Andrew J. Beard was born into slavery in 1849 on a farm in Eastlake, Alabama. He was emancipated at age fifteen, later married, and settled as a farmer on the outskirts of Birmingham. He was incredibly smart and developed a variety of inventions that got him inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

After doing some work at a flour mill, Beard designed his own mill and made it far more efficient and productive. The Beard flour mill included a rotary steam engine and adjustable double-plated plow. His invention was revolutionary and highly sought after. Andrew Beard received his patent for the flour mill in 1881 and sold his invention three years later for $4,000, the equivalent of $100,000 today.

Beard continued to improve upon his flour mill invention and continued to cash in on the fruits of his labor. In 1887, Beard received his second patent by adding a pitch adjustment to his design and sold it for $5,200, roughly $130,000 today's money. He would make more improvements to his farming marvel and receive two more patents before he moved on to work in and revolutionize the railroad industry. By the late 1800s, the railroad industry had not only transformed travel, but also communication, distribution, and the transport of goods around the country.

Working for various rail companies, Beard developed a safer way for trains to connect and invented the Jenny Coupler. This would be his most famous creation because it literally saved lives. Hooking up rail cars was incredibly dangerous and many times ended with gruesome accidents. The Jenny coupler automatically locked train cars together when they bumped into each other, eliminating danger to rail workers.

Learn more about the fascinating story of Andrew J. Beard below.

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