Tag Archives: Cleveland Water System

March 4, 1877: Birth of Garrett A. Morgan; 1875: British Public Health Act Debated

Garrett A. Morgan

March 4, 1877:  Birth of Garrett A. Morgan. “With only an elementary school education, Garrett A. Morgan, born in Kentucky on March 4, 1877, began his career as a sewing-machine mechanic. He went on to patent several inventions, including an improved sewing machine and traffic signal, a hair-straightening product, and a respiratory device that would later provide the blueprint for WWI gas masks. The inventor died on July 27, 1963, in Cleveland, Ohio…

Born in Paris, Kentucky…Morgan was the seventh of 11 children. His mother, Elizabeth Reed, was of Indian and African descent, and the daughter of a Baptist minister. His father, Sydney, a former slave freed in 1863, was the son of John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate colonel. Garrett Morgan’s mixed race heritage would play a part in his business dealings as an adult.

Garrett A. Morgan with “safety hood”

In 1914, Morgan patented a breathing device, or “safety hood,” providing its wearers with a safer breathing experience in the presence of smoke, gases and other pollutants. Morgan worked hard to market the device, especially to fire departments, often personally demonstrating its reliability in fires. Morgan’s breathing device became the prototype and precursor for the gas masks used during World War I, protecting soldiers from toxic gas used in warfare. The invention earned him the first prize at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation in New York City…

In 1916, the city of Cleveland was drilling a new tunnel under Lake Erie for a fresh water supply. Workers hit a pocket of natural gas, which resulted in a huge explosion and trapped workers underground amidst suffocating noxious fumes and dust. When Morgan heard about the explosion, he and his brother put on breathing devices, made their way to the tunnel and entered as quickly as possible. The brothers managed to save two lives and recover four bodies before the rescue effort was shut down.”

Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant

The Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant, built in 1916, was originally named The Division Avenue Pumping and Filtration Plant, and was constructed on the site of where the original water system originated in 1856. This makes Morgan the oldest treatment facility within the Cleveland Water system. In addition to being the oldest, Morgan also has the largest Ohio EPA approved capacity of 150 million gallons, pumping an average of 60 million gallons of water a day to the residents and businesses located downtown and in the western and southern suburbs of Cleveland.”

Offscourings

March 4, 1875:  British Public Health Act consolidates authority to deal with housing, water pollution, occupational disease, and other problems.On this date, an article appeared in The Nation that described the appalling conditions of drinking water in London:  “It is no exaggeration to say that … there is hardly an unpolluted river in the whole of England. Between the sewage of towns and the offscourings of manufactories, distilleries, breweries, and the like, every stream and river in the country is poisoned and rendered unfit for domestic use. Sparkling brooks that not many years ago were frequented by speckled trout and silvery salmon are now transformed into gigantic cesspools, which a clean-living toad would be ashamed to haunt. No wise man or woman will touch a drop of London water until it has been boiled and filtered, and even then they will use as little of it as they can. The manufacturing interest will no doubt be roused if any attempt be made to interfere with their prerogative of public poisoning. But the good sense, not to say the newly- awakened terror, of the country will support the Government if their measure be wisely considered, and be calculated to promote the end it has in view. [The Nation. Mar. 4, 1875, p.11, “The Coming Measures.”]

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