Elijah McCoy fun facts

Elijah McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada in 1844 to parents who were formerly enslaved in Kentucky.

  • He studied engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland, and returned to the United States to work as a fireman and oiler on the Michigan Central Railroad.
  • McCoy is best known for inventing a lubricating cup that could drip oil onto moving machinery, which was called the "Real McCoy" because it was so effective that many people started using imitations, but only the original was considered to be the best.
  • McCoy obtained over 50 patents during his lifetime, including patents for a lawn sprinkler, a folding ironing board, and a portable ironing board.
  • Despite his many accomplishments, McCoy faced discrimination and was not always able to sell his inventions to larger companies because of his race.
  • He was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was involved in various community organizations, including the Colored Men's Progressive Association and the Underground Railroad.
  • McCoy passed away in 1929, but his legacy lives on through his many inventions and the phrase "the Real McCoy," which is still used today to refer to the genuine article or the best version of something.
  • Elijah McCoy's parents were George and Mildred McCoy. George had escaped slavery in Kentucky, and the family settled in Canada, where slavery was abolished.
  • As a young man, McCoy worked in a machine shop in Michigan, where he gained practical experience with machinery.
  • McCoy's first patent was for a steam engine lubricator, which he developed while working for the Michigan Central Railroad. This device automatically oiled the engine as it ran, reducing the need for manual lubrication.
  • McCoy's inventions were highly regarded by many prominent people, including Henry Ford, who reportedly refused to use anything but the "Real McCoy" lubricator in his Model T cars.
  • Despite facing discrimination in the United States, McCoy was highly respected in Canada, where he was awarded the prestigious Silver Medal at the 1911 Dominion Exhibition in Toronto.
  • In addition to his engineering work, McCoy was also an advocate for civil rights and education. He served as a member of the board of trustees for the Michigan Technical Institute, and helped to found the African American Men of Progress organization.
  • McCoy's legacy continues to be celebrated today. In 2018, he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and his name is enshrined on a plaque at the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.
  • McCoy's lubricating cup was so successful that it was used not only in trains, but also in ships, factories, and other machinery.
  • Some sources suggest that the phrase "the Real McCoy" may have originated with the practice of using McCoy's lubricating cup in steam engines, since it was the genuine, patented device that worked best.
  • In addition to his work as an engineer and inventor, McCoy was also a talented musician and played the guitar and banjo.
  • Despite his success, McCoy remained modest and humble throughout his life. When asked about his many patents, he reportedly said, "I have made some improvements, but there is nothing new under the sun."
  • After his death, McCoy's contributions to engineering and invention were recognized by the United States Postal Service, which issued a stamp featuring his likeness in 1999.
  • McCoy's legacy has inspired many people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and he is often cited as an example of the contributions that people of color have made to these fields.
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