The son of freed slaves, Garrett Morgan was determined to have a better life than laboring in the Kentucky fields with his parents and ten siblings. He began by sweeping floors in a clothing factory in Cleveland, Ohio, where he decided to invent a stronger belt for sewing machines. When he was promoted to sewing-machine repairman, Garrett was on his way. In 1911, 146 workers died in the shocking Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, so Garrett decided to invent a safety hood for firefighters. Little did he know that most people wouldn't be interested in buying his safety hood when they discovered its inventor was black. But an explosion that trapped workers in a tunnel under Lake Erie soon changed all that. Garrett's hoods were rushed to the scene and used to rescue as many men as possible. Developed further, Garrett's invention came to save thousands of soldiers from chlorine gas in the trenches of World War I.
This addition to the invention-focused Great Ideas series focuses on Garrett Morgan, a son of freed slaves who pursued a life beyond tilling Kentucky fields. Morgan designed a stronger sewing machine belt and created several hair products, as well as a safety hood for firefighters (a precursor to the gas mask) after the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire. Parkins's handsomely detailed illustrations offer occasional moments of subtle humor, as when Morgan tries out his hair-straightening cream on a neighbor's pet Airedale with success! Kulling conveys the impact of racial prejudice on Morgan while celebrating his achievements: when workers digging a tunnel under Lake Erie became trapped after an explosion, the safety hood enabled their rescue. Available simultaneously: Clean Sweep! Frank Zamboni's Ice Machine. Ages 5 8.