The Invention of the Traffic Light

In the early 1900s, the invention of the traffic light changed the way of life in the United States. On August 5, 1914, Cleveland installed the first electric traffic signal in the world.  Although this change was local to Cleveland, the electric traffic signal would shape the way of traffic management. Today, the electric traffic signal appears in modern cities worldwide to control traffic and lower accident casualties.

History Credits Several with the Invention of the Traffic Light

The invention of the traffic light remains a debatable topic because several variations of traffic lights showed up in cities throughout history. The most notable appeared in Cleveland, London, and Salt Lake City.

The earliest noted design of the traffic signal was in London in 1868. The London traffic signal used two extended semaphore arms to signal “caution” at a 45-degrees angle and “stop” at a 90-degrees angle. In 1912, Lester Wire, a Salt Lake City, Utah police officer, mounted a wooden box light signal to a pole. The signals connected to the overhead trolley and light wires which powered the system.

Garrett Morgan

The most known design, by Garrett Morgan, formed a T-shaped traffic signal which he patented on November 20, 1923. Then, years later, this patent went to General Electric (GE) for an unknown sum of money. Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light in response to an accident, where he saw where an automobile collided with a horse-drawn carriage.

When he saw this carnage, Morgan then decided to do something to control traffic patterns and increase safety while traveling by road. Morgan not only patented the T-shaped traffic light in the United States but he also patented it in Canada and Great Britain.

James Hoge

On August 5, 1914, Cleveland installed James Hoge’s electric traffic light signal. James Hoge then received his patent for the “Municipal Traffic Control System” in 1918 which showed the number 1,251,666. This design consisted of four pairs of green and red lights which indicated stop and go for traffic in multiple directions.

They manually operated this design via a switch in a control booth. In modern times, sensors and timers control traffic signals. Some signals may operate simply on a timer basis while others may scan for traffic to determine when to operate the switch.

The traffic light changed the way of life for billions of people over the past century. Many people get credit for the design throughout history, however,  the most prominent was Garrett Morgan.

Although Morgan has the highest attention, James Hoge’s invention was installed in Cleveland in 1914. The initial concept of the traffic light dates back to 1868 in London. However, many stories of traffic lights being designed throughout history. Although the true inventor of the traffic signal is disputed, this invention has saved a countless amount of lives.

 

References

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/garrett-morgan-inventor-one-first-traffic-lights

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-electric-traffic-signal-installed

 

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