Thanks, Elijah. Without you, many things growing in my garden last summer would not be growing there today. We suffered a drought, you see, and without the sprinkler, which you invented, I would not have had time to keep up with the watering of our many gardens.
February is Black History Month, and I first learned about Elijah McCoy on our local TV station, WPTA Channel 21 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Born in 1843 (or 1844) in Canada to runaway slaves from Kentucky, he spent most of his life living in Michigan, after studying engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was in Michigan that he obtained his first patent for an automatic lubricator for steam engines (1872). His lawn sprinkler was patented in 1899.
Legend has it that railroad engineers wanted McCoy's lubricator because it worked the best of those available, and the phrase "the real McCoy" was born. This has been disputed but is generally accepted as the origin of the phrase, which means "the authentic article."
McCoy is credited with holding 57 patents for his inventions, which also include a folding ironing board. He passed away in 1929, from complications related to injuries he received in a car accident seven years earlier, in which his wife was killed.
Information and photo of Elijah McCoy from Wikipedia.
Illustration of patent for the lawn sprinkler from Brinkster.com.