The collection consists of portraits of African American inventors from the 19th and 20th centuries, some of whom are depicted with their inventions; and depictions of individual inventions, including patent drawings, mostly created during the 19th to mid-20th centuries. The collection includes a portrait and a view of a relief sculpture of inventor Norbert Rillieux, and reproductions of drawings of his evaporating pan (patented 1846); a portrait of Elijah McCoy and reproductions of the patent drawings for his steam engine lubricators (1872); reproductions of the patent drawings for Granville T. Woods's induction telegraph system (1887) and electric railway (1902); and a portrait og Garrett A. Morgan as well as a view of him and others posing next to a display of his traffic signal (ca. 1960s).
Also included is a portrait of white American inventor Eli Whitney, depictions of his cotton gin (invented in 1793), and some depictions of a modern mechanical cotton picker (ca. 1935); a view of a piston pin gauging machine, developed by an African American student at the Henry Ford Trade School in Michigan (n.d.); illustrations of a horse-powered railroad car (1829) and of the first American steam-powered locomotive used for actual service (1831); and a reproduction of engravings of fishing traps (n.d.). Additional images of African American inventors may be found in the Portrait Collection.
Content: Some photographs bear organizational handstamp on verso. Some items bear handwritten notations on verso; many items bear captions or descriptive text printed on recto; one item bears typewritten caption attached to verso. Some items are mounted; some items are matted.
Statement of responsibility: Collection contains work by Oliver J. Gray.