, while working for the Procter Gamble Company in Ohio, he helped create the iconic lemon-scented, liquid dishwashing detergent. His invention changed the dishwashing game because prior to his breakthrough with a dye solution, pigments were used, which often stained the dishes.
In 1987, Weatherby received a U.S. patent for “Automatic dishwasher detergent composition,” which, to this day, still serves as the basic formula for all the lemon-scented cleaning products containing bleach. What a way to step up the cleaning process!
Lewis Latimer - More Efficient Lighting
We all know who invented the light bulbs that illuminate your houses, cars, and streets, but what you may not know is who made the light bulb more practical, affordable and efficient for every household. That person is Lewis Latimer.
Latimer was born to escaped slaves in Massachusetts. His father, George Latimer, was actually tried as a runaway in an infamous court case, marking it as a benchmark on the long road to freedom. Latimer had no access to formal education, so he challenged himself with learning mechanical drawing while in the Navy, leading him to work with some of the greatest inventors in U.S. history, including Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.
Latimer was a crucial part in the development of the telephone, but his biggest accomplishment was inventing the carbon filament, an upgrade to the light bulb.
Thomas Stewart - Simple Yet Effective Cleaning
We can’t think of a bigger chore than mopping the floor. Apparently, Thomas W. Stewart had the same thought and did something about it. Stewart is one of the first Black inventors ever awarded a patent and has spent a good portion of his life perfecting his mop.
In 1893, Stewart patented a new type of mop, inventing a clamping device to wring excess water from the mop’s head using a lever, making cleaning the floor more efficient and less labor-intensive. He also made the mop’s head detachable for easy-cleaning and replacement.
Cleaning and maintaining a warm, cozy, happy home isn’t always easy. We can thank these amazing contributions made by Black inventors and scientists for making daily life less stressful. Happy Black History Month from all of us here at Airthereal!