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*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, 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 barbershop 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 barbershop 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 Milwaukee Brewing Company purchased the 1909 patent, and variations of the invention are still in use. Moving to San Francisco, California, Spikes eventually received a patent on automobile directional signals. Though its patent is not confirmed, it is rumored that he installed it 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 family members, 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 secure sheets of writing paper.
Spikes kept working; in 1932, Spikes received a patent for improving the automatic gear shift device based on automatic transmission for automobiles. They and other motor vehicles were invented in 1904 by the Sturtevant brothers of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1950, Spikes received a patent for a Horizontally Swinging Barber's Chair, and in 1962 he received another patent for an automobile brake system; all receiving over $100,000.00. Richard Spikes, the holder of several United States patents, died on January 22, 1963.