Mr. Elijah McCoy was a black Canadian-American engineer who had a net worth of $2 million and was credited with the development of steam engine lubrication systems. His invention had received a total of 57 patents.
Because of his discoveries and achievements, the United States Patent and Trademark Office named its first regional office in Detroit, Michigan the “Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Patent Office” in 2012, which became operational in 2013.
Infancy and Adolescence
Elijah J. McCoy was born on the 2nd of May, 1844, in Colchester, Ontario, to George and Mildred Goins McCoy. He was the son of George and Mildred Goins McCoy. They were fugitive slaves who utilized the Underground Railroad to get from Kentucky to Ontario, where they were captured and executed. He was the eldest of a family of eleven children.
Upper Canadian schools were segregated under the Common Schools Act, as updated in 1850, and McCoy attended black schools in Colchester Township as a result of this segregation.
In 1859, when he was 15 years old, he was sent to Scotland. He received his initial training there and was later certified as a mechanical engineer after completing his studies at the University of Edinburgh.
George used his skills as a tobacconist to launch a successful tobacco and cigar business in his hometown. When Elijah returned to the United States in 1859, his family had already established themselves on a farm in the country.
When McCoy first came to Michigan, he found work as a firefighter and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. McCoy received a patent in 1872 for an automatic lubricator for oiling locomotive and ship steam engines under the title “Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines” (Improvement in Lubricators for Steam Engines) (U.S. Patent 129,843). In Ypsilanti, Michigan, he also had his own home-based machine shop, where he performed more advanced jobs such as making upgrades and inventing new products.
Train lubricators were beneficial to railroads because they allowed trains to run more quickly and profitably while making fewer pit stops for lubrication and maintenance. By 1899, the McCoy lubricator was being used by virtually all North American railways.
In addition to lubricating systems, his inventions included a glass “sight-feed” tube in 1898 that allowed him to observe the rate at which grease was being delivered (U.S. Patent 614,307). Michigan Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics reports that the McCoy lubricator was utilized on nearly all North American railroads by 1899 and that it was still in use today.
A notable accomplishment of McCoy’s was that he received more patents than any other African-American inventor at the time. He continued to invent until the end of his life, receiving a total of 57 patents, the majority of which were for lubricants, but others would include a folding ironing board and a lawn sprayer, among other things.
Because he lacked the financial resources to mass-produce his lubricators in considerable quantities, he frequently transferred his patent rights to his employers or sold them to private investors. Towards the end of his professional life, he established the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company in 1920.
As a result of Elijah McCoy’s oil-drip cup invention, he is credited with coining the phrase “The real McCoy,” which usually refers to “the real deal.”
The first edition of “The real McCoy” was published in Yorkville, Ontario, in 1881. (presently part of Toronto). One theory is that train engineers would specifically request it by name in order to prevent receiving inferior reproductions of it.
Alternatively, it is possible that the name is a misspelling of the Scottish name “Reay Mackay.” In a 1966 advertisement for Old Taylor bourbon, Elijah McCoy, one of America’s most prominent scientists, inventors, and pioneers, was featured. In 2011, the Black Rep Theatre in Saint Louis performed a reprise of the Canadian play, which was well received.
It was in 1974 that the state of Michigan unveiled a historical marker (P25170) near the McCoys’ former home at 5720 Lincoln Avenue, which also served as his burial site.
Elijah McCoy Day was first observed in 1975 when a historical plaque was constructed on the site of his home, and an adjacent street was named in his honor by the city. His first studio in Michigan was commemorated with a historical plaque (S0642) installed in 1994.
After being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2001, Elijah McCoy established the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional USPTO in Detroit, Michigan, which officially opened its doors in 2012. On May 2, 2022, the 178th anniversary of his birth, a Google Doodle was unveiled in Canada and the United States.
McCoy married Mary Eleanora Delaney for the second time in 1873, and the couple traveled to Detroit when McCoy was offered a job in the city. Married to Phillis Wheatley, Mary McCoy (d. 1923) played a key role in the foundation of the Phillis Wheatley Home for Aged Colored Men in 1898.
He died in the Eloise Infirmary in Nankin Township, Michigan, now known as Westland, on October 10, 1929, at the age of 85, according to his obituary.
In 2007, he died as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident in which his wife Mary had also perished, which occurred seven years earlier. He was laid to rest at Detroit Memorial Park East, which is located in Warren, Michigan.
As of 2022, Elijah McCoy’s net worth was predicted to be approximately $2 million. He has earned a substantial amount of wealth as a result of his enormous contributions to the field of invention, and he has made an unmistakable mark on the annals of the invention.