Lewis Temple

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A statue of Lewis Temple in New Bedford, Massachusetts

Lewis Temple (22 October 1800 – 18 May 1854) was an American blacksmith, abolitionist, and inventor. He was born in slavery in Richmond, Virginia, and moved to the whaling village of New Bedford, Massachusetts during the 1820s, where he worked as a blacksmith. He married Mary Clark in 1829 and had three children. He is best remembered for the invention of "Temple's Toggle" or "Temple's Iron" which was a harpoon that was similar to the ancient Eskimo design. After some trials, whalers took to the improved harpoon as it prevented the whale from pulling free. Temple never patented his invention which resulted in others copying his work and selling it as their own. Temple did live well, enough to build a larger shop. Unfortunately, due to the negligence of a city construction worker, he fell and was injured. He sued the city and won two thousand dollars, which he never received. He died from his injuries in May of 1854 and his profits from the invention went largely to paying off his debts.

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