Elijah McCoy

Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844[2] – October 10, 1929) was a black Canadian-American inventor and engineer, who was notable for his 57 U.S. patents, most to do with lubrication of steam engines. Born free in Canada, he returned as a five-year-old child with his family to the United States in 1847, where he lived for the rest of his life and became a US citizen.

Historians have not agreed on the importance of McCoy’s contribution to the field of lubrication. He is credited in some biographical sketches with revolutionizing the railroad or machine industries with his devices. Early twentieth-century lubrication literature barely mentions him; for example, his name is absent from E. L. Ahrons‘ Lubrication of Locomotives (1922), which does identify several other early pioneers and companies of the field.

The saying the real McCoy‘, meaning the real thing, has been associated with Elijah McCoy’s invention of an oil-drip cup, for which he was well known. One theory is that railroad engineers’ looking to avoid inferior copies would request it by name,[4] and inquire if a locomotive was fitted with “the real McCoy system”.[5][6] This possible origin was mentioned in Elijah McCoy’s biography at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[7]

Elijah McCoy