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On this date in 1888, Miriam E. Benjamin received a patent for an invention she called a Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels.
Benjamin, a schoolteacher living in Washington, D.C., was the second black woman to receive a patent. By pressing a small button on the back of a chair a relay signal would be sent to an attendant while a light on the chair would go on allowing the attendant to see which guest pressed the button. The chair was installed in the United States House of Representatives and was the forerunner of those used today on airplanes for flight attendants.
Her patent application stated that her chair would "reduce the expenses of hotels by decreasing the number of waiters and attendants, to add to the convenience and comfort of guests and to obviate the necessity of hand clapping or calling aloud to obtain the services of pages."
Created Equal The Lives and Ideas of Black American Innovators
By James Michael Brodie
Copyright 1993, by Bill Adler Books, Inc.
William Morrow and Co. Inc., New York