Ospreyshire Origins: T. Jennings: Cleaning Up the Patent Competition

Lyrics:

America, you needed to be cleaned up in so many ways
I was only one man, but I had to make things right on a twofold account
I started with your laundry
There would be a new kind of care for your clothes and I did it in a dry fashion like you’ve never seen before
Millions of businesses would be created because of me

Next came real freedom fighters
The bread I got from my invention
Went towards those who wanted every man, woman, and child
To be free and equal
Its more than what a piece of paper could say
I hope they keep on fighting

How does it feel seeing a man like me being the first of his community to own a patent?


Dry cleaning isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about which we can all agree on. What did get fascinating was who invented that form of laundry maintenance and how the funds were used afterwards. This is Thomas Jennings. He was a freeman who mainly worked as a tailor. He created a method called dry scouring which is the archetype for dry cleaning. He actually used the money to buy the freedom of other slaves in America which I massively respect on so many levels. Imagine how many businesses were and still are created today. Also, Thomas Jennings is the first African-American to receive a patent which is even more important in hindsight because he did this before it became illegal for black people to get patents (we’ll talk about that in other posts) before it was reinstated that anyone can make a patent regardless of ethnic stock.

Think about these things the next time you have to get your fancy suits or dresses to the dry cleaning shop.

The image of Thomas Jennings is from Post News Group.

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