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Elijah McCoy Fun Facts

Elijah McCoy, a Canadian inventor, invented an automatic lubricator that spread the oil evenly on the engines of trains moving. Here are some more Elijah McCoy Fun Facts that you can enjoy!

This enabled trains to run faster, more efficiently, and for longer periods without stopping. His work led to several patents.

Elijah McCoy Fun Facts


  • Elijah McCoy was baptized in Colchester, Canada, on May 2, 1844.
  • His parents, George and Mildred, were both fugitive slaves. They had fled from Kentucky to Canada through the Underground Railroad.
  • Both his parents were enslaved, but Elijah was born free.
  • McCoy’s family returned to the United States when McCoy was just three years old and settled in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
  • McCoy was a keen mechanic from a young age.
  • Because of the 1850 Common Schools Act, which separated schools in Upper Canada, he was educated at Colchester Township’s black schools.
  • McCoy was 15 when his parents organized for him to go to Scotland to complete an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. He returned to Canada five years later as a certified engineer.

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  • McCoy returned to Canada and found it difficult to find work due to racial prejudices. He moved back to Michigan to work as an oiler and fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad.
  • He was also skilled in developing inventions and improvements while he was there.
  • He noticed many inefficiencies in the current system for oiling axles.
  • After much reflection and careful study, he developed the idea of an automatic lubricator cup to distribute oil overall moving parts of an engine evenly.
  • His patent, titled “Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines,” was granted patent status in 1872.
  • His invention enabled trains to run for long periods without stopping for maintenance or re-oiling.
  • After his first invention, McCoy developed a passion for inventing useful products and tinkering. He continued to improve on his designs as well as develop new ones. Nearly 50 of his 60 patents were devoted to lubricating systems.
  • McCoy also designed lawn sprinklers and other machines.
  • Although his accomplishments were not recognized by the name he used on the products he created, he was noticed by black contemporaries around the turn of this century.
  • Story of the Negro, written by Booker T. Washington in 1909, recognized McCoy’s creativity and the fact he had produced more patents than any other black inventor.
  • Until 1920, when he was near the end of his career, lubricators bearing the name McCoy were not made. He formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to manufacture his works around this time.

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  • In 1868, Elijah McCoy wed Ann Elizabeth Smith. Unfortunately, she died four years later. McCoy married Mary Eleanor Delaney in 1873, which helped him establish the Phillis Wheatley Home of Aged Colored Men (1898).
  • McCoy’s most complex invention was at 72 when he invented the graphite oil lubricator. This was intended for superheater locomotive engines. This invention was patentable in 1915.
  • McCoy discovered that a viscous lubricant could be created by mixing graphite with oil to combat the heat generated by new locomotive engines.
  • McCoy considered this his greatest invention. It resulted in a drastic decrease in coal and oil use in train travel.
  • Elijah McCoy, who sustained injuries in a car accident that left his wife Mary, died in Michigan on October 10, 1929, at 85.


  • The state of Michigan placed a historical marker in 1974 at the McCoys’ former residence on Lincoln Avenue and one at his gravesite.
  • McCoy was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Akron, Ohio, in September 2001.
  • The phrase “the real McCoy” (meaning the “real thing”) appears to have been used in connection with Elijah McCoy’s oil-drip cup Invention. There are many theories about when and where this phrase was first used.

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Elijah McCoy Worksheets

This bundle contains 21 pages of in-depth information about Elijah McCoy. These worksheets are ready to use and can be used by students to teach about Elijah McCoy, a Canadian inventor. He invented an automatic lubricator that evenly spreads oil over trains’ engines. This enabled trains to run more efficiently and faster without having to stop. His work led to several patents.

Chris Evan was born in Quebec and raised in Montreal, except for the time when he moved back to Quebec and attended high school there. He studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto. He began writing after obsessing over books.


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