Henry Blair (inventor)

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Henry Blair
The drawing of the Seed-Planter by Blair used on the patent application in 1836.
Glen Ross, Maryland, United States
Known forThe second black man to obtain a patent

Henry Blair (1807–1860) was the second African American inventor to receive a US patent.[1]

He was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, United States in 1807. His first invention was the Seed-Planter,[2] patented October 14, 1834, which allowed farmers to plant more corn using less labor and in a shorter time. On August 31, 1836[3] he obtained a second patent for a cotton planter. This invention worked by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades which were pulled along by a horse. A wheel-driven cylinder followed behind which dropped the seed into the newly plowed ground.[1] Blair had been a successful farmer for years and developed the inventions as a means of increasing efficiency in farming.[4]

In the patent records, Blair is listed as a "colored man," making this identification the only one of its kind in early patent records. Blair was illiterate, therefore he signed his patents with an "x".[5] It is said that Blair was a freedman. At the time that his patents were granted, United States patent law allowed both freed and enslaved people to obtain patents. In 1857, this law was challenged by a slave-owner who claimed that he owned "all the fruits of the slave's labor," including his slave's inventions. This resulted in a change of the law in 1858 which stated that slaves were not citizens, and therefore could not hold patents. Blair died in 1860. [3] In 1871, six years after the American Civil War ended, the law was changed to grant all men patent rights.


  1. ^ a b "Henry Blair". Inventors. The Black Inventor On-Line Museum. 2011. Archived from the original on 18 August 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  2. ^ The Mechanics' magazine, museum, register, journal, and gazette. M. Salmon. 1836. pp. 320. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b Ray Spangenburg; Diane Moser (March 2003). African Americans in science, math, and invention. Infobase Publishing. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-8160-4806-9. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  4. ^ "The Black Inventor On-line Museum." Accessed December 4, 2012. http://www.blackinventor.com/pages/henry-blair.html Archived 2013-08-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Henry Blair". Projects by Students for Students. Many of Maryland's Distinguished African Americans. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.

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