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 Elijah McCoy

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Elijah McCoy

  • Birth 2 May 1844 Colchester, Essex County, Ontario, Canada
  • Death 10 Oct 1929 Eloise, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
  • Burial Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA
  • Memorial ID 6807620

Inventor. He is best remembered for his many inventions dealing with the lubrication of steam engines and to whom the phrase "The real McCoy" is attributed. He was born a free black in Colchester, Ontario, Canada to parents who were fugitive slaves who had escaped from Kentucky via the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. In 1847 his family returned to the US and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Around 1859 he traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland to study mechanical engineering and after receiving his certification a few years later, he returned to Michigan. He obtained a job with the Michigan Central Railroad but could only be employed as a fireman and oiler. During this time he established a machine shop at his home in Ypsilanti where he performed more highly skilled work, such as developing improvements inventions, including an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships while they were in motion that became known as the "McCoy System," for which he applied for and received a patent. He continued to refine his inventions and design new ones and after the turn of the century he was recognized by Booker T. Washington in "Story of the Negro" (1909) as producing more patents than any other African-American at that time. He continued to turn out inventions until late in his life, obtaining as many as 57 patents, 50 of them dealing with lubricating systems. He would also invent the ironing board and lawn sprinkler. Because he lacked the finances to manufacture his lubricators in large quantities, he generally assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. Around 1920 he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to produce his products. The high quality of his inventions gained such notoriety that the phrase "the Real McCoy" was coined to distinguish his inventions from cheap imitations. He eventually moved to Detroit, Michigan with his second wife and he died in the Eloise Infirmary in Nankin Township (now Westland, Michigan) at the age of 86 where he had suffered from injuries sustained in an automobile accident seven years earlier that claimed the life of his wife.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Sep 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6807620
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Elijah McCoy (2 May 1844–10 Oct 1929), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6807620, citing Detroit Memorial Park East, Warren, Macomb County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .