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Feb. 11 is designated as National Inventors Day. In 1983, Congress proclaimed the day should be set aside to recognize the inventors and their contributions of the past and present with the hopes of inspiring a generation of creators in the future.
Within our own industry, it is around this time each year that the kitchen and bath industry is abuzz with innovation. New products and improvements on past designs are introduced at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and the Consumer Electronics Show. In an industry that celebrates lighting, there is a place of honor for Thomas Alva Edison. He invented the lightbulb, holds over 1,000 patents and it is on his birthday that we celebrate Inventors Day. The Edison Bulb is now lauded and worked into many lighting design plans.
At the same time, we must thank Lewis Howard Latimer for making the lightbulb practical and affordable. If Latimer had not improved upon Edison's design, we would be changing a lightbulb every 15 hours. Lewis Latimer, a member of Edison's research team, was a prolific inventor. He was born to escaped slaves, an early civil rights activist and holds several patents that make our lives easier. As National Inventors Day falls within Black History Month, it is instinctive to pause and ponder African Americans' achievements in our industry.
There have been many significant contributions made to the kitchen and bath industry by African Americans over the past 300 years. In a review of hundreds of patent documents, many inventions and innovations of products stood out. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. For the purposes of this document, only inventors with a patent were included. For example, we were not able to include Ellen Eglin who is credited with inventing the Mechanical Clothes Wringer, which she sold for pennies due to her ethnicity in the late 1880s. During her lifetime, she never received a patent or recognition.
The history of innovation in the kitchen and bath industry mirrors the history and achievements that we pause and honor during February. This reflection provides the opportunity beyond February to give thanks to the countless African American inventors that have made our lives easier. The next time you go to select a doorknob, remember the ingenuity of 16-year old Osborn, or the imagination of Marian Croak as you set up your smart home.
Click here for a historical timeline of these significant contributions.