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Monday, 28 July 2014

BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " MIRIAM E. BENJAMIN " WAS A SCHOOL TEACHER AND INVENTOR FROM WASHINGTON D.C. : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "

                        BLACK                    SOCIAL               HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Miriam E. Benjamin (September 16, 1861 – 1947) was an African-American school teacher and inventor from Washington, D.C. On July 17,[1] 1888 she obtained a patent for her invention, the Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels. The 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." The chair worked when the person sitting would press a small button on the back of the chair which would then send a signal to a waiting attendant. A light would illuminate as well, allowing the attendant to see which guest needed help. The system was eventually adopted by the United States House of Representativesand was a precursor to the signaling system used on airplanes for passengers to seek assistance from flight attendants.[2]

Life and career

Miriam Elizabeth Benjamin was born, a free woman of color, in Charleston, South Carolina in 1861,[3] the eldest of five children of Francis Benjamin and Eliza (Hopkins) Benjamin.[4] In 1873, the Benjamin family moved to Boston, Massachusetts,[5] where she attended high school. She moved to Washington, D.C. where she was a schoolteacher in the segregated municipal school system. In 1888, she was living at 1736 New York Avenue, N.W. in Washington.[6]
Miriam Benjamin briefly attended Howard University's medical school,[7] but after passing a competitive civil service examination and working as a government clerk in a number of federal departments,[8] she enrolled in the law school of Howard University; upon graduation, she set herself up in business as a "solicitor of patents."
In 1920, she returned to Boston, where she lived and worked with her brother, Boston attorney Edgar P. Benjamin.[9]
She died in 1947.[10]

Family

Miriam Benjamin never married. For most of her life she lived with her widowed mother Eliza Jane (Hopkins) Benjamin (1840–1934) in the Boston area.[11]
She had four siblings. Her sisters were Charlotte D. "Lottie" Benjamin (1863–1928, m. Walter W. Sampson, 1889, no children)and Eva S. Benjamin (1867–73).[12]
Her brother Lyde Wilson Benjamin (1865–1916) was a Boston attorney as well as an inventor; on May 16, 1893, he received U.S.patent no. 497,747 for an improvement on "Broom Moisteners and Bridles."
Her younger brother Edgar Pinkerton Benjamin (1869–1972) graduated from the law school of Boston University and had a successful private practice in the city of Boston.[13] Although best remembered for establishing the Resthaven Nursing Home (now the Benjamin Healthcare Center) in Roxbury, Massachusetts, he also held a U.S. Patent; on May 31, 1892, he was awarded U.S. patentno. 475,749 for a "Trousers-Shield," or, a bicycle clip.