Celebrating Black Inventors and Innovators: Part 7

Doug’s final post on Black inventors and innovators is here! We know you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.

Doug Daye

Biscuit Cutter

From the Villa Finale Collection.

Alexander P. Ashborne was a well-known and respected caterer in Philadelphia when he came up with the idea to reinvent the way biscuits were made. While working at the 1863 Emancipation Celebration, he noticed the biscuits were hand patted and lacked definition. This led him to design a spring-loaded biscuit cutter that would allow biscuits to have more shape and form. His cutter included a board to make loading and unloading simpler. It also included metal plates with various shapes. The cook could press down on the plate to cut the dough into shapes. He received the patent for his design on November 20, 1876.

Fountain Pen and Hand Stamp

William Purvis was born into an influential family of abolitionists, educators, businessmen, and poets so his inspiration for innovation came as no coincidence. Though he had numerous other inventions, he was best known for the improvements he made to the fountain pen. His pen allowed for the elimination of ink bottles and instead used stored ink in a reservoir inside the pen. An elastic tube connected the ink reservoir and the tip of the pen. The suction and pressure in the tube regulated the flow of the ink which depended on the force and speed of the writer. The unused ink was then returned to the reservoir. He received the patent for his invention on January 7, 1890. Purvis’s fountain pen has contributed to businesses all over by making office work cleaner and more affordable.

His other inventions include a hand stamp that was able to replenish its own ink. This was the first invention he received a patent for on February 27, 1883.  

Home Security System

From the Villa Finale Collection.

In 1969, Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent for the first home security system, along with her husband, Albert. Brown worked long hours as a nurse and had to return home at night. Her husband, a technician, also worked irregular hours which meant that she would be home alone many nights. Fearful of being vulnerable in a neighborhood with high crime, Brown decided to figure out a way to see who was at her door if she heard knocking. In 1966 she went to work designing a security system with her husband’s assistance. The system included four peep holes, a sliding camera, television monitors, and two-way microphones. This created a closed-circuit television system for surveillance called CCTV. Brown’s invention contributed to the design of modern home security systems.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how Black inventors contributed to our society! Be sure to learn about more Black inventors and their inventions from the Black Inventions Museum: https://theblackinventionsmuseum.org

Also, please come visit us at Villa Finale to see these objects for yourself!