At ECG, we are committed to taking the time to recognize diversity and how melding our strengths together has built this country into what it is today. Every February, we have the opportunity to reflect on the contributions black Americans have made with Black History Month (BHM). We take this moment to celebrate the culture, history and achievements of black Americans of the past and what that means for us today.
This year, we reflect on Elijah McCoy (1843-1929), who overcame racial barriers to make great strides in engineering work that had huge implications for train transportation. Born in Canada, to escaped slaves, McCoy showed strong interest in mechanics at a young age. After training in Scotland, and becoming a certified engineer, McCoy was not able to find engineering work in the US because of racial barriers. McCoy accepted a position as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. It was during this work that he studied the inefficiencies of the existing system of oiling axles which required trains to be stopped. He invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly to the engine’s moving parts and allowed the trains to run continuously for long periods. He obtained a patent for this and for nearly 60 others in his career. Many tried to copy his design with disappointing results, leading to the expression “the real McCoy.”