Edison Files

Lewis Howard Latimer

The son of escaped slaves George and Rebecca, Lewis Howard Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, September 4, 1848. Lewis's parents had a hard time of it after they arrived in Boston. Lewis's father George was arrested and jailed as a “fugitive.” Following a great amount of protest by the community, George was released after $400 was paid.
 
Lewis was the youngest child in the family and enjoyed reading and drawing while he attended school. Lewis also worked with his father hanging paper or assisting him as a barber. Once again, Lewis's father was forced to leave his family to escape enslavement. Lewis's father had no official papers stating he was a “free man.” The United States Supreme Court at this time had ruled against the freedom of a real “free black man,” Dred Scott.
 
As the family faced on-going issues regarding his fathers free status, Lewis joined the United States Navy. He falsified his age when he was only 16 years old. Within a year the Civil War ended and Lewis was honorably discharged. At the time of his discharge, Lewis returned to Boston. There he worked with the Crosby and Gould Law firm in the patent office. Lewis taught himself drafting over a number of years. Later, as an accomplished draftsman, Lewis drew the detailed drawings and of Alexander Graham Bell's new invention - the telephone - for Bell's patent application. This was no easy task as both men worked day and night. The work proved successful as Bell beat his rival in filing his patent by only hours.
 
Lewis later worked in the new electric lighting industry. He supervised the installation of electric lighting equipment. In 1884 he joined the Edison Company. He assisted with the filing of patents for Thomas Edison. He was Edison's patent investigator and an expert witness in court hearings. In 1918 Lewis became one of the 28 charter members of the Edison Pioneers . Lewis wrote the book, Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System in 1890, with Thomas Edison's strong encouragement.
 
In his later years he taught new immigrants English and mechanical engineering and drawing. He was an officer in the Grand Army of Republic (GAR) a Civil War Veterans' organization. By 1922 Lewis's eyesight was failing and later his health in general. Lewis died December 11, 1928. A few years before his death, his two daughters had a book of his poems printed. He was a true Renaissance Man -- he painted, played the flute, and wrote poetry and plays.
 
Compiled from various sources




Supporting Files
Lewis Howard Latimer

Related Links
Edison Chronology
Edison's Childhood Years
Edison's Two Families
Lewis Howard Latimer
The Practical Incandescent Light Bulb