Alexander Miles
  Elijah McCoy
  Lewis Latimer
Jan Ernst Matzeliger
  Granville T. Woods
  George Washington Carver
  Madam C. J. Walker
  Garrett Morgan
  Dr. Charles Richard Drew
  Otis Boykin
  James E. West
  Dr. Patricia Bath
  Lonnie G. Johnson
  Mark Dean

Famous African American Inventors

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Jan Ernst Matzeliger


Matzeliger's machine brought shoes to the masses.

Background: Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born in Dutch Guiana, the South American country now called Suriname. He worked in machine shops as a child. In the 1870s, he immigrated to the United States and eventually settled in Lynn, Mass., where he found work at a shoe factory.

Invention: In 1883, Matzeliger successfully invented what many before him had attempted: an automated shoemaking machine that quickly attached the top of the shoe to the sole. This process is called "lasting". Matzeliger's machine could produce more than 10 times what human hands could create in a day. This invention revolutionized the shoemaking industry and made shoes affordable to the average person.

Did You Know? Matzeliger's first shoemaking machine model was made out of cigar boxes, elastic, and wire.