In 1916, shortly before midnight, a gas pocket that had been formed as a result of the Cleveland Waterworks Tunnel went off and detonated at the bottom of Lake Erie. To get water into the city, an undersea tunnel with a width of ten feet and a connection that is five miles away from the shoreline was constructed. As a consequence of the explosion, the railway tracks and conduit pipes were strewn throughout the tunnel, which resulted in the formation of a hazardous cloud. Eleven people were working in the tunnel at the time of the explosion, and all of them were killed.
Eleven of the eighteen people who were searching for survivors in the tunnel passed away as a result of the smoke and fumes since they did not have the appropriate safety equipment with them. Garrett A. Morgan, a local inventor who referred to himself as “the Black Edison,” and his gas mask, which he had invented two years previously, were sought after by the Cleveland Police 11 hours later in an effort to save anybody who was still alive. Morgan had patented the gas mask.
Morgan was motivated to improve the fire resistance of clothing after witnessing the deaths of 146 garment workers in a factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911. Morgan, who had himself worked in Cleveland’s bustling garment industry, decided to build a better mask after the tragedy, which garnered worldwide coverage and showed inadequacies in fire rules and safety equipment. The incident also attracted a lot of attention from the media. He focused his efforts on finding a solution to the issue of smoke inhalation, which had stumped innovators for years.
Sumita Khatri, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic, claims that pulmonary difficulties account for 77 percent of fire-related fatalities, and the bulk of these fatalities are brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a potentially lethal poison because it attaches to hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen in red blood cells, considerably more quickly than oxygen does. Blood cells are unable to deliver oxygen to the body’s muscles, organs, tissues, and brains when they are bound by carbon monoxide because blood cells are unable to release oxygen when they are bound by carbon monoxide. At the cellular level, suffocation occurs when the body’s cells are unable to access oxygen for themselves.
Morgan observed that the area around a person’s head has a higher percentage of carbon monoxide, whereas the area around their feet has cleaner air. This phenomenon occurs at any given time. As a result of this, he devised a machine consisting of a tube in the shape of a tail that hung close to the ground and sucked air through the tube. Two tubes, one on each side of the individual wearing the harness, wound their way up and over the wearer’s ribcage. The mask was designed to seem like a beekeeper’s cowl, and it had tusks that resembled the tusks of walruses. These tusks were made of serpentine and curled around the individual’s face.
Morgan’s entire existence was marred by the effects of racism due to the fact that he was black. Morgan was an inventor who had no formal education beyond the sixth grade. He taught himself what he knew. Despite the fact that his safety hood didn’t work well the first time, it ended up being a tremendous hit. Morgan devised a plan to deceive prospective purchasers and get over their bias. In 1914, Morgan arranged for a white actor to portray him using a fictitious character. After that, he produced a tent that was filled with toxic smoke, and the actor played a part in the performance by providing entertainment for the crowd while Morgan put on his breathing gear and entered the tent, all of which took place in front of an audience that was astonished. After the demonstration was covered in the news, there was a significant increase in sales. This was also how the Cleveland Police Department became aware of Morgan’s invention.
In the early 1920s, the inventor was present at a crossroads when he saw a tragic accident between a horse-drawn cart and a motor vehicle. His imaginative side was stirred into action once more. Before Morgan, the only indications shown on traffic lights were the words “stop” and “go.”
Morgan received a patent for his three-position traffic signal in 1923, and General Electric bought the idea for $40,000 not long afterward. Near that same year, he purchased 250 acres in Wakeman, Ohio, and constructed an African American country club there. The club had a social gathering space as well as a dance hall.
Cleveland was on the cusp of becoming the fifth-largest metropolitan center in the United States in 1916, as the year 1916 came to a close. Its burgeoning population was straining the capacity of the sewage system, which in turn was poisoning the water supply of Lake Erie. As a consequence of this, it is possible that the drinking water provided by the waterworks’ tunnels, which extended for kilometers beyond the area with the worst level of pollution, will deliver cleaner water.
In order to construct the tunnels, sandhogs were used to dig through the sedimentary layers beneath Lake Erie, which included sand, gypsum, limestone, and significant amounts of natural gas. Natural gas was created under Lake Erie many thousands of years ago when dead plants and animals combined with sand, silt, or calcium bicarbonate before being buried. This process resulted in the formation of natural gas. This combination underwent a chemical change that resulted in the formation of natural gas as a result of the accumulation of several layers of silt and pressure. Below the surface of Lake Erie is estimated to be three trillion cubic feet of natural gas. An explosion took place on July 24, 1916 at midnight as a direct result of a sandhog making an inadvertent contact with something.
When Morgan went into the tunnel and lowered himself down, he found the dead of two rescue groups that had been sent in earlier. Morgan was the only survivor of the three. He was able to save all eight of the remaining soldiers who were still alive. The accomplishment of Morgan was not covered by a number of newspapers the next day, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune, amongst others.
After a protracted bout with illness, Garrett Augustus Morgan passed away on July 27, 1963, in the Cleveland Clinic, as reported by the Pittsburgh Courier, which was a notable African American newspaper at the time. He was 87 years old and had been blind for the previous 15 years of his life. In honor of a great innovator who once put his life in danger to rescue eight people and whose inventions have continued to save the lives of countless more, his masterpiece was put on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture fifty years after it was first made.