Elijah McCoy

 (1843 – 1929)

The third of twelve children, Elijah McCoy was born in Canada, where his parents had run away to escape from slavery.  As a young man he was interested in machines and tools.  He enjoyed watching them move. 

After attending school near his home, his parents sent him to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied mechanical engineering. After the civil war, when slavery was abolished McCoy went back to America. There he was forced to take a job as a fireman on Michigan Central Railroad, because no one would hire a black engineer.

McCoy was always hanging around the machine shop, eventually he was offered a job there. Shutting down equipment to oil it took time and reduced production.  McCoy set out to solve the problem of how to lubricate machines while they were still moving. He designed the “Drip Cup“, which lubricated the machine while moving. This meant looking at the properties of different oils in use and as a result, he also invented 23 new types of lubricant.  The first was patented in 1872. 

His fame spread all over the world.  People would ask, when purchasing lubricants “Is it the real McCoy?” because they were so good.  He eventually set up his own company in Michigan and, keen to see it succeed, produced two or thee inventions every year – for example, an ironing board and a lawn sprinkler as well as other new brands of oil. This son of slaves was “The Real McCoy“.

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