How a terrible accident inspired Charret Morgan to invent the three-light traffic light system

Charrett Morgan

How the world would have been if Garrett Morgan had not invented the three-light traffic system? It would have been daily chaos in our busy streets. Born to formerly enslaved parents, Garrett Morgan was a black inventor and businessman who invented the three-light traffic system in 1922.

After seeing a vehicle and a horse-drawn carriage collide, Morgan decided to create a traffic signal. Morgan was one of the first to file for and win a U.S. patent for a low-cost method to create a traffic signal, even though other innovators had experimented with, sold, and even patented traffic signals. On November 20, 1923, the patent was awarded. Morgan also filed for patents on his creation in Canada and Great Britain.

The Morgan traffic light had three positions: stop, go, and an all-directional halt. It was a T-shaped pole unit. This “third position” stopped vehicles in all directions to make it safer for people to cross the street.

Up until all manual traffic signals were replaced by the automatic red-, yellow-, and green-light traffic signals presently in use across the world, Morgan’s hand-cranked semaphore traffic management system was in use throughout North America. For $40,000, the inventor sold General Electric the rights to his traffic signal.

Without Morgan’s invention, the safety and well-being of individuals all across the world, including miners, soldiers, first responders, regular automobile owners, and pedestrians, would have been negatively impacted. His weekly newspaper, now known as the “Cleveland Call and Post” after it changed its name from the “Cleveland Call,” is another lasting legacy. His accomplishments as the son of former slaves, despite all circumstances, and in the face of prejudice during the Jim Crow era, are motivational.

Other Inventions

Morgan experimented constantly throughout his life to create new ideas. Even though he created the traffic signal during the height of his career and it went on to become one of his most well-known inventions, it was only one of many that he created, produced, and sold over the years.

For the manually driven sewing machine, Morgan created a zigzag stitching attachment. Additionally, he established a business that produced items for personal grooming, including a curved-tooth pressing comb and ointments for hair colouring.

The need for these goods increased as news of Morgan’s life-saving discoveries spread throughout North America and England. He was regularly invited to show his inventions at public events and conventions.


On August 27, 1963, Morgan passed away at the age of 86. His lengthy and fruitful life was marked by the recognition of his artistic talents both then and now.

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: WhatsApp: +23276211583