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BLKISH Forums African-American Inventors and Scientists Seed & Cotton Planter | Henry Blair (Inventor & Farmer)

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  • Seed & Cotton Planter | Henry Blair (Inventor & Farmer)


    November 1, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    Henry Blair (1807–1860) was the second African American inventor to receive a US patent.[1]

    He was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, United States in 1807. His first invention was the Seed-Planter,[2] patented October 14, 1834, which allowed farmers to plant more corn using less labor and in a shorter time. On August 31, 1836[3] he obtained a second patent for a cotton planter. This invention worked by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades which were pulled along by a horse. A wheel-driven cylinder followed behind which dropped the seed into the newly plowed ground.[1] Blair had been a successful farmer for years and developed the inventions as a means of increasing efficiency in farming.[4]

    In the patent records, Blair is listed as a “colored man,” making this identification the only one of its kind in early patent records. Blair was illiterate, therefore he signed his patents with an “x”.[5] It is said that Blair was a freedman. At the time that his patents were granted, United States patent law allowed both freed and enslaved people to obtain patents. In 1857, this law was challenged by a slave-owner who claimed that he owned “all the fruits of the slave’s labor,” including his slave’s inventions. This resulted in a change of the law in 1858 which stated that slaves were not citizens, and therefore could not hold patents. Blair died in 1860. [3] In 1871, six years after the American Civil War ended, the law was changed to grant all men patent rights.


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