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HomeDaily Dose of HistoryDAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Granville Woods - Inventor

DAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Granville Woods – Inventor

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Granville Woods, Black Inventor, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History


Granville T. Woods was born April 23, 1856, in Columbus, Ohio. He was born into freedom since both his mother and father were free Black individuals. Woods did not receive much of an education during his childhood. As a teen, he worked various jobs: railroad engineer, an engineer on a British ship, steel mill worker, and railroad worker.

New York

In the late 1870s, Woods took engineering and electricity courses while living in New York City. He knew that engineering would play a significant role in his future, so he pursued it with diligence.


After graduating, Woods left New York and returned to Ohio. There, he began working for the Springfield, Jackson, and Pomeroy Railroad Company. He worked at the pumping station and he shifted the cars. He held that position for eight months before landing another job with Dayton and Southeastern Railway Company as an engineer.

‘Black Edison’

In the Spring of 1880, Woods moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he started his own company, which developed, manufactured, and sold electrical apparatuses. In 1887, Woods created his most important invention, the multiplex telegraph (a.k.a the induction telegraph or block system).
Granville Woods, Black Inventor, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History
Not only did Woods’ telegraph increase the speed in which people communicated, but it also decreased the number of railroad accidents and other crucial errors. Thomas Edison filed a lawsuit against Woods that challenged his patent but Woods defeated the suit. After rejecting Edison’s offer to partner together, Woods was later referred to as the ‘Black Edison.’

Other Inventions

In 1889, Woods filed a patent for an improved steam boiler furnace, and later, an improved telephone transmitter. After obtaining the patent for his transmitter (a combination of the telephone and the telegraph), Woods sold it to Alexander Graham Bell.
Selling his patent afforded the opportunity to conduct his own research which later resulted in the troller–a grooved metal wheel that enabled streetcars (trollies) to harness electric power from wires hanging overhead.

Woods Electric Co.

By 1890, Woods changed the name of his company to Woods Electric Co. He then packed his research up and took it to New York City. At this time, his brother, Lyates Woods (an inventor as well) joined Woods’ company.
Woods then developed the power pick-up device in 1901. This served as the basis for the third rail which is still used by most electric-based transit systems today. He later received patents for an improved air-break system.


Over the span of his life, Woods received almost 60 patents and invented 15 appliances that were used for electric railways. Granville T. Woods died on January 30, 1910, in New York City. He was 54 years old.
Granville Woods, Black Inventor, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**
Thank you all for reading my article. I’m a part of the largest online marketplace for Black-owned businesses called We Buy Black. Similar to Etsy or Amazon, this website allows for Black-owned businesses to create a shop and sell their amazing products to the world! If you have a product, you should definitely join this platform! We Buy Black also has it’s Inaugural We Buy Black Convention happening this November 16th-17th in Atlanta, GA and I hope to see you all there. In fact, I along with hundreds of others will be wearing our official We Buy Black T-shirt, so here’s my gift to you: Get 50% off the official WBB T-shirt using my code WBB2018. Peace, family!

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