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Wed, 10.02.1878

Richard B. Spikes, Inventor born

Richard Spikes

*Richard B. Spikes was born on this date in 1878.  He was a Black barber and inventor.  

Richard Bowie Spikes was born in Dallas, Texas, the fifth of nine children of Monroe Spikes, a barber, and his wife Medora (Kirby) Spikes. Two of his younger brothers, John Curry and Reb, were musicians and songwriters (Someday Sweetheart, a jazz standard [1919] was their biggest hit). Reb Spikes was a noted jazz saxophonist who worked with Jelly Roll Morton and Kid Ory.  

Spikes learned to cut hair in his father's barber shop, and briefly became a public-school teacher in Beaumont, Texas. On October 8, 1900, he married Lula Belle Charlton, daughter of Charles Napoleon Charlton, an ex-slave who co-founded the first public schools for Blacks in the city of Beaumont. Richard and Lula would have one son, Richard Don Quixote Spikes.  Soon after, the Spikes family moved west to Albuquerque, New Mexico and later Bisbee, Arizona where he operated a barber shop and later a saloon.

He became dissatisfied with how draft beer was dispensed from a keg; and developed variations on the pressure-dispense Beer Tap. The 1909 patent was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewing Company and variations of the invention are still in use. Moving to San Francisco, California, Spikes eventually received a patent pertaining to automobile directional signals.  Though its patent is not confirmed, its rumored that he installed on a Pierce-Arrow car in 1913.  While he was working on his brake testing machine a few years later, the Oakland, California Police Department was interested enough to give it a tryout.  

Spikes continued working as a barber, owning and operating shops in San Francisco, Fresno, California and Stockton, California until his eyesight began to fade due to the effects of glaucoma which affected other members of his family including his brother John.  His brother received a patent for a "writing aid for the blind" a paper holder, essentially a pad with a clip affixed to it in order to secure sheets of writing paper. 

Spikes kept working, in 1932, Spikes received a patent for an automatic gear shift device based on automatic transmission for automobiles and other motor vehicles invented in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts.  In 1932, he received a patent for his innovative transmission and gear-shifting device.  In 1950, Spikes received a patent for a Horizontally Swinging Barber's Chair, in 1962 he received another patent for an automobile brake system; all receiving over $100,000.00.  Richard Spikes, the holder of a number of United States patents died January 22, 1963. 

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