Black inventors were plentiful in the 19th Century, often creating innovative tools and techniques despite a known struggle to be recognized for their hard work. In the annals of Black History, the name Thomas J. Martin may not be immediately familiar, but his work as an inventor is quite notable. In 1872, Martin would make an improvement upon an earlier model of the fire extinguisher and was granted a patent (pictured) for his version of the fire-fighting tool on this day.
Not much is known about Martin, but what is known is that he lived in the town of Dowagiac in the state of Michigan. According to research compiled by BlackInventions.org, Martin’s fire extinguisher would wisely be attached to a reservoir of stored water and used to spray burning fires.
Below is a description of the invention from the awarded patent:
The nature of invention relates to the construction, arrangement and combination of suitable pipes and valves for conducting water from suitable reservoirs to buildings by means of stationary engines, for the purpose of preventing or extinguishing fires in dwellings, mills, factories, towns and cities and may also be used for warning, ventilating and washing buildings and for washing pavements and sprinkling streets.
Although British Captain George William Manby is credited with creating the modern style of the fire extinguisher in 1818, Martin’s improved version is often regarded as the first practical use of the machinery by some historians.