Gas Mask

Gas masks lower the risk of damage for firefighters and soldiers.

Garret Morgan, the son of freed slaves, developed an early gas mask for use in fires. Hoses dragged along the ground where air was cleaner, because smoke rises. There was also a 15-minute air supply for when air became hopelessly polluted. Patented in 1914, fire departments were the primary customers.

In sales demonstrations, white colleagues pretended to be the inventor to circumvent racial prejudice. His mother was half Native American and his father half white, the son of Confederate Col. John Hunt Morgan.

After the use of poison gas in WWI, Russian Nikolay Zelinsky developed the modern gas mask. Morgan’s mask worked well with fires but it was not designed for chemical warfare. Zelinsky’s mask used carbon filters protect lungs and eyes from chlorine, mustard, and other weaponized gasses.