Not Just One Inventor:
Telephone and Lightbulb
Lewis Latimer 1848-1928
in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the son of runaway slaves, Lewis Latimer contributed
to two of the most important inventions of his time: the lightbulb and the telephone.
Lewis joined the navy at age sixteen to serve in the Civil War. In 1868,
he found a job in a patent law firm where he quickly learned mechanical drawing.
With the important tool of draftsmanship, Latimer invented and assisted
other inventors. In 1873 he patented a toilet system for railroad cars. Alexander
Graham Bell hired Latimer to prepare the drawings for his new invention, the telephone.
With Latimer's help, Bell submitted his patent on February 14, 1876, hours before
In 1880, Latimer began work for Hiram Maxim, the founder
of the U.S. Electric Lighting Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He learned all
there was to know about incandescent lighting, another area of competition among
inventors. Latimer traveled the nation and abroad supervising the installation
of carbon filament electric lighting, and invented an electric lamp with a carbon
filament and a threaded wooden socket for lightbulbs. Latimer's work extended
the life of Edison's incandescent bulb from minutes to hours, thus making the
product commercially viable.
By 1884 he was working for Thomas Alva Edison
in New York. Latimer researched electric lighting as a member of the engineering
division of the Edison Light Company, and published a text on the subject.
remarkable self-taught man painted, played the flute, and wrote poetry and plays.
Toward the end of his life, he taught mechanical engineering, drawing, and English
to new immigrants, participated in Civil War veterans organizations, and supported
the civil rights activities of his time.
To learn more, contact:
PO Box 6145
Chelsea, Massachusetts 02150
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