George Washington Murray, the black inventor who was granted three patents in the 1890s

George Washington Murray/Photo credit: Public Domain Collections

George Washington Murray was a remarkable figure in American history, known for his achievements as a successful farmer and a pioneering black congressman. In addition to his groundbreaking political career, Murray also had a keen mind for invention and innovation, as evidenced by his three patents that were filed and granted on the same day in 1894.

However, the desire to invent equipment to make his life easier stemmed from the frustrations he had to deal with when several of his farm tools broke down often. He got the idea from the interchangeable attachments of his wife’s sewing machine and how it worked, and thought he could replicate the same theory with his farm implements.

He concentrated on perfecting his inventions in the next decade, and applied for eight different patents for the various attachments of a machine he had developed to help farmers to cultivate, plant, fertilize, reap, and chop up different crops without much difficulty in 1893. He is believed to have taught himself how to read and write. This is understandably so because Murray was born into slavery in 1853, in Sumter County, South Carolina.

He gained his freedom in 1865, but was denied education because he was an orphan. When he became literate, he found himself a job as a farmer and a teacher at a local school by 1871. He worked on his farms in the mornings and evenings, and taught during the day.

Despite the discriminatory climate in the 1800s, Murray was determined to educate himself further. He enrolled at the University of South Carolina in 1874, but was compelled to drop out when the white supremacist group, Ku Klux Klan (KKK), urged schools to expel black students. He however managed to acquire his degree from nearby Norman School, an educational institution established to train teachers.

With time, Murray built wealth for himself as a farmer, investing heavily in corn, cotton, livestock, and selling wood. It was during this period he took an interest in inventing farm equipment to make his work much easier, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

This was a significant accomplishment, considering the barriers that African Americans faced during that time in obtaining patents and being recognized for their inventions. Murray’s inventions were well-received and recognized for their practicality and efficiency.

His success as an inventor was a testament to his ingenuity, resourcefulness, and determination to make a difference in the world. Despite the racial prejudices of the time, Murray’s inventions were granted patents, and he received recognition for his innovative contributions to agriculture.

In addition to his accomplishments as an inventor, Murray’s political career was equally noteworthy. He served as a Republican congressman from South Carolina, becoming one of the few African Americans to serve in the U.S. Congress during the Reconstruction Era. As a congressman, Murray fought for the rights of African Americans, advocating for civil rights, education, and economic opportunities.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 26, 2023


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates