Henry Blair - African American Inventor

The second Black inventor issued a US patent.

Henry Blair - Seed Planter drawings for patent

 Library of Congress

Henry Blair was the only inventor to be identified in the Patent Office records as "a colored man." Blair was born in Montgomery County, Maryland around 1807. He received a patent on October 14, 1834, for a seed planter and a patent in 1836 for a cotton planter.

Henry Blair was the second Black inventor to receive a patent the first was Thomas Jennings who received a patent in 1821 for a dry cleaning process.

Henry Blair signed his patents with an "x" because he could not write. Henry Blair died in 1860.

The Research of Henry Baker

What we know about early Black inventors comes mostly from the work of Henry Baker. He was an assistant patent examiner at the U.S. Patent Office who was dedicated to uncovering and publicizing the contributions of Black inventors.

Around 1900, the Patent Office conducted a survey to gather information about Black inventors and their inventions. Letters were sent to patent attorneys, company presidents, newspaper editors, and prominent African Americans. Henry Baker recorded the replies and followed-up on leads. Baker’s research also provided the information used to select Black inventions exhibited at the Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, the World’s Fair in Chicago, and the Southern Exposition in Atlanta. By the time of his death, Henry Baker had compiled four massive volumes.

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Bellis, Mary. "Henry Blair - African American Inventor." ThoughtCo, Jan. 2, 2021, thoughtco.com/inventor-henry-blair-1991284. Bellis, Mary. (2021, January 2). Henry Blair - African American Inventor. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/inventor-henry-blair-1991284 Bellis, Mary. "Henry Blair - African American Inventor." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/inventor-henry-blair-1991284 (accessed May 29, 2023).