Granville Woods

Quick Look At Woods

Granville T. Woods was an African American inventor. His most notable invention was the railroad telegraph, and he contributed to the inventions of the telephone and the streetcar, or trolley.

Early Life

Granville T. Woods was born on April 23, 1856, in Columbus, Ohio. At just ten years old, Woods left school to work in a railroad machine shop. After that, he had a number of different jobs, all related to engineering. After noticing his interest in and passion for engineering, Woods took engineering and electricity classes in New York City. In 1878, he took a job at the pumping stations of the Springfield, Jackson, and Pomeroy Railroad Company. Later, in 1879, he worked as an engineer for the Dayton and Southeastern Railway Company.


In 1880, Woods moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1887, he invented the induction telegraph. This was a device that used static electricity to allow people in moving trains to send voice messages back and forth. Before this invention, moving trains could not communicate which caused collisions. After this invention, Thomas Edison actually brought a lawsuit against Woods, challenging the patent for his invention, and Edison lost. Edison also offered to become partners with Woods, and Woods turned down this offer. After the lawsuit and the offer, Granville Woods was known as Black Edison. In 1889, after opening his own company in Cincinnati, he patented an improved version of a steam boiler. After this, Woods patented an improved telephone transmitter, which he sold to Alexander Graham Bell. Later, Woods invented an overhead conducting system for trolleys. This invention made it so that instead of steam power, trolleys ran on an electrical current. He named this invention the troller. In 1901, after moving back to New York City, Woods created a power pick-up device for trains. This was essentially the third rail used on train tracks today. He died on January 30, 1910.

In his life, Granville Woods created 15 inventions related to electric railways, much of which we use in today's trains.