Faces of Black Excellence

Remembering Andrew J. Beard, who rose from slavery to become inventor of the railroad coupler that saved lives

African-American inventor Andrew Jackson Beard spent the first 15 years of his life as an enslaved person on a small farm in Alabama. When he gained his freedom, he became a farmer in a small city outside of Birmingham.

He had multiple skills aside from farming. He was a blacksmith, railroad worker, carpenter, businessman and inventor as well. He married shortly after he gained his freedom.

Beard had no basic education but relied on his penchant for developing new things to make life around him easier. It was during his stay in Birmingham that he invented a plow, according to myblackhistory.net. He patented the plow in 1881 and sold the patent rights later for $4000 in 1884. He patented a second plow and sold it for $5,200 in 1887. He ventured into the real estate business from the proceeds of the inventions he had sold. He made an estimated $10,000 from the two inventions he traded.

Following some years spent in the real estate industry, Beard shifted his attention to studying engines. He improved the rotary steam engine and applied for a patent for it in 1892. That was not all; he also patented an improved version of the railroad car coupler known as the Jenny Coupler.

Beard sought to improve the Jenny Coupler after he lost a leg in a ghastly car coupling accident. To hook railroad cars together at the time, a rail worker would have to take the risk of being between two cars and then drop a pin exactly at the right moment. Beard’s invention “eliminated human involvement between the cars by engaging horizontal jaws that automatically locked together when two cars bumped into each other,” according to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

His invention saved many lives and limbs. He earned $50,000 for the patent rights. He got a further boost to his invention when Congress passed the Federal Safety Appliance Act that made it illegal to run railroad cars that did not have automatic couplers fixed to them.

Beard’s invention is often mistaken for the automatic railroad coupler by Eli H. Janney, a former Confederate Major who acquired a patent for his work in 1873. Myblackhistory.net writes that “Beard’s patent relating to the automatic coupler was one of some 8,000 variant patents awarded between Janney’s invention in 1873 and the turn of the 20th century.”

The African-American inventor was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 for his work on railroad coupler design.

Beard passed away in 1921.

Stephen Nartey

Recent Posts

Former Liverpool star Emile Heskey will launch Pakistan’s first-ever professional league

Former England player and Liverpool star Emile Heskey is co-launching the first-ever pro league in…

13 hours ago

High school student overcomes obstacles to graduate with honors: ‘I’ve been through something’

A senior at Southwest High School, McKinlee Hall, overcame several obstacles to earn a good…

13 hours ago

Meet Captain Theresa M. Claiborne, the first Black female pilot in the U.S. Air Force who just retired

Get to know Capt. Theresa Claiborne, a trailblazer in modern aviation. In 1982, she became…

17 hours ago

Mateus Chipa is behind the first Black-owned private rocket company recently launched to enhance diversity in space

Mateus Chipa founded Space Services (TSS), the first black-owned private rocket company, after getting frustrated…

18 hours ago

With a record of 6,000 days in jail with 1,500 arrests, America’s most arrested man dies at 74

Henry Earl, known as America's most arrested man, has died at the age of 74.…

21 hours ago

For the first time, a Black woman has been crowned as Miss Universe Philippines

Chelsea Manalo, a Filipino American, broke ground as the first Black woman to win the…

21 hours ago

U.K. mom who says she beat 3-year-old son because Bible allows it is sentenced for his death

A 30-year-old U.K. mother and member of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion was sentenced to…

22 hours ago

‘This too, shall pass’ – Nicki Minaj gives details about her arrest ahead of Pink Friday 2 tour

Nicki Minaj filmed herself being arrested for allegedly carrying drugs while traveling from Amsterdam to…

22 hours ago

17-year-old earns college degree before graduating from high school

Seventeen-year-old NeeAli Scott recently achieved a commendable feat after she earned a college degree nearly…

23 hours ago

$1.1M awarded to Idaho drag performer who filed defamation lawsuit against far-right blogger

An Idaho drag performer was on Friday awarded more than $1.1 million in damages by…

23 hours ago

Mother of 3 guns down the father of her children after fight over keys: police

The Memphis Police Department has arrested and charged a woman in connection with the fatal…

4 days ago

Grandma of six graduates college after 32 years of leaving high school

With her latest success, Ebony Chappel is witnessing her dreams come true. After enduring a…

4 days ago

Meghan Markle’s engagement ring beats Princess Diana’s as world’s most-searched

A study by jewelry experts at Ramsdens Jewellery has revealed that Meghan Markle’s engagement ring…

4 days ago

This Nigerian plane crash survivor underwent over 100 surgeries and earned a master’s degree against all odds

Meet Nigerian-born Kechi Okwuchi; she is a survivor of a plane crash in Nigeria. She…

4 days ago

Meet the trademark attorney helping women founders safeguard their brands without expensive legal costs

Neidy Hornsby is the founder of a business and trademark law firm called NOIR IP.…

4 days ago