Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Garden Sprinkler - The Real McCoy

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
Illustration of patent for the lawn sprinkler from


Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Huh. I didn't know that. Now I know the origin of the common phrase.

That's a good and appropriate lesson for February.

Robin at Bumblebee

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

What a wonderful tidbit of history that was something I didn't know until now! So cool! So I can attribute my sprinkler as well as my folding ironing board to this man. WOW! What an inventive and important person!

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Benjamin Vogt said...

If I had that sprinkler I'd put it by my turtlehead. What variety was it... Ah, hot lips.

I love learning these fun facts! Thanks.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

A good informative post Kylee. Interesting to find who the real McCoy is. Water sprinklers are very collectible to some people. I wonder if any of our readers are water sprinkler collectors? That would be interesting to see. HINT

Anonymous said...

Practical and pretty--I'd love to find a turtle shaped garden sprinkler like that now.

Thanks for the history lesson. Very interesting. I guess it's not often that we think much of where common objects like water sprinklers and ironing boards come from.

Kylee Baumle said...

I thought it was a fun fact, too!
Lisa, I never dreamed that people collected sprinklers!
MSS, here is one and here is another!

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