Many of us know Garrett A. Morgan as the African American inventor responsible for the traffic signal and gas mask. Did you know he invented the hair relaxer by accident?
Hair relaxing is a type of lotion or cream which makes hair less curly and easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. Alkaline relaxers were informally discovered in the United States during the 19th century when Garrett Augustus Morgan, an African-American, observed that it is possible to change the basic structure of the hair shaft when certain chemicals penetrate the cortical layer. As a clothing manufacturer, Morgan experimented with a liquid that gave sewing machine needles a high polish and prevented the needle from scorching fabric as it sewed. Accidentally, he discovered that this liquid not only straightened fabric but also hair. He made the liquid into a cream and began the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company. In addition, Morgan also made a black hair oil dye and a curved-tooth iron comb in 1910, to straighten hair. With the proceeds made from Garrett Morgan’s hair refining company, he funded other projects that lead to his invention of the gas mask, traffic signal and, before his death, a self extinguishing cigarette.
Check out ads for his hair straightening cream and pressing combs. How do you feel about hair relaxers?