The exhibition - The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, 1619-1930 - focused on outstanding black inventors, as well as anonymous innovators, who, as slaves, craftsmen and workers, made important contributions to the United States. Included are actual inventions, such an Jan Matzelieger's "shoe-lasting" machine, which revolutionized shoe production, and Garrett Morgan's safety hood and automatic traffic signal, forerunners of the modern gas mask and traffic stop light. The exhibition examines such topics as African influences on Colonial technology and how the slave system stymied technological innovation. Individual inventors such as Lewis Temple, Elijah McCoy, James Forten, and Norbert Rillieux are profiled. Also featured are artifacts from some of the expositions of the late 19th-century, which celebrated this new surge of black inventiveness. The exhibition was curated by Portia James and organized by the Anacostia Museum. It was held at the museum from May 1989 - May 1990.
The exhibition, The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, included three short documentary films: Lewis Temple and Hunting the Whale, Jan E. Matzeliger, and Norbert Rillieux. Lewis Temple and Hunting the Whale provides an overview of early 19th century whaling industry and tools, including the toggle head harpoon invented by blacksmith Lewis Temple. The short documentary about Jan Matzeliger provides an overview of the shoe industry and shoe making, including the refining of Matzeliger's idea and success of his shoe-lasting machine. The short documentary about Norbert Rillieux covers the history of sugar production and manufacturing from early sugar processing through the development of Rillieux's sugar refining process and the installation of Rillieux's device at Theodore Packwood's Myrtle Grove Plantation. All three documentaries provide historical background of three inventors' families and life, respectively.
Short documentary films. Part of The Real McCoy: Afro-American Invention and Innovation 1619-1930 Audiovisual Materials. AV000926 includes all three short films, dated 19910606. AV003326 includes Norbert Rillieux only (film image direction is sideways), dated 19890505. AV003324: Jan E. Matzeliger, undated. AV003433: outtakes, edited voiceover narration by Portia James for Lewis Temple and Hunting the Whale, dated 19890517.
The Real McCoy: Master Videotape, Exhibition Records AV03-026, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
African American inventors
Shoe machinery industry
Sugar--Manufacture and refining
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Some items are not accessible due to obsolete format and playback machinery restrictions. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu