Our Story: Granville T. Woods (1856–1910)

Source: Granville T. Woods – Inventions, Family & Facts – Biography 
Known as “Black Edison,” Granville Woods was an African American inventor who made key contributions to the development of the telephone, streetcar and more.

Who Was Granville T. Woods?

Granville T. Woods, born to free African Americans, held various engineering and industrial jobs before establishing a company to develop electrical apparatus. Known as “Black Edison,” he registered nearly 60 patents in his lifetime, including a telephone transmitter, a trolley wheel and the multiplex telegraph (over which he defeated a lawsuit by Thomas Edison). 

Early Life

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Woods received little schooling as a young man and, in his early teens, took up a variety of jobs, including as a railroad engineer in a railroad machine shop, as an engineer on a British ship, in a steel mill, and as a railroad worker. From 1876 to 1878, Woods lived in New York City, taking courses in engineering and electricity — a subject that he realized, early on, held the key to the future.

Back in Ohio in the summer of 1878, Woods was employed for eight months by the Springfield, Jackson and Pomeroy Railroad Company to work at the pumping stations and the shifting of cars in the city of Washington Court House, Ohio. He was then employed by the Dayton and Southeastern Railway Company as an engineer for 13 months.

During this period, while traveling between Washington Court House and Dayton, Woods began to form ideas for what would later be credited as his most important invention: the “inductor telegraph.” He worked in the area until the spring of 1880 and then moved to Cincinnati.

Early Inventing Career

Living in Cincinnati, Woods eventually set up his own company to develop, manufacture and sell electrical apparatus, and in 1889, he filed his first patent for an improved steam boiler furnace. His later patents were mainly for electrical devices, including his second invention, an improved telephone transmitter.

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