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On this day, in 1897, Black inventor William B. Purvis obtained his patent for the railway switch. The railway switch is one of many patents that Purvis obtained for his inventions. In honor of Purvis’ success on this day in Black History, here are three inventions for which he received patents.
1. Railway Switch
W. B. Purvis obtained the patent for the railway switch on August 17, 1897. The railway switch allows a locomotive to switch between multiple tracks while still in motion. The switch works by disconnecting a portion of the train tracks from a set of rails and then connecting that portion to another set of rails that will ultimately take the train in a different direction.
After learning that Purvis obtained the patent on this day in history, I immediately conducted research on him. When I accessed websites like The History Channel and trainhistory.net, there was no mention of Purvis ever obtaining this patent. Perhaps I need to conduct more extensive research on Purvis, but I could not even find a book on him anywhere. Nevertheless, W. B. Purvis, a Black inventor, did
patent the railway switch.
2. Paper-Bag-Making Machine
The paper-bag-making machine was created by a woman named Margaret E. Knight. Her machine was unique in that the bags were made with square bottoms, similar to modern paper bags used in grocery stores. After a series of legal battles, Knight finally obtained the patent to her invention in 1871 and established the Eastern Paper Bag Co.
23 years later, in 1894, W. B. Purvis created a more efficient way to ensure that the bottoms of the paper bags easily fold out to form a solid, square/rectangular base. He patented his invention which consisted of improvements to both the bags (suction formers) and the paper-bag-making machine itself, which enabled the machine to properly feed the suction formers into the bases of the paper bags. His invention was then purchased by the Eastern Paper Bag Co.
3. Bag Fastener
On April 25, 1882, Purvis obtained a patent for his invention, the bag fastener. Purvis created the bag fastener in order to increase productivity and reduce the occurrence of damaged or lost property during shipping in the mail. Similar to modern satchels or laptop bags that have magnetic fasteners on them, Purvis’ invention included an adhesive material that was attached to the inner portion of the bag. The portion of the satchel that flaps over the bag would have the second part of the fastener, securing the contents inside.
Purvis made great contributions to the Black community, Black economics, and society in its entirety but many people are unaware. Hopefully, this article has piqued your interest and has inspired you to learn more about W. B. Purvis and Black inventors in general.]]>