The father of inventions
Compiled by Diane Anderson
The phrase 'the real McCoy' means something that is the real thing, not an imitation. There are many ideas about where this phrase came from - one is that it was used to describe an invention made by Canadian-American Elijah McCoy. The device, a cup which delivered oil to a moving engine, was so good many people copied it. The copies were not very good, so people made sure they always asked for 'the real McCoy'.
Elijah McCoy was an inventor. He was born in 1843 in Canada. His parents were originally slaves. They had run away from the southern states of America to Canada. McCoy's father was in the British army. Because of this he was given 65 hectares of land.
At the age of 15 McCoy was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland to serve an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. When he came back to the United States, he could not find work. He took a job as a fireman on a steam train. This is when he thought up his first invention.
His first invention was a device that fed oil into the engine of a train while it was moving. Before this trains had to stop to be oiled. McCoy used steam to make his invention work. It was patented on July 12, 1872. He was issued with 57 patents for his inventions.
McCoy married Ann Elizabeth Stewart in 1868. Ann died four years later. A year later, McCoy married Mary Eleanora Delaney. They were married for 50 years. They did not have any children. Around 1920, McCoy and Mary were involved in a traffic accident. Mary later died.
McCoy's health was not good after his wife died. He died on October 10, 1929 in Eloise, Michigan, US. In 1975, the city of Detroit celebrated Elijah McCoy Day. He has a street named after him. Officials have also put a historic marker at the site of his home. Sadly he died poor.
At the age of 77, McCoy founded the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company in Detroit.
What can we learn from McCoy's life?
We should make the most of our opportunities.
Now do this:
1. Where did Elijah McCoy go to learn mechanical engineering?
2. How many patents did McCoy receive?
3. What was McCoy's financial status when he died?
a. He was poor.
b. He was rich.
c. He was middle class.
Answers: 1. a, 2. b, 3. a